Responding to Suspected Maltreatment
The church should never ignore or tolerate suspected child or adult maltreatment.
A. What to do When Maltreatment is Suspected
Whenever maltreatment is witnessed, reasonably suspected by, or reported to Staff, Adult Volunteers or Youth Volunteers, they should:
1. Treat the allegation seriously and with respect for everyone involved.
2. Immediately take steps to see that any involved Child, Youth or Impaired Adult is in a safe environment. Genuine care and support should be offered to anyone who is suspected to be a victim of maltreatment.
3. Immediately (within 24 hours) make a report to appropriate abuse hotline:
Arkansas Child Abuse Hotline: 1-800-482-5964
Arkansas Adult Abuse Hotline: 1-800-482-8049
The person making a hotline report should document in writing the date and time that the report was made and the name and title of the person from the hotline taking the report.
The church should not require anyone to obtain permission from anyone or to notify anyone at the church before making a report to the child or adult maltreatment hotlines, nor should it prohibit anyone from making a report to the child or adult maltreatment hotlines.
The church should prohibit retaliation against anyone who, in good faith, reports allegations of child or adult maltreatment, or who cooperates with any investigation. Anyone who is found to have participated in retaliatory conduct should be subject to disciplinary action which may include termination.
4. Where the report involves an allegation against Staff or an Adult Volunteer, or is alleged to have occurred during any church sanctioned event, the reporter should immediately (within 24 hours) notify the Program Director or Senior Pastor. The Program Director or Senior Pastor should in turn notify the District Superintendent of the report. If the suspected maltreatment involves the Senior Pastor, the reporter may instead inform the SPRC Chairperson.
If a Program Director, Pastor or any mandated reporter is made aware of a maltreatment allegation, and was not physically present when the hotline report was made by the reporter such that his or her name is also included on the report as a reporter, he or she should also make a hotline report and should document in writing the date and time that the report was made and the name and title of the person from the hotline taking the report.
5. Cooperate fully with any and all investigations conducted by the civil authorities and encourage others to do so where applicable.
6. Where the report involves an allegation against Staff or an Adult Volunteer, or is alleged to have occurred during any church sanctioned event, two persons, including a Program Director, the Senior Pastor and/or the SPRC Chairperson should notify the parents or guardians of the Child, Youth or Impaired Adult that a report was made (unless the accused is the parent or guardian). A pastoral visit may be arranged for family members of anyone suspected to be a victim of maltreatment, if desired.
7. Refrain from any attempt to notify or confront the accused, or to conduct a personal investigation of the alleged maltreatment. The church should respect the capability and authority of the civil authorities such as the Arkansas Department of Human Services, the Office of Long Term Care and law enforcement officials to conduct all necessary investigations and should defer to those entities with respect to investigations of the alleged incident. The persons to whom the report was made, and/or their designees, may, however, review the allegation of any occurrence to determine recommendations for further action, if any, to care for all persons involved and to reduce risk of further occurrence, if applicable.
8. Where the report involves an allegation against Staff or an Adult Volunteer, or is alleged to have occurred during any church sanctioned event, the person or persons who make a hotline report should also fill out an event report noting the time and date of the hotline report and any other pertinent information. The report shall be directed to the church’s legal counsel. The church’s insurance company should also be notified of the allegation.
9. When allegations are made against Staff, the Staff Parish Relations Committee (SPRC) in cooperation with the Senior Pastor where appropriate, shall review the information available and should develop specific recommendations regarding that Staff member as may be appropriate.
10. Treat the person accused of maltreatment with dignity and respect, while taking immediate steps to prevent that person from having contact with Children, Youth and Impaired Adults at any church sponsored event until the civil investigation has taken place and the allegations are resolved.
11. Maintain the confidentiality of the information with respect for the investigation process and privacy of all persons involved.
Staff and Volunteers with information regarding suspected maltreatment should not share information about the allegation with anyone except the appropriate Arkansas protective, regulatory and law enforcement authorities, the Program Director and Pastors of the church. If Staff or Volunteers receive inquiries from any other source, they should simply state that all inquiries should be answered by the church spokesperson.
The Senior Pastor, or other appropriate designee, should be the sole spokesperson for the church in all matters relating to the allegation. All inquiries from church members, other persons or the media should be referred to the Senior Pastor or his or her designee who should respond as may be appropriate under the circumstances.
It’s hard to know what to say when a child, youth or adult discloses a history of abuse to you. Here are some suggestions you can use to talk to the individual.
Remember, when you are talking with a victim, it is NOT your job to investigate the crime. Leave that to the authorities. You are there to provide protection, comfort and a tangible sign of God’s grace to a hurting child of God.
Helpful Responses to Abuse Disclosure
- Tell me more.
- It wasn’t your fault.
- No child ever deserves to be abused.
- I believe you.
- God didn’t cause you to be abused.
- I’m so sorry that happened to you.
- You are not a leper.
- I don’t know what to say or do to help, but here is a name of someone who can.
- God loves you and so do I.
- I will never hurt you.
- You are safe here.
Hurtful Responses to Abuse Disclosure
- What did you do to deserve that?
- Spare the rod, spoil the child.
- No way!
- He/she really didn’t mean to hurt you
- It was for your own good.
- Surely you misunderstood,
- It was all in your imagination.
- Forgive and forget.
- That was then, this was now.
- Get over it.
- This, too, shall pass.
- Did you like it?
- __________would NEVER do anything like that.
- You ought to be ashamed of yourself accusing Mr./Mrs. _______ of such a horrible thing!
- That would never happen here.
- I don’t want to talk about it!
- If we make this public, it will break up your family.
- Honor your father and mother.
- It was God’s will.
- There is a reason God caused you all this suffering.