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Five ways to prevent sexual abuse at your nonprofit

When someone your organization serves comes forward with allegations of sexual abuse, it can have devastating consequences for both the victim and your organization. You want to do everything in your power to prevent these events from happening in the first place. At Church Mutual, we work with organizations that are both dealing with the ramifications of abuse and taking steps to stop sexual abuse from happening. Here is a Fast Five list of ways you can prevent sexual abuse at your nonprofit.

  1. Use more than just background checks to screen staff members and volunteers. According to David Finkelhor, director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center, 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, volunteers and contractors, you need to take other steps to protect children as well. Those steps include asking them to:
    • Submit a thorough application.
    • Provide references who can give you a sense of their character.
    • Participate in an interview with you and others in your organization.
  1. Provide supervision and oversight. Never leave a child alone in a room with a non-related adult. Some organizations have a “two-deep leadership” requirement, meaning there always needs to be at least two adults with one or more children. There may be unavoidable circumstances that prevent you from having more than one adult available, but there should be no less than three children in those situations. This policy protects the children from potentially abusive situations and the adults from allegations of misconduct.
  2. 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.
  3. Policies and Procedures. With an understanding of the risk through awareness training, develop policies and procedures that demonstrate a recognition and awareness of the risk. Effective policies and procedures serve as a deterrent and make your organization a less attractive target for those with bad intentions. Having effective policies and procedures in place also shows there are levels of accountability and enforcement within your organization.
  4. Evaluate any online events your organization offers. When the COVID-19 pandemic shut down much of the nation, nonprofits turned to video conferencing to provide many of their services. 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.

You can prevent sexual abuse in your organization by eliminating any opportunities for predators to strike.

We are partnered with MinistrySafe® | Abuse Prevention Systems® who offer policyholders discounted pricing on tools, resources and programs to reduce the risk, including awareness training for your workers and volunteers.

For more risk control tips visit our sexual abuse prevention safety resources page.