Tragically, sexual abuse is prevalent in many of the institutions trusted by parents and others with the safety of children. Dangerous sexual predators have victimized children in schools, churches, sports teams, foster homes, and military academies. The following safeguards can help prevent institutional child sex abuse, and should be put in place by every organization that supervises or interacts with children on a regular basis.
Conducting Background Checks
Background checks are critical in preventing child sexual abuse and molestation. A thorough background check should be conducted on every adult who comes into contact with children as part of a job or through volunteer work. Special laws with respect to background checks apply to certain institutions, such as public schools and foster care providers.
A background check will reveal whether an adult has a criminal record of any kind. A background check may also reveal whether someone has a history of abusive behavior and/or drug and alcohol problems.
In addition to conducting background checks, institutions should ask for personal and employment references from potential employees, volunteers, and any other adults who will come into contact with children. It is imperative that institutions contact these references, and ask whether the person is fit to interact with and supervise children. Institutions should also ask references whether there is any indication the person is violent, about the person’s employment history, and for other relevant information.
Adults who interact with children should be supervised as much as possible. For example, principals and school administrators should make random visits to classrooms. Parents should watch sports practices and private lessons with athletic coaches. Teachers, coaches, instructors, and church leaders should never be alone with children behind locked doors.
Taking Reports of Abuse Seriously
It is imperative that institutions take reports of sex abuse and misconduct very seriously. Many adults are considered to be “mandatory reporters,” which means that they must report abuse to law enforcement authorities upon learning of it. To learn more about mandatory reporting laws, visit our child molestation laws page. If you need to report abuse, use our database of where to report child molestation in your state.
Being Available to Parents
Finally, parents should feel comfortable contacting the adults who come into contact with their children. Parents should be provided with contact information for their children’s teachers and school administrators. Similarly, parents should know how to reach athletic coaches, tutors, church leaders, and any other adults who provide services for their children. Responsible institutions maintain open lines of communication with parents and promptly respond to their questions, concerns, and complaints.
Child Sexual Assault Prevention Tips for Adults and Caregivers
Adults who interact with children should be aware of the risk factors and warning signs of sexual abuse. Here are some things that you can do to help prevent molestation:
- First, listen to your children. If they tell you they aren’t comfortable going somewhere or being with someone, do not force them to do so.
- Talk to your children and let them know there is absolutely nothing they cannot tell you.
- Explain to your children where it is and is not okay to be touched on their bodies and by whom.
- Teach your children that it is okay to say “no” when they are feeling uncomfortable or violated in any way.
- Teach your children that secrets about touching body parts are not okay under any circumstances.
- Know where your children are at all times.
- Know who their friends are, and who the caregivers in the homes they visit are as well.
- Watch out for teenagers or adults that pay an unusual amount of attention to or wish to spend a lot time with your child – especially time that is unsupervised.
- Choose your babysitters carefully. Ask for personal references, and check up on them unexpectedly from time to time.
- Listen to your children. Watch for warning signs, such as changes in behavior (bedwetting, moodiness, and sleep disturbances), or changes in eating habits.
- Practice safety skills with your kids. Have a plan in place in case they run into trouble. Discuss the possibility of dangerous situations as openly and honestly as possible so that they can be equipped to handle an emergency if it arises.
- Teach your children what to do if a stranger approaches them (to yell a loud “NO!” while running toward safety, for example). Teach them their address and phone number so the police can call you.
If you believe your child is being abused, call Estey & Bomberger, LLP and our experienced child sexual asault victims attorneys for a free consultation. We will help in any way we can.