Training required for diocesan Safe Environment program
The Diocese of Bismarck, like all dioceses in the United States, is required to cooperate with parents, civil authorities, educators and community organizations to provide education and training for children, youth, parents, clergy, educators and others about ways to make and maintain a safe environment for children.
Education and training programs are made available through local parishes and schools in the Diocese of Bismarck for adults and youth. The prevention of child abuse is everybody’s business. Please do your part to help protect our children.
Adult Safe Environment training
All diocesan, clergy, parish and Catholic school employees and volunteers are mandated to participate in the safe environment training program for the prevention of child abuse. The Diocese of Bismarck makes this training available online through materials contained on this website.
Those required to comly must read the Diocese of Bismarck Code of Conduct. The form that certifies the training has been completed is the Acknowledgement Form. This form is kept on file at the parish, school or diocesan office where the person is employed or volunteers.
Children and youth safe environment training
Personal Safety Awareness: K-8 is a teaching tool meant as a guideline for assisting teachers in making children and youth aware of the many issues that involve their personal safety. The materials in this manual have been adapted with permission from ACT for Kids K-6 Personal Safety & Life Skill Curriculum and Creating Safe & Sacred Places for Young Adolescents. We encourage you to make use of this helpful curriculum guide.
DVDs from the Diocese of St. Cloud were also given to each parish and school. These DVDs for grades K-12 contain age appropriate content for assisting teachers in making students aware of the many issues that involve their personal safety.
If parents choose to not have their child participate in the safe environment training, the
certifies that they have been offered the training and declined it.
The following is reprinted from Creating Safe and Sacred Places: Identifying, Preventing, and Healing Sexual Abuse, by Gerard J. McGlone, SJ, PhD, and Mary Shrader, with Laurie Delgatto (St. Mary's Press, Winona, MN Copyright ©2003). Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved. You may order the manual by visiting www.smp.org.
Ongoing Prevention and Education
Your community can do several things to inform, prevent, and respond to sexual abuse. The following are essential strategies you will want to incorporate into parish- or school-wide ministries: All young people need to know that their bodies are sacred. Talk openly about safe versus unsafe touch. Remember, most offenders will be known by the potential victim.
All young people need to develop good and solid relationships with peers, parents, and significant adults whom they can trust. Background checks and supervision are simply unavoidable for any adult volunteer or paid employee. Be clear about the procedures and processes required by your diocese. Proper boundaries need to be talked about and respected within staffs and parish communities.
Nothing is more sacred than communication, and nothing is more preventative! Research points to communication as key to prevention. Good, nonjudgmental communication assumes mutual respect, regardless of any information that a child or young person may share. Open discussion about sexual matters, although uncomfortable, needs to be pursued and encouraged, especially within families. Do not assume anything about anyone.
Signs of Sexual Abuse
Children give many signs through their behavior, but parents and other significant adults who care for children (teachers, relatives, coaches, and so forth) commonly overlook changes in behavior. They can have an even more difficult time identifying signs when a victim is a pre-adolescent or adolescent because of the number of physical, emotional and spiritual changes that take place during this stage of development.
Some psychological markers or red flags for adults to notice include these:
Some physical markers or red flags for adults to notice include these:
- A child who clearly says, "I just don't want to be around or alone with Uncle X anymore"
- Any avoidance that is confusing or of concern
- Sudden mood or behavioral shifts, both before and after an encounter with an adult
- Too much sleep, too little sleep, difficulty sleeping, nightmares, or sleep disturbances
- Changes in eating habits (loss of appetite or trouble eating or swallowing)
- Fear of previously likable places and people; fear of making friends; fear of situations, such as being in the dark or being alone; startled responses to loud noises or voices; possible paranoia about being watched or chased
- Aggressiveness (verbal or physical), defiance, delinquent behavior, excessive risk-taking behaviors
- New words for private body parts
- Difficulty at bath time
- Regression in behavior (i.e., an older child behaving like a younger child by doing such things as wetting the bed or sucking a thumb)
- Depression, withdrawal, isolation, self-mutilation, suicide attempts
- Changes in academic performance
- Talking about a new older friend
- Refusing to talk about a "secret" that she or he has with an adult or older child
Stages of Abuse
- Unexplained bruises, redness, or bleeding from the genitals, anus, or mouth
- Unexplained urinary infection or sexually transmitted disease
- Frequent headaches, stomachaches, or body aches
- Fatigue or feeling overly tired or unmotivated
- Heart palpitations or difficulty breathing
- Various sexual reactions, from being overly fearful to being promiscuous
- Unintended pregnancy at an early age
- In younger children, constant rubbing or irritation of genitalia.
Persistent sexual play with other children, themselves, toys, or pets
- Displaying sexual knowledge through language or behavior (beyond what is normal for a child's age)
- Drug or alcohol problems
- Self-destructive behaviors such as scarring arms with razor blades, needles, or cigarettes
- Spacing out at odd times
Sexual abuse usually occurs in stages. An offender normally "grooms" the victim, recruiting him or her through good observation and knowledge. An offender might groom his or her victim by giving gifts, taking the victim on special trips, or spending special time with the victim. This seduction of sorts sets up the offense, and then the offender molests or offends the child. Depending on the coercion and satisfaction achieved, the offender might break off the relationship and move onto a new victim. Understanding this process is one of the first ways that children can become better at stopping abuse before it occurs. If a child ever feels weird or uncomfortable about an adult, or if parents sense a lack of comfortableness in their child, they must trust their instincts!
Some factors that contribute to the various stages of abuse include these:
To initiate any training, education, or discussion regarding sexual abuse, use a common language and a common vocabulary. Equally important is the need for all Catholic Church leaders to understand the full scope of the kind of abuse an innocent child might endure under the power and influence of an adult offender. One of the most common bits of advice that children need to hear is that they are the only ones who determine what is safe and sacred in their world. You must encourage all children to trust their instincts, and you must provide safe ways and opportunities for young people to talk about their feelings.
- The sexual contact arises from a relationship involving immense trust on the part of the child and parents.
- In the case of clerical sexual abuse, the child is extraordinarily vulnerable in that he or she sees the priest as an agent of God.
- Because an affectionate relationship often precedes the sexual contact, the child feels that he or she has a very special relationship with the abuser.
- The child feels an incredible sense of helplessness. Most abused children feel either responsible for the abuse's occurring or so powerless that they think they cannot disclose the abuse to their parents or to anyone else.
- Such secrecy surrounds the abuse that disclosure is inhibited. The abuser may even make threats to keep the child silent, allowing the abuser to continue violating the child.
- Criminal and civil complaints indicate that alcohol is a major agent in the seduction process. The offender introduces alcohol to the dynamics of the relationship so that the sexual encounters are less stressful for both the abuser and the victim.
Identifying the Abuser
Consider these commonly held myths about sexual abuse offenders and the facts that disprove these myths:
Myth: Most sexual offenders are strangers.
Fact: Most sexual assaults are committed by someone familiar to the victim or the victim's family, regardless of whether the victim is a child or an adult.
Myth: The majority of sexual offenders are caught, convicted, and sentenced to prison.
Fact: Only a fraction of those who commit sexual assault are apprehended and convicted for their crimes. Most convicted sex offenders are eventually released into the community under probation or parole supervision.
Myth: All offenders will offend again.
Fact: Reconviction data suggest that this is not the case. Re-offense rates vary among different types of sex offenders and are related to specific characteristics of the offender and the offense.
Myth: Sexual offense rates are higher than ever and continue to climb.
Fact: Despite the increase in publicity about sexual crimes, the actual rate of reported sexual assault has decreased slightly in recent years.
Myth: All offenders are male.
Fact: The vast majority of sex offenders are male, but females also commit sexual crimes.
Myth Sex offenders commit sexual crimes because they are under the influence of alcohol.
Fact: It is unlikely that an individual who otherwise would not commit a sexual assault would do so as a direct result of excessive drinking.
Myth: Children who are sexually assaulted will sexually assault others when they grow up.
Fact: Most sex offenders were not sexually assaulted as children, and most adults who were sexually assaulted as children do not sexually assault others.
Myth: Youths do not commit sex offenses.
Fact: Adolescents are responsible for a significant number of rape and child molestation cases each year.
Myth: Juvenile sex offenders typically are victims of child sexual abuse and grow up to be adult sex offenders.
Fact: Multiple factors, not just sexual victimization as a child, are associated with the development of sexually offending behavior in youth.
(Adapted from "Myths and Facts about Sex Offenders," at http://www.csom.org)
Perpetrators of sexual abuse most often know their victims. Offenders cross every socio-economic classification, every race, every sexual orientation, and every educational, ethnic, or cultural description. The classic breakdown most often used is the exclusive offender, the one who is attracted to just children, versus the nonexclusive offender, the person who is attracted to adults and children. The most common offender is a married, heterosexual, white, respected male.
Contrary to the impression one may get from the media, offenders are also found in every religious background. Over the years survivors have come forward about their abuse from most, if not all, the established mainline religious denominations, including Anglican, Assembly of God, Baptists, Baptist Missionary, Buddhist, Byzantine Rite, Christian Fellowship, Christian Science, Church of God, Conservative Fundamentalist, Eastern Orthodox, Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA), Episcopal, Evangelical, Greek Orthodox, Jehovah's Witnesses, Jewish, Liberal Church of God, Methodist, Mormon, Nondenominational, Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS), Presbyterian, Roman Catholic, and Unitarian.
Cyber Sex and Abuse
The advent of the computer has introduced to children an incalculable number of resources that were not available just a decade ago. The computer and the Internet have given people the opportunity to connect with family and peers, no matter the distance, and to quickly access various sources of knowledge. The Internet can be a place for open discussion and exchange of ideas, but it can also be a very dangerous place.
Anonymity and safety have become the hallmarks of this type of cyber activity. The Internet is, therefore, the new playground, basketball court, park, or meeting place for perpetrators. Children who fall victim to cyber sexual predators are often the kinds of kids who appear confused, curious, or isolated. Anonymity is a mask for offenders, but it also gives the victim the illusion of safety. Parents and guardians must be informed of the dangers the internet poses to their children.
Dakota Children’s Advocacy Center is located in Bismarck, ND.
North Dakota KIDS COUNT is a project of the Annie. E. Casey Foundation, which seeks to track the status of children across the United States and within individual states.
Child Welfare is a government resource.
The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) is a federal agency funding state, territory, local and tribal organizations to provide family assistance (welfare), child support, child care, Head Start, child welfare and other programs relating to children and families.