Adopt Standards for Responding to Observed, Disclosed or Suspected Abuse
Child sexual abuse is a crime and cases should never be handled "in-house." Unfortunately through many high profile cases, we've seen the devastating impact of youth-serving organizations attempting to resolve the issue internally. Victims were not validated and provided an opportunity to heal, and child molesters were not held accountable for their actions and in many cases they continued to have access to children resulting in additional victims.
Although we may not have the same level of visibility to familial cases through the media, the same is true when abuse happens within a family. It is crucial for suspected abuse to be reported so that the authorities who do not have a conflict of interest can investigate, get the children the help they need and hold child molesters accountable.
Staff members of organizations that serve children and youth are considered mandated reporters in the United States. Some states also designate volunteers in youth-serving organizations as mandated reporters. The specific requirements vary by state and of course by country and those details should be incorporated into the standards for responding within all youth-serving organizations' policies. While parents are not considered mandated reporters, they are responsible for protecting their children and if they fail to do so, they may be charged with failure to protect and their child(ren) taken into state custody. It is our hope that all adults would consider themselves voluntary mandated reporters, calling child protective services and local law enfocrcement if they suspect a child us being sexually abused.
Adopt Standards for Responding to Boundary Infractions
Remember that the child sexual abuse prevention boundaries covered in Best Practices #3 are designed to interrupt grooming behavior BEFORE abuse occurs. So, although boundary infractions should be taken very seriously and have pre-defined consequences, the infraction in and of itself does not indicate a crime has been committed. Therefore, it is appropriate to handle cases of boundary infractions in-house but they should be handled according to the pre-established and documented policy for youth-serving organizations and family safety plan for parents. Also keep in mind that if multiple boundaries are being broken it is a clear pattern for concern and should cause bystanders to suspect abuse is or may happen and therefore, should be reported to the authorities.
As an adovcate, you will not only model these behaviors for the adults in your community but you can assist them in creating and documenting their standards for responding, whether they are parents, other concerned adult,s or youth-serving organizations.