Gerald Connor, Probation Officer within the Department of Probation and Child Protection Services, told SKNIS that this initiative was welcomed as it addresses what he described as a growing issue. He said the main strategy of the local campaign officially dubbed ‘Break the Silence: Prevent Child Sexual Abuse Blue Bear Campaign,’ calls for empowerment through education.
“We’re meeting with these kids at the schools through their general assembly and [other forums] and we are voicing these serious issues and [we] let them know at the end of the day that someone is always there to help them in any possible way,” Connor said, during an interview aired on this week’s edition of Perspectives. “We have posters that we will be giving out to the schools that will highlight certain things such as men should not date children. Giving children money for sexual favours is also some of the things we are trying to highlight. … These are real issues that we have out there in the community and we are trying to highlight them so that we can put an end to them.”
Training has been held for principals, teachers and guidance counselors in both primary and secondary schools, so that they can identify any telltale signs that may be exhibited by young students who are abused. The educators reportedly embraced the advanced training.
“They responded well and they have even asked that we come back from time to time to continue enlightening them on these issues,” he stated.
The probation officer reflected on some of the stories shared by the teachers who did detect troubling signs that suggested some students were undergoing traumatic experiences.
“Now that it is coming out, they themselves have said wow I didn’t even know about these things,” he disclosed. “… Therefore we are putting things in place where we can interact more deeply with the schools.”
The symbol for the campaign is a blue teddy bear with a plaster over the heart. The colour is representative of the mood that an abused child is feeling while the plaster signifies the healing that is taking place.
While stressing that every child in the community must be kept safe, Mr. Connor encouraged parents, guardians and all adults in general, to talk and listen more to children and warn them of the dangers that exist in every society. He added that depression, anger management issues and even mental breakdowns can haunt victims into adulthood.
The launch of the Break the Silence: Prevent Child Sexual Abuse Blue Bear Campaign takes place tomorrow at Independence Square at 3 p.m. Additional information is available by visiting the Ministry of Community Development on Victoria Road or by calling 467-1311.
The initiative was first introduced in Trinidad and Tobago in 2011. The Blue Teddy Bear Campaign as it is referred to there, formed part of the Breaking the Silence Project, which aims to protect children against sexual violence and to prevent HIV. UNICEF sponsored the roll out of the programme across the English-speaking Caribbean.
Press release from (SKNIS)