When organizations do and don't take abuse seriously

At this point, most schools and organizations know that they are supposed to take abuse seriously. Most of them have abuse policies. Most of them have orientations that talk about the abuse policies. Often, they do all of these things without actually thinking the abuse is a real possibility within their organization, and without being sincerely prepared to deal with it.

An organization that actually takes abuse seriously will not spend the entire training talking about how seriously they take abuse. They will not emphasize “these rules protect you from false allegations”. They will not emphasize internal punishments and discipline committees. 

They will spend most of the training time talking about abuse itself, how to prevent it, and how to report it.

They talk about practical things like:

  • What you’re not allowed to do to other people
  • What other people aren’t allowed to do to you
  • How to tell when you’re crossing a line
  • How to tell when someone else is crossing a line
  • When and how to report things
  • That you should call the police if you have reason to suspect that a crime has been committed, and that you should report to your supervisor *after* you call the police.

They will also be able to give examples (in a way that protects the privacy of the people involved.) Eg: “A few years ago, a camper told me that a counselor touched him in the shower. I called the police and then told my supervisor.”) If an organization has existed for a long time and says that they have never had a serious abuse incident, that’s a sign that something is wrong with their procedure for detecting and reporting abuse. Abuse is not rare, and no abuse prevention program is 100% effective.

Organizations that take abuse seriously do not expect to handle everything internally. They will tell you that if it seems that a crime has been committed, that you should call the police *before* you report it internally. Non-criminal forms of misconduct can be handled internally; crimes should not be. When crimes are investigated only internally, organizations cover things up.

An organization that takes abuse seriously will care more about protecting people than protecting its image or identity as a safe place where abuse doesn’t happen.