Bermuda’s Anglican church has become the first on the Island to train its parish priests to spot and prevent child sex abuse.
Clergy from every parish have undergone a special training course by anti-child abuse charity SCARS — and the church now plans to extend the training to lay people like youth leaders and Sunday school teachers.
“The clergy and I found the training provided by SCARS enlightening and extremely helpful in defining how we can collaborate with the community in the fight against child sexual abuse,” Nicholas Dill, the Anglican Bishop of Bermuda, said. “We plan to further push this agenda within the church from the top down.
“Our involvement with SCARS does not end with the completion of the training.
“We will continue to work together to fundamentally change the way we interact with and provide therapeutic services to our younger audiences.
“We view this approach as necessary wisdom rather than paranoia and recommend that all parents familiarise themselves with the work of SCARS.”
SCARS chairman Jon Brunson said: “Sadly, the sexual abuse of children is a present and highly damaging reality in Bermuda, with many victims still going unheard and unsupported.
“No organisation can claim itself completely unaffected by this issue, but it can play an active role in raising awareness to become a force of prevention and an agency for positive behavioural change in our broken society.
“It is the mission of SCARS to mitigate the risk of such abuse.
“However, recognising we can never eradicate the risk completely, we also want to empower individuals and groups to identify when sexual abuse has or is taking place and make informed choices about how to react.”
SCARS has certified more than 1150 people across the Island in child sex abuse prevention, including representatives of other faiths, including Mount Zion AME, the First Baptist Church and the SHEKINAH worship centre, as well as Government staff, schools, support agencies and youth organisations.
And parents are encouraged to make sure that organisations their children attend have SCARS trained staff.
Mr Brunson said its Darkness to Light Steward of Children training programme is available to organisations free of charge “due to the generous support of its corporate and community sponsors.”
SCARS also hold free monthly public training sessions at the Argus Building on Hamilton’s W esley St.
The next sessions will be held on three Saturdays over the next three months — April 26, May 17 and June 28 — from 9am to noon.
Pre-registration is required by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Raymond Hainey The Royal Gazette