Brothers Andrew and David Bascome have been applauded for their bravery by the sexual abuse charity Scars.

“I want to praise them for having the courage to reveal this secret that’s probably haunted them for life,” Scars chairman Jon Brunson said after the brothers told a press conference they had been molested in their early football careers.

“If I could give one message to Andrew and David, it would be that they did nothing to deserve what happened to them. They were children, and their innocence was taken. The shame is not theirs. Now they can really transition from victim to survivor.”

Given the football coaching brothers’ stature in the community, Mr Brunson said the ripple effect of their claims would be “huge”.

Noting that the North Village football club had been “very proactive” in getting sexual abuse awareness training in place, Mr Brunson added: “I have been aware that this issue was prevalent in Bermuda’s football arena.

“I would not be surprised that, as a result of their courage to speak out, it will empower others to talk about what happened to them as young players.”

Parents, he said, “need to demand that the people and organisations that they are entrusting their children with, have done the appropriate reference and background checks”.

“This is a tipping point to drive home the importance of parents doing their due diligence. Football is not a babysitting service. We must take responsibility for the wellbeing of our children — take ownership, and know who is watching your kids.

“Sexual abuse does not discriminate, and a person’s social standing does not make your child safe.”

Mr Brunson was emphatic that “the system has to change”.

“Legislators need to do the right thing, and they are taking too long to do it. Every day that they wait means greater risks for our children.”

Speaking after an emotional press appearance yesterday, Andrew Bascome said that he had been molested by an older football player in the 1980s.

Mr Brunson said that older children could often exhibit predatory behaviour, underscoring the need to put in place “the rule of three”.

“The greatest risks are one-on-one scenarios. We encourage organisations to have two adults for every child, two children with one adult.”

Reports of abuse can be taken to two organisations: the Bermuda Police Service, and the Department of Child and Family Services.

One of the strongest indicators that abuse has occurred is “dramatic behavioural change over a sustained period of time”, Mr Brunson said: fear of the dark where phobias had not been seen before; bed wetting or abruptly not wanting to undress in front of parents.

“Parents know their children better than anybody. If they notice these changes, they should seek to clarify them by having an open-ended conversation with their child, by asking questions like ‘did something happen that caused you to feel this way’?”

Debi Ray-Rivers, the charity’s executive director, said that the brothers’ candour was a sign that “the walls are coming down”.

“We need to say how courageous these men are to speak the truth. They are a voice for many,” she said.

“We are so very proud of these brothers — as survivors, it is not our shame.”

Ms Ray-Rivers had high praise for North Village as “the first football club that required their coaches to get trained in sexual abuse prevention”.

“They made the changes that will reduce risk,” she said. “They’re sending a strong message that they care for children.”

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By Jonathan Bell The Royal Gazette