Preventing Sexual Misconduct from Devastating Your Church
Churches are instituted to be places of hope, strength and sanctuary. But the ways of the world can find their way in, and sexual misconduct is something that the church is at risk for – especially when it comes to children. Incidences of sexual misconduct can be devastating both financially and emotionally to churches when an event occurs. There are preemptive actions and safety programs that can be implemented to help prevent occurrences of sexual misconduct and minimize the risks associated with such incidents.
Sexual misconduct is extremely devastating to the victim as well as to their family, but it can also destroy your church’s reputation, credibility and the trust that people place in your organization. In addition, there are enormous legal costs associated with lawsuits that may be brought against your church, and these expenses have the potential to ruin your church financially.
At Beacon Insurance of Pace, Inc. we have specialized in church insurance for nearly two decades and have a strong partnership with GuideOne Insurance. GuideOne provides us with the ability to offer access to invaluable safety resources that our clients need in order to keep their ministries and their organizations protected against such things as sexual misconduct. Our calling is to illuminate our clients’ path to peace of mind, and we believe that taking precautions against sexual misconduct is essential in safeguarding the future of their church.
Safeguard Your Church Against Sexual Misconduct
There are startling statistics regarding sexual misconduct that many of us are unaware of:
· Approximately 77,000 incidents of child sex abuse are reported annually
· Less than an estimated 10 percent of all sexual abuse cases are reported to the authorities, which means that actual number of sexual abuse cases that occur on an annual basis is far greater than those that have been reported
· Children are most commonly sexually abused by people that they know
· Sexual abuse is not limited to certain demographics or areas
· It is estimated that one in four girls and one in seven boys are sexually molested before they turn 18
· There are 10 to 15 monthly new claims of sexual misconduct
· There are an estimated 150 sexual misconduct claims pending at any one time
As an organization working with the public and with children, your church has a responsibility to take preventative measures against sexual misconduct. These measures include:
· Screening all employees and volunteers and conducting background checks
· Establishing organizational policies and procedures regarding sex offenders
· Educating your staff members, children and parents on how to deal with sexual misconduct of any kind
· Developing a type of program that will be of most benefit to your organization
Screening and Background Checks
These are measures that should not be found offensive to anyone who has nothing to hide. Running criminal background checks will reveal important information you need to know regarding an employee or volunteer. It will also help keep everyone safe against incidences that might occur if you had not been aware of the individual’s history. Background checks can only be conducted with written consent, so be sure to follow the necessary steps in collecting information. You will also need to have screening applications completed. Screening applications collect information such as employment history, experience with children, criminal history and references. Naturally, you will need to verify all information given and contact references. If any irregularities come to your attention, resolve them before you allow the individual to begin working.
Establishing Organizational Policies and Procedures
Written policies are a great defense for churches against sexual misconduct, but they MUST be enforced and fully communicated to your employees and volunteers once they have been established.
· Create a procedure for asking the employee or volunteer if they have ever been accused of, taken part in or been convicted of sexual misconduct
· Establish documented procedures for responding to accusations of sexual misconduct
· Require all volunteers to have six months of service within your church before they are given direct involvement with children or placed in supervisory roles of them
· Establish a proper ratio of adults-to-children and require there be a minimum of two unrelated adults to be present with children at all times
· Hold all children’s activities in central locations that are highly visible
· Do not allow children’s activities to take place in private areas and keep all remote areas including closets and unused rooms locked
· Conduct unannounced random checks and visitations of all children’s activities by a responsible supervisor on a frequent basis
· Establish a clear plan of action for dealing with suspicious behavior and reporting complaints
· Establish guidelines for your staff members on counseling
· Install windows on doors in all areas that activities and meetings take place or instruct that doors be left open
Policies for Education
Knowledge is power, so educate your employees and volunteers as well as the parents and children in your congregation so that they are better able to identify and avoid situations that put them in danger.
Offer educational courses including:
· Staff training for all employees and volunteers regarding how to work properly with children and adolescents. The course should be repeated periodically, and records of attendance should be documented. Written disciplinary policies should be created and given to your staff, and training should be given on your state’s official procedures regarding reporting claims of sexual abuse
· Safety courses for children and parents during which children are taught to understand which types of touch are appropriate and parents learn about the church’s policies for the prevention sexual misconduct
Having an effective plan can be extremely beneficial to your church and prevent the risk of sexual misconduct from occurring. Other ways of strengthening your church’s defenses include:
· Gaining legal counsel
· Familiarizing your church and its leaders with state laws
· Contacting public agencies dedicated to preventing sexual abuse
· Adding additional liability insurance coverage to your church’s policy if proper coverage is not already in place to protect against legal liability that might arise from cases of sexual misconduct committed by staff members or volunteers
Call Beacon Insurance Agency of Pace, Inc., to learn more about GuideOne and how we can help you defend your church against sexual misconduct today!