Be­ing aware of, and re­port­ing, abuse

How the arch­dio­cese trains vol­un­teers about child­hood sex­ual abuse

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Kath­leen E. Carey kcarey@21st-cen­tu­ry­ @dt­busi­ness on Twit­ter

PHILADEL­PHIA >> About 40 peo­ple sat in the Arch­dioce­san Pas­toral Cen­ter one re­cent evening, their fo­cus in­tent on the large pro­jec­tion screen in the mid­dle of the front of the room.

“I was 10 years old,” the boy in the film tells the view­ers. “I faced my mo­lester ev­ery day not know­ing if he was ev­ery go­ing to mess with me again. And, he did do it again, and again, and again.”

Seven min­utes into the twopart film that lasted about a half hour, a white, clean-shaven, brown-haired man comes on the screen.

“The first child, as close as I can re­call, I was 10, he was 5,” he said. “He was a neigh­bor­hood child who looked up to me and I took ad­van­tage of that to lure him into a field be­hind our parents’ house and to trick him into, force him into tak­ing his clothes off.”

This raw footage based on tes­ti­mony from ac­tual abuse and sur­vivors, as well as the sto­ries from per­pe­tra­tors them­selves, is part of a two-and-a-half hour in­tense train­ing reg­i­men that the Arch­dio­cese of Philadel­phia re­quires of any adult — clergy, em­ployee or vol­un­teer — who has reg­u­lar in­ter­ac­tions with chil­dren.

Child­hood sex­ual abuse is a world­wide prob­lem that gar­nered much fo­cus here in the United States in 2002 when the

Arch­dio­cese of Bos­ton faced na­tional ex­po­sure for the abuse and con­ceal­ment there. The Arch­dio­cese of Philadel­phia came un­der scru­tiny as the re­sult of two grand jury re­ports, one in 2005 and an­other in 2011, that linked more than 60 priests with abus­ing dozens of mi­nors over decades. Since then, leg­isla­tive ef­forts have emerged to deal with the cri­sis.

Since 2003, more than 100,000 adults have gone though this Safe En­vi­ron­ment train­ing called “Pro­tect­ing God’s Chil­dren,” which pro­vides them with the tools to rec­og­nize, re­spond to and re­port both warn­ing signs of child abuse and abuse it­self.

The train­ing is done un­der the aus­pices of the arch­dio­cese’s Of­fice for Child and Youth Pro­tec­tion, headed by Les­lie Dav­ila, who has more than two decades ex­pe­ri­ence as a vic­tim ad­vo­cate and was as­sis­tant di­rec­tor for vic­tim ser­vices for the Philadel­phia Dis­trict At­tor­ney’s of­fice for 12 years be­fore as­sum­ing her cur­rent role in 2011.

“Our Safe En­vi­ron­ment train­ing is our child abuse aware­ness pro­gram,” Dav­ila ex­plained. “It’s about ed­u­cat­ing adults about how to be pro­tec­tors of chil­dren, how to be role mod­els. We re­ally want to em­power adults with the in­for­ma­tion that they need to pro­tect chil­dren.”

The train­ing is done all year long and is held through­out the en­tire arch­dio­cese in parishes and schools in the five-county area.

There is also an ed­u­ca­tional com­po­nent geared to­ward chil­dren and pre­sented in age-ap­pro­pri­ate ways that has in­formed more than 100,000 of the faith­ful in Catholic schools and par­ish-based pro­grams how to rec­og­nize im­proper con­duct – and how to re­port it.

“We cre­ate a sys­tem where they feel com­fort­able to come for­ward,” Dav­ila said, adding that iden­ti­fy­ing in­ap­pro­pri­ate be­hav­ior is im­por­tant, whether it’s at school or at home, or with some­one they know, or whether it’s a friend or an­other child they know who they think may be be­ing abused.

“We’re try­ing to em­power them and give them lessons that will help them for years to come,” Dav­ila said.

In ad­di­tion, there are more than 280 Safe En­vi­ron­ment co­or­di­na­tors in the arch­dioce­san parishes, schools and other pro­grams work­ing to guar­an­tee com­pli­ance with laws and poli­cies.

Dav­ila said the arch­dio­cese has had a long-stand­ing cul­ture of preven­tion, pro­tec­tion and heal­ing for vic­tims and sur­vivors.

Through the 2015 fis­cal year, the arch­dio­cese has spent more than $18 mil­lion on vic­tim as­sis­tance pro­grams, the Safe En­vi­ron­ment ini­tia­tives and the Of­fice for Chil­dren and Youth Pro­tec­tion.

Of that, the arch­dio­cese has paid more than $13 mil­lion for the costs of coun­sel­ing, med­i­ca­tion, travel and child care, vo­ca­tional as­sis­tance and other sup­port mech­a­nisms for vic­tims of child­hood sex­ual abuse.

“Within the Catholic Church and the state of Penn­syl­va­nia and na­tion­ally, each dio­cese has been do­ing this work for many, many years,” Dav­ila said, not­ing that the state re­quire­ment for back­ground checks for adults came af­ter the arch­dioce­san im­ple­men­ta­tion.

Dav­ila’s of­fice is re­spon­si­ble for the train­ing and ed­u­ca­tion. The arch­dio­cese has a sep­a­rate divi­sion, the Of­fice of In­ves­ti­ga­tion, which han­dles the in­ter­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tions, sep­a­rate from those ex­e­cuted by law en­force­ment.

Ken Gavin, di­rec­tor of com­mu­ni­ca­tions for the Arch­dio­cese of Philadel­phia, said the arch­dio­cese re­ports any al­le­ga­tion of sex­ual abuse of a mi­nor to law en­force­ment.

He said the arch­dio­cese co­op­er­ates fully with law en­force­ment in the course of any sub­se­quent in­ves­ti­ga­tion and that the work of the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem al­ways takes prece­dence so the arch­dio­cese waits for the con­clu­sion of any such pro­ceed­ings be­fore launch­ing its own in­ter­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion as re­quired by canon law.

In or­der for adults to work with chil­dren, they are re­quired to com­plete the Safe En­vi­ron­ment train­ing as well as have FBI fin­ger­print back­ground checks, Penn­syl­va­nia State Po­lice crim­i­nal back­ground checks and Penn­syl­va­nia Child Abuse his­tory clear­ances.

The Safe En­vi­ron­ment train­ing con­sists of two parts: One is the “Pro­tect­ing God’s Chil­dren” and the other is “Manda­tory Re­port­ing of Sus­pected Child Abuse.”

At the re­cent train­ing at the Arch­dioce­san Pas­toral Cen­ter, the film, pro­duced by Vir­tus of the Na­tional Catholic Risk Re­ten­tion Group Inc., pre­sented a va­ri­ety of view­points from that of vic­tims who had been abused by priests, teach­ers, camp coun­selors and those they met on­line, as well as fam­ily mem­bers and preda­tors them­selves.

“It hap­pens in the most un­likely places and it’s com­mit­ted by peo­ple we fully ex­pected to be trust­wor­thy,” said the Rev. Richard J. Malone, bishop of the Buf­falo, N.Y., dio­cese, in the film. “It hap­pens in day care cen­ters and in our schools, in our youth pro­grams, in our homes and in the churches of ev­ery tra­di­tion … Un­less we bring child­hood sex­ual abuse out into the open, we can­not hope to pro­tect those we love most – our chil­dren.”

Myths about sex­ual abuse — that pe­dophiles look a cer­tain way; that most mo­lesters are ho­mo­sex­ual; and that Catholic clergy abuse chil­dren be­cause of their vows of celibacy — also are ad­dressed.

Kevin Kirby, Psy. D., is the Safe En­vi­ron­ment Com­pli­ance Au­di­tor for the Of­fice of Child and Youth Pro­tec­tion and he fa­cil­i­tated this spe­cific night’s train­ing.

Work­ing within the men­tal health sys­tem for four decades, he also op­er­ated a sex of­fend­ers treat­ment pro­gram and now com­pletes au­dits of arch­dioce­san Safe En­vi­ron­ment pro­grams.

“From ex­pe­ri­ence, I can tell you that the bar­ri­ers that we can erect from peo­ple who want to harm our chil­dren are es­sen­tial,” he ex­plained. “Clear­ances are no ques­tion a de­ter­rent.”

He said a check of the Me­gan’s Law website that evening showed there were 6,000 reg­is­tered sex of­fend­ers in the en­tire five-county Philadel­phia area.

“That’s the tip of the ice­berg in terms of peo­ple who have this kind of prob­lem,” he said. “It’s the tip of the ice­berg.”

And, he added, “The more we know, the more bar­ri­ers we can put up, the safer our chil­dren are go­ing to be.”

The film out­lined a fivestep process de­signed to keep chil­dren safe.

Num­ber one was to know the warn­ing signs for in­ap­pro­pri­ate be­hav­ior that may re­sult in an un­easy feel­ing.

“For ex­am­ple,” the film nar­ra­tor says, “you may no­tice an adult who al­ways wants to be alone with kids or seems to be more ex­cited to be with chil­dren than with adults … or the per­son may go over­board touch­ing chil­dren, al­ways want­ing to wres­tle or tickle them es­pe­cially when they don’t know the chil­dren very well ... By be­ing overly phys­i­cal with a child, a per­son could be con­di­tion­ing a child to tol­er­ate cer­tain types of in­ap­pro­pri­ate phys­i­cal touch from other adults that they would nor­mally re­sist.”

It also warns about adults who talk about sex or tell dirty jokes or who show porno­graphic pic­tures to chil­dren, as well as those who take pic­tures of chil­dren, es­pe­cially a cer­tain type of child, with­out parental per­mis­sion.

“They’re see­ing if that child will go along with it, in­stead of say­ing, ‘No, I’m not al­lowed to talk that way. I’m not al­lowed to say those things,’” Kirby said, adding that the preda­tor is gaug­ing how far they might be able to go with a child and is try­ing to make the child feel com­plicit. “The ma­nip­u­la­tion is re­ally in­sid­i­ous, it’s in­sid­i­ous.”

The film in­structed adults to use the P-A-N method in cat­e­go­riz­ing be­hav­ior in that af­fec­tion shown to­ward a child: It should be Pub­lic, Ap­pro­pri­ate and Non-sex­ual.

The sec­ond step is con­trol­ling ac­cess through screen­ing, from hav­ing vol­un­teers and em­ploy­ees com­plete stan­dard­ized ap­pli­ca­tions to re­quir­ing back­ground checks.

It re­it­er­ates that child mo­lesters be­lieve that rules do not ap­ply to them, say­ing that they have been known to sign au­tho­riza­tions know­ing a crim­i­nal his­tory may be dis­cov­ered.

The third step is to mon­i­tor all min­istries in­volv­ing chil­dren and youth.

All se­cluded ar­eas in and around school and church build­ings should be of­flim­its and locked. Adults should not be alone with chil­dren in se­cluded ar­eas.

“They should meet with chil­dren in an area where other adults can see them or an adult can walk in unan­nounced,” the nar­ra­tor says.

There are also spe­cific guide­lines for tech­nol­ogy us­age, as out­lined in the Stan­dards of Min­is­te­rial Be­hav­ior and Bound­aries.

It in­structs parents to in­stall fil­ter­ing and mon­i­tor­ing soft­ware on each elec­tronic de­vice and to re­view that con­tent reg­u­larly.

Per­son­nel, paid or vol­un­teer, us­ing elec­tronic means to com­mu­ni­cate with youth are given guide­lines from ob­tain­ing writ­ten per­mis­sion from parents or guardians for such com­mu­ni­ca­tion, keep­ing the con­tent brief and pro­fes­sional and adding at least one other adult to the mes­sage.

Step four is be­ing aware of a child’s be­hav­ior, par­tic­u­larly sud­den changes.

“It’s that change in be­hav­ior,” Kirby dis­cussed, adding that it could be any­thing from changes in sleep or hy­giene pat­terns to mood­i­ness, anger or de­pres­sion or want­ing to stop some­thing they pre­vi­ously liked.

“We need to be able to lis­ten very care­fully to our kids,” he said, adding that of­ten their cues will be non­ver­bal.

That’s in part be­cause many chil­dren don’t tell what’s hap­pen­ing to them.

“It’s very dif­fi­cult be­cause of the power and the con­trol that the of­fender has ex­erted over their groom­ing process,” Kirby said, adding that only ap­prox­i­mately 5 per­cent of chil­dren lie about it. “We have to be will­ing to be­lieve it.”

The film said con­ver­sa­tions should be had with chil­dren on a reg­u­lar ba­sis, like be­ing told not to play with matches. They should be told their pri­vate parts are spe­cial and no adults should see or touch them ex­cept un­der cir­cum­stances to keep them safe and healthy, or they should tell their mom and dad even if an­other adult has told them not to tell.

“Not be­ing will­ing to talk about these sub­jects,” the nar­ra­tor said, “puts chil­dren at risk.”

The fi­nal step in­volved re­port­ing, or com­mu­ni­cat­ing con­cern. Com­mu­ni­cat­ing con­cern is an act of point­ing out some­thing that is of con­cern, not say­ing or labeling a per­son is an abuser.

The nar­ra­tor in­formed, “In far too many cases of abuse, adults have no­ticed things along the way but didn’t say any­thing un­til it was too late … It is the moral and pos­si­bly le­gal re­spon­si­bil­ity of that per­son to re­port the sus­pi­cions to the civil au­thor­i­ties.”

Each par­tic­i­pant re­ceived an in­for­ma­tional packet that in­cluded a brochure on spe­cific signs of phys­i­cal, sex­ual, psy­cho­log­i­cal abuse and ne­glect as well as ways to re­port this from call­ing Child­Line at 800-932-0313, com­plet­ing a form on­line at com­pass. or no­ti­fy­ing some­one in charge of the in­sti­tu­tion.

Kirby said if it is be­yond an al­le­ga­tion, it must be re­ported to law en­force­ment au­thor­i­ties first.

“You must re­port when you sus­pect child abuse,” he said. “That is the law … You don’t dis­cuss it with the prin­ci­pal, you don’t dis­cuss it with the pas­tor, you don’t dis­cuss it with your pro­gram head and make a joint de­ci­sion. If you sus­pect child abuse, you must make the re­port and then you tell the su­per­vi­sors, the coun­selors, the head of the pro­gram. You have that di­rect re­spon­si­bil­ity.”

He said if an adult is ex­hibit­ing any of the warn­ing signs, the su­per­vi­sor should be no­ti­fied.

Kirby said he re­ceives questions from par­tic­i­pants about why do they have to go through this train­ing and these clear­ances, es­pe­cially since they’re not of­fend­ers. Some are con­cerned about mak­ing sure both the youth and the adult lead­ers are pro­tected.

“You care about our kids and you want to be in­volved,” Kirby said. “You don’t give that up. You don’t give that up be­cause you have to be at this train­ing. The per­sons who do give that up, ei­ther they didn’t re­ally want to work with kids or there’s a prob­lem. It’s sad that it’s part of our so­ci­ety. It’s very sad, it’s tragic. But with­out you, our kids are los­ing a lot.”


Kevin Kirby, Psy.D., the Safe En­vi­ron­ment Com­pli­ance Au­di­tor for the arch­dio­cese’s Of­fice of Child and Youth Pro­tec­tion, leads a re­cent Safe En­vi­ron­ment pro­gram for adult vol­un­teers.


Les­lie Dav­ila heads the arch­dio­cese’s Of­fice for Child and Youth Pro­tec­tion. She has more than two decades of ex­pe­ri­ence as a vic­tim ad­vo­cate and was as­sis­tant di­rec­tor for vic­tims ser­vices for the Philadel­phia Dis­trict At­tor­ney’s of­fice for 12 years be­fore as­sum­ing her cur­rent role in 2011.


Philadel­phia Arch­bishop Charles J. Cha­put has taken a firm stance against the per­pe­tra­tors of sex­ual abuse in the Arch­dio­cese of Philadel­phia.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.