Five ways we can help your organization keep children safe from sexual abuse

What happened at Penn State happens every day in families and communities across the country:  adults don't recognize early warning signs or take action and children are sexually abused.

For nearly 20 years, Stop It Now! has been working with individuals, families, communities and organizations to prevent the sexual abuse of children. The child sexual abuse allegations and response by Penn State are shocking and disturbing – but not uncommon. Yet again, we are all left wondering how could this happen? To channel our outrage into something positive, we need to ask ourselves what could have been done to prevent harm to children in the first place.

Here are six actions you can get started on at StopItNow.org to prevent harm to children in your organization:

1. Download our FREE Warning Sign Behaviors Tip Sheets – and share them with staff and parents.

Learn about Age-Appropriate Sexual Behaviors between Children and Signs of a Child who has been Sexually Abused. Pay special attention to warning signs of what to watch out for when adults are with children so you can recognize concerning behaviors and take action early before a child is harmed.
It is really hard for us to believe that someone we know and like can also be sexually abusive or inappropriate with children.Use this information to look at your policies and practices. Are you clear about what’s okay and not okay with children? Do you have clear guidance for staff on what they should do if they see concerning or worrying behaviors in a co-worker? In a volunteer? In their supervisor? In a child or youth?

2. Read our 9 Questions Parents Need to Ask – and use them to talk with staff about your policies and practices.

Make sure that all staff who interact with children and families know the answers to these questions. If the questions identify gaps and weaknesses in your policies and practices, make a plan to improve them.  Our tip sheets Child Sexual Abuse Prevention for Faith Communities and Safety in Educational and Daycare Settings offer specific suggestions for these types of organizations.
Contact Stop It Now! if you need more help. Proactively share the questions and your answers with parents. Encourage parents to hold all youth serving organizations responsible for having comprehensive policies and practices.

3. Make sure your staff and parents know about our online and phone Help Services (1.888.PREVENT).

Trained professionals offer the balanced information, practical resources and support needed to explore concerns and determine what actions adults can take to keep children safe. We have information about how to make a report and what you can do when you’ve made a report and nothing has happened. Encourage staff who are worried about a situation but who aren’t sure what to do to contact our confidential Help Services to explore their options and get other resources.

4. Purchase our “Let’s Talk” guidebook and distribute it to everyone in your organization.

Create an atmosphere where everyone is empowered to speak up if they see or hear any concerning or worrying interactions with children or youth. Watch for our workshop series called “Creating Circles of Safety” coming in 2012.

5. Share our tip sheets for Talking with Children and Youth with all parents.

These tip sheets give practical information and examples of how to talk to children not just about child sexual abuse but also about sex and sexuality. Our Sexual Safety in Sports: Talking about Coaches who Show Inappropriate Interest in Children specifically addresses boundaries in sports.

6.Get trained on child sexual abuse prevention.

Participate in a Stop It Now! webinar or training to learn practical steps to help you keep children safe.  See archived webinars or check into training for your organization.