Debi Ray-Rivers has been presented with a Bermuda CableVision Community Service Award for launching the charity SCARS (Saving Children and Revealing Secrets).

SCARS conducts training, and spreads information, about child sexual abuse in hopes of raising awareness.

It teaches the public how to prevent, recognise, and react, to child sexual abuse, and targets organisations entrusted with the care of children to spread awareness.

“I was a victim of sexual abuse myself,” Mrs Ray-Rivers, said. “I’m no longer a victim, I’m a survivor. It’s a really important, critical step, to let children know that it wasn’t their fault. They need to reveal their secret before healing begins.”

It is important to teach children boundaries they are comfortable with, and teach warning signs to parents, she added.

“Children need to be encouraged to say no when they don’t want to give or receive affection to or from adults,” she said. “If child molesters are interested in spending more time with children than adults, it is a red flag to pay attention to.

“If someone is buying gifts for a child, and you haven’t provided the funds that may be a red flag. If adults who interrupt children in the bathroom and give no private space, that is a red flag as well.”

Sixteen facilitators in the community provide training as part of SCARS’ efforts.

“Since SCARS received government approval to become a registered charity in 2011, we have trained almost 500 people to date,” Mrs Ray-Rivers added. “We train them on how to recognise and prevent child abuse. We also offer access to resources for healing.

“We want to affect five percent of the community, which is the tipping point. Sexual abuse has been taboo for years, and if we could affect at least five percent of the population, we can make change and start allowing children to grow, and heal.”

By Mark Prior The Royal Gazette