How Do I Support & Help My Church, School, or Organization Be Abuse Free?

Having an organization that is free from sexual abuse and predation takes everyone. Here is how to start action for child safety.

What Is Predatory Grooming & How Do We Catch It?

Predatory grooming is how abusers trick and fool a child into thinking sexual abuse is normal or okay.

Our understanding of predatory grooming, and its horrific effects on victims, has increased dramatically over the past decade. Understanding and identifying the signs of grooming do two things: it helps us identify and prevent potential child sexual abuse and helps survivors heal from the shame that predatory grooming causes.

Here are some signs to watch out for that can provide topics for you to speak with children about.

  • The predator may be giving the child gifts:
    Teach your children to inform you of gifts they receive from an adult. Gift giving, specifically when a predator uses it secretly, is a common predatory tactic that allows a predator to determine how much they can get away with. When a predator can influence a child by normalizing secrets in their relationship, this is a strong indicator that the child may be in danger.
  • The predator(s) is overly eager to be physically affectionate with the child:
    Predators may be abnormally physically affectionate. They may be overly eager to engage in normally innocuous physical contact with the child in front of the parents to ‘normalize’ physical contact that will take a more extreme form later when the predator can get the child alone.
  • The predator may claim to have the same interests as your child and to be “best friends”:
    The predator may exaggerate their affinities with the child to build rapport. For example, they may claim a deep fascination with the child’s interests, such as green dinosaurs, red popsicles, or an online game someone the predator’s age has likely never heard of. Exaggerated intimacy claims such as being “best friends” should also be noted. This can be a challenge, as we may often call religious figures “father,” “sister,” “brother,” etc. When the child is upset, this may be when predators swoop in to be or appear to be the most caring responder. This builds trust and preferential treatment for the abuser over adults as the child may experience real relief from this attention or be indulged in getting what they want from the “good cop” among adults.
  • The predator may act overly interested in the child:
    Child Predators may pay a disproportionate amount of attention to a child they intend to victimize. This can be expressed as exaggerated interest compared to other children or an enhanced level of controlling behaviors. Pathological interest may be difficult to differentiate from the kind of healthy interest we see in mentorship dynamics between older and younger people.
  • The predator attempts to find ways to be alone with the child:
    Isolation, both physical and psychological, is necessary for predators to commit crimes. Since pathological interest may be difficult to differentiate from the kind of healthy interest we see in mentorship dynamics, transparency and organizational policies help a lot here. Institutions devastated by predators have instituted preventative policies such as that no adult can be alone with a child, and at least two adults must be present.
  • The predator tries to normalize sexual subject matter:
    The predator may do this by gradually introducing sexual topics into the conversation. For example, a predator may start talking to a child about wild parties he used to attend during his time in Hollywood and the fun dances they would do as an oblique way of raising sexual topics. This kind of manipulation can escalate into dirty jokes and showing of pornography. Children can be taught to watch out for this. If you notice your child suddenly showing increased knowledge of sexual subject matter, it may be a sign they are being groomed.
  • The predator grooms parents to gain more access to the child:
    The predator will try and find more opportunities to be in your child’s life, especially and gradually, alone. Offering to come to your aid, especially in contexts where they will be alone with the child may be signs of grooming.
  • The predator has private communications with the child online, by text or phone:
    Predators may try and establish a line of communication directly with their child victims. Using parental controls and educating your child about appropriate communication between adults and children online may help mitigate this approach.

What Questions Should I Ask My Church, School, Youth-Serving Organization?

All youth-serving organizations should understand and follow the CDC guidelines to prevent child sexual abuse

Do not be afraid to ask the organization tough questions about abuse prevention, such as:

  • What are their screening protocols?
  • Are the employees trained to prevent and identify potential abuse?
  • Do they employ best practices for child safety?
  • What are their reporting procedures?

How Can I Find Out About Screening Procedures at My Church, School, or Youth-Serving Organization?

Check the employee or volunteer handbook to determine if they have well-written and clear guidelines that follow the CDC’s recommendations. 

It is also recommended that you speak to the human resources director or the employee in charge of volunteer training and recruitment.

They should be able to provide information on their screening, training, and reporting procedures.

Someone at My Church, School, Youth-Serving Organization Has Been Accused of Sexual Abuse. What Should I Do to Support Survivors & Child Safety?

Talk openly with leadership and other parents and ask about screening, training, and reporting procedures.

Talk openly with your children about child sexual abuse and empower them to report to a trusted adult. Speak out in support of survivors.

If the person accused is a close friend and you are conflicted, SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests) has created a resource to guide people through the process compassionately and in support of survivors.

We have decades of experience, exposing clergy child sexual abuse crimes and crimes in many other institutions such as in schools (public and private), camps, sports facilities, and Boy Scouts of America.  Contact us for a free confidential conversation about how we can hold perpetrators and institutions accountable, and create a safer world for children now and in the future.

What Kind of Protocols Should an Organization Have in Place to Prevent Abuse?

All youth-serving organizations should understand and follow the CDC guidelines to prevent child sexual abuse

The organization should have appropriate screening, training, and reporting guidelines and specific, well-stated, and robust guidelines for adult-child interaction.

What is The CDC Document That Helps Youth-Serving Organizations Prevent Child Sexual Abuse?

All youth-serving organizations should understand and follow the CDC guidelines to prevent child sexual abuse

What is Trauma Sensitivity Training, and Who Should Have it?

Trauma sensitivity training is available to schools for teachers and staff who work closely with children who have experienced trauma.

Trauma-sensitive schools support students in healing from past experiences while building resilience.

Trauma sensitive training is offered nationwide for all adults working or volunteering in schools and dealing directly with students.

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