This article was first published in the Trinidad Express Newspapers on March 2nd 2019.
I am willing to bet good money that the high economic cost to a country of one of the most common factors that we read about every day and hear neighbours whisper about it in shocked tones in the grocery stores, bars and corner cafes is not calculated by the Budget Analysts in the Ministry of Finance when they plan the annual national Income and Expenditure so as to lessen some costs and prevent others from increasing in future years . In a time when income from the energy industry is falling and no pragmatic projects are emerging to reinterpret the means of earning from that industry , a way to avoid the escalation of Public Health costs and the costs of Public Security…currently two of our most elevated Budget items…In a society where the population is growing would appear to the minds of anyone over twelve years old who can add, subtract , multiply and divide to be urgent.
I doubt that the Budget Analysts have ever even thought of it. But there have been several well validated research studies that have examined the health effects on adults of what happened to them in childhood. Obviously, this would include such things as nutrition, vaccination, pre and post-natal care of the mothers, automobile accidents, air pollution and all the other evils that the flesh is heir to, as they say in the scriptures.
One such study was done at the Kaiser Department of Preventative Medicine in San Diego, California by a medical team head by a Dr. Vincent Felitti at that time the largest medical screening center in the world. They screened fifty thousand adults suffering from various illnesses, looking for causal factors and ways to prevent the high costs of medical care in public medical institutions. They came to a conclusion that astonished the researchers as it was not at all what they expected.
But it turns out that none of these, not even the incidence of viruses spread by mosquitoes topped the list. The factor that most resulted in Depression, Obesity, diabetes, alcoholism and other substance addictions among a long list of the illnesses that we are being told lately are endemic in Trinidad & Tobago is the effect on adults of sexual abuse when they were children. The greater the incidence, the more likely the adult will suffer from one or more of these illnesses. And the higher the Public Health and National Security costs in dealing with them.
Surely this must have only been the case in California, I thought, literally reeling when I read the results of the study, which is long and detailed with lots of graphs and statistics. That can’t also be true here? I know that no such a detailed study has ever been done here where most incidences of child sexual abuse are never ever reported by the families of the child victims. But it was not the children in California, or their families that reported. It was the adult survivors that were themselves looking for causes of the other illnesses they suffered from. And I was afraid to go on line to check the prevalence of Depression, Diabetes, Obesity and substance abuse in Trinidad & Tobago. All those statistics that claim T&T has the highest rate per capita in the world of several of these diseases must surely just be scare tactics? That study was done in the late 1990’s, so it is probably not valid any more, surely?
Then I came across a 2010 study done by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg center which went past the effects on adult lives and went straight to the economics. They found an annual cost of 9.3 billion dollars in public health, security (including imprisonment in those countries perpetrators are actually caught and imprisoned) and in lost productivity. I do not know how they measure the latter, but they claim that the psychic trauma suffered by adults that have experienced child sexual abuse also lingers on in people’s subconscious, leading to dysfunction, a disinterest in studies, a lack of productivity at work and failed personal relationships. Since we have not done any published studies up to and including 2018 among adults that cannot understand why they cannot surmount their illnesses, surely we can blame it on genetics? I thought of that. But I was told that child sexual abuse is often generational. Great grandfather to grandfather to father to child. As one Professional perpetrator who was abusing his two traumatized sons said to me “Hell, my father did it to me, His father did it to him. I turned out alright, didn’t I?”
The body reacts and protects itself in its own way. Any one of these illnesses can be the body’s way of shielding itself from further abuse. And who is to know? Not everybody who is diabetic or alcoholic was abused as a child. Apparently, it takes several different traumas before the body’s balance is upset.
But governments that plan for the estimated traffic needs twenty years in the future and start building roads now to accommodate those future needs might improve their balance of payments accounts fifteen years down the line and save the population from the debilitating effects of depressive illnesses if they start doing some preventative work on child sexual abuse now.