In recent years, several high-profile sexual abuse and molestation cases have come to light including Boy Scouts of America, the Catholic Church, and many more allegations stimulated by the #MeToo movement. These cases have brought attention to the subject in general exposing more instances of sexual abuse and misconduct across industries, specialties, and organizations.
How do you address the risk of sexual abuse and molestation?
It’s important to know the patterns and vulnerabilities as well as warning signs of potential sexual abuse behaviors. Potential risk exposures can look different depending on the setting, but there are three common scenarios to be aware of.
Crimes of Opportunity
These are scenarios where a vulnerable party is exposed to a sexual abuser in a one-off situation. Think of a victim alone in a dark area or in an unusually vulnerable situation when an offender takes advantage of the opportunity to assault the victim. Warning signs of an abuser may not be as evident in this scenario. It’s important to prevent opportunistic abuse by using escorts, making sure all areas are well lit, using security officers, cameras, other security measures such as alarms or panic buttons and whatever tools may be effective in that setting to both deter and interrupt attempts.
Predators often choose to work, volunteer, or frequent settings where potential victims are especially vulnerable to grooming behaviors. Think youth-serving organizations, healthcare, religious institutions and non-profits, where staffing or budgets are often stretched or the organization is dependent on volunteers. Many of these are settings where there is a higher degree of trust. Often, victims are emotionally, physically, intellectually, or even financially vulnerable.
Organizations should be aware of the potential for sexual abuse in their setting and proactively prepare by setting up systems that prevent sexual harassment and encourage reporting of risky behaviors. This requires them to recognize situations where there might be a vulnerable person alone with a person in power and take steps to prevent that from happening.
This type of sexual abuse is more likely to occour in an existing relationship. Think of counselors with clients, teachers with students, clergy with parishioners. Conduct may seem harmless and even caring at first but becomes gradually more inappropriate until boundaries are clearly crossed and ethics are breached.
It is very important that employees know what warning signs to look out for in their peers. The more educated individuals are around the warning signs and avenues for speaking up, the less likely it is that a sexual misconduct case will occur. Education can be made available in the form of training, counseling, or even awareness campaigns like posters and educational materials.
OmniSure has developed a SEXUAL ABUSE LIABILITY RISK ASSESSMENT CHECKLIST as a general starting point for most organizations. As an underwriter, it’s important to know which scenarios an organization is vulnerable to and go deeper with setting specific checklists, guidelines and coverages.
Warning signs, education, and reporting best practices can vary by setting, but OmniSure can help. With a nationwide network of clinical experts, OmniSure can help your policyholders make the right decisions when it comes to protecting their organization and their patients. Reach out to a specialist to get started.