What can Organizations do to Prevent Sexual Abuse?

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The article, Organizations as the Front Line of Prevention, by Steven Bengis, David S. Prescott, and Joan Tabachnick, outlines steps that professionals can take at the individual, relationship, community and societal levels to prevent sexual abuse.

The article reviews the research findings of Sandy Wurtele (2012), who recently published an overview of the role of youth-serving organizations in sexual violence prevention. Wurtele's article is entitled, Preventing the sexual exploitation of minors in youth-serving organizations, and was published in the Children and Youth Services Review (34, 2442-2453).

“Wurtele argues for the importance of creating adequate policies, training and procedures within youth-serving organizations to prevent sexual abuse, emphasizing that certain characteristics of an organization increase the risks of staff boundary violation or abuse,” explain Bengis, Prescott, and Tabachnick, who go on to identify the characteristics that affect risk of abuse:

  • the organization's culture;
  • the screening approaches taken by an organization;
  • monitoring and supervision of staff;
  • the code of conduct, which includes the use of social media, and education and training for staff, parents and youth;
  • personal and professional boundary education.

In the article, the authors explain: “The ecological model for prevention makes clear that the work of caseworkers and clinicians working at the individual and relationship levels every day is but one important piece of the puzzle. Part of the work is ensuring that boundaries are established and maintained, the harm of sexual abuse is understood, and healthy relationships are actively talked about. Each of these is essential to prevention.”

The article goes on to point out that preventing sexual abuse requires our efforts to expand beyond individual prevention efforts and support those efforts that are making organizations and communities safer through policies, training and education.

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As I read this post I couldn't help thinking about the Circle of Grace program that Safe Church is promoting for all CRC churches. It's not just a program for children and youth in grades K-12, equipping them to be active participants in creating a safe environment for themselves and others. With the information that goes to parents, and the training that is included for teachers, it raises awareness and changes the culture in the entire church community. It gives us a common language to talk about these important issues. I believe it is one of the best comprehensive tools available for buidling communities characterized by respectful, open, and healthy relationships. Is there a better way to to prevent abuse? Find out more about Circle of Grace on the Safe Church website www.crcna.org/safechurch - under education is the best prevention.