Child Sexual Abuse Response Plan | Report Child Sexual Abuse

Discrete and confidential reporting of suspected abuse is critical to abuse prevention. Church workers should understand that reporting reflects caring and is not an act of disloyalty.

Developing a Church Reporting Procedure A reporting policy should provide clear instructions to church workers concerning when a report should occur and how it should be made.

Your policy should include the following:

• A clear rationale that explains the need for proper reporting and the obligation of workers to follow these procedures.

• The basis for making a report.

• A description of possible indicators and symptoms of child sexual abuse (see previous article). Workers should report to their supervisor when a child displays these indicators. Although they do not prove abuse, they are warning signs of possible problems.

• A procedure to follow when possible abusive or unhealthy activities are suspected. All reports should be documented in writing and brought immediately to the attention of your church’s leadership.

Establish a Line of Reporting Church leaders should institute a line of reporting that should be followed in every case of suspected abuse. Reports of possible child abuse should be quickly communicated to the proper church leader. Reports reflect a serious obligation at the highest lev- els of church leadership. No report should be lost in “middle management.”

Example 1. A leader in the church’s scouting program confesses to the Youth Director that he has molested a 15-year-old boy in the program. He pledges it will never happen again. The Youth Director keeps the confession to himself. The Youth Director’s actions violate the reporting policy guidelines. Under state law, the Youth Director may have a legal obligation to report the confession. A church reporting policy should


Important. In many states, both compensat- ed and volunteer church youth workers will be mandatory reporters. Do not assume that requiring such persons to report suspected abuse to a designated church official will dis- charge their reporting duty under state law. These workers may still have a duty to report the suspected abuse to the state. State law must be consulted.

Reporting to the State

Example 3. A 4th grade Sunday school teacher asks her class members to write down prayer re- quests on individual pieces of paper. One girl writes, “I want my daddy to stop hurting me.” The teacher is shocked by this statement, and imme- diately shares it with the pastor who advises her to question the girl about the statement after class on the following Sunday. The teacher does question the girl, who becomes defensive and in- sists that she was merely attempting to have the most dramatic prayer request.

Example 4. A mother and her 4-year-old daugh- ter stop by the church office while the pastor is present. They all spend several minutes in con- versation. At one point, the girl makes a state- ment strongly indicating that she is being abused by her step-father. The mother quickly takes the girl to a back room and questions her.

A few minutes later they emerge, and the mother insists that the child was “fantasizing.”

mandate that any allegation be reported to the senior pastor.

Example 2. A teacher in the preschool program notices a two-year-old girl has severe bruises on her legs and buttocks. She immediately reports the information to the Preschool Director. The Director reports the information to the Senior Pastor and also reports to the county office of Youth and Family Services.

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