Don’t wait for a child to be harmed; create policies and practices that reduce the risk that children will be harmed.
Policies to reduce risk and protect children
Many faith communities are developing policies to respond to situations where children have already been abused. Urge your faith community to look at practices and develop a prevention policy. For example, it is good practice to have a “two adult rule” that prohibits one-on-one contact between an adult and a child. It is also good practice to prohibit one-on-one meetings with children and youth when others can’t see or hear the interaction. If a child is in need of spiritual counseling, it would be appropriate to have a policy that any touching between an adult and a child should take place within sight and hearing of others.
Question confusing or uncertain behaviors
Create an atmosphere that encourages people to question confusing or uncertain behaviors and practices. Nobody wants to accuse someone they know of inappropriate sexual behavior or sexual abuse. By initiating discussions about inappropriate behaviors and modeling how to talk about concerning situations, your faith community can create a safe atmosphere that encourages people to take action before children are harmed.
Respond to inappropriate behavior
Practice responding to inappropriate behaviors that are not illegal. Preventing sexual abuse means taking action before you have proof that a child has been harmed. It also means taking action as soon as you see behaviors or hear comments that concern you. Speaking up about your concerns is not the same as accusing someone of sexual behaviors, and it can prevent someone from escalating their behavior.
Reduce risk in the physical environment
Inventory your physical environment and modify it to reduce risk. Look at your physical environment from the viewpoint of someone who may want to isolate a child. Consider locking or limiting access to closets and other rooms that are not in use while children are at your facility. Consider adding windows to rooms where children and older youth or adults may be gathering.
Plan for sex offenders in your community
Decide ahead of time how you will handle having a “sex offender