Speaking out against sexual abuse
Restoration House Ministries will shine a light on a dark issue next weekend — abuse, violence and human trafficking around the world.
Entitled “Speak-up, Overcome, Survive”, the conference takes place at 9.30am Saturday, in the Connectech offices at 41 Cedar Avenue, Hamilton.
Guest speakers include Judith Brewster, a certified forensic nurse examiner for sexual assault victims; Reverend Linda Powell; Sharon Apopa, clinical director of Child and Adolescent Services at Mid-Atlantic Wellness Institute, and Laurie Shiell-Smith, director of the Centre Against Abuse.
Ms Brewster explains how the issue is affecting the island and how God has strengthened her faith even in the darkest of times.
Who invited you to speak at next week’s conference?
I met Eugenia Robinson, the event organiser, at a prayer group called the Boiler Room that meets every Thursday morning — rain, blow or shine — at Heritage Worship Centre on Dundonald Street.
We come together and present issues relating to individuals, families, children, youth, the community and government, both local and global, to God. Through that, she asked me to speak at the conference and I agreed.
What do you plan to share about human trafficking in Bermuda?
It’s fair to say that the concept of human trafficking is new to many people and it is believed that it doesn’t happen here. However, reports reveal it happens in every country.
Although we may not have statistics for the island, it doesn’t mean the issue does not exist as the United Nations states human trafficking has international implications.
The UN and the International Labour Organisation define human trafficking as a form of modern-day slavery involving the use of force, trauma and coercion for the purpose of commercial exploitation of humans in various industries. Victims include women and children in the sex, labour and drug industries.
According to the ILO, as of 2014, human trafficking generated $150 billion in profits annually, surpassing even the drug trade as one of the fastest growing activities of transnational criminal organisations.
It involves 55 per cent of women and girls; 26 per cent of victims are children. In total, 68 per cent are exploited in labour and 22 per cent are sexually exploited.
I will be sharing these details and more, which can be found in The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, available at www.un.org.
What do you hope people take from your presentation?
I want people to walk away with increasing awareness of the realities of human trafficking and even exploitation of children via the internet. It truly is a worldwide web out there.
My questions to the audience will be: do you know your child’s activities on the internet? What social-media sites they visit? Which sites they should avoid?
We send our children abroad to school, how can we monitor their activities or prepare them for the unknown? Do you even know who the predators target and why? What are the underlying causes of human trafficking?
I also want them to leave with an understanding of the characteristics of traffickers so they have signs of things to look for and what to do.
How does your faith impact your role as a forensic nurse on the island?
As a forensic nurse, trained in the application of forensic science intersecting with the law, my role is to collect and preserve unbiased evidence and provide expert testimony in the court of law with a goal of achieving justice and change.
As an intercessor and prayer warrior who believes in the power of prayer, my role is to stand in the gap and present all persons to a higher court and pray for all individuals — the victim, perpetrator, families, communities, social, educational and judicial systems locally and globally to appeal for healing and change.
How can we better protect or safeguard our community from the risks of sexual crimes?
I believe we need to increase awareness through workshops and presentations like this and get the message out to schools, churches, youth groups, community organisations and government agencies.
Bermuda is still under the illusion that these things would never happen to us individually, or nationally. The attitude is this is something you hear or read about happening somewhere else.
How long have you been a believer?
I was raised in foster care with a good foundation in Biblical principles, but had to learn more about how to have a relationship with God, not just practice a religion.
God called me at age 7, and as a teenager and young adult, I would intercede for people and situations, so I prayed for people who I knew and didn’t know.
I would talk to God about my own situation and accept what He said about me and His promises towards me.
Later on, I learnt what intercession was. When a prophet revealed to me that God was telling him that I pray for a lot of people I was shocked, because I never discussed it with anyone. So this confirmed for me that God knows everything — good, bad or indifferent.
How has God sustained and grown your faith?
While in college, I studied psychiatric nursing and worked in trauma and later, with the seriously mentally ill. Then I decided I needed to be on the preventive end of the issue.
Although I have learnt never to take these traumas home with me, I vowed I would give my all to my patients, including prayer. So, yes my faith has protected me, but I had to give something in return. Therefore, faith is actively doing.
What has He taught you about Himself in the process?
God has taught me to believe and trust in Him no matter what, to be who he called me to be and do what He called me to do.
I realise my purpose and my calling is to see people delivered and set free from their past pain, trauma and grief, to minister to the brokenhearted and those who need to hear the truth of God’s word for their lives and give comfort to those who mourn.
Why would you encourage people to come to next week’s conference?
Because of the impact of this issue. It involves the entire community — parents, young people, teachers, community workers, nurses, physicians, law enforcement, employers.
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