Avanell Sylvester couldn’t help but cry as she spoke about children who have been sexually abused. She knows some of them.
It is for that reason that she has been championing at her workplace – Scotiabank in Road Town – the cause to have her colleagues wear blue in support of the ‘Break the Silence’ campaign, which was implemented by the Social Development Department.
The campaign is intended to bring awareness to the growing epidemic of child abuse in the British Virgin Islands (BVI).
Statistics from Social Development show a total of 32 reported cases of child sexual abuse in the BVI for the year 2015. Five of the cases involved offences against boys. There were a total 27 cases of child sexual abuse reported last year. Six of those involved male victims. More than five cases have been reported to Social Development this year already.
“I know persons who have been sexually abused… Some were abused by someone close. Being that I didn’t see or know of these things [initially], it’s kinda hard. So that is why I always stress that you ask questions if you see any change in the behaviour [of a child] or whatever. Even if the child does not want to open up, eventually they will; hence why I always support every year, and encourage Scotiabank employees to support as well,” Sylvester said.
Her colleagues certainly rallied behind her yesterday (April 28) by brandishing their blue shirts in the signature red financial institution.
“I would like to encourage and see more people in the community wearing blue and support Social Development in all their efforts,” Sylvester further told BVI News Online.
Branch Manager Ryan Best said his team was happy to join the movement.
“We started supporting the British Virgin Islands ‘Break The Silence’ on child sex abuse three years ago. Last year, we did it and all staff participated. Of course, it is a fundraiser. Avanell Sylvester is the one that spearheads it [at Scotiabank]. Every time it comes up, she would encourage the staff to get involved. The programme is run across the entire BVI. You can pay for the shirt. Pay $16 and a portion of it goes towards the Social Development board.”
The bank manager added: “It (awareness) is a very important aspect of our society, because there are people who are touched by abuse. And, as Avanell is saying, you need to look for signs and be vigilant. Listen. Some things might be a cry for help. Take things seriously. We support it as a bank.”
Meanwhile, a social worker at Social Development Laurel Freeman said her department is grateful for the positive community response.
“The department feels good that the BVI community is in support of us ending and breaking the silence about this atrocity against our children. I just want to thank the BVI community for their overwhelming support on behalf of the survivors in our community,” she said.