It seems rare for a week or month to pass by without a church, nonprofit, or school staying off a national news network due to a sexual misconduct allegation.  These allegations typically involve employees or volunteers who work with the organization.

Often, organizations involved with these allegations do not make it out looking the same.  No matter if these allegations turn out to be real or false allegations.

Sexual abuse allegations consume time and financial resources, and the organization and insurance company involved need to walk gently as they conduct their investigation.

It is vital to involve law enforcement from the beginning if your organization is informed of such an allegation.

As we grow in our understanding, we have learned abuse and molestation incidents can happen at any time or place.  No one organization or location is immune from such a tragic event from happening on their property.

While no number of policies or procedures an organization implements can stop this from happening, they can be a significant contributing factor in reducing abuse from happening.

Over the years, Abuse prevention program measures have changed as companies have obtained an understanding of the following key elements:

  1. How these tragic acts occur
  2. The offenders’ behavioral patterns
  3. The organizations’ response time and activities.

Historically, sexual misconduct prevention programs have focused on keeping outside sex offenders away from the children the organization serves.

The assumption was the organization’s staff and volunteers were safe, and an incident was more likely to happen because someone kidnapped a child and abducted them. Unfortunately, this way of thinking is far from the actual truth.

More than 90 percent of those reporting abuse identify the attacker as someone they know and trust.

Based on this high percentage of victims, churches, nonprofits, and schools must adapt to this reality to protect our kids.

Three Keys for an Effective Abuse Prevention Program

An effective abuse prevention program must be identified and discussed top-down.  The senior leadership must plan an active role when implementing and overseeing an effective abuse prevention program.  Once an organization has the support of its senior leadership, then your program will be positioned for success.  A sexual misconduct program must include measures for screening potential volunteers and employees, training to identify suspicious problem behavior – ideally before abuse occurs  – and proper systems to report and investigate misconduct allegations.

1. Screening

When most churches, nonprofits, and schools think of screening, the first thing that comes to mind is background checks.  While these are important, they are not the holy grail of a successful Abuse Prevention Program protecting our kids.  The best way to prevent sexual abuse claims is to have a system that helps an organization identify potential sex offenders. This should include a process that thoroughly examines employees and all volunteer applicants who will work in and around kids. Consider making the following requirements a part of your organization’s application process:

  • A written application form that includes questions about the applicant’s experience in working with children
  • Application that asks if the person has ever been convicted of sexual misconduct
  • A criminal background check that identifies any previous history
  • Thorough reference checks with those who have seen the applicant interact with children
    • Parents
    • Siblings
    • Friends
    • Relatives
  • A personal interview in which the applicant is specifically asked about any adverse interactions with children and given a clear picture of the commitment of the organization to the safety of children
  • 6 month waiting period before they are allowed to work with kids

2. Training

Your Abuse Prevention Program must require all employees and volunteers are required to attend sexual misconduct training on an annual basis.  A successful abuse prevention program typically includes training topics related to:

  • How to identify grooming behavior
  • Different types of sexual abuse
    • Child on Child Sexual Abuse
    • Adult on-child sexual abuse
    • Pedophilia
  • Possible indicators in children of sexual victimization
    • Physical symptoms
    • Emotional and behavioral symptoms
    • Comparison of symptoms from various sources
  • Operational measures and policies in place to reduce exposure
  • Reporting suspected sexual abuse and responsibilities if inappropriate behavior is observed
    • Child abuse hotlines – 1-800-422-4453

3. Response

Without your employees and volunteers who work with kids having support from senior leadership, individuals may question their ability to respond to a suspected incident.  Every sexual abuse prevention program should empower all individuals and provide documented procedures outlining the steps to report suspected abuse and inappropriate behavior.

These procedures must include mandatory reporting of all suspected incidents to law enforcement, senior leadership of the organization, and the insurance company.  Your abuse prevention program must specify the importance of all individuals cooperating with law enforcement during their investigation.

As mentioned, given the sensitive nature of these incidents, it is essential to have an action plan in place so your organization responds appropriately to such an incident:

  • Work with a media relations consultant to establish a communications strategy for internal and public audiences
  • Identify key staff who are allowed to respond to organizational members and the public
  • Reviewing, with the guidance of professional experts, their abuse prevention procedures to identify areas to improve

All organizations need a written document abuse prevention program that clearly outlines all the necessary steps to protect our children.  Just like annual training for your staff needs to be required, your written documentation should also be reviewed and updated annually.

Are You Working with an Insurance Agency Expert

Integrity Now Insurance Brokers understands that insurance and risks surrounding your church, nonprofit, or school can be challenging. As your church insurance brokers, we provide you with the needed tools and resources to help keep our organization heading in the right direction.  If your nonprofit organization’s insurance program needs abuse and molestation insurance coverage or insurance review, we are here to help.

Contact one of our Church Insurance Agents or complete our online quote form.

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