A group of women held a 12-hour stitching marathon yesterday to make a point about child sexual abuse.

Members of the Bermuda Guild of Stitchery celebrated their 16th anniversary by holding the fundraising event for the charity SCARS (Saving Children and Revealing Secrets).

The women collected donations and gathered at their meeting place at the First Baptist Church, Devonshire, from 9am to 9pm.

SCARS was founded in October to specifically target child sexual abuse on the island.

Debi Ray-Rivers, founder and executive director, said: “Our mission is to be an advocate and voice for children who have been sexually assaulted and molested. We plan to do this through awareness and training, and providing access to resources and also strengthening legislation.”

The charity has met with PTAs at schools across the island and is also working with other non-profit organizations such as the Centre Against Abuse, Women’s Resource Centre, the Coalition for the Protection of Children, and the Bermuda Police Service Vulnerable Persons Unit.

Jon Brunson, co-executive director, said in 2009 there were 89 reported cases of child sexual abuse in Bermuda. This increased to 115 in 2010 – an increase of 29 per cent.

“Most cases go unreported because most children don’t tell, that’s the problem,” he said.

Global statistics show 30-40 per cent of sexual abuse is committed by family members, and 50-60 per cent by people in positions of trust and care givers.

“More than 90 per cent of the time it’s people you know and trust,” said Mr Brunson.

“We want to advance awareness. This issue requires the help of everyone in the community.”

He told the Guild members: “Thank you for your assistance. The issue of child sexual abuse destroys a child’s innocence, their happiness and self-worth.”

Mrs Ray-Rivers added: “You can rest assured that the work you are doing and money you are raising will be used for an extremely good cause.”

Cindy McElhinnay, director of programmes in Charleston, South Carolina, for the US child abuse charity Darkness to Light, was visiting Bermuda this weekend to help with training on the issue.

She said: “Our main mission is to empower adults, to prevent child sexual abuse.

“I was so happy to be a part of SCARS and to assist with protecting children in Bermuda. I believe there will be great work done by this charity.”

You can find out more at www.scarsbermuda.com.

The Bermuda Guild of Stitchery is open to anyone who enjoys needlecraft.

Shina Lyons, Guild president, said: “Anyone who wants to come can come, it’s a hobby for all walks of life. We do any type of stitching.

“We have a morning group and also an evening group, for people who work in the day. We also have speakers and hold workshops to teach different ways of stitching.”

The group meets the first Thursday of every month at the New Baptist Church at 9:30am and 7:30pm. On June 9 people can visit the church to see the members’ work on display, from 11am-12pm.

By Amanda Dale, Sub-editor/Writer Bermuda Sun