Sexual abuse prevention must be comprehensive

There is a model in risk management called the Swiss cheese model. 

The idea behind the model is that risk management is a layered system where a series of controls are deployed to prevent bad things from happening, identify them quickly if they happen, and mitigate the consequences.  Unfortunately, when holes in the cheese slices align – the controls fail to do their job.  

It is one thing to fail to notice holes or prevent them from aligning; it is quite another not to have the right cheese slices you need in the first place.

Though controls differ slightly by sector, most youth-serving organizations currently use a set of four controls.  These controls, first brought together as a cohesive set about twenty years ago, were designed to try to prevent and identify sexual abuse.  

The immediate problem is that the four controls, on their own, are not enough to prevent sexual abuse.  On the contrary, sexual abuse is rising.  Adult-on-child sexual abuse has doubled in the last ten years.  Child-on-child sexual abuse has increased five times.  Therefore, additional controls are needed to provide comprehensive child protection.

One example of why they fail to prevent sexual abuse concerns criminal background checks.  Criminal background checks were introduced to ensure known pedophiles would not be able to work with minors and vulnerable adults.  They are an essential control but not without their challenges.  You can read about their deficiencies here.

The problem with them as far as comprehensive sexual abuse prevention is concerned is that, if you applied for a job at a fast food restaurant, you would have to go through a more involved intake process than is required for working with children, which only requires criminal background checks.  No application forms, reference checks, interviews, or anything else.  It’s not that organizations don’t use these and other controls, though many don’t, but there are at least ten additional steps to an effective intake process, all of which should be optimized for sexual abuse prevention.  

Risk management best practices ensure an organization can implement comprehensive child protection. 

That sexual abuse prevention must be comprehensive is a BOKRIM core principle.

We talk about the need for organizations to implement comprehensive protection for themselves for the rising costs of failing to prevent sexual abuse here.  You can see what comprehensive sexual abuse prevention and protection look like in our Ten-Step Guide.

Creating and Maintaining a Sexual Abuse Risk-Aware Culture: A Free Ten-Step Guide

Developing a sexual abuse risk-aware culture is the single most valuable thing you can do to protect the children and vulnerable adults in your care from sexual abuse.

Our free Ten-Step Guide is a practical introduction to the system that enables any organization to establish and maintain a sexual abuse risk-aware culture. 

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Post Author

Tim Jaggs

I am a Brit who now lives just outside San Francisco.  Though I have given up arguing for “football,” not “soccer,” I am still trying to decide whether football is better to watch than rugby – it’s a very close call – and if it’s OK to admit I enjoy baseball almost as much as cricket.

I have worked with organizations managing sexual abuse risk for over 15 years. 

I created BOKRIM to help people working with children, who often have little risk management experience, to use risk management best practices to protect children from sexual abuse and protect themselves from the consequences of failing to prevent sexual abuse.