Child sexual abuse is a crime and cases should never be handled “in-house.”
Pre-establishing your response and being prepared to take bold action includes documenting, communicating, and enforcing the following key policy components:
- What behavior and actions are illegal in your state (and each location where you have a presence)?
- How should your team respond if they observe a child being abused?
- How should your team respond if a child discloses they are being abused by someone at church? At home? Or somewhere else?
- How should your team respond if they suspect a child is being abused but they don't have proof? What would make them suspect?
- How should your team respond to observed, disclosed, or suspected abuse of a child by another child?
- Who are mandated reporters by law in your state (clergy, staff, volunteers)? What is the state's reporting process? What are the consequences for failure to report?
- Does your church have an internal reporting process? Does it comply with state laws? Does it in any way hinder the protection and rescue of a child who is being abused? Does it in any way hinder the evidence collection process or legal investigation?
- What is your reporting policy for staff members who are not mandated reporters (i.e. volunteers)?
- How do you handle child sexual abuse that is disclosed during privileged communication with a member of clergy? Do you report it to the authorities anyway?
- What are your organizational consequences for staff, volunteers, and/or congregation members who are accused of child sexual abuse? During an active investigation? If there is not enough evidence to convict? If there is not enough evidence for the police to file charges?
- What is your organizational policy for inappropriate behavior that falls short of breaking the law? Who is to be notified and what are the consequences?
I have included links below to some basic resources that will help you and your team understand when you need to report abuse.