A charity dedicated to the protection of children appealed for better education on sex and consent to help prevent abuse.

Debi Ray-Rivers, the founder and executive director of Scars, said parents and caregivers had to push past their discomfort and help children to understand the “risks and responsibilities” of sexual behaviour.

Ms Ray-Rivers added: “We encourage our parents to talk to their teens about these risks, about respecting boundaries and about the laws.

“In this country, no one under the age of 16 can legally consent.

“Help your teens understand the fact that it doesn’t matter how old you think the other person is, how they are dressed, or what they have been told.”

She was speaking after the Supreme Court upheld the conviction of Jamel Simons, 38, who was found guilty of a sex assault on a schoolgirl almost 20 years ago.

Simons was 19 at the time and the victim – who cannot be identified for legal reasons – was 15.

The victim told the court that after kissing and consensual touching, Simons pinned her arms down and forced himself on her as she screamed for him to stop.

The court also heard that the victim had suffered emotional damage because of the attack.

Ms Ray-Rivers said she hoped that the victim got “the healing required to feel worthy” and understands that the attack was not her fault.

She added: “This case clearly demonstrates the fact that we can still be affected 20 years later from an experience of childhood sexual abuse and that childhood sexual abuse causes trauma.

“Trauma from an experience of sexual assault, equates to years of emotional pain for a survivor versus a moment of unlawful sexual pleasure for the person exerting the power.

“Abuse is when one exerts power over another. Forcing anyone to do something they don’t want to do is not considered consent.”

Ms Ray-Rivers said parents and guardians needed to talk to young people about consent – with “no means no“ as a start point.

She added youngsters should also be taught the need to practice self control and to show respect for others.

Ms Ray-Rivers said: “This is critically important for our young people to hear and witness.

“Exerting power and control over another person is unacceptable behaviour and, if unaddressed when young, it could result in experiencing feelings of entitlement and bullying behaviour into their adulthood.

“Children who observe bullying behaviour in the home can also mirror that behaviour on others.

“Sex offenders are bullies who use sex as a means of obtaining power.”

She applauded the victim for having the courage to report the abuse she suffered.

Ms Ray-Rivers said anyone who wanted to learn more about how to prevent child sexual abuse should sign up for Scars training at www.scarsbermuda.com.

The Royal Gazette