SCARS executive director Debi Ray-Rivers
SCARS executive director Debi Ray-Rivers

More than a dozen members of the Anglican Church of Bermuda have been certified to prevent, recognize and respond to child sex abuse on the island.

The advocacy group Saving Children and Revealing Secrets (SCARS) provided the training to Bishop Nicholas Dill, along with current and retired clergy of the Diocese.

It became the island’s first church to ensure that a representative in each parish — 15 in total — had such training. 

“Child sexual abuse is so often kept secret that statistics vary widely but what we do know is that it exists in Bermuda and is quite prevalent,” said Debi Ray-Rivers, SCARS executive director. 

“Some research in the U.S. has shown that as many as one in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually molested before their 18th birthday, which means that no organization is untouched by this personally and socially-devastating issue.”

SCARS has certified more than 1,150 individuals to date on the island in child abuse prevention and response. 

The organization delivers a programme developed by a U.S. nonprofit that includes a three-hour evidence-based training programme that is designed to educate adults about how to prevent respond responsibly to child sex abuse.

A key part of the training, according to Ms. Ray-Rivers, is overcoming denial, fear and secrecy and providing awareness, safety and personal power.

The church, according to Ms. Ray-Rivers, comes into contact with many children each week and wishes to best position itself to address child sexual abuse.

The church is taking a top-down approach, said Ms. Ray-Rivers. Church leaders have committed to train more individuals. Rev. Dill said through a statement: “The clergy and I found the training provided by scars enlightening and extremely helpful in defining how we can collaborate with the community in the fight against child sexual abuse.”

He added, “Our involvement with scars does not end with the completion of the training; we will continue to work together to fundamentally change the way we interact with and provide therapeutic services to our younger audiences. 

“We view this approach as necessary wisdom rather than paranoia and recommend that all parents familiarize themselves with the work of SCARS.”