Reporting Abuse and Keeping the Victim at the Center
If a child/youth discloses abuse or neglect to you or you have a suspicion, believe the child/youth and make a report immediately to local authorities. Remember: you don’t have to have evidence or proof. Do not do the investigation yourself—or anything that resembles that. Cooperate with professionals who conduct the investigation.
Follow these steps:
- After reporting to local authorities, notify the pastor and/or child protection team.
- Immediately attend to the victim and his or her family’s safety and needs through church leadership and an outside agency, like a child advocacy center. Keep the victim’s needs at the center of any process.
- Immediately relieve the alleged offender from all responsibilities involving contact with children until the conclusion of the investigation.
- Consider the likelihood that there is more than one individual harmed.
- Within 48 hours, notify all parents whose children may have encountered the alleged offender. Let them know that allegations have been made and reported.
- Keep victims and alleged offenders separated during the investigation. Support child victims in engaging in age-appropriate activities. If offenders are adolescents, find alternate activities for them.
- Inform area conference leadership or the equivalent.
- After the professional investigation, follow all legal implications for the offender. Inform the entire church. Secrecy not only makes children unsafe, it also does not help offenders.
- Even if the abuse is not confirmed, attend to the dynamics that prompted the allegations and carefully consider the degree to which individuals involved need to remain separated.
- Make pastoral care available to all involved. Important: prioritize the needs of the victim over the offender.
- Communities themselves need healing from crisis. This can happen through informational meetings with time for Q&A, circle gatherings to hear harms and feelings, and formulation of a task force to do problem-solving for the future.
This post is a part of a longer piece by Anna Groff.