Risk Reporter for Camps and Conference Centers

Fall/Winter 2015 Vol. 9, Issue 4

Be Alert

Preventing child sexual abuse in youth programs

From daycare programs to summer camp, children’s choir to youth sports, active programs for families and children are a welcome, even essential, part of modern worship. Unfortunately, youth activities can also provide prime opportunities for child sexual abusers to target and gain access to victims.

Disclosure Among Victims

  • Not all sexually abused children exhibit symptoms.
  • Disclosures [of abuse] often unfold gradually and could be presented in a series of hints.
  • If they are ready, children might then follow with a larger hint if they think it will be handled well.
  • Disclosure of sexual abuse is often delayed; children often avoid telling because they are either afraid of a negative reaction from their parents or of being harmed by the abuser.

Source: “Raising Awareness About Sexual Abuse: Facts and Statistics” The U.S. Department of Justice, NSOPW

Addressing the problem

While child sexual abuse may be an uncomfortable topic, it is important for faith leaders to tackle the problem head-on. An abuse scandal connected to a house of worship or other faith-based operation can have devastating effects:

  • Damaged reputation
  • Loss of public trust
  • Loss of members and financial support
  • Unexpected legal expenses
  • Lawsuits brought by victims and their families

Taking steps to prevent child sexual abuse can help protect your organization as well as the children and teens entrusted to your care.

Making the decision to act

Faith communities might hesitate to discuss child sexual abuse in the mistaken belief that prevention might be difficult or costly, might lead the public to believe a problem already exists or because of fears that abuse will be discovered.

Leaders need to educate themselves, staff members, volunteers and congregants about the benefits of prevention:

  • Well-defined youth-protection policies could reduce liability.
  • Uncovering problems sooner rather than later might limit negative impacts.
  • Thirty-five percent of child sexual abusers were abused themselves, so prevention can break the cycle.

Perhaps, most importantly, preventive measures can support a faith community’s mission to serve and protect all of its members.

Key components of a prevention plan

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC), working in concert with experts in the field, has identified six key components of prevention programs for youth organizations. These components are not separate “steps” but rather facets of an integrated and cohesive approach. 

  • Careful screening of applicants for any staff or volunteer positions involving contact with children and youths.
  • Detailed policies and guidelines for adult-youth and youth-youth interactions.
  • Safe physical environments that limit opportunities for abuse.
  • Empowerment of employees and volunteers to monitor/report abusive behavior or breaches of policy.
  • Defined responses to abuse allegations or suspicions, including: reports to authorities; restriction or suspension of alleged abusers; and restorative practices to support victims, their families and others.
  • Training to help employees, volunteers and youths understand abuse.

This overview is based on the CDC handbook Preventing Child Sexual Abuse Within Youth-serving Organizations, which is available for download at cdc.gov.

Let us help

Please feel free to contact Church Mutual with any questions about liability or insurance coverage related to child sexual abuse, youth programs, etc. For assistance, contact your agent directly, view youth safety videos at churchmutual.com/videos or contact our Risk Control Consulting and Research Center at (800) 554-2642, ext. 5213, or riskconsulting@churchmutual.com.

If your organization needs help screening job applicants and volunteers, please contact our corporate partner Trusted Employees at trustedemployees.com or (877) 389-4024.


Keep an eye out for adults or older children who display these behaviors:

Personal space

  • Ignore social, emotional or physical boundaries
  • Refuse to let children set limits on interactions

Sexual behavior and conversation

  • Use sexual language to describe, tease or insult children
  • Mistake gestures of friendship or affection as being sexual in nature
  • Minimize harmful or hurtful behaviors when confronted

Relationships with children

  • Turn to children rather than adults for emotional or physical comfort
  • Share inappropriate personal or private confidences with youths
  • Secretly interact with children or teens through games, texting, emails, phone calls, etc.

Looking to hire trustworthy people?

Turn to the trusted resource that Church Mutual recommends

As a leader in the applicant screening industry, Trusted Employees has helped organizations find trustworthy people for more than 20 years — and we prove our worth regularly to corporate partners such as Church Mutual Insurance Company and more than 5,000 active clients. You can rely on our expertise for criminal background checks, drug tests, identity checks, education verifications, and more. We make it easy for you to monitor and compare candidates as they move through the screening process. And our turnkey services are scalable, compliant, customizable — and affordable.

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For screening of new hires, employees or volunteers, let us provide the customized solution you need to make the best hiring decision. Contact Trusted Employees today at trustedemployees.com or call (877) 389-4024.

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Editor: Amy M. Kimmes akimmes@churchmutual.com

Risk Control Advisor: Edward A. Steele, CSP, ARM esteele@churchmutual.com

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