How You Can Stop Sexual Abuse in Your Ministry
Every 10 seconds a child abuse incident is reported in North America as stated by Childhelp, a nonprofit dedicated to helping victims of child abuse and neglect. As a parent of a two-year-old daughter, I am troubled when I look at the sinful world we live in. Although our churches and schools continue to be proactive in protecting children, we must remember the things we all can do to continue to provide a safe environment for children.
What is Sexual Misconduct?
Sexual misconduct perpetrators can be a person of any gender and can occur between people of the same or different gender. By definition, sexual misconduct is any unwelcome behavior of a sexual nature that is committed without consent or by force, intimidation, coercion or manipulation.
5 Ways You Can Protect Children from Sexual Abuse in Church or School
#1 Intervene on Behalf of Others
A bystander is a person who is present when an event takes place but is not directly involved. Most crimes are committed by someone the victim knows, and a bystander intervening may be the only way out of the situation. Your actions matter! If you suspect that someone you know has been sexually assaulted, take action.
#2 Screen Your Volunteers
To provide an added layer of protection around those who attend our churches and schools, the North American Division (NAD) Working Policy states that all volunteers in an Adventist school or church are required to participate in a screening procedure that includes personal references and a criminal background check before s/he begins to serve. Background checks for each person must be updated every three years.
#3 Always Have Visibility
Secluded rooms and areas with low visibility can be danger zones, creating the potential for abuse or bullying to take place. Minimize these danger zones by making sure to have visibility windows on all doors in your facility and be sure the visibility panes are not blocked or covered.
#4 Follow the “Two-Adult Rule”
To ensure there is always proper adult supervision, establish a “Two-Adult Rule” for all child and youth ministry activities and interactions. Two or more adult ministry leaders should be with children at all times. Children should never be left without adult supervision.
#5 Always Provide Sufficient, Quality Supervision
It is essential to not only provide sufficient supervision but also to provide quality supervision. This means that the on-duty volunteer is engaged and paying attention to the children in his/her care. If you know you will be working with a large number of children, make sure the staff/leader-to-children ratio is sufficient to supervise the entire group.
Reporting Incidents of Sexual Misconduct
If there is an emergency child abuse situation, call 911. If it is not an emergency situation, report the abuse allegation immediately to the proper authorities. If the allegation is against one of your employees or staff members, notify your conference, so they are aware of the situation.
For more information on church safety and child protection, visit ARM’s Church Safety page.
Leander Tomazeli, Adventist Risk Management account executive