How the Church Should Be Responding to Child Sex Abuse
Children and youth are some of God’s most precious creations, and churches have a responsibility to guide them well and minister to them as they navigate the challenges of their young lives. These are some of your congregation’s most vulnerable members, and protecting them against sex abuse is a critical priority. If there have been allegations of sex abuse in your church, it can be damaging in so very many ways and impact the lives of so very many people. Having a response plan in place is one of the best ways that you, as a church, can help reduce the devastating effects.
As a church insurance company serving the needs of the Pensacola area for nearly two decades, we at Beacon Insurance Agency, Inc. are on a mission to illuminate our clients’ way to peace of mind and offer them guidance in whatever ways we can. Our partnership with GuideOne Insurance enables us to offer exclusive access to safety tools and resources that help our clients through various situations they might face. We believe all churches and organizations in the service of youth need to have a proper response plan for child sex abuse.
It’s an unfortunate and horrifying thing to consider, but the reality is that child sex abuse does exist, and it happens within the church as well as in the secular world. You, as a church, have a responsibility to your congregation – as well as to the rest of the world into which you’re trying to serve as Christ’s light – to be an advocate for child safety and minister to your flock in these difficult times.
Wise Response Plans for Ministries
If allegations of child sex abuse have been made, there are a number of responses that the church can take. Always remember that how the leaders of your church respond may make all the difference in limiting the lasting effects of the situation.
· Notify the parent or guardian of the situation immediately
· Immediately place the church worker or member who is suspected of child sex abuse or misconduct on leave pending an investigation. Instruct them to stay away from the church premises throughout the course of the investigation and bar them from having any contact with the victim or with those who have witnessed the incident
· Report all allegations of child sex abuse to the authorities and comply fully with the state’s requirements for mandatory reporting of abuse. During the official investigation of the incident, cooperate with all requests for assistance in the collection of evidence or information and follow all instructions regarding contact with the individual in question
· Familiarize your church with your state’s mandatory reporting laws. State law will dictate such things as who is a mandatory reporter, what should be reported and when a report should be made. In some states, formal training of mandatory reporters is required, and failing to follow the state’s mandatory reporting law can result in criminal charges
· Notify your church’s insurance company and complete an incident report regarding the sex abuse. To maintain full disclosure, all documents received relating to the incident or allegations of child sex abuse must immediately be sent to the insurance company
· Designate a spokesperson for your church who will be able to address the media concerning incidents of sex abuse or neglect and seek the advice of legal counsel before giving any type of response to media inquiries or releasing information to the members of your congregation. It is crucial that no one other than the designated spokesperson speak to the media
· Remove any individual whose innocence of the alleged incident has not been proven from the position they hold in working with children or youth
· If your church gains information that the sex offender is putting other children at risk by becoming involved in another organization serving the youth, it is your responsibility to discuss the proper communication of this information with your legal counsel.
Establishing a procedure for responding to child sex abuse is crucial for your church, but it is also essential that the procedure be followed in every instance. Planning ahead may better enable you to respond in the event that an accusation of child sexual abuse within your church arises, and that response is one that can have lasting effects.
Call Beacon Insurance Agency of Pace, Inc. to learn more about GuideOne and how we can help you safeguard your church against child sex abuse today!