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Five Ways To Prevent Sexual Abuse In Your Church

Despite years and years of education and warning on how to prevent sexual abuse within the church, the majority of churches still do not actively develop and embrace the very basics of an effective sexual abuse prevention program.

If you ever have someone come forward with allegations of sexual abuse, it will have devastating consequences for both the victim and the church, so you want to do everything in your power to keep this from happening in the first place.  Here are Five ways you can prevent sexual abuse in your church.

1. Written Policy & Procedures
2. Provide Supervision and Oversight
3. Use More Than Just Background Checks to Screen Staff Members and Volunteers.
4. Provide Sexual Abuse Awareness Training
5.  Address and Halt High-Risk Behaviors

1. Policy & Procedures:  Learn how to create and implement effective policies which specifically address sexual abuse risk to children and youth.  Oftentimes, an organization will adopt practices that are simply comfortable or convenient and if so, ultimately you are potentially placing those entrusted to your care at risk. 

2. Provide Supervision and Oversight. If we could ever master the NEVER ALONE rule, we would make a tremendous advance at reducing sexual abuse in the church.  These essence of a Never Alone rule (also referred to as a Two Adult Rule), is that no minor should never be left alone in a room, vehicle, or nonpublic place with a non-related adult.  Pastors, most of you do not counsel alone – neither should you allow any of your employees or volunteers to be alone with a minor.  This policy protects the children and youth from potentially abusive situations and the adults from allegations of misconduct.

3. Use More Than Just Background Checks to Screen Staff Members and Volunteers. Various statistics have shown that less than 10 percent of sexual offenders are ever criminally prosecuted. This means more than 90 percent of criminal offenders have no criminal record to check. So, while you should certainly perform background checks for all employees and the volunteers that work with minors, you need to take other steps to protect children as well. Those steps include asking them to:

      • Submit a thorough application.
      • Require a waiting period of at least six months before allowing anyone you are not very familiar with to be involved in nursery, children, or youth work.
      • Participate in an interview.

4. Provide sexual abuse awareness training for any adult who may work with children. Such training should teach adults how to look for signs of “grooming,” high-risk indicators and patterns of sexual abuse. It should also tell them what they should do if they notice signs of sexual abuse, which will include reporting the incident to the mandatory reporter in the organization.

      • We are partnered with MinistrySafe® | Abuse Prevention Systems® who offer discounted pricing on tools, resources and programs to reduce the risk, including awareness training for your workers and volunteers.  We cannot afford to be reactive anymore; we need to be proactive.

5. Address And Halt High Risk Behaviors:  These might include:

      • Online activity:  Even online, a child should never be alone in a virtual room with an adult. Ask leaders and participants to have an appropriate background and dress in clothing they would wear in public. Adults should not reach out to children via text, as this also creates opportunity for grooming. If texting is necessary, the child’s parent should be included in the text.
      • Transportation:  An adult leader should never drive a vehicle alone with one minor on board.  By the way, the courts view a husband and wife as one person, so a married couple does not count as two people.
      • Travel:  An adult leader should not spend the night in a hotel with one or more unrelated minors.

Final Thoughts
We don’t want this article to sound like you should be suspicious of everyone.  But we do urge you to be on guard.  Please don’t adopt the theory that it won’t happen here – because it can!