As you can imagine and have probably experienced for yourself, child sexual abuse is a difficult subject for most adults to talk about. So, adoption of new access limits, boundaries, and responses are not likely to happen unless you tie these new behaviors into your existing routine in ways that provide opportunities to embrace the new plan.
In Best Practice #4, we are asking you and all adults who surround children (accountability team) to "engage" in the assessment process. There is great power in understanding our vision if you look at the various definitions of the word engage, paying special attention to the terms influence, power, interlock, pledge, guarantee, battle and come together.
Definition of ENGAGE(7)
1. to offer (as one's word) as security for a debt or cause
2. a: to entangle or entrap in or as if in a snare or bog (obsolete)
b: to attract and hold by influence or power
c: to interlock with : mesh; also : to cause (mechanical parts) to mesh
3. to bind (as oneself) to do something; especially : to bind by a pledge to marry
4. a: to provide occupation for : involve
b: to arrange to obtain the use or services of : hire
5. a: to hold the attention of : engross
b: to induce to participate
6. a: to enter into contest or battle with
b: to bring together or interlock (weapons)
7. to deal with especially at length
1. a: to pledge oneself : promise
b: to make a guarantee
2. a: to begin and carry on an enterprise or activity —used with in
b: to do or take part in something —used with in
c: to give attention to something : deal
3. to enter into conflict or battle
4. to come together and interlock
Note the key terms in the title of Best Practice #4 - "regularly" and "actively." It's not enough to just be aware that sexual abuse happens. It's crucial that we create a process that challenges us to be present and active in the assessment of our surroundings. Over time it will become habit and eventually become engrained in your every day unconscious thought process.
Creating an environment where the assessment process is part of your routine should include the following steps:
- Establish a set time each month when you complete your assessment process tied with some other existing event (i.e. paying the bills)
- Retrieve and complete your Responsibility and Assessment Worksheet
- Ask for feedback from other adults on the accountability team
- Have children complete a Stop Light Assessment (a simple graphical format for children to provide feedback)
- Discuss any concerning result of the assessment with members of the accountability team and be prepared to take appropriate action
Remember that child sexual abuse is predictable because it is usually preceded by known grooming behaviors. The boundaries identified in Best Practice #3 have been specifically designed to interrupt these grooming behaviors. This regular and active assessment process empowers you to identify grooming behaviors and broken boundaries so you recognize danger and intercede long before a predator attempts to molest a child. It's an early warning process that is crucial to the protection of children.
The assessment process is part of the best practices for parents and concerned adults as well as the best practices for all types of youth-serving organizations. As an advocate, you will educate and inspire community members to actively engage in this process on behalf of the children in their lives.