The Diocese of St George’s-in-Grenada is committed to the welfare and protection of children and vulnerable people. The diocese is determined to ensure that its schools, churches and other institutions become environments where children and vulnerable people can be, can feel safe, and can thrive.
With this commitment in mind a workshop on the Virtus’ Protecting God’s Children programme was conducted by Tricia Syms of the Family Life Commission of the Archdiocese of Port of Spain for the clergy. The session was held March 3 at Norton Hall, St George’s.
Virtus’ Protecting God’s Children is a four-hour introductory workshop implemented by the Bishops of the Antilles Episcopal Conference (AEC) to raise awareness about the reality of child sexual abuse.
Through videos and facilitated group discussion format, the session helps participants become more familiar with the issues and myths surrounding child sexual abuse; signs of sexual abuse in children; behavioural patterns of perpetrators; steps the Church is taking to prevent future abuse; and a plan of action for adults to remain watchful for would-be perpetrators.
The workshop began with an interesting and informative session in which the Director of Grenada’s Child Protection Agency explained the situation regarding the laws of the country and the practice of child sexual abuse, according to a report by Fr Sean Doggett.
After introducing the Virtus Programme, Syms showed clergy a video ‘A Time to Protect God’s Children.’ In the video, some victims, their families and even some offenders helped viewers to recognise potentially risky behaviour and intervene in situations where a child is being abused. This was followed by some time for personal reflection, small group discussion and sharing in the large group.
After a break, another video was viewed. This helped the participants to recognise the early indicators of someone engaging in inappropriate relationships with a child or youth. Discussion of the video and personal reflection followed.
“An understanding of these warning signs is a help towards developing concrete guidelines and action plans that will prevent child abuse from happening,” Fr Doggett said.
One of the outcomes of the workshop was the realisation that the perpetrators of child sexual abuse do not look different from other people. While most are male, a perpetrator may also be female. Some perpetrators may even be other children. Another outcome, Fr Doggett shared was a realisation of the enormous influence of social media and the dangers attached, along with the easy access that children and young people have, to inappropriate materials.
Fr Doggett said that the diocese looks forward to future sessions of the Virtus Programme and to establishing protocols that will help to ensure that the children of Grenada, grow and thrive in the safety of churches, schools and institutions.