“People don’t want to think about sexual abuse, or think it can’t happen to their child, but we can’t stop something we don’t talk about,” said Saving Children and Revealing Secrets (SCARS) founder Debi Ray-Rivers. “Doing nothing is a choice.”
Mrs Ray-Rivers, a survivor of sexual abuse, is extremely passionate about protecting children.
Also the executive director of the charity, which launched in 2011, she said SCARS’ mission was to shed light on this “dark subject through awareness, one adult at a time”.
“Prevention is key and SCARS champions the message of prevention in the community,” she added.
“We are the voice for sexually abused children.”
“Keeping children safe is an adult’s responsibility and adults need to understand that perpetrators groom victims and look for vulnerable children. If they think a child will tell, they won’t touch them.”
SCARS is determined to end the silence, secrets and shame that surround sexual abuse.
“Parents need to know how to have conversations with children about their bodies and boundaries,” Mrs Ray-Rivers said.
Research in the US has found that about 88 percent of abuse is never reported. But SCARS hopes its efforts will contribute to more victims coming forward in Bermuda.
“We live in a small community and people don’t want their personal business exposed,” Mrs Ray-Rivers said. “But families and adults need to recognise that the shame rests with the perpetrator, not the victim or their family.”
Among SCARS’ resources is the award-winning Darkness to Light Stewards of Children training programme. The charity started running free classes in May 2012 and since then 1,800 people have taken the course — with another batch attending last Saturday.
Teachers have taken part, as have police officers, charities, church groups, sports organisations, support agencies, Government staff and prosecutors.
The US prevention programme teaches adults how to prevent, recognise and react responsibly to child sexual abuse.
“Parents and members of the community who are concerned about youngsters’ safety would richly benefit from this thought-provoking course,” Mrs Ray-Rivers said.
“Children need to know they can tell a trusted adult if it happens.”
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