Authorities on the Island have been briefed on the latest techniques to promote the process of healing for families affected by the sexual abuse of children.

The ‘Darkness to Light Stewards of Children’ sessions were hosted by Bermuda’s first charity specifically aimed at tackling this form of child abuse in Bermuda.

The two sessions by Saving Children and Revealing Secrets or SCARS were held at Argus on Saturday for various members of Government.

Participants included staff employed by Bermuda’s Judiciary, the Attorney General’s Chambers, the offices of the Director of Public Prosecutions, Family Court, Magistrates’ Court. MPs from both sides of the House of Assembly also attended.

SCARS founder Debi Ray-Rivers said: “Hosting this training for government officials, represents a huge step in protecting children in Bermuda and hopefully an opportunity to change and/or create legislation around the issue.

“The goal of the training programme was to increase awareness of the prevalence, consequences and circumstances of child sexual abuse, while building skills in how to address occurrences and promote the healing process for affected families.

“Using an evidence-based approach, the Stewards of Children training programme includes video segments of survivors sharing their stories along with experts like law enforcement, doctors, psychologists, lawyers and concerned individuals sharing their perspective.”

Attorney General Mark Pettingill said the conference provided “invaluable insight into the issue of child sexual abuse in Bermuda”.

“Understanding the devastation child sexual abuse can cause in the life of an innocent child, affected family and a community overall is something we don’t always appreciate.

“Not only does the training provide the tools to recognise, prevent and react responsibly to child sexual abuse, but also SCARS provides access to resources that promote the healing process. We all need to become an advocate and voice for children and families affected by child sexual abuse,” he said.

Executive director of SCARS, Jon Brunson, was confident the sessions will bring mandatory training one step close to becoming a reality in Bermuda.

“To have this prestigious group of people from draftsman of legislation to those who every day are involved with families affected by child sexual abuse on a judiciary level, shows the importance of the issue in Bermuda.

“We are confident that this will get us closer to mandatory training in Bermuda for anyone entrusted with the care of children, thus ultimately will provide more protection for children.”

The training sessions are offered by SCARS on a monthly basis and has certified more than 500 individuals.

The organisation’s 30-minute introductory ‘Darkness to Light Prevent Now’ presentation has been given to a wide range of organisations, including Bermuda College, King Edward VII Memorial Hospital, Bermuda Bar Association and several other organisations to raise awareness.

The training delivered by SCARS is largely based on materials developed by Darkness To Light, an organisation based in Charleston, South Carolina.

New material will be launched in September which will incorporate updated statistics and greater cultural diversity.

The new programme features new survivor stories to capture the effect of child sexual abuse in its many forms. It includes tips from youth organisations providing detailed actions that other organisations can take to protect children.

More detailed advice for parents on talking to their children and content on what bystanders can do to intervene and better protect children is also featured in the new programme.

By Ceola Wilson The Royal Gazette