PARENTS have the right to insist their parishes and schools are in compliance with the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. All parishes and schools should be able to show parents that the clergy, employees, and volunteers who work with children are familiar with the warning signs of offenders, what to do if they have a concern about someone, and how to report suspected abuse. Employees and volunteers who work with children also need to have their backgrounds evaluated so parents can have a reasonable assurance that known offenders are not around their children.
What should I do if I suspect my child has been abused?
Call the police or social services department in your community. Reassure your child that he/she did nothing wrong and that he/she did the right thing by telling you. You may want to find a child counselor experienced in child abuse matters. Call the victim assistance person in your diocese.
My child came home and told about being shown pornography. What should I do?
Call the police. There is no good reason for an adult to share pornography with children. Assure your child that they are not in trouble, that they did the right thing by telling you. If necessary, help them process the experience by talking about your feelings toward pornography and why it is wrong. If the child was shown pornography at school, let school officials know about it as well. Call the victim assistance person in your diocese.
I get the 'creeps' from one of the volunteers at Church. He always has his hands on kids in one way or another. What should I do?
Listen to your 'gut.' Offenders give warning signs that knowledgeable adults can use; your 'gut' often picks them up. You are not accusing someone of abuse you are communicating your concern about inappropriate behavior. Let the diocesan victim assistance or safe environment coordinator know of your concerns. Let the supervisor of the program know of them as well. Keep reporting your concerns until someone hears you. Your courage to report those types of incidents may be very helpful. Reporting can let the person know their behavior is unacceptable, and it lets them know they are being watched. If it is poor judgment, this gives the person the opportunity to change the behavior.
Why do I have to be trained? I did not do anything wrong, this is a clergy problem
Child sexual abuse is a widespread societal problem, not a Catholic clergy problem. The more people who are trained to recognize the warning signs of an offender, the safer our children are. In the aftermath of the clergy scandal, the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People requires the Church to train both adults and children to prevent child sexual abuse. This is not because the Church thinks all adults are the problem. It is because the solution to preventing child sexual abuse depends on caring adults knowing what to do.
My children are too young to hear this. Aren't you destroying the 'innocent period' of their development?
Teaching children about boundaries and safe touches is not sex education. There are many safety issues we teach children: bike safety, water safety, fire prevention, driver's training, etc. Personal safety programs should have age appropriate lessons that give children the skills they need to protect themselves without frightening them. Keeping children unaware of the dangers around them does not keep them safe. Predators count on children not knowing what to do.
I believe morality should be taught in the home, not in school. Does my child have to attend these training classes?
You are right, morality is best taught in the home, but this is personal safety training, not morality class and not sex education. Catholic moral theology compels us to keep children safe. Parents are the primary educators of their children, and those who do not want their children to participate in the school/religious education portion of the training may opt out. They should still receive the parent portion of the training for assistance in how to teach their children to be safe.
PROTECTION OF CHILDREN AND YOUTH
Guidelines for Implementations
Schedule sessions from the approved resources for teaching children and youth how to be safe, protect themselves, and communicate any potential danger. A session is mandatory to each group of children and young people each year.
Inform parents of the date when the sessions will be offered for children and youth, and give them the opportunity to preview the materials that will be used.
Parents always have the option to not send their children to that class without being penalized.
If parents refuse to let a child attend the session, please collect from them a signed form or note indicating that they do not want their child to participate. These forms must be kept and sent to the Catholic Center along with the Teaching Report 2015-2016 form.
In the event parents do not want their children to attend the session and do not turn in a note to that effect, please keep a list of those children and send it to the Catholic Center along with the Teaching Report 2015-2016 form.
A sample letter to parents is on a following page. The letter also includes a note for parents to return who do not want their children to participate.
A sample letter to parents
IF YOUR CHILD BECOMES A VICTIM OF CRIME
Believe him or her. Many children who tell adults about crimes are afraid they will not be believed. Many aren’t. Be sure to take your child seriously, even if a violent crime was not committed.
Reassure the child that what happened is not his or her fault. A child who was hurt or accosted while breaking a rule (such as being somewhere you said they were not allowed to go) may be especially afraid that you will be upset with him or her.
Immediately get him or her any needed medical attention. In the case of a sexual assault an injury might not be obvious, and a medical exam is needed to detect internal injuries and screen for possible exposure to disease or infection.
Try to temper your own reaction. Your child is likely to become very upset if she or he sees that you are upset. They may also think that they did something wrong and take responsibility for your pain.
They may decide it is better not to keep talking to you if you exhibit extreme emotions.
Trying to pretend something didn’t happen or telling your child to “just forget about it” will not help.
Both you and your child will experience stress related to the crime, whether or not you acknowledge it. The best way to cope with the problem is to talk, listen, and get support.
DO NOT try to take the law into your hands. Your child needs you, and needs to try to get back some normalcy in his or her life. If you try to harm someone who has hurt your child, you could be arrested and even go to jail. Your child must then cope with this added trauma.
Report the crime – even a suspected crime – to the police.
Get support. Contact a local crime victim agency or child advocacy center. They can offer you and your child support and important information about your rights. Don’t try to handle this alone.
There are many organizations that can help you.
Your local phone book, law enforcement agency, or hospital can help you find local services. Or you can call the National Center for Victims of Crime’s INFOLINK program, a toll-free crime victim referral service at 1-800-FYI-CALL.