Assault and transboundary behavior is unfortunately a topical issue both in religious circles and society in general. Information and focus upon the subject of assault and transboundary behavior is important in any substantial child and youth work.
By: Louise Samnøy
In Norway 24.2 percent of women and 12.0 percent of men reported that they had experienced sexually offensive behavior before they reached 16 years of age. This is shown in the study «The occurrence of sexual assault in a representative population sample in Norway » from 2012. The research is used, among other things, as a reference by such bodies as the Government.
The same study shows that 18.3 percent of women and 3.2 percent of men reported having experienced acts of a sexually offensive nature. While the figures for having experienced an unwanted sexual relationship before turning 16 is 11.4 percent of women and 0.9 percent of men. In addition to the visible statistics there are a great number of unreported cases.
– BCC is, just like any other organization within the same specialist field, appalled by the number of assaults that have been committed. Moreover, we are aware that in a religious society such as ours, this is a problem area that needs very close attention, says Harald Kronstad.
He is leader for the resource group in BCC against violence, transboundary behavior and assault, and he has worked to inform about and prevent various forms of assault and gross negligence over the last 20 years. This was when the registration of cases of assault began to be registered in BCC.
– From what can be seen, BCC has been far below the national average. However, one assault is one too many, says Harald Kronstad.
Together with other resource personnel in the church, Kronstad has prepared BCC’s «strategy and action plan against violence, transboundary behavior and sexual assault against children and youth». The first edition was published in 1998, and was revised as recently as 2015.
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– The fact that one has a policy has in itself a preventative effect. Possessing a plan increases focus and can help to hinder, while at the same time making children and youth workers aware of any signs of assault. Courses are held in all local churches, and the action plan is updated as a result of new knowledge and new laws, Kronstad says.
He explains that there are many young voluntary co-workers and leaders in the children and youth associations in BCC. A minimum requirement is that everyone has to supply a police certified reference in order to work with children and young people. BCC provides recommendations and suggestions as a framework and educational material, but it is the individual association’s responsibility as to how they implement this in the work with children and youth.
– Right now we are also working with more detailed checklists, self-declarations and suggestions in connection with the association’s work. This was brought up at the summer conference this year, and a new course will be held for all local associations in the near future, Kronstad tells us.
An Open and Safe Organization
The UN’s Children’s Convention is a preventative and action-oriented tool for those who work with children and youth. The short version of article 34 regarding sexual exploitation states: «The child has a right to protection against all forms of sexual exploitation and misuse. In order to protect children against such exploitation, the State must implement all necessary measures, both nationally and internationally»
– We are happy to have the Children’s Convention and for the fact that the national legal framework is as clear as it is. And we are also happy that the specialist community is genuinely engaged with spreading knowledge, preventing assaults and making knowledge available about what should be done in the case of assaults, says Kronstad. He says that the duty of prevention is an example of a measure that can increase the chances of exposing and preventing assault.
Previously because of the duty of client confidentiality and the fact that the information was communicated in connection with counselling, one could avoid passing on information about an assault. However, as a result of the tightening up of the duty of prevention in the Criminal Code of 2010, a person is compelled to report cases where there is suspicion of assault for example.
This paragraph applies irrespective of the duty of client confidentiality. In other words, one can be penalized for failing to report something, and therefore one has both a legal and moral duty to take action.
–BCC has a zero tolerance policy in regard to assault, yet we cannot close our eyes. All research and experience shows that assaults do take place, and unfortunately it will happen again. There is no way that we can rule out it not happening in our midst, Kronstad says, and brings out two points in connection with openness.
– First of all, assault is not to be covered up amongst us. Secondly we wish to cooperate with the public authorities in cases where such things come into their area of responsibility. We urge people to report censurable cases. It is then the police’s responsibility to investigate suspicious circumstances affected by the Criminal Code.
An Extra Responsibility
It is BCC’s wish, along with schools and homes, that a focus on this theme is maintained and increased.
– For example much of what was earlier visible bullying has developed into more hidden bullying on social media. It can be very difficult for parents to discover this. In such cases, young leaders are able to contribute through conveying healthy attitudes and themselves being good examples.
– As a Christian organization, we have an extra responsibility to uncover censurable situations. Christian leaders must be extra aware of the fact that the religious dimension also brings in an extra authority in regard to roles, positions and trust and this must not be misused, Kronstad points out.
– Children and young people often have confidence in their leaders. If a child has experienced something unpleasant or troubling, then perhaps it is precisely one of the leaders that the person tells this to. It is very important how a leader handles this situation. It may be the first and last time the person tells it to anyone, depending on how it is received.
And I want to underline this that irrespectively, one assault is one too many! Every form of violence and assault is a gross breach of trust which can lead to far reaching consequences, so we will continue to intensify the important preventative work which we have been working with for many years.