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Scars team to present talk in Memphis

Off to Memphis: Debi Ray-Rivers, Scars founder and executive director and Jon Brunson, the chairman

A US conference will hear next week how Bermuda has become a beacon in the fight against child sexual abuse.

Debi Ray-Rivers, the founder and executive director of Saving Children and Revealing Secrets, and Jon Brunson, the charity’s chairman, are to present at a three-day event in Memphis, Tennessee, organised by Darkness to Light, a child sex abuse prevention group

The Darkness to Light national conference was designed to bring together professionals and researchers committed to the prevention of child sexual abuse.

Ms Ray-Rivers and Mr Brunson will deliver a talk titled “Tipping Point: Scars and the Bermuda Reality” on Tuesday.

They will talk about how their team has trained about 7,800 people in how to prevent, recognise and react responsibly to child sexual abuse.

Bermuda was the first country in the world to be recognised by Darkness to Light for reaching “tipping point” — where more than 12 per cent of its adult population has taken the awareness course.

Mr Brunson said: “A lot of people have heard about Bermuda and we’re talked about a lot in Darkness to Light and they use us as an example of what countries can do, or even small communities, what they can do to effect change, so our presentation is really along those lines.”

He said he planned to put the island “on the map” and help people to learn about “who we are as a community”, as well as the organisations that work with Scars. Key findings from the recent Parliamentary Joint Select Committee report into a sex offender register will also feature in the presentation.

Darkness to Light uses “the tipping point” measurement based on Malcolm Gladwell’s book by the same name, which argued that if enough people in a given population change their behaviour, a cultural shift is created. Mr Brunson said he hoped to use the presentation to encourage others to aim for the tipping point.

He said: “I think, the real belief that you can really reach tipping point, change behaviours and change the mindset of a community to shift in a positive way to child protection, and continually drive effective change, that’s true to a simple statement, it’s an adult’s responsibility to protect children.”

He added: “Aside from the numbers, which are powerful, the real impact is the behavioural change that Bermuda is experiencing.”

Ms Ray-Rivers said: “We have a community that has embraced this message. People are not in denial and are wanting to do everything they can to prevent child sexual abuse in our community, so that we can save future generations of children, we have a community that wants that.

“We can tell that by organisations now making the training mandatory, people are putting codes of conduct in, people are asking for background checks and reference checks.

“They’re doing everything they can to minimise risk.”

Ms Ray-Rivers said figures from the Department of Public Prosecutions showed Scars’ impact, with a 125 per cent increase in reports of child sexual abuse since 2014.

She added there was also a rise in reports of historical sex abuse cases where some victims said their Scars training was the catalyst for making the complaint.

Two Scars trainers will also travel to the conference, with the help of part-funding from a private source.

Scars said the event will allow the trainers to network with others in the field, improve their own skills and keep up to date with new risks to children from technology.