A participant who attended a recent Virtus programme session shares their experience.
My experience of the Virtus programme was simply that of a flashlight shining its light into a dark corner of a room. So many questions and uncertainties were answered throughout the session.
The programme kicks off with a video forcing you to expose your emotional self to the harsh realities of child sexual abuse, its prevalence and some important facts about perpetrators and victims, as well as some common myths about sexual abuse.
The tension that was felt in the room after the first video was almost stifling. That quickly dissipated when the group discussed what they got from the video, asked questions and some even felt moved to share their own experiences.
A second video was shown and it gave a deeper insight into the steps you can take in knowing warning signs, monitoring and screening perpetrators, being aware of changes in child/youth behaviour and how you can communicate your concerns effectively and appropriately.
The second video stirred up many emotions in the group as we heard stories from both the victim and the abuser. One can’t help but feel disgusted and even vulnerable as in many of the stories the victims never thought something like that could ever happen to them.
It goes to show that no-one is safe and no-one should feel like ‘this could never happen to me’ or ‘this could never happen to my child’. It was very comforting to know some of the warning signs and that there is a system in place for dealing with these incidents not only legally but also locally in the Church.
Hearing from the Children’s Authority was the icing on the cake, as they gave insight on what happens legally, answered a myriad of questions from participants and graciously received complaints about the times when the system failed others.
Upon leaving the session, you feel better equipped to: deal with situations that may have seemed very complicated before; share your knowledge with others; and implement what you have learnt in your homes, churches, youth groups, prayer groups, etc.
Through my increased awareness and knowledge, I feel as though I can make a significant contribution in preventing and dealing with any suspicious situations that I may be exposed to.