According to Richard Hammar of Church Law and Tax, church sexual abuse is the #1 risk to churches today in terms of damages. In his recent webinar, “Child Abuse: Emerging Trends to the Biggest Legal Threat to Churches” it was clear that when it comes to church sexual abuse prevention, a sexual misconduct policy is simply not enough.
Every year, more victims come forward with sexual abuse allegations against the church. Church sexual abuse prevention calls for education, awareness and action. At Beacon Insurance Agency, part of our mission is to stay up-to-date on relevant topics that affect our clients.
At Beacon Insurance, the difference is in our expertise. Today we bring you valuable education on church sexual abuse prevention.
Church Sexual Abuse Claims: A Look at the Risk
Allegations of church sexual abuse have far-reaching consequences. Even without a conviction, allegations damage the reputation of the church and its ability to provide collective witness. Church sexual abuse is not a new problem, but it is a worsening problem that puts the church at risk.
How do Churches Prevent Sexual Abuse?
- First, increase education and awareness. Recognize that the sexual offender is not who you think. Gone are the days of the creepy deviant lurking on the playground. Today’s abuser is among us. In fact, according to Ministrysafe’s co-founder, Gregory Love, 94% of sexual abuse comes from someone who knows the child.
- Become more aware of cues and signals by adults to children and youth in the church. Hold regular accountability meetings with those in close contact with children and youth.
- Be prepared for some uphill battles. It’s hard to accept that someone who worships with you could commit such an offense. With that, as a church leader, you might encounter some resistance to increasing education and taking action to prevent church sexual abuse. Christian Leader Magazine offers suggestions for overcoming this type of pushback. Read that article here.
How COVID-19 Increases the Risk
The coronavirus pandemic has changed the way our country does church. For children and youth, going virtual became a lifeline to the church to keep them connected. This virtual environment also increased the risk of church sexual abuse because there is a greater opportunity to form trust and closer relationships in a “private” virtual environment.
Download this free printable resource from Philadelphia Insurance “Protecting Children in the Virtual World during COVID-19.”
All social media platforms have ways to private message. “DM,” or “Direct Message,” is one example on Instagram. Between social media messaging and cell phone texting, private communication became a lot easier during the pandemic. Inappropriate behavior goes unchecked and escalates.
According to Richard Hammar, among the ways churches will minimize inappropriate virtual interactions include:
- Always gain written parental consent to include a minor in any digital conversation
- Never have one-on-one digital interaction with a minor. Digital discussions are to be in a group and/or the parent included in the message.
- Do not communicate at all via risky social media apps like Snap Chat.
At Beacon Insurance Agency, the difference is in our expertise.