Sexual assault suspect may have hurt others

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Approximately 87,000 children were sexually abused in the US in 2001, according to the Children's Bureau of the U.S. Department of Human Services. As many JCC professionals know, abuse, sexual and otherwise, occurs nearly everywhere. Yet, there is a natural inclination to believe abuse won’t happen in our own communities, not to mention our own JCC. Awareness of the threat is critical, and reinforcing proven abuse prevention strategies is an essential element in protecting the kids in our programs. Both are the goals for our “Abuse Alert” program. Each is a brief treatment of the topic, focusing on one real, recent, public event, gleaned from the media… reprinting the article about the event in its entirety (omitting names and identifying references to the YMCA) and providing a few important teaching points for you to share with your staff. As always, if you need additional guidance on this topic, please call us at 800-463-8546 Although the following incident does not involve a Redwoods insured YMCA, we want to impress upon you the role each of us plays in providing a safe environment.

“Sexual assault suspect may have hurt others – 15-year old boy was attacked in a YMCA locker room”

LARGE SOUTHERN CITY: 07/31/04 – A man accused of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old boy in a downtown YMCA locker room may have victimized other children, police said Friday. A grand jury indicted [accused], 46, on a charge of sexual assault of a child earlier this month. He has been released from jail on $10,000 bond.

Police said the child was assaulted after he was dropped off at the downtown YMCA on July 5.

The boy told police he went into the locker room to change and saw the suspect peeking at him through the cracks of a bathroom stall.

When the child left the stall, the suspect pushed him into another restroom stall, locked the door, and assaulted him, police said.

The boy escaped a few minutes later and ran to the lobby where he alerted his father and a security guard.

Police said the boy identified [accused] after viewing photos of several club members who had entered the facility July 5.

Police are asking anyone who may have been victimized by the suspect to call the [city] Police Department Juvenile Division at [telephone number] or Crime Stoppers at [telephone number].

What we do know:

  • Most adult-on-child sexual abuse is not forced…as this so sadly shows, some is.

What we don’t know:

  • If the association compares membership roles with sexual offender lists, or if the accused had a prior record so that he would have appeared on the list if it was consulted.
  • Anything about the physical size of the victim or the accused. Many 15-year-old boys are large enough that they are relatively safe from physical assault (sexual or otherwise) by most assailants.
  • Whether the victim was actually dropped off (i.e., unaccompanied) or was in the facility with his father… in either case, he was not with his father at the time of the incident (nor, at his age, would he be expected to be).

What we must remember:

  • A frequent but irregular presence in locker rooms and restrooms, as evidenced by a prominently displayed sweep sheet, is a good deterrent against both abuse and theft.
    • Abusers (and thieves) prefer privacy…if they cannot be assured of it most will choose to ply their trade in locations where they have less chance of being apprehended.
    • Staff members should swing through restrooms and locker rooms whenever they are going to other locations in the facility, and should document their presence by putting their initials and the time on the day’s sweep sheet.
    • Where the above does not create enough traffic to adequately monitor behavior, staff should be assigned to visit these areas at least every 30 minutes throughout the day, documenting their presence as suggested above.
  • Establishing a minimum age at which children can be unaccompanied in the facility, with appropriate monitoring protocols for that age group, is a good way of protecting children from unknown predators.
    • More supervision and/or monitoring is required if younger children (e.g., under ten or as defined by your JCC) are allowed to be unaccompanied, e.g., perhaps
      • a sign-in and sign-out protocol;
      • an escort to see children to their destinations within the building;
      • a notification-and-watch system that monitors their travel without physically attending them.
    • Older children (e.g., perhaps thirteen and above, or, as defined by your JCC) might need only general supervision in the areas in which they are permitted to be.
  • One way of protecting children and other members or guests from sexual predators is to routinely compare staff and membership roles with the published sexual offender lists.
  • Know who is in your building at all times…
    • use a card-scan or manual system, but keep track of everyone who is in the facility…
    • check identification for guests, don’t just accept what they write on the entry log.

Please call us at 800-463-8546 to discuss this or any other risk management safety tip, or visit our web site at www.redwoodsgroup.com to learn more about JCC risk management issues.

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