POLICY OF THE SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION'S INTERNATIONAL MISSION BOARD

(adopted circa 2004)

RESPONSE TO ALLEGATIONS OF SEXUAL OR PHYSICAL ABUSE INVOLVING A CHILD

 

1.      Statement of Policy

The Board’s policy is that sexual or physical abuse of a child by Board personnel will not be tolerated. A single act of sexual abuse by Board personnel, regardless of when that act occurred, will result in permanent termination of employment or volunteer service with the Board.  A single act of physical abuse by Board personnel, regardless of when that act occurred, will result in appropriate administrative action, up to and including termination of employment or volunteer service with the Board.

2.      Purpose of Procedures

 

These procedures are intended to provide the Board with a clearly established process for dealing with and responding to a claim of sexual or physical abuse involving a child.

These procedures are not intended to prevent or relieve any person or group of persons, whether they are field personnel, staff members or volunteers from reporting any allegation of sexual or physical abuse involving a child to the proper civil authorities, as mandated by law.

3.      Definitions 

Administrative Leave -- for purposes of this policy, it is defined as relieving any Board personnel accused of sexual or physical abuse of a child of his or her assigned duties. The application will vary depending on the status of the accused.  Administrative leave does not imply guilt or innocence.

 

Child -- any person under the age of eighteen is considered a child under this policy.

 

Sexual Abuse -- The term “Sexual Abuse” of a child in this policy includes, but is not limited to the following:   committing, allowing to be committed, or threatening any sexual act upon a child, including, without limitation, fondling of breasts or genitalia in or outside of the clothing, masturbation, oral-genital contact, digital penetration, vaginal intercourse, or anal intercourse; any action undertaken with the intent to arouse or satisfy the sexual desire of any individual; indecent exposure in the presence of a child; allowing a child to view sexually explicit or pornographic material; allowing a child to be used in creating any sexually explicit or pornographic material; or allowing a child to witness a sexual act.

Physical Abuse -- The term “Physical Abuse” of a child in this policy includes, but is not limited to the following:  any action that causes or threatens to cause a non-accidental physical injury to a child; placing a child in a situation where the child is likely to be injured; neglecting or refusing to provide adequate food, shelter, emotional nurturing, or health care to a child; failing to provide adequate supervision in relation to the child’s age or development level. 

 

Board personnel -- The term Board personnel includes all Board missionaries (whether serving in the United States or overseas), employees serving in the United States, personal services contractors serving in the United States, and short term mission team members and volunteers (whether serving in the United States or overseas).

4.      Reporting Sexual or Physical Abuse 

Any suspected act of sexual or physical abuse of a child by Board personnel or children of Board personnel must be reported immediately to Board leadership.   Suspicions should be reported even if there is uncertainty as to whether the activity meets the definition of sexual or physical abuse.

   

Any of the following are acceptable means for reporting suspected abuse to Board leadership:

a.      A report, either orally or in writing, to the cluster strategy leader or affinity global strategist related to the area in which the alleged victim or accused resides and/or works.

b.      A report, either orally or in writing, to the personnel director of the support center related to the area in which the alleged victim or accused resides and/or works.

c.      A report, either orally or in writing, to member care personnel in either the Richmond member care office or the support area in which the alleged victim or accused resides and/or works.

d.       An oral report to the confidential telephone hotline maintained by the Board for receiving reports of possible sexual or physical abuse of a child.   In the United States , the number is (866) 211-4648; outside of the United States the number is (804) 749-3254. 

 

The Board representative who receives a report of abuse under any of the four means listed above shall be responsible for immediately notifying the Executive Vice President, who shall then promptly notify the Vice President(s) responsible for personnel involved, as well as the General Counsel.   This notification should include, wherever possible, the following information:  

a.       the name of the accused;

b.      the name or names of the alleged victim(s) and of the individual(s) making the accusation;

c.       the relevant date or dates, times and locations of alleged abuse;

d.      the setting in which the alleged abuse occurred and its specific nature; and

e.       the names, addresses and telephone numbers of all persons who may have knowledge of the alleged abuse.

 

Upon receiving a report of sexual or physical abuse, the Executive Vice President, in consultation with the General Counsel, shall take measures to address any applicable government reporting obligations.

 

Anyone with knowledge of an allegation of abuse shall treat this information as confidential and shall not disseminate any information about those allegations to anyone other than the Executive Vice President, the Vice President(s) responsible for personnel involved , and the General Counsel.   The only exception to this confidentiality policy is where there is an imminent risk of harm to the alleged victim or other individuals.

 

5.      Assessment Team 

The Executive Vice President of the Board, in consultation with the Vice President(s) responsible for the personnel involved and the General Counsel, shall promptly appoint an Assessment Team that will be responsible for investigating all reports of sexual or physical abuse involving a child.  The board officers, chairman of the trustee committee(s) to which the personnel involved relate, and field leaders who supervise the alleged victim or accused will be advised of the appointment of an Assessment Team. 

The Board will investigate all allegations of abuse involving Board personnel and children of Board personnel, no matter how long since the alleged abuse occurred.   Because of the importance the Board places on the care and protection of its children, the Board will pursue and investigate all allegations, even if the alleged victim or victim’s parents does not personally want the allegations investigated.

 

The Assessment Team will normally consist of three individuals, a lead investigator and two observers.   The lead investigator shall be someone who has received training to equip him or her for leading an investigation.   Absent exigent circumstances, at least one member of the Assessment Team shall be an impartial outside observer not employed by the Board.  Where the alleged victim is a female, at least one of the members of the Assessment Team shall be a female.

 

The duties of the Assessment Team shall include, but not be limited to, the following: 

a.       To maintain an impartial, unbiased attitude throughout the investigation.

b.      To take immediate steps, where applicable, to preserve any evidence that might be relevant to the investigation.

c.       To determine if there are any additional potential victims.

d.      To personally meet with and interview the alleged victim(s) and victim’s family in a timely manner after receiving notification of the report, unless good cause exists for delay.

e.       To personally meet with and interview the accused in a timely manner after interviewing the victim and other relevant witnesses concerning the allegations, unless good cause exists for delay.   

f.       To interview relevant witnesses identified by the alleged victim, the accused, and all other persons with information relevant to the allegations.

g.      To arrange for a clinical evaluation of the accused or the alleged victim(s) by a person professionally qualified and experienced in the evaluation of sexual or physical abuse, if the evidence warrants such evaluation.

h.      To arrange for appropriate pastoral care for the alleged victim, the family of the victim, the accused, the family of the accused and other affected field personnel, staff members or volunteers.

i.        To prepare a confidential, written report of the investigation which shall contain

1)      a summary of findings;
2)      a specific statement about whether or not reasonable cause exists to suspect that sexual or physical abuse has occurred; and
3)      recommended actions. The report will be provided to the Executive Vice President.   Reasonable cause means that the Assessment Team concludes that it more likely than not that abuse occurred; it is not the more onerous “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard that would apply in American criminal proceedings.

j.        The Assessment Team may delegate designated members of the team to carry out various functions listed above, rather than requiring the entire team to participate in every function.   Ordinarily, only members of the Assessment Team and the witness being interviewed will be allowed to be present during an interview; exceptions are at the sole discretion of the Assessment Team.  

The Assessment Team’s investigation may extend beyond allegations of sexual or physical abuse if other deficiencies are identified in the course of fact finding which negatively impact on the performance of the accused’s duties.

The Assessment Team’s findings and recommendations will be kept confidential to the extent possible during the pendency of the investigation.

6.      Safety of the Alleged Victim and Other Children During Investigation

 

When a complaint of sexual abuse or physical abuse involving a child is made against Board personnel or children of Board personnel, all reasonable measures will be taken to ensure the safety of the alleged victim(s) and other children under the care of the Board.   Such measures shall ordinarily include, at a minimum, placing the accused on administrative leave pending the completion of the investigation, not allowing the accused to confront the alleged victim, and taking measures to ensure that the accused does not have unsupervised access to the alleged victim or other children.  If the accused is working overseas, the Executive Vice President, in consultation with the Vice President to whom the accused reports, and the Assessment Team, may direct that the accused return to the United States during the pendency of the investigation.   In cases where the accused is a child of Board personnel, the parents of the child may be placed on administrative leave.

 

7.       Disposition

 

a.       If the Executive Vice President, after consultation with the Assessment Team, determines that the allegations of sexual or physical abuse involving a child are substantiated, the following actions shall be taken (without regard to any statute of limitations that would govern criminal or civil actions):

1)      (i)  In cases where a Board employee is found to have engaged in sexual abuse of a child, the employee will be relieved immediately of his or her duties, returned to the United States (where applicable), and terminated.   His or her spouse will be given an opportunity to resign, assuming there is no indication of culpable conduct by the spouse. 

(ii)   In cases where a Board employee is found to have engaged in physical abuse of a child, the employee will be relieved immediately of his or her duties, returned to the United States (where applicable), and appropriate administrative action taken, up to and including termination.  Where the employee is terminated, his or her spouse will be given an opportunity to resign, assuming there is no indication of culpable conduct by the spouse. 

(iii)  In cases where a child of Board personnel is found to have engaged in sexual or physical abuse of a child, appropriate administrative action shall be taken, up to and including removing the Board personnel from further employment or service with the Board.

 

2)      (i)  In cases where a Board volunteer is found to have engaged in sexual abuse of a child, the individual will be relieved of his or her duties, returned to the United States (where applicable), and barred from future service with the Board.  

(ii)  In cases where a Board volunteer is found to have engaged in physical abuse of a child, the volunteer will be relieved immediately of his or her duties, returned to the United States (where applicable), and appropriate administrative action taken, up to and including barring future service with the Board.

3)      A written statement confirming that the individual was found to have engaged in sexual or physical abuse of a child and the administrative action taken shall be placed in the permanent Board file of that individual.

4)      Representatives of the Board shall meet with the victim(s) and the victim’s family if appropriate to express the Board’s regret and discuss how the Board may assist them in the healing process (e.g., offer of counseling).

5)      The board officers, board members, and field and staff leadership who have been informed of the appointment of the assessment team shall be informed of the outcome of the Assessment Team investigation and the action taken by the Executive Vice President.

6)      Appropriate notification, depending on the circumstances, of the findings and disciplinary action may be given to Board personnel who have interacted with the perpetrator of the abuse.

b.      If the Executive Vice President, after consultation with the Assessment Team, determines that the allegations are unsubstantiated, the following actions shall be taken:

1)    The Executive Vice President shall begin a process of individual or corporate healing.

2)      Representatives of the Board shall meet with the alleged victim(s) and the accused to discuss the results of the investigation.

3)      If requested by the accused, a statement confirming that the allegations were not substantiated may be placed in the individual’s permanent Board file.

4)      After consultation with the accused, the Board may exonerate the accused publicly or privately.

5)      The board officers, board members, and field and staff leadership who have been informed of the appointment of the assessment team shall be informed of the outcome of the Assessment Team investigation and the action taken by the Executive Vice President.

c.       If the Executive Vice President, after consultation with the Assessment Team, determines that some of the allegations are substantiated and some are unsubstantiated, or that the evidence available at the time of the report of the Assessment Team is not conclusive as to whether the allegations are substantiated or not, the following actions shall be taken:

1)      The Executive Vice President shall determine what actions should be taken as a result of such findings.

2)      The Executive Vice President shall meet with the victim(s), and the victim’s family if appropriate, to discuss the findings and how the Board may assist the victim(s) and the victim’s family.

3)      The Executive Vice President shall meet with the accused to discuss the findings and what actions the Executive Vice President intends to take, if any.

4)      The Executive Vice President shall, if he deems it appropriate, begin a process of individual or corporate healing.

5)      The board officers,  board members, and field and staff leadership who have been informed of the appointment of the assessment team shall be informed of the outcome of the Assessment Team investigation and the action taken by the Executive Vice President.

8.      Confidentiality

a.      The Executive Vice President, the Assessment Team members, and all other representatives of the Board will make every effort to protect the privacy of the alleged victim(s), the accused, and other witnesses.

1)      All reports of allegations of abuse, records of Assessment Team’s investigation, and findings by the Executive Vice President will be held in strictest confidence.
2)      The Assessment Team will not disclose any part of their investigation to anyone except as directed by the Executive Vice President or pursuant to a court process.

b.      When a Board employee is terminated for sexual or physical abuse involving a child, the administration of the Board shall have the authority to take the following actions:

1)      Inform persons seeking information about the Board employee from the Board that the Board employee was terminated for sexual or physical abuse involving a child.
2)      Notify the appropriate civil authorities in the jurisdiction in which the conduct occurred and/or in which the employee resides that the Board employee has engaged in sexual or physical abuse involving a child.
3)      Assist civil authorities in any investigation of the Board employee for sexual or physical abuse involving a child.
4)      Notify the Board employee’s home church, or other churches with which the Board employee is known to have a relationship, that the Board employee was terminated for sexual or physical abuse involving a child.
5)      Notify entities connected with the Convention, including but not limited to seminaries, state associations, LifeWay, NAMB, WMU and denominational state newspapers, that the Board employee was terminated for sexual or physical abuse involving a child.
6)      Notify other Christian agencies (e.g., Christian publishing houses) that the Board employee was terminated for sexual or physical abuse involving a child.

The administration of the Board shall have the same authority to act in those situations in which a volunteer for the Board is barred from participating in Board sponsored activities as a result of sexual or physical abuse involving a child.   Where permitted by law, the Board shall have the same authority to act in those situations in which a child of Board personnel has engaged in sexual or physical abuse involving a child.

c.       When the Board is advised that a former Board personnel who resigned or retired from the Board has admitted to or been found to have engaged in sexual or physical abuse involving a child, either while an employee of the Board or before or after the individual’s service with the Board, the administration of the Board shall have the authority to take any of the following actions:

1)      Inform persons seeking information about the former Board personnel from the Board that it has learned that the Board personnel has admitted to or been found to have engaged in sexual or physical abuse involving a child.
2)      Inform the appropriate civil authorities in the jurisdiction in which the conduct occurred and/or in which the Board personnel resides that the Board has learned that the former Board personnel has admitted to or been found to have engaged in sexual or physical abuse involving a child.
3)      Assist civil authorities in any investigation of the former Board personnel for sexual or physical abuse involving a child.
4)      Notify the former Board personnel’s home church that the former Board personnel has admitted to or been found to have engaged in sexual or physical abuse involving a child.
5)      Revoke the employee’s status as an emeritus employee.
6)      Notify entities connected with the Convention, including but not limited to seminaries, state associations, LifeWay, NAMB, WMU and denominational state newspapers) that the Board has learned that the former Board personnel has admitted to or been found to have engaged in sexual or physical abuse involving a child.

7)      Notify other Christian agencies (e.g., Christian publishing houses) that the former Board personnel has admitted to or been found to have engaged in sexual or physical abuse involving a child.

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