This CSA Code of Conduct has been developed by WINGS with the support of workers and friends of the fellowship.
The implementation and ongoing use of the principles, guidelines and resources will:
- Reduce the potential for child sexual abuse (CSA);
- Establish accepted processes for use in the instance of child sexual abuse allegations;
- Reduce the potential for false CSA allegations against workers; and
- Promote cooperative relationships with and attitudes toward law enforcement agencies, including the criminal justice and child protection systems.
1. CSA DEFINITION:
An adult or older adolescent using a child or young adolescent for overt or covert sexual gratification, even without contact, including by
- asking or pressuring or inciting a child to engage in sexual activities (regardless of the outcome);
- sexual touching or fondling (even if fully clothed);
- engaging in sexual activity in the presence of a child;
- causing a child to watch a sexual act;
- exposure of genitals to a child;
- viewing a child’s genitalia or breasts without contact;
- inappropriate sexual conversation ;
- arranging or facilitating commission of a child sex offence;
- meeting a child following sexual grooming etc;
- using a child to produce child pornography.
- A child cannot consent to any sexual activity with an adult or older adolescent, so it is not the victim’s fault, they did not cause it, and they are not to blame in any way, despite what they may have been told.
- The legal age of consent for sexual activity varies in each jurisdiction. The age provisions regarding a possible defence for young offenders also vary. For example some jurisdictions have special provisions if the younger party was aged say 12 years or older and the offender was not more than say 2 years older than the younger person.
- Even if a Statute of Limitations bars legal proceedings, any abuser should admit guilt, seek treatment, and be willing to be publicly identified to prevent further abuse.
- CSA can be male-male, male-female, or female-female.
Various definitions of CSA (statutory – child protection, civil and criminal; & clinical) are discussed at the Child Welfare Information Gateway https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubs/usermanuals/sexabuse/sexabuseb.cfm
2. GUIDING PRINCIPLES:
- We acknowledge that child sexual abuse and harassment can occur in every environment, within every social community or group, and by individuals in every walk of life.
- The safety of children and the healing of victims is the first priority within the fellowship and are above all other considerations.
- We have zero tolerance for any inappropriate sexual behaviour or attitudes toward children or youth.
- CSA is a criminal offence that must be dealt with by law enforcement agencies.
- We take personal responsibility to immediately report all allegations of CSA to the appropriate authorities.
- The public reputation and testimony of our fellowship is supported and maintained by an honest and forthright acknowledgement of any sexual wrong doing, including past incidents.
- Detailed information about a specific incident is balanced by “need to know” guidelines, and protection of privacy for victims (see Guidelines, Need To Know).
- We openly encourage parents to increase their understanding and awareness of CSA so they can provide age-appropriate education and boundaries for their children.
- We commit to regularly accessing information and training regarding CSA.
- We value the souls of offenders and where possible, will assist in their rehabilitation.
3. ROLES AND RESPONSIBILITIES – ALL WORKERS:
- We acknowledge our position of trust and influence in the fellowship and will use our place and responsibility wisely for the prevention and/or mitigation of harm toward minors and youth in the fellowship.
- Before the law and in the general community, we have an accountability re CSA matters due to our role as the final decision makers over matters such as assignment of workers, including their transfer to other jurisdictions, the choice of meeting homes, and assignment of attendees at each home.
- Our behaviour and attitudes toward sexual allegations and sexual crimes have an effect on the behaviours, attitudes, and spiritual well-being of the friends, and the public testimony of the fellowship.
- We do not have the mandate or professional expertise to make determinations about the veracity of sexual allegations, to investigate a CSA matter, or to provide counselling to victims, alleged or convicted abusers, and other involved parties such as parents or spouses.
- Our role includes spiritual care and guidance, and support and assistance as necessary to enable individuals to access professional resources.
- Where possible, we will use the insight and positive relationships that elders, wives or other persons may have within their meeting group during CSA incidents and follow-up.
- The common and valued practice of staying as invited guests in the homes of our friends comes with inherent responsibilities, including:
- sensitivity and respect for explicit or implicit individual and family boundaries; and
- confidentiality and privacy for all family members, except when that practice would increase risk or harm to any individual.
3.1. OVERSEER ROLE:
Exemplify a knowledgeable, proactive and forthright approach to the issue of sexual misconduct within the fellowship as follows:
- Take accountability for workers on his staff regarding CSA.
- Maintain a general and current knowledge on CSA matters and professional resources (e.g. Child Abuse Hotline phone number, a resource in or outside fellowship who can provide information and advice on legal obligations, proper reporting process, risks and strategies to reduce risk within ministry, follow up counselling and/or legal resources (see Resources, section 1) ).
- Take immediate and appropriate action (i.e. temporary suspension or permanent dismissal from ministry) where there are allegations or charges of CSA against a worker on his staff.
- In discussion with assigned workers and meeting elder, implement mitigating actions to reduce potential harm to all involved parties where allegations or charges involve one of the friends (see Guidelines, section 3).
- During any sexual abuse incident and follow up, support professionals in their work, including facilitate contacts with and information from other jurisdictions as necessary, and act on the direction and recommendations of the involved professionals.
- Lead open and regular discussions with staff on CSA including on:
- potential risks of staying with friends/families who have children who are minors, and strategies for reducing that risk;
- the requirement for staff to regularly access appropriate resources and information;
- the requirement that staff immediately communicate any allegations in order to facilitate timely action; and
- the requirement that staff openly discuss CSA with families in assigned area and with other friends, as needed. Access assistance from the Resource person (POC) as required (see Resources, section 1).
- During all aspects of a sexual abuse investigation, exemplify compassion, discretion and impartiality toward all involved parties.
- Perform formal background checks on all prospective workers. The resource person (POC) may provide assistance on this.
3.2. ALL WORKERS:
- Inform overseer of any sexual misconduct allegations or concerns as soon as possible, but do not relinquish personal responsibility for reporting allegations to the appropriate authorities, and the ministering and care for involved parties.
- Co-operate fully with all investigating authorities.
- Access relevant and current resource information on CSA within geographic location, including:
- guidelines on appropriate touching, conversation, attitudes, and general physical and emotional boundaries with minors; and
- guidelines on potential risks of staying with families who have minor children.
- Proactively engage in open discussion with families on CSA matters, including:
- role of workers vs. role of family members;
- decision making on home visits;
- where there are home visits, appropriate physical and emotional boundaries and the rationale (i.e. risks, and despite best intentions, possible mis-perceptions);
- strategies to minimize risk and unintended negative perceptions; and
- position of the ministry toward police involvement, legal proceedings, and professional counselling related to CSA. The resource person (POC) may be accessed for assistance on this.
- If approached in an inappropriate sexual manner, including a sexual insinuation, by an adult (including a fellow worker or other individual in or outside the fellowship), or a minor, document the facts and as soon as possible, share the information with the overseer and the resource person (POC) in the area.
General Behavior Specific to Visiting in Homes that include Minors:
- Parents or guardians are the decision makers as to a home visit, including visit length, and the sleeping arrangements for their family and for worker visitors.
- Where areas have limited homes resulting in longer visits in homes with minors, a viable option is the use of “baches.”
- Brief visits of overnight stays rather than long stays is preferable in homes where there are minors.
- Conversation and attitudes toward minors should be age appropriate, without any suggestive innuendos or insinuations of special intimacy.
- Maintain conduct that will prevent personal risk and mis-perceptions regarding intentions. Examples include:
- “The rule of two” – Avoid spending time alone with minor children.
- Ensure parents know and support this boundary, and have educated their children.
- Wear publicly appropriate clothes in common areas during visits.
4.1. APPROPRIATE TOUCHING:
Examples of APPROPRIATE forms of affection/behaviour include, but are not limited to:
- Shoulder to shoulder hugs
- Pats on the shoulder or back
- “High-fives” and hand slapping
- Verbal praise pertaining to godly conduct.
- Holding hands while walking with small children
- Sitting beside small children
- Pats on the head when culturally appropriate
- Spending time with minor/youths in public areas of the home and/or community
4.2. INAPPROPRIATE TOUCHING:
Examples of INAPPROPRIATE contact/behaviour, includes but is not limited to the following:
- Kisses on the mouth
- Inappropriate or lengthy hugs or embraces
- Holding minors, above the approximate age of 5, on one’s lap
- Touching buttocks, genital areas, breasts, knees, thighs or legs
- Showing physical displays of affection in isolated areas of the premises such as bedrooms, closets, bathrooms, or other private areas of a home
- Sharing a room or bed with a minor or youth.
- Going for a walk alone with a minor or youth.
- Spending time in a minor or youth’s bedroom
- Informal wrestling with minors or youths except for legitimate sports coaching, in which case another adult would be present.
- Tickling and piggyback rides
- Any type of non-professional massage given by an adult to a minor or youth.
- Any display of unwanted affection towards a minor or youth.
- Remarks that include compliments relating to sexual attractiveness or sexual development
- Lifting a child off the ground without parental consent.
4.3. FOLLOW-UP TO CHARGES:
Follow-up to charges and/or other intervention by authorities (i.e. law enforcement or child protection):
- Disclose when a worker is removed from active ministry pending an investigation into allegations of sexual abuse of a victim to those who have a “need to know” (see Guidelines, Need To Know).
- With the exception of those who have an express “need to know”, do not disclose identity of a victim or information that would lead to identification of a victim (see Guidelines, Need To Know).
- Publicly disclose when a worker is convicted of sexual abuse as the result of a criminal process or when a worker is removed from the work for sufficient cause (see Overseer Role, point 3.1).
- Consideration should be given to victim financial assistance re expenses related to treatment required to aid in healing.
- On a need to know basis, disclose CSA allegations, charges or misconduct by one of the friends following the completion of an investigation (see Guidelines, Need To Know).
- Convicted sex offenders should be separated from the main group of friends for meetings to reduce their opportunities to observe and groom potential victims, and potentially lead to further incidents. However, adequate consideration and ministry should be given to assist an offender’s restoration in spirit and in faith.
- Restoration to the main meeting assemblies should occur only after consultation with professional and legal counsel, as well as the individuals in the affected meetings.
4.4.NEED TO KNOW:
Privacy of Individuals and “Need to know” Guidelines:
- The protection of privacy for victims and families will be honoured where possible.
- Where possible, the parents of minors and youths will be involved when reporting CSA allegations to authorities.
- Despite the family nature of the fellowship, to protect undue harm and reputations prior to the completion of an investigation by a law enforcement agency, only individuals who can assist in the investigation, or can prevent further harm will be notified about a CSA incident. This could include the meeting elder, other discreet support persons for a family or individual (e.g. POC), or families with minors in contact with the alleged offender. However the wider fellowship should be notified if the investigating authorities request, in order to pursue other possible incidents by the alleged offender.
- Where allegations have been clearly proven to be unsubstantiated, this information should be plainly communicated to the appropriate individuals and families.
Completion by all workers of awareness training on CSA which will:
- Reinforce personal and legal accountability as a person in a significant position of trust in the fellowship. This includes clear knowledge of legal mandatory reporting requirements.
- Raise awareness of:
- potential risks or unwanted perceptions that could occur due to the common practice of staying in homes of friends/families where there are minors, and establishing close personal relationships with minors beyond ministering role;
- strategies to minimize and reduce risk;
- typical behaviours of victims and abusers, and “cries for help,” including when consultation with the assigned POC is necessary.
- Increase knowledge of available professional resources, including the POC .
- Within ministry role, lead appropriate support, and where necessary, guidance to impacted individuals and families.
NOTE: It is recommended that all workers begin training with the MinistrySafe online course.
5.1. POINT OF CONTACT:
Outline of Role
- Each overseer-district (state/province/small country) should identify one key resource individual as a point of contact (POC) on CSA matters. This could be the overseer or another designated person.
- This person should be knowledgeable on CSA and provide confidential guidance and information to workers and friends, including access to the applicable statutes.
- POCs will advise and assist in reporting CSA allegations, provide information about counselling resources, facilitate further community contacts as necessary (e.g. child protection social workers, child sexual abuse detectives) and either provide CSA awareness training or facilitate access to training.
- The POC is not to be considered the reporting officer for offense allegations; that is the role of civil authorities. Reporting allegations to the POC is not required. The POC is to assist and advise on reporting.
- POCs should have annual meetings with elders and workers to monitor CSA training needs and general level of awareness.
- If required, POCs can assist in criminal background checks for ministry candidates.
- POCs should be aware of POCs in other regions for mutual support and guidance.
NOTE: Social workers, teachers and health care professionals are possible candidates as POCs; however any individual prepared to learn about the subject, who has good communication skills, and is discreet could serve in this role.
5.2. MINISTRY TRAINING AND EDUCATION:
CSA education, and awareness training http://csa-help.com/EducationTraining.html
Is Your Ministry Safe from Child Sexual Abuse. http://www.ministrysafe.com/
Reducing the Risk. http://www.reducingtherisk.com/
FaithTrust Institute – Working together to end sexual & domestic violence. http://www.faithtrustinstitute.org/about-us/guiding-principles
5.3. GENERAL KNOWLEDGE:
Links to various government and NGO resources are available at https://wingsfortruth.wordpress.com/resources/
6. SUPPORTING SURVIVORS:
A friend, partner, or family member confiding in you about CSA events in their life can be an important part of their healing. How you respond and offer support can make a difference to their journey. The decision to heal is an important step for survivors. The first step in the process can be acknowledging that the experience has had an impact on their life and deciding to share it.
Breaking the silence. Most adult survivors kept the abuse a secret in childhood. Telling another human being about what happened is a powerful healing force that can dispel the shame of being a victim.
“Courage to Heal: A Guide for Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse.” Bass, Ellen & Davis, Laura. Perrenial Currents, June 1994. p.58
6.1. Tips for responding to disclosure:
Accept – Be prepared to hear about things that are difficult to hear. Experiences may be shared that you can barely imagine happening. Accept what you are being told without questioning facts. Abuse has often been kept a secret and it may be the first time it has been shared. Do not judge anything you are told by your experience.
Listen – It is important for people to be able to openly express their feelings and CSA experience. Try not to express the emotions that the experience raises for you. Focus on the feelings the person is expressing.
Acknowledge – The impact of abuse on survivors cannot be underestimated. Acknowledging a person’s courage in sharing and talking to you is important.
Take them seriously – The experience of child abuse can often be minimized and understated. Let them know you think these are serious issues and worth talking about. Children are often told by their abuser that if they talk no one will believe them.
No Blame – Adults survivors often blame themselves for being abused. It is important you reassure them the behaviour of the abuser was wrong and nothing makes it reasonable or acceptable. If you must blame, blame the abuser.
Trust – Let this person know you are willing to listen to them. Remember this may be their first step in sharing. Tell them you will listen to them and respect their confidence. Ask them how you can best support them. Ask them if you can help them find formal support but do not push them.
6.2. Do and Don’t
- Learn what you can about the effects of CSA and the recovery process
- Validate feelings
- Encourage therapy
- Blame the offenders
- Accept what the survivor feels
- Blame the survivor
- Overwhelm the survivor with your feelings
- Force forgiveness on the survivor
- Give advice
- Try to fix everything
Thank you WingsforTruth for all you do in promoting right and safe conduct and practices in our church.
with appreciation from one of the workers
Thank you WingsforTruth team for all the work that has gone into the Code of Conduct. For all you do in your efforts to promote safe conduct amongst us from one of the workers.
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