With cases of neglect, physical and sexual abuse reported to the Child Care Board over the past five years, the Diocese of Bridgetown hosted an awareness session for clergy, religious, catechists and lay leaders July 5 and 6 regarding the protection of God’s children.
The session, facilitated by Tricia Syms, Episcopal Delegate of the Family Life Commission of the Archdiocese of Port of Spain and trained VIRTUS facilitator involved identifying signs of child sexual abuse and some tactics used by abusers.
The Church leaders were led through the VIRTUS Protecting God’s Children for Adults Safe Environment training programme which included two videos and opportunities for discussions in small groups and in plenary sessions.
Awareness sessions will also be arranged for teachers, parents and other persons in the Diocese and guidelines are being developed to provide information such as how to report suspected incidents of abuse.
VIRTUS, a USA-developed programme was selected by the Antilles Episcopal Conference of Bishops as the awareness tool to be used by the dioceses in this region, and includes information about sexual abuse of children, detecting signs of abuse and how to safeguard children wherever they are.
Persons who register and participate in the VIRTUS sessions receive a certificate confirming they attended the training session. They also benefit from ongoing training online and receive bulletins via the VIRTUS platform.
Syms also conducted an introductory train the trainer session for ten persons who will then be able to provide training when they are certified. The two-day gathering included a presentation by Denise Nurse, Deputy Director of the Child Care Board of Barbados who outlined the legislative framework for the protection of children, and the different types of ‘abuse’ under the laws of Barbados.
Nurse also provided an overview of the abuse cases reported to the Board over the past five years. She commended the Diocese for holding the awareness session and said that information sharing allows everyone to play their part in looking out for, and protecting children.
Apostolic Administrator, Archbishop Jason Gordon said that these awareness sessions are important to educate and reinforce the duty of care we have to our children. “We all have a role to play in protecting God’s children,” he said.
Archbishop Gordon added that awareness sessions on other social concerns such as domestic violence and poverty are also being planned to highlight the importance of respecting the inherent dignity of the human person, created in the image and likeness of God.