Procedures After Notification of Child Sexual Assault
DOCS requires that notifications of child abuse be made by the person to whom the information was disclosed. The Minister or person in authority is to be informed immediately after notification has been made.
All future contact with DOCS is to be with the Minister or person of authority.
The person to whom the disclosure has been made should prepare a written report of the facts, as known.
DOCS will inform the Juvenile Services Division of the Police Department or may request the Minister or person in authority to do so. The police will want to interview the child and the notifier. They will also want to interview the alleged perpetrator.
It is important that the child and alleged perpetrator have no further contact until investigations have been made by DOCS or the police.
The Minister or person in authority will liaise with DOCS concerning referral to counselling at a Sexual Assault Unit and will consult with a Sexual Assault Counsellor. If necessary, he/she will make an appointment for an assessment and a medical examination. The consent of the legal guardian is necessary for the medical examination.
The child will need a support person to assist him/her through the processes involved. The support person should comfort the child and answer questions, but should not attempt to gain more information about the alleged assault.
The child will be prepared by the support person for the police and DOCS interviews and the medical examination. It is vital that the child not be coached in any way as to how to answer questions, but be encouraged to tell the truth and tell all the details as he/she remembers them.
It is usually acceptable for one or two people known to the child to remain in the room during the interview. The police will usually do an initial interview before they actually take a statement. If they decide not to proceed with the allegations, they may not take a statement. It is important to pass on whatever information is necessary to the police as the requirements of the law overrule an issue of confidentiality. (To withhold information relating to an offence may amount to you becoming an accessory before and/or after the fact, and is punishable by law).
If a church worker is the subject of the allegation, the Minister or person in authority will be informed and involved in any decisions regarding the worker. The worker may be suspended on full pay, if they are employed, pending the outcome of the investigation, and if they are not compensated, their duties may be suspended until the matter is resolved.
Staff Guidelines Related To Sexual Assault Allegations
Workers Rights and Responsibilities
As notification is now mandatory, it is important the the church and church agencies have management practices which protect the rights of children, young people and others against assault and workers against false accusation of assault, and to provide clear procedures for action in the case of an allegation.
It is essential at all times for workers to maintain a level of professional behaviour which separates them from those to whom they are ministering and cannot be misconstrued by them or other workers. Any worker may be at risk of an allegation of sexual or physical assault and the church has a legal and ethical obligation to take seriously any such report.
The following procedures are set out, in particular, to assist in protecting children and workers from possible misinterpretation of interactions which can happen every day:
Remember that a child who has been abused may relate your behaviour to his/her previous experience.
The child's right to privacy and personal space must be respected. Workers should avoid situations which may be seen by the child as invasions of their space, eg. being alone in the bedroom or bathroom with a worker with the door closed.
Physical contact must be carefully monitored to discern appropriateness and discomfort for the child and worker. Even apparent innocuous behaviours might be misconstrued, as in the past they may have formed the prelude to abuse.
Sexual abuse of children is about abuse of a position of authority, power and often affection. As workers are in a position of power and authority over the children in care, it is important that your intentions are clear and open at all times so that the child does not have to guess what you plan to do.
Children who have been abused may have been taught to relate to adults in a sexual manner. This should be treated sensitively by the workers in the context of teaching socially appropriate behaviour.
Sexually abused children may consciously or unconsciously use sexually provocative behaviour to meet their own needs for affection or other requirements. The worker, as the adult, is responsible for educating the child about appropriate ways of meeting his/her needs.
There may be times when the worker is the subject of a "crush" or other signs of affection from a child which intensifies the relationship between the child and the worker and places the worker in a difficult and vulnerable position. The sense the child is making of the relationship is vitally important and his/her rights and needs must be respected.
It is often possible to dilute the contact between the worker and child or for the Minister or person in authority to diffuse the matter after discussion with the worker and child. Such issues should also be raised in meetings with other leaders, as other workers can assist in working with the child.
The best protection for a worker is to:
1. Be open with your supervisor about difficult situations as soon as you are aware of them.
2. Avoid situations which could be misconstrued by the child or other staff.
3. Maintain a level of professional behaviour at all times which makes it clear to the child and the other workers that you are a responsible adult.
4. Demonstrate at all times that you are clear about the boundaries between your role and your personal needs.
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