Abuse Prevention- Philadelphia Insurance Companies

How to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse Within Youth-Serving Organizations

Any organization that provides human services to its community, be it a church, summer camp, or non-profit, has a duty to provide those services in a safe and nurturing environment, which includes having strong child sexual abuse prevention programs in place.

Unfortunately, child sexual abuse within child-servicing organizations is still a grim reality, yet many organizations fall short of what they need to do to protect the most vulnerable.

The federal government and many state governments have taken action against child sexual abuse. One example is the state of California in 2022. 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.

In 2023, the state passed another law that removes the statute of limitations on civil cases related to child sexual abuse, which became effective Jan. 1, 2024.

Several large jury awards have resulted from child sexual abuse lawsuits, including a 2022 jury award of $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 this abuse has on the victims' lives.

Four Mistakes that Can Enable Child Sexual Abuse

Organizations can fall short in preventing child sexual abuse for many reasons, including:

  1. The misconception that a person who would do something so heinous would be a stranger to the organization and the child. In reality, 93% of reported child sexual abuse cases involve a perpetrator whom 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).

  1. The belief that performing background checks alone keeps programs safe. While background checks are important, less than 10% of sexual abusers ever get tried and only 3% are convicted. This means roughly 97% of sexual abusers will pass a simple background check.

  1. Fear of making a false allegation. Many organizational leaders hesitate to report child sexual abuse, even though most states have mandatory reporting laws. According to Gregory S. Love and Kimberlee Norris, sexual abuse attorneys with Love & Norris, and co-founders of Abuse Prevention Systems and MinistrySafe, more than 98% of allegations by children are factual, even if they are subsequently recanted.

  1. A lack of knowledge of how to safeguard children and prevent child sexual abuse from occurring. An effective child sexual abuse prevention program consists of key elements that work in concert to build barriers that filter out possible perpetrators and creates a warning system within the organization that can help detect dangerous behavior.

Five Elements of an Effective Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Program

After years of litigating legal cases, Abuse Preventions Systems and MinistrySafe created sexual abuse risk management training to help organizations prevent child sexual abuse.

This five-step system is tailored to fit camps, schools, youth sports, day cares, religious institutions, and other organizations that care for children.

  1. Support from Leadership
    Everyone in the organization is vital to the program's success. When leadership supports the various measures and protocols needed, it demonstrates their commitment to preventing child sexual abuse.

  1. Documented Policies and Procedures
    Having written policies and procedures helps 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.

  1. Documented Employee and Volunteer Training
    Child sexual abuse prevention training should be provided to all who work with children, from the program manager to the nursery volunteer, upon hiring and annually after that. It should include a review of the written practices that have been implemented, information about the grooming process, a review of the reporting procedures, and a description of inappropriate interactions with youth.

  1. Specific Training for Hiring Managers
    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.

  1. 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. Applications should be referenced and past addresses considered when running a background check.

Abuse Prevention Starts at the Child's Home

Another important aspect of child sexual abuse prevention actually occurs outside of the organization. Parents and caregivers are the ultimate protectors of their children, so it's important the efforts start at home.

But even parents and caregivers need tools and information to understand the risk. "The whole purpose is to equip parents with better information, including questions they should be asking in the programs or activities where their child spends time," says Norris of the Parent Training provided by APS and MinistrySafe.

Organizations should consider providing parents and caregivers with the training, which includes the following information:

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

Expert Support for Child Sexual Abuse Prevention

Some organizations may already take various measures to protect children but may need additional support. Organizational leaders should be mindful of what knowledge and resources an insurance carrier provides when evaluating sexual abuse and molestation insurance coverage, which are as important as the insurance policy itself.

In partnership with Abuse Prevention Systems (for non-religious organizations) and MinistrySafe (designed for religious organizations), Philadelphia Insurance Companies (PHLY) offers easy-to-use, online resources to help child-servicing organizations reduce the risk of child sexual abuse. 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 us at phlyrms@phly.com.

Additional Resources

IMPORTANT NOTICE - The information and suggestions presented by Philadelphia Indemnity Insurance Company are 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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