Bermuda is the first country in the world to have trained more than 10 per cent of its adult population on child sexual abuse prevention.

According to Saving Children and Revealing Secrets, 5,344 adults have undergone training with the charity since it started offering its courses in May 2012.

“Bermuda should be very proud because we are the first country in the world to have trained over 10 per cent of our adult population in sexual abuse prevention,” founder and executive director Debi Ray-Rivers told The Royal Gazette. “That was told to us by the largest sexual abuse prevention organisation in the US called Darkness to Light.”

Chairman Jon Brunson added: “We’re setting the standard for the world of what the community should expect of themselves when it comes to protecting children and child safety and we are letting the world know that it can be done.”

Mr Brunson also noted that “more and more people now are speaking their truth and revealing the tragic trauma that they have endured as children” as a result.

He added: “Our stewards of children training is preventive training designed for adults to protect children, but what we’re finding more and more is that we are also saving adults who have suffered the crime of child sexual abuse.

“The fraternity of advocates who understand the issue of child sexual abuse is growing and, therefore, people are feeling more and more supported as that fraternity grows.”

Scars aims to reduce the risk of child sexual abuse and be an advocate for children who have been sexually molested, as well as their affected family.

In addition to offering training sessions seven days a week, the charity is also developing a strategic plan and exploring the feasibility of creating a child advocacy centre.

“Our goal has always been that every adult should receive this training and we’re not going to stop until that happens,” Mr Brunson said.

Scars spoke to this newspaper as Bermuda marks National Child Abuse Prevention Month. At the proclamation yesterday, social development and sports minister Nandi Outerbridge revealed that 1,011 cases of child abuse and neglect were reported last year, with the number of sexual assault cases increasing. Ms Ray-Rivers said these numbers were “not surprising because that is what awareness does”.

Helen Ponte, director of programmes and operations, stressed that the rising number of cases is because of an increase in reporting rather than an increase in cases.

“There are so many people now that have had the training so more and more people are being empowered to report,” she said.

Ms Ray-Rivers added: “Child sexual abuse has been going on for generations in this country. We know it by the adult victims that have been affected.”

She said there are still many victims who have not come forward, with shame the number one driver in keeping them quiet.

Mr Brunson added that many adults question themselves, or try and “tuck” the experience away, but it always resurfaces, with Bermuda’s small size making it particularly difficult to avoid triggers.

“People are exposed to their triggers constantly, so victims are constantly traumatised by their triggers — they see them everywhere.

“That is why it is so important to really talk about this issue and address this issue of trauma because it will really help people to heal.”

Stressing that Bermuda does not have a statute of limitations, he added that while reporting can be a risk, “you could help a lot of people; you could save more people”.

As part of National Child Abuse Prevention Month, Scars has created a 30-minute documentary, which will air on April 10 on ZBM Channel 9 at 8pm.

A Heart for Children explores what participants have taken away from the training, how organisations have implemented changes because of it, and how it has impacted Bermuda’s community.

There will also be radio and television commercials to educate the community on how to protect children. Furthermore, Scars will be hosting a tag day at the eight MarketPlace stores between 8am and 8pm on April 26, and another at Lindo’s in Warwick on April 29. On April 28 and 29, Miles customers will also be able to round up their purchase for Scars.

Ms Ray-Rivers, who stressed that none of the trainings would be possible without the support of donors and volunteer facilitators, added: “This will continue allowing us to do our work in the community through our training and awareness programmes.

“When we prevent a child from being harmed, we allow them to grow up whole.

“We provide them self-worth. Loving and protecting children is vital.”

By Lisa Simpson The Royal Gazette