Each of us has a set of past experiences that impact how we feel about the topic of child sexual abuse. Some people know someone who was abused or they may have been abused themselves. Others may struggle with an attraction to children or the thought of sexualizing a child simply destroys their sense of a safe world. These are experiences and feelings that could create a lot of discomfort. That discomfort could even keep you from seeing abuse happening right in front of you. In addition, children may sense your discomfort and therefore not see you as a trusted adult they can confide in if they do need help.

On the other hand, people who have participated in training on the topic of child sexual abuse, have past experience working with abuse cases or have had extensive therapy for their own abuse may find it easy to discuss and have probably had a chance to identify and resolve personal barriers that may hinder them from protecting children including the barriers identified by Carla van Dam above.

When you overlay the experiences of your individual staff members and volunteers with the organizational culture including years of tradition, leadership styles, business drivers and concern for community perception, it creates yet another set of expectations and experiences to consider. Effectively protecting the children in your care must stem from understanding the barriers and enablers created by both organizational culture as well as the individuals who are part of it.

Child sexual abuse is a silent crime and therefore taking a vocal stand against it has not been commonplace, especially for organizations that fear acknowledgement of the pandemic might allude to a safety concern within their organization. So ultimately, evaluation of your starting point must also consider your willingness to change and your courage to lead.