Better education and communication is required to protect children from predators, including those inside their own household.
The Royal Gazette can confirm that a man was jailed this year after he was convicted in the Supreme Court of incest, among other offences.
The man cannot legally be identified in connection with the charge of incest in order to protect the identify of the victim in the case.
The conviction was the first of its kind since 2019, when legislation increased the maximum penalty for the offence from seven to 25 years.
While Debi Ray-Rivers, the founder of anti-abuse organisation Saving Children and Revealing Secrets, applauded the bravery of the victim for coming forward, she said that the nature of the offence meant it often goes unreported.
“Survivors want to protect their families,” she said. “They want to protect their family’s reputation.
“They take this responsibility on themselves because if they go public, they feel it will hurt a lot of people other than me. So they don’t say anything, or they might only tell a couple of close friends.
“I know about people who have suffered from incest. Parental incest and sibling incest, of people bullying a younger sibling and forcing them to do something they don’t want to do.
“I have heard survivors say they know this person knew and they said nothing. I had someone who is a survivor who was forced to forgive the perpetrator.
“That not only causes harm to the survivor, but it allows perpetrators to continue to abuse children.
“The person who sacrifices their happiness, their freedom, is the survivor.”
Ms Ray-Rivers said that because victims often don’t speak out until adulthood, if at all, it was difficult to determine how widespread familial abuse is in Bermuda or elsewhere.
“It happens, and it has been happening for generations,” she said. “I don’t think Bermuda is different from anywhere else in the world, so it’s not that it’s more prevalent in Bermuda. It’s prevalent everywhere.”
Ms Ray-Rivers said that while the topic of sex was once considered taboo, prevention and awareness are needed to stop sexual abuse against children.
“We must talk to our own children about body safety and boundaries,” she said. “We need to teach children that no one should touch, view or take pictures of their private parts and they shouldn’t do it to others.
“We must teach them healthy touch versus unhealthy. Appropriate versus inappropriate.
“We want our children to know that they can tell us if anyone ever asks them to touches, views or take pictures of their private parts or the adult’s private body parts. Assure them that they can tell us with no judgment, no shame and no fear.”
She added that survivors of child sexual abuse need to heal from their trauma and gain the voice they need to speak out.
“We have to use our voice,” she said. “We have to speak up when we see inappropriate behaviour. We have to intervene.”
Ms Ray-Rivers added that those who have been convicted of sexual offences against children should not be allowed to have any unsupervised contact with any child.
“When a child becomes an adult, they can decide if they wish to have a relationship with the people who bring them into this world or the person who sexually harmed them,” she said.
“We must hold child sex offenders fully accountable. How can any person who uses a child for sexual pleasure ever be allowed to work with children, live with children or ever been alone unsupervised with a child?
“In my view, no one is considered safe if they are sexually aroused by a child, whether it be their own or anyone else’s child.”