Sexual Abuse Prevention
Protecting our most vulnerable
Church Mutual has a long history of leadership in providing its customers with prevention programs and coverages connected to the risk of sexual abuse. We have been providing policyholders with vital prevention programs aimed at reducing the risk of sexual abuse since the early 2000s. We also introduced the first sexual molestation insurance coverage designed specifically to protect churches and related institutions in 1986. This innovative coverage model has since become a widely accepted standard within the insurance industry.
Background checks are not enough
Many organizations make use of background checks to help ensure their employees and volunteers are fit to serve children and youth. While background checks are helpful, Church Mutual recommends that they not serve as the sole means of applicant screening. David Finkelhor, director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center, suggests that less than 10% of sexual offenders are ever criminally prosecuted, which means over 90% of offenders have no criminal record to check.6
The solution? A comprehensive system that meets legal standards of care and reduces the risk of sexual abuse through preventative measures tailored to your organization’s unique needs.
The issue of sexual abuse
Sexual abuse is a highly sensitive topic with far-reaching implications and devastating outcomes. Victims and organizations alike are often left reeling in the wake of abuse. Recognizing the serious nature of the issue is the first step toward reducing the risk.
- Claims stories: A dose of reality regarding sexual abuse »
Sexual abuse occurs across all groups in society and isn't always what you think. The following are examples of claims scenarios Church Mutual has seen. In each case, steps could have been taken or measures put in place to prevent abuse from happening.
A 13-year-old boy was enlisted as an Awana helper at church and would meet alone with young children to teach them Bible verses. He molested several children at the church. The church did not conduct any reference checks or provide any training and the boy was not properly supervised. Policy limits of $300,000 were paid.
A church youth volunteer sent sexually inappropriate emails and text messages and nude photos to a 14-year-old girl. There was no physical contact. The insured had notice of prior inappropriate electronic communication by this youth volunteer and a minor at his previous church but did nothing to monitor him. The claim was settled for $235,000.
Four pastors from a church were arrested for failing to report inappropriate sexual behavior by a volunteer. The church had received notice of the behavior but did not report the allegations to authorities, as was required by state law. The failure to report was also part of the subsequent lawsuit brought forth by the victim.
A teacher was suspended for having sexual contact with a student. Subsequently, other students bullied the victim at school and the school did not put a stop to the bullying. A $500,000 claim was paid under the SM coverage for sexual abuse and a $1.5 million claim under the GL/UMB for bullying.
To reduce your risk, it’s imperative that you evaluate any preventative measures you currently have in place. The following assessment is meant to provide you with a starting point to discover strengths and weaknesses related to the risk of sexual abuse and establish how effective, well-thought-out prevention can keep your people safe:
While awareness and knowledge of the risk of sexual abuse are good places to start, Church Mutual wants you and your organization to have a solid system in place that provides layers of protection.
What can you do to establish an all-encompassing safety system? We’re glad you asked!
- Establish effective policies and procedures »
Policies and procedures serve as a deterrent. They demonstrate a recognition and awareness of the risk, which makes your organization a less attractive target for those with bad intentions. Having effective policies and procedures in place also shows there are levels of accountability and enforcement within your organization. Showing new hire candidates or potential volunteers your organization's policies and procedures reinforces your recognition and awareness of the risk, as well as the level of accountability and consequences.
You may be wondering what the difference is between effective and inadequate policies and procedures. Some helpful questions to ask include:
By answering these questions, you can determine whether you need to revisit your existing policies and procedures. However, it's also important to keep in mind that policies and procedures are not surefire solutions. Ultimately, a comprehensive system is needed to help reduce the risk.
- Conduct background checks and implement screening processes »
In today's society, background checking prospective employees and volunteers has become a legal standard of care. It's important to tailor your background checks to specific positions, especially those working with children in a less structured or less easily supervised environment. You should also run background checks on an annual basis for all employees and volunteers to identify potential risks. To learn more, check out our article on the Basics of Background Checks.
At the same time, Church Mutual recognizes that background checks are not a standalone solution. You need to implement a screening process that helps your organization differentiate between risky applicants and those who are qualified to serve. While background checks catch the obvious, a screening process provides your organization with the knowledge and ability to recognize high-risk responses on applications, reference forms and during an interview.
- Administer training and reinforce protective measures »
You have a responsibility to provide a standard of care to children and youth put in your trust. Awareness training is an essential element in proving a standard of care and reducing the risk of sexual abuse. Everyone serving children in your organization should participate in and complete awareness training every year. Your training program should include elements that develop individuals' skills in identifying predatory behaviors such as grooming of victims and gatekeepers.
It's also necessary to monitor training progress. Recognizing those who have completed the training, and appropriate follow-up with those who have not, proves that your organization is taking steps to provide a reasonable standard of care. This helps reinforce your organization's stance regarding the seriousness of the issue and the protective measures you have in place to reduce the risk.
Reliable solutions to help reduce the risk
Church Mutual has teamed up with MinistrySafe and Trusted Employees to address the risk of sexual abuse. These partners offer Church Mutual policyholders discounted pricing on tools, resources and programs to reduce the risk, such as trainings, background checks and more.
Not a Church Mutual policyholder? Find out how you can become a customer today.
We’re here to help
If you have additional questions on the risk of sexual abuse or need help with any sexual abuse-related topics, contact our Risk Control Central team.
Call: (800) 554-2642, ext. 5213