A children’s charity has partnered with Bermuda Broadcasting to produce a three-part television series to shed light on the issue of child sexual abuse in Bermuda.

The episodes, starting tonight, will feature survivors, parents of abused children and two local child psychologists, and will focus on awareness, advocacy and the systems in place regarding reporting, prosecution and incarceration.

“We want to educate and inform people about the impact of child sexual abuse, we want to empower those survivors who have suffered from the devastating effect of child sexual abuse and we want to educate our community about how we can prevent child sexual abuse and what to do if you find out a child is being abused,” said Danielle Rivierre, project manager at charity Saving Children and Revealing Secrets (Scars).

“Scars has partnered with Bermuda Broadcasting to produce this three-part series to show a comprehensive perspective on the impact of child sexual abuse. From the stories of survivors and parents of victims, to the encouraging dialogue by psychologists and advocates and the informative discussion with those who govern the system of reporting crimes, prosecution and incarceration.

She added: “Scars believes that educating the community about the devastating impact of child sexual abuse and how we can protect our children is a valuable message for everyone.”

According to Ms Rivierre, child sexual abuse can have a catastrophic impact on a victim’s life, robbing children of their innocence. And without proper support, she said it can lead to a wide range of psychological, physical and social problems.

“In Bermuda, statistics are difficult to obtain because most victims do not disclose or report their abuse, but what we do know is that child sexual abuse exists in our community and it is quite prevalent,” Ms Rivierre said.

“Through the television series, Scars aims to bring attention to the issue of child sexual abuse, to shine a light on this taboo subject.”

Ms Rivierre said that it is imperative that parents, relatives, and child care-takers understand how to prevent child sexual abuse.

“We all play a vital role in the protection of our most vulnerable population,” she added. “To raise awareness and prevent child sexual abuse, as a community, as individuals, we must stop sweeping this issue under the rug.

“We must face that our community is greatly affected by this most vile issue of child sexual abuse. We must fight to change laws that victimise the victims and leave perpetrators untreated. We must become educated about the issue, empowered to make change, and engaged in the protection of our children.”

Ms Rivierre added that the television series will help all who watch “to begin their commitment to protecting our children”.

The first episode will feature survivors of child sexual abuse, parents of abused children and two local psychologists, and will be shown today (September 28) from 7.30pm to 9pm, on ZBM.

“The stories of those impacted by child sexual abuse provide an insight into the devastation, anger and hope that a victim experiences and provides viewers with the opportunity to learn more about the impact of child sexual abuse,” Ms Rivierre said.

Episode two will air on October 5 at 8pm and will see representatives from Scars and Darkness to Light, the sexual abuse prevention organisation which created the curriculum used for Scars trainings, discuss how parents can protect their children and how the community must advocate on behalf of this most vulnerable population. Panel guests will discuss the process from reporting sexual abuse through legal prosecution to incarceration in the third episode, which will air on October 12. There will also be discussion about opportunities for improvement in the system including legislative changes and how to protect the community.

Scars became a registered charity in 2011. Its mission is to reduce the risk of child sexual abuse and to be an advocate and voice for children who have been sexually molested, as well as their affected family. The organisation also offers training to individuals and organisations entrusted with children to prevent, recognise, and react responsibly to child sexual abuse. Since its inception, more than 3,000 people have participated in the programme, said Scars chairman Jon Brunson.

By Lisa Simpson The Royal Gazette