Bermuda is the first country in the world to reach “tipping point” with more than 12 per cent of its adult population trained in child sex abuse prevention.
More than 6,800 residents have taken courses with Saving Children and Revealing Secrets, and the impact of the charity’s work was highlighted by American-based partner organisation Darkness to Light.
Debi Ray-Rivers, Scars founder and executive director, said: “Tipping point is a measurement Darkness to Light uses based on Malcolm Gladwell’s book of the same name.
“The basic theory is that if 5 per cent of a given population changes their behaviour, a cultural shift is created, thereby changing societal values.
“The tipping point theory is aptly applied to our community-based child sexual abuse prevention initiative which is creating a new norm in Bermuda — child sexual abuse is no longer tolerated.”
Jon Brunson, chairman of Scars, added: “I really believe that Bermuda has, in action, not in theory, reached tipping point.”
Mr Brunson said there was now far greater awareness of child sex offences, and knowledge that it was not limited to physical abuse.
He added: “Now that the community understands that and the importance of talking about it and understanding their charge as an adult to really protect children, it has really caused behavioural changes in the community. I think that is cause for why you see more and more reporting. People aren’t waiting on the legislators to legislate change.
“They are making the changes themselves within their own organisations and institutions to really create a protective environment for children because they recognise the importance that their actions have in contributing or minimising vulnerabilities.”
Ms Ray-Rivers added: “Parents are talking to their children, organisations are getting training, organisations entrusted with the care of children are implementing codes of conduct and reporting is up.”
Bermuda was featured in Darkness to Light’s 2017 impact report as the first country to reach tipping point.
Katelyn Brewer, Darkness to Light president and CEO, said: “Scars and Bermuda are the perfect example of how grassroots movements can change culture.
“Darkness to Light is proud to partner with Scars and to see the real impact their passion is making in Bermuda.
“We are eager to see what work they’ll accomplish in the coming years to keep all children in Bermuda safe and to help adult survivors realise they are not alone.”
Ms Ray-Rivers emphasised that the award showed how residents had embraced the charity’s message.
She said: “It’s really about our great people of Bermuda, who have embraced this because we could have been a country that’s in denial.
“Our people of Bermuda have taken it upon themselves to do this training and get educated.”
She added: “Our goal has always been that every adult should receive this training and we are not going to stop until that happens.”
Ricky Brathwaite, health economist at the Health Council, added: “Social change can happen very quickly as long as society buys in. That can be with social situations. That can be with healthcare.
Dr Brathwaite said: “We have a normalised society when it comes to chronic disease but we are not OK with it staying like that and we believe that examples such as the tipping point here can show that social change can happen.”
By Lisa Simpson The Royal Gazette