Belfast Telegraph

Expecting a baby when she's little more than one herself, this girl aged 12 will be petrified

By Suzanne Breen

This is the story which will fill the heart of every parent in Northern Ireland with horror. A 12-year-old girl pregnant. A child having a child.

Teenage pregnancies are challenging enough, and in the overwhelming majority of cases they concern over-16s. But this is in an entirely differently league. This child has just left primary school.

She started her first year in secondary school last month. She'll have been all excited trying on her new uniform for the first time. Her parents will have been hoping that she was settling in OK, making friends, and getting used to her new teachers.

That will have been the height of their concerns. It's highly unlikely they'll have sat her down for "the talk" about sex and contraception because they'll have thought the need for that was a long way off.

And now the family is hit with this shocking scenario. Their little girl has been raped - because that is exactly what has happened. A 12-year-old does not have a consensual sexual relationship. A 12-year-old is abused.

She isn't a few weeks or months below the age of consent, she is four solid years under it. As a mother of two young daughters, I know how wrong this is.

A 12-year-old still wants to go to Disney World. A 12-year-old still has cuddly toys. A 12-year-old will petition her parents to have her ears pierced or wear a bit of make-up at the weekends. That should be the extent of her journey into adulthood. Sex, never mind pregnancy, should be miles down the road.

The police are now involved in this horrific situation and the girl has to find the courage to talk to them, to somehow open up and tell them how this nightmare happened.

She'll be absolutely petrified. She's now at the centre of something which is like nothing she's ever encountered before. She is on course to become a mother, to have a baby when she is just one herself.

The girl and her parents have a massive choice to make. Will she continue with the pregnancy or have an abortion? And this is Northern Ireland where abortion remains mostly illegal. Despite her distressing situation, there is no guarantee doctors would agree to a termination here.

If she goes down the abortion route, it will mean England - airports, planes, an overnight stay and a medical procedure in a strange city.

There is something very wrong and rotten in our society when a child is catapulted into a situation like this. A highly sexualised pop culture has much to answer for. Kids are confronted with X-rated cliches by the likes of Lady Gaga.

Remember the days when Abba was regarded as risque? Now, pop videos rival porn ones with thongs, strap-on 'toys' and endless erotic poses.

And then there are the dangers of social media which opens up a whole new world to youngsters that parents have little control over. Mobile phones are a challenge too, with sexting among children commonplace.

Kids themselves can be fooled into thinking they're more adult, more grown up, than they are.

But a 12-year-old can't look after a puppy full-time, let alone a baby.

Sex education is vital for children. Far from encouraging promiscuity, a responsible programme can ensure youngsters have the advice and information so they never end up in the same distressing situation in which this schoolgirl finds herself.

If the girl and her parents decide she is continuing with her pregnancy, she will have to grow up fast. It will be antenatal classes at night now, not the youth club.

Adult women are terrified about giving birth, so imagine how scared a child of her age will be.

It is preposterous that a 12-year-old should have to learn about making bottles, and feeding and winding a baby.

If this is to be her future, shopping will in a few months mean buying nappies and baby wipes, not nail polish and new tops. Her biggest responsibility until now will have been keeping her room tidy.

Soon, she could be responsible for raising another human being.

And potentially she'll be doing this six years before the law allows her to vote, buy cigarettes, drink alcohol and see certain movies in the cinema.

It is repugnant that such a weight of responsibility should be placed on such young shoulders.

And that is why we must do everything possible to oppose the premature sexualisation of young people, and to ram home the dangers of under-age sex at every opportunity.

Not because we are fuddy duddies trying to spoil young people's fun but because we desire the best possible lives for them.

When my daughters are 12, I want them to be running free with the wind in their hair, not sitting at home imprisoned by an unplanned pregnancy.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph