Sexual Abuse Response Planning

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Sexual Abuse Response Planning

This planning guide has a companion piece called Sexual Abuse “Fire Drill”: Put Preparation to the Test, an article that give further explanation. The planning guide below should serve as a worksheet after reading the “Fire Drill” article.

Big Picture Questions

  • Will this define your organization?
  • What is the cost of managing or potentially mismanaging a sexual abuse allegation?
  • How will this reflect on your organization’s reputation within the community?
  • Will your enrollment suffer?
  • Is your marketing value lowered?
  • What is the impact on family/client level of trust in your “child-safe culture”?
  • What will a sexual abuse lawsuit cost your organization?
  • Is your organization carrying adequate insurance coverage to address this specific risk?

Does your organization have a plan to address a sexual abuse allegation?

  • Does a plan exist?
  • When was the last time the plan was reviewed/revised?
  • Who manages the plan (e.g. Executive Director, Program Administrator, both)?
  • Does the plan include contact information for critical individuals (insurance agent and carrier, attorney, others)?
  • Does the plan provide easy access to critical documents (insurance policies, relevant state reporting codes)?
  • Does the plan include clear instructions in the event of a mandatory report to the authorities (to whom and within what timeframe to report, what information to share, request for file number and name of person to whom report is given)?
  • Does the plan include information regarding selection of a media/information point-person?
  • Does the plan include a potential communication tree (phone, email and/or text) to inform key people?

Media Management

  • How will you proactively provide information and manage the media?
  • Who is responsible for communications with media?
  • How will you handle news reporters calling your organization, your home phone, and/or personal cell?
  • How will you handle news reporters calling your staff members?
  • Do you have consultants in place that will provide you with strategic counseling related to legal issues, public relations, crisis communications, possible litigation, media relations, and related services?
    • Consider what your reputation is worth: A consultant may cost $200 to $350 per hour. A few thousand dollars can provide additional expertise and peace of mind, especially during a rolling crisis period.
    • How will you monitor comments in the local press and web posts from community members and others?
  • How will you manage the media physically on your site, or on adjacent property?
  • Questions you may receive:
    • Please comment on the incident …
    • Is this worker still employed? Is this volunteer still involved?
    • When did you first hear about the allegations?
    • Can you give us details about the charges?
    • Have you seen the evidence (text messages/photos, etc.)?
    • Could there be more than one victim? Have other children been impacted?
    • Was their any screening done related to the accused (background check, etc.)?
    • Has he/she been charged with anything like this in the past?
    • Have you fired the accused? Why? Why not?

Parents/Stakeholders

  • Communicate with families immediately!
  • Effective and immediate communication with parents is critical.
    • How is this best done in your program?
    • Avoid gridlock—what are the customary communication lines?
    • Who receives priority in the communication process?
    • Start with more directly impacted and work OUT; direct others to website.
  • Be prepared to offer counseling to all known and potential victims.
  • Potential questions from Parents/Stakeholders:
    • Have you fired him/her yet?
    • Why haven’t you fired him/her yet?
    • Will you fire him/her?
    • Did you do a thorough criminal background check when he/she was hired?
    • What are your hiring practices?
    • What will you do to prevent this from happening again?
    • Who will take over their responsibilities?
    • Is it safe to bring my child back here?

Children in Program

  • Are you prepared to identify and meet with children within the program in an age-appropriate manner?
  • Will you include parents when communicating with children in program?
  • It is important for all to hear the same information.
  • Use caution creating written materials to send home with children; assume written materials will be shared publicly or provided to media.

Victims/Victim Families

  • How will you communicate with and protect the victim(s) and their families?
    • Communication early and often.
    • Listen with an empathetic ear.
    • Set aside organizational defensiveness and justifications.
    • Understand that parents will need to VENT.
    • The victims and their families will likely be angry and want to blame.
    • Effective communication and care now is morally right, ethically correct, and potentially prevents litigation.
  • How will you manage gossip, backlash, and speculation in the program community?
  • Commonly, a group of children and/or families will support the well-liked staff member; keep in mind: “Molesters groom the gatekeepers.”
  • How will you prevent bullying behaviors aimed at alleged victims?
    • Plan to manage subsequent bullying behaviors.
    • Counselor and Staff Awareness.
    • Social media may be used negatively (i.e. Facebook page to “save the staff member”).
  • Does your organization have a social media presence? If you use these to provide and direct communication regarding an allegation, do so very carefully.
  • How will you handle requests for counseling from other children not directly impacted?
  • How will you provide aftercare to affected children (and parents)?

Staff Members

  • Briefings and debriefings.
    • All have access to the same information.
    • Ability to discuss incident in closed and safe setting.
  • Employee assistance programs—counseling resources.
    • Self care.
  • Longer-term follow-up.
    • Follow-up with individuals close to circumstance, co-workers, identified friends.
  • Anger and disappointment.

Legal Representation

  • Does the plan identify legal representation?
  • How will you address allegations of wrongdoing and litigation against the organization?
  • Wrongful termination issues.
  • Do you have a partnership with local law enforcement and city officials?

Your Insurance Carrier—Coverage for Incidents

  • Do you KNOW your insurance agent, and is he/she knowledgeable concerning the organization’s industry risks? Is he/she knowledgeable concerning this specific risk?
  • Have you reviewed insurance coverage for Critical Incidents and lawsuits of this nature?
  • Do you currently carry sufficient insurance to cover this risk, given current litigation costs and settlement amounts?
  • Does your insurance policy have an exclusion, endorsement, qualification or limitation of coverage for matters related to sexual abuse or sexual misconduct?

An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure!

  • Hiring process—effective screening and training.
  • How effective is your staff and volunteer training?
    • Will your staff members and volunteers recognize “grooming behaviors?”
    • Will they know whom to tell? Do you foster a culture of communication?
  • How effective is your Safety System?
    • Sexual Abuse Awareness Training
    • Skillful Screening Training
    • Appropriate Criminal Background Checks
    • Tailored Policies and Procedures (include use of technology!)
    • Monitoring and Oversight

 

Written by Gregory S. Love and Kimberlee Norris

By | 2016-10-12T10:59:51+00:00 September 8th, 2014|All Policies, Legal, Ministry Policy|

About the Author:

Gregory Love
Gregory Love and Kimberlee Norris have a nationwide sexual abuse litigation practice representing victims of sexual abuse throughout the country. In addition, Love & Norris provide consulting services to secular and ministry organizations providing services to children. Representative clients include the United States Olympic Committee, Awana International, Church of the Nazarene, the North Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church, Gladney Center for Adoption, and many church and para-church schools, camps and ministries. Love and Norris serve as directors of MinistrySafe, a consulting organization designed to help churches, Christian ministries and camps understand and address child safety risks related to sexual abuse. For additional information, go to MinistrySafe.com.