Silent epidemic not to be overlooked
As National Child Abuse Prevention Month comes to an end, our hope at Saving Children and Revealing Secrets is that the ramifications of the novel coronavirus will be behind us soon so that our children can come out of isolation.
While shelter-in-place may be the safest option for reducing the risk of catching and spreading the virus, sexual abuse does not cease, especially because 90 per cent of sexually abused children are abused by someone they know and trust, and because more than 500,000 predators are online every day.
Our mission at Scars is all about the protection of children from child sexual abuse. Childhood scars affect the health of an entire community, as children with untreated wounds turn into wounded adults. Child sexual abuse leaves long-term and devastating emotional scars!
Our advocacy is for children to grow up healthy and whole with their innocence protected and thus, we, as a community, must do all we can to make this happen!
Children are not “mini adults” and their bodies should never be used for sexual gratification. What do children know about deception? Every child is innocent and cannot comprehend when being deceived, especially by someone whom they trust. Even adults cannot always discern deception.
What do children know about sex? Every child is innocent and cannot, nor should not, be able to comprehend sex. Sexual predators prey on the vulnerability and innocence of our little ones; they are guilty of robbing children from their security and trust.
It is harmful, it is criminal and it is illegal!
When a child is “tricked” for sexual pleasure, they can experience fear, anger, depression, anxiety and often extreme confusion. Can we blame children for lashing out? Why should an abused child trust any adult after their sense of power and control over their bodies were stolen from them?
We must remember what it felt like to be a child — to be afraid and to feel utterly powerless, especially in the presence of an authority figure. Children should be always able to rely on adults to keep them safe, secure and supported. As adults, it is our responsibility to protect children, for no reason other than because they are children!
We must persevere with prevention. Although Scars is temporarily unable to provide our interactive training and awareness sessions, our message will prevail.
Unfortunately, and sadly, there will be more stories of pain after the lockdown. No one except the perpetrators harming children will be held to blame. Hurt people hurt people. Most perpetrators have never healed from their own traumas, whether it was abuse — being abused themselves or witnessing abuse — rejection, neglect or abandonment.
Nevertheless, there is never an excuse to sexually abuse a child. Child sex offenders can say they are sorry, but an apology without change is just another form of deception.
We must react and respond to sexual abuse of children with the same vigour as a pandemic, such as Covid-19. Just as masks are used to prevent the spread of a virus, awareness and prevention education must be applied to prevent the sexual abuse of our children. We must do all we can to prevent child sexual abuse and save children … our future adults of Bermuda!
Prevention is possible and if, for now, it cannot be in our classrooms, fields, gyms or church settings, we need to safeguard our homes, which should include monitoring a child’s online activity. Protect those at risk — protect our precious children!
Since May 2012, Scars has educated 19.5 per cent of our adult population in prevention education and this number will continue to grow once the lockdown is over. For now, we will use our social-media platforms as our primary awareness tool. Our hope is that we can continue to claim Bermuda as a country that puts child protection first.
• For more resources and information, please visit the Scars website at scarsbermuda.com or call at 297-2277. To report abuse, call the Department of Child and Family Services at 332-0091 or 335-9095, or the Bermuda Police Service at 295-0011 or 247-1744
• Debi Ray-Rivers is the founder and executive director of the child sex abuse prevention charity Saving Children and Revealing Secrets
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