Now is the Time!!!

Now is the time!!!  Now is the time for organizations which serve children and teenagers to choose to protect their charges instead of deflecting charges of child sexual abuse to protect the organization’s reputation!

Boy Scouts of America![1]  The Catholic Church![2]  University of Pennsylvania Football![3] Elite private boarding schools![4]  Jewish Orthodox Schools in Australia and Connecticut [5],[6]    Los Angeles Public School System![7]  USA Gymnastics![8]

The leadership of these varied and well-known organizations have — repeatedly and for an extended period of time — failed in their responsibilities to the children and teenagers they were tasked with protecting and serving.  Out of naivety, carelessness, ignorance, selfishness, or hubris, the Boards of Directors, the professionals, and the volunteers have both missed the symptoms and often refused to confront, to terminate, and to report to authorities the perpetrators in their employ.

Now is the time!!!  The professional and lay leadership of youth-serving organizations must step forward and create what should already have been in place … the appropriately safe, loving, nurturing environments for their youth members or participants.  In my summers and full-time professional employment, I have worked for agencies of the YMCA, Boys’ Club, Jewish Community Centers, and Public Schools.  Yes, I understand that there are many tasks and responsibilities involved in a maintaining a functioning public or non-profit organization, including: ‘staff hiring and supervision’; ‘program planning and implementation’; ‘marketing’; ‘fundraising’; ‘public relations’; ‘record-keeping’; ‘facility maintenance’; ‘accounting’; and ‘complying with local, state, and national laws, filings, and record-keeping’.  Nonetheless, our primary purpose needs to remain our creating and maintaining a hospitable and safe environment for the youth whom we serve, regardless of the nature or location of our programs and services.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention issued an excellent document [9] that I would recommend as a foundation for all of us — Preventing Child Sexual Abuse Within Youth-serving Organizations: Getting Started on Policies and Procedures.  The Table of Contents includes information that can serve as a starting point for any agency, school, or facility: Screening and selecting employees and volunteers; Guidelines on interactions between individuals; Monitoring behavior; Ensuring safe environments; Responding to inappropriate behavior, breaches in policy, and allegations and suspicions of child sexual abuse; and Training about child sexual abuse prevention – for employees/volunteers; caregivers; and youth.

As a seasoned clinical social worker who has focused for several decades on the treatment of adult survivors of child sexual abuse and writing There Is Hope!, I implore the leaders of our youth-serving organization around the world to wake up to our responsibility! Now is the time!!!  If not now, when???

[1] https://nonprofitquarterly.org/2012/08/09/the-boy-scouts-scandal-institutional-irresponsibility-and-institutional-homophobia/

[2] https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2017/01/05/church-sex-abuse-victims-still-coming-forward/Qe4kWBAdkR4NWqDepiNEXM/story.html ry.html

[3] http://www.cbsnews.com/feature/the-penn-state-scandal/

[4] https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2016/05/06/private-schools-painful-secrets/OaRI9PFpRnCTJxCzko5hkN/sto[4]

[5] http://www.timesofisrael.com/yeshiva-day-school-child-abuse-cases-rock-australia/

[6] http://www.nhregister.com/20160503/rabbi-principal-of-yeshiva-of-new-haven-accused-of-sexually-abusing-boy

[7] http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/01/25/los-angeles-s-school-nightmare-another-sex-abuse-scandal.html

[8] https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/22/sports/olympics/usa-gymnastics-doctor-larry-nassar-sexual-assault-charges.html?_r=0

[9] Saul J, Audage NC. Preventing Child Sexual Abuse Within Youth-serving Organizations:Getting Started on Policies and Procedures. Atlanta (GA): Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control; 2007.

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