SAFE SANCTUARIES: ABUSE RISK REDUCTION AND PREVENTION POLICY
First United Methodist Church, Corvallis
Oregon October 2014
PURPOSE & SCOPE
Our hope and belief today is that the church is a place where all people will find the unconditional love and care they so desperately need to grow and thrive. But, we know that abuse occurs in churches, large and small, urban and rural. It is a reality which cuts across all economic, cultural, and racial lines. In April 1996, the General Conference of The United Methodist Church adopted a resolution aimed at reducing the risk of abuse of children, youth, and vulnerable adults in the church. It was renewed by the 2004 General Conference (Resolution 65, “Reducing the Risk of Child Sexual Abuse in Churches, pg. 201, 2004 Book of Resolutions).
As Christians we must take our responsibilities to our children, youth, and vulnerable adults very seriously. While policies alone may not be able to completely prevent all harm, sexual abuse can be prevented. We as the people of Corvallis First United Methodist Church (CFUMC) are dedicated to preventing child abuse within our ministry and within our community.
Abuse: intentional, negligent, or reckless behavior by a volunteer or staff person that is harmful, injurious, or offensive. Abuse takes many forms and includes, but is not limited to: physical abuse, neglect, self-neglect, abandonment, verbal and emotional abuse, financial exploitation, sexual abuse, involuntary seclusion, and wrongful restraint.
Child Abuse: an act committed by a stranger, a parent, a caregiver, or a person in a position of trust, which is not accidental and which harms or threatens a child’s physical or mental health or a child’s welfare.
Physical Abuse: when an adult injures a child other than by accident; including, but not limited to: assault, battery, shaking, slapping, burning, scalding, kicking and strangling.
- any sexual contact or sexually explicit behavior initiated by an adult, youth or child toward a child;
- any sexual contact or sexually explicit sexual behavior initiated by an adult toward a youth;
- any nonconsensual sexual contact or nonconsensual sexually explicit behavior initiated by a youth toward another youth including, but not limited to sexual harassment and any sexual behavior by a youth toward another youth younger than 14 and where the initiating youth is three years older;
- any sexual contact by anyone toward a vulnerable adult, or sexually explicit behavior by anyone toward a vulnerable adult where the vulnerable adult is unable to provide meaningful consent;
- any nonconsensual sexual contact or nonconsensual behavior by an adult toward another adult.
Emotional Abuse: verbal assault or emotional cruelty
Adult: a person 18 years old or older
Activities: any activity or programs in which children, youth, or vulnerable adult are under supervision of staff persons or volunteers.
Background Checks: researching references and records for indications of past or potential abusive and/or criminal activity.
Child: person from birth until they turn 12 years old.
Conference: The Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
Person-in-Charge [hereinafter, PIC]: staff person or volunteer who is the person responsible for the event or activity.
Prevention and Risk Reduction: Risk Reduction measures are those actions taken to lessen opportunity for sexual assault. Most policies focus exclusively on risk reduction, and do very little to prevent sexual abuse in the broader community. CFUMC is committed not only to lessening risk within congregational facilities and the activities, but CFUMC is also committed to prevention of abuse by transformational ministry to survivors, justice and equity ministry, and social change. CFUMC recognizes that understanding the difference between Prevention and Risk Reduction is an important step in developing effective Prevention strategy.
Sexual Contact: means any touching of the sexual or other intimate parts of a person or causing such person to touch the sexual or other intimate parts of the actor for the purpose of arousing or gratifying the sexual desire of either party. Regarding children, youth, and vulnerable adults, Sexual Contact herein includes, but is not limited to kissing, hugging, massaging, rubbing, blowing on or breathing on, and other touching with any intent by anyone to sexually arouse any person. CFUMC reserves the right to evaluate such behaviors and provide guidelines to prevent abuse and protect persons.
Sexually Explicit Behavior: means actual or simulated behavior and remains a common form of harassment and abuse. It includes but is not limited to: words, gestures, sexting and media representations of sexual activity, jokes, nudity or partial nudity, and other behaviors.
Staff person: any person employed by the local ministry setting that is responsible for activities involving children, youth, or vulnerable adults.
Volunteer: a person who assists in conducting activities under the supervision of person(s) in charge.
Vulnerable Adults: any persons over the age of 18 who possesses a physical or mental disability or dysfunction that impairs the individual’s ability to provide adequately for the individual’s own care without assistance, including but not limited to: a) the inability to independently or effectively communicate, and/or b) the ability to independently remove oneself from a situation, location or another’s presence, and/or c) the inability to comprehend initiation or perpetration of abusive sexual behavior or physical mistreatment upon the individual’s person by another, and/or d) because of the dysfunction or infirmity, the individual has an impaired ability to protect the individual’s self from maltreatment.
Youth: any person 12 years old to his/her 18th birthday.
PROHIBITION OF ABUSE AT CFUMC
CFUMC prohibits abuse as defined herein in all forms by anyone who is:
- within the facilities of CFUMC;
- at any and all events sponsored by CFUMC;
- a staff member of CFUMC;
- a member of CFUMC;
- a contractor working on behalf of CFUMC;
- a member of a group which leases or uses the name, facility, or the ministries of CFUMC.
CFUMC supports all persons connected to the ministry and the surrounding community in seeking to engage in healthy relationships, including healthy parent-child and healthy intimate partner relationships. Further, CFUMC is committed to equipping all persons connected to the ministry and the surrounding community to be aware of, to prevent, and to resist abusive behavior in all forms through prayer, spiritual growth, words, and action.
ABUSE AWARENESS AND PREVENTION AT CFUMC
- CFUMC shall annually designate one Sunday on which abuse awareness and abuse prevention are incorporated into the worship experience. The District Superintendent’s office shall be notified as to when this service has taken place.
- CFUMC shall annually offer an educational opportunity on abuse prevention.
- CFUMC shall offer opportunities for survivors of sexual abuse to find healing and support in the context of CFUMC’s ministry. CFUMC will provide local listings of available, competent community resources for survivors when needed.
RISK REDUCTION: SCREENING PROCEDURES
All staff persons, and any volunteers of CFUMC who have regular and direct contact with children, youth, and vulnerable adults and/or act to lead worship or represent the church in an ongoing, official capacity shall be required to complete an application including disclosure of information including legal name and other names previously used, date of birth, and voluntary disclosure of any convictions of abusive behavior.
All staff persons, and any volunteers of CFUMC who have regular and direct contact with children, youth, and vulnerable adults and/or act to lead worship or represent CFUMC in an ongoing, official capacity shall be required to:
- Furnish two references (from persons unrelated to applicant) on an application form, and
- Complete a State and/or National criminal background check.
The reviewing body responsible for overseeing the screening process is CFUMC’s Personnel Ministry Team (PMT).
- CFUMC’s PMT is responsible for review and approval of each application before a person’s service begins.
- The screening procedure for each individual shall be repeated every five years.
- All records are confidential and will be maintained in a safe, secure place to ensure confidentiality. The records should be maintained for a period of 50 years. CFUMC will not knowingly hire anyone with a history of committing sexual abuse on any child, youth, or vulnerable adult.
- CFUMC will communicate this abuse prevention policy to outside groups/organizations using the facilities and receive written receipt signed by the key contact with the outside group acknowledging the policy and accepting responsibility to comply with the screening, supervision, and reporting/response requirements of this policy.
- CFUMC will require outside groups using the facilities to sign a waiver and release stating CFUMC accepts no civil or criminal liability resulting from any incident of child abuse or sexual misconduct/sexual abuse which takes place under the auspices of an outside organization/group using the local ministry setting facilities.
RISK REDUCTION: TRAINING AND SUPERVISION
CFUMC requires training for all persons having direct contact with children, youth, and vulnerable adults. Training shall include an annual orientation that includes information about the local ministry setting abuse prevention policy. Paid staff who are required to attend these trainings should be compensated for their time.
Our standard practice is that all children, youth, and vulnerable adults will be supervised by at least 2 unrelated adults and that no adult will be alone with children, youth, or vulnerable adult(s) out of sight of other adults. The minimum standard is an open space (open door, window, etc) such that activities can be observed and an adult who is assigned to periodically observe the activities.
No person shall supervise any age group of children or youth unless he/she is AT LEAST 5 years older than the children or youth.
The PIC [see Definitions] will be responsible for adherence to the Supervision requirements herein.
REPORTING AND RESPONSE TO INCIDENT/ALLEGATION
CFUMC requires immediate and specific response to allegations of abuse:
- within the facilities of CFUMC; or
- at any and all events sponsored by CFUMC; or
- if the adult who observed the abuse is a current staff member of CFUMC.
Any adult who observes or hears of alleged abuse which falls under conditions described herein [see number 1, a, b, or c, immediately above] shall:
- Assure the safety of the victim.
- Whatever the victim says is to be taken very seriously.
- Make sure that the victim is in a safe place and watched over.
- Do not confront the accused abuser with anger or hostility but immediately remove him/ her from further involvement with children and youth until the matter can be investigated.
- Call the police at 911, if there is a situation of immediate risk.
- Report the incident immediately to the pastor (unless implicated in the allegation or unavailable) and/or the Person in Charge (unless implicated in the allegation). Contact the appropriate authorities (if the adult witness is designated as a “mandated or mandatory reporter” by state or federal law).
The pastor or designee shall:
- Ascertain the general details needed to make an accurate report.
- Within 24 hours, write an incident report. The report should include the following information, if obtainable:
- The name, address, age and sex of the alleged victim;
- The name and address of the alleged victim’s parents or other person responsible for his/her care;
- The nature and extent of the alleged abuse or neglect;
- Any evidence of previously known or suspected abuse or neglect of the alleged victim or their siblings;
- The name, address and relationship, if known, of the person who is alleged to have perpetrated the abuse or neglect; and
- Any other information known to the person making the report that would be helpful to the investigation of the alleged abuse.
- Contact the appropriate State or law enforcement agency as soon as possible to file the abuse report and provide the aforementioned information and follow the instructions of the agency.
- Report the suspected child abuse to the child’s family (unless implicated in the allegation) and any agencies required by law.
- Report the suspected abuse to a District Superintendent of the Annual Conference within 24 hours of the initial report.
A single organizational leader will be designated as spokesperson following notice of any abuse or molestation in connection with activities of the ministry. This spokesperson will be the only person to convey information concerning the situation. To avoid compromising the investigation, the spokesperson will convey only such information as is necessary under the circumstances.
The alleged perpetrators of the abuse are to be excluded from future events involving children, youth and adults until the incident report is resolved. In any removal of a person from any activities, care must be taken to handle this in a discreet manner, recognizing that an investigation is being conducted.
Any person who is found guilty of alleged abuse or molestation will be removed from work with children, youth or adults within the organization.
ANNUAL EMPLOYEE/VOILUNTEER REVIEWS
All employees, supervisors, leaders, and volunteers to whom these policies and procedures apply shall reread them annually and sign their names that they have done so.
All ministry employees will complete a brief renewal application once each year (Form #4). A renewal application will also be completed annually by all volunteer workers associated with the organization who will be working in any capacity with children, youth and vulnerable adults.
New information indicating that a candidate has a history of sexual abuse of any children, youth, or adult or otherwise poses a threat to others will result in the immediate removal of the individual from a ministry position.
POLICY REVIEW AND DISTRICT REPORTING REQUIREMENTS
This abuse prevention policy will be reviewed annually at the charge or church conference. The reviewing body will include CFUMC’s PMT. An electronic copy or written copy of the policy will be provided each year to the District office.
In all of our ministries we are committed to demonstrating the love of Jesus Christ so that each child, youth, and vulnerable adult is “surrounded by steadfast love… established in the faith, and confirmed and strengthened in the way that leads to life eternal” (Baptismal Covenant II, United Methodist Hymnal, pg 44).