Abuse Prevention- Philadelphia Insurance Companies

Preventing Child Sexual Abuse

The mission of any organization that provides human services to their community, be it a church, summer camp, or a non-profit, is to provide these programs in a safe and nurturing environment. One of the most important aspects of this mission should be protecting the most vulnerable in their care. Unfortunately, child sexual abuse within child-servicing organizations is still a grim reality, yet many organizations fall short of the necessary practices needed to safeguard the vulnerable.

This issue is driving federal and state governments to take action, the most recent is the state of California. As the federal Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse and Safe Sport Authorization Act of 2017 was a response to the USA Gymnastics sexual abuse scandal, California's law was a reaction to the thousands of lawsuits from men who alleged sexual abuse while part of the Boy Scouts of America, leading to an $850 million settlement and the storied institution filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. And recently, "a jury awarded $102.5 million to two women who sued a Northern California school district over what they said was officials' failure to stop a middle school teacher from sexually grooming and abusing them as minors," according to the Associated Press. These settlements pale in comparison to the devastating impact to the victims' lives.

Four Mistakes that Can Enable Abusers

Why do organizations fall short? There can be multiple answers to this question. One is the misconception that a person who would do something so heinous would be a stranger to the organization and the child. The truth is, among the cases of child sexual abuse reported to law enforcement, 93% involve a perpetrator that the child knows and trusts, such as a relative, care provider, family friend, coach, student leader, or ministry volunteer, according to Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN).

"We perform background checks, so our programs are safe," is another dangerous misconception. While background checks are important, less than 10% of sexual abusers will ever see a courtroom and only 3% will be convicted. This means roughly 97% of sexual abusers will pass a simple background check.

Fear of making a false allegation has been found to be a reason organizational leaders hesitate to report child sexual abuse, even though most states have mandatory reporting laws. This fear is troubling as it has a high likelihood of causing further pain to the victim.

"When an allegation is communicated by the child - even if subsequently recanted - more than 98% of the allegations are factual," writes Gregory S. Love and Kimberlee Norris, sexual abuse attorneys with Love & Norris, Attorneys and co-founders of Abuse Prevention Systems and MinistrySafe. "In the majority of circumstances, a child's outcry provides only a fraction of information relative to the abusive experience. In the majority of circumstances, children don't fabricate an allegation."

Finally, one of the most common reasons child-servicing organizations fall short of the needed safeguards to protect children is a lack of knowledge. It's important to understand that an effective child sexual abuse prevention program consists of key elements that work in concert to build barriers that filter out possible perpetrators and also creates a warning system within the organization that can help detect dangerous behavior.

Five Key Elements of an Effective Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Program

After years of litigating legal cases, Abuse Preventions Systems and MinistrySafe created a program to help organizations reduce the risk of child sexual abuse. This five-step system is tailored to fit camps, schools, youth sports, daycares, religious institutions and other organizations that care for children.

  1. Support from Leadership
    Everyone in the organization, from the most senior leader to the newest volunteer, is vital to the success of the program. When leadership supports the various measures and protocols needed, it demonstrates their commitment to protecting children from sexual abuse.

  2. Documented Policies and Procedures
    Having written policies and procedures helps to communicate a consistent message, especially when there are multiple locations or programs. These policies should include a prohibitive position statement, clear instructions on how to report suspected abuse, and detailed guidance on "grooming," a process used by perpetrators to gain trust from both the child and other adults.

  3. Documented Employee and Volunteer Training
    Training should be provided to all who work with children, from the program manager to the nursery volunteer, when hired and annually thereafter. It should include a review of the written practices that have been implemented, the grooming process, reporting procedures, and what are considered inappropriate interactions with youth.

  4. Specific Training for Hiring Managers
    In addition to receiving the general training mentioned above, anyone who hires employees or volunteers should also receive training on elements placed in the hiring process to weed out possible abusers. These elements should include reviewing the employment/volunteer application, completing reference checks, and conducting thorough interviews with questions that elicit high-risk responses.

  5. Criminal Background Checks
    As mentioned, background checks should not be the only part of a child sexual abuse prevention program, but they are still an important measure. Background checks should be conducted in accordance with state law and should be as comprehensive as possible. Be sure to reference the application and ensure any past addresses are considered when running a background check.

Abuse Prevention Starts at the Child's Home

Another important aspect of abuse prevention actually occurs outside of the organization. Parents and caregivers are the ultimate protectors of their children, so it's important these efforts start at the child's home. But even parents and caregivers need tools and information to understand the risk. "The whole purpose is to equip parents with better information," says Norris when explaining the Parent Training provided by APS and MinistrySafe, "including questions they should be asking in the programs or activities where their child spends time." Organizations should consider providing parents and caregivers with this training, covering the following from their perspective:

  • Common misconceptions about sexual abuse and abusers
  • Abuser characteristics
  • The abuser's grooming process and common grooming behaviors

Expert Child Abuse Prevention Support

It's possible that some organizations are already doing aspects of the various measures needed to protect children, yet they may need additional support. This support is why organizational leaders should be mindful of who they partner with when choosing an insurance broker or carrier. As important as the insurance policy itself, the knowledge and available resources provided by an experienced broker or carrier can be invaluable.

Philadelphia Insurance Companies (PHLY) has this expertise and can provide the level of support child-servicing organizations need. Consider supplementing your current abuse prevention policies and training with PHLY's resources, offered in partnership with Abuse Prevention Systems (for non-religious organizations) and MinistrySafe (designed for religious organizations). These easy-to-use, online resources can help reduce the risk of child sexual abuse in children's programs. They are available to PHLY policyholders with sexual abuse and molestation coverage at no additional cost. Visit the Abuse Prevention Systems or MinistrySafe websites for more information or contact phlyrms@phly.com.

Additional Resources

Protecting Children in the Virtual World

Understanding Child Sexual Abuse Risk

Abuse Prevention Law for Youth Sports Organizations

Understanding AB506 - California's New Sexual Abuse Prevention Legislation

IMPORTANT NOTICE - The information and suggestions presented by Philadelphia Indemnity Insurance Company is for your consideration in your loss prevention efforts. They are not intended to be complete or definitive in identifying all hazards associated with your business, preventing workplace accidents, or complying with any safety related, or other, laws or regulations. You are encouraged to alter them to fit the specific hazards of your business and to have your legal counsel review all of your plans and company policies.

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