For many young people, participating in youth organizations is an important part of childhood. Children are able to build friendships, learn teamwork, gain valuable life skills and have fun at the same time.
The vast majority of children will have positive experiences while participating in these groups. But there is a dark side to some youth organizations.
Recently, the Boy Scouts of America has been in the news as allegations of sexual abuse within the organization have arisen. Hundreds of former Boy Scouts members have come forward, alleging abuse by troop leaders and others involved in the organization.
Many of these abuse survivors are filing lawsuits and seeking compensation, while the Boy Scouts organization filed for bankruptcy earlier this year.
The top priority of youth organizations, sports teams, clubs, etc., should be ensuring the safety of their members. This includes immediately removing the accused abuser and notifying authorities as soon as allegations arise.
Sadly, many organizations work hard to cover this information up.
How can sexual abuse in youth organizations be prevented?
There are simple steps every organization can take to ensure the safety of children. First, it is important to screen applicants, volunteers and anyone who will be working closely with youth.
Organizations should also educate staff, volunteers, parents and others to create awareness about sexual abuse. Safety trainings and workshops may be held to help individuals spot warning signs of sexual abuse, and work on preventing it from happening in the youth organization.
There should also be clear guidance on procedures for reporting sexual abuse.
Parents should look out for red flags that may indicate abuse is occurring. It is important for parents and caregivers to take any suggestion of sexual abuse seriously, and to take steps to ensure the safety of the children involved.
Children should always be safe when participating in youth groups and organizations. Unfortunately, abuse can originate from unsuspecting perpetrators, and protection can never be completely guaranteed. However, survivors of abuse have rights to hold their abusers accountable. This can represent one important step towards healing.