Guiding Philosophies in Responding to Peer Sexual Assault and Harassment
Our goal is to create youth ministry spaces which are as safe as possible, including by promoting a culture of consent at all levels. At our events, we try to center two main needs: (1) the needs of the victim for a safer space, including from the perpetrator; and (2) assuring that each youth present at the event is not likely to harm other youth during the event. While our main focus is on the interactions at our youth events, we understand many youth interact outside our events including within their homes and congregations. We seek to support families and congregations in assisting youth with these ongoing relationships.
Survivor Centered: Our events often promise confidentiality, but always “except in cases of harm to self or others.” We do hold ourselves accountable as a Mandated Reporting organization and do report anything that is reportable under state law to Child Protective Services. Any time a youth may be a harm to themselves or someone is harming them, we include the local congregation and parents/guardians (unless they are the source of the abuse). We seek to support the local congregation and parents/guardians in referrals to local resources that will help a youth stay safe.
In being survivor centered, we do not make reports to the police about crimes that happened to individual youth and/or adults. Instead, we will support them and their families if they choose to report the incident to the police, but the decision to report the crime is theirs.
Restorative Practice: In contrast to punitive systems which have high standards and low support, and permissive systems which have low standards and high support, restorative ones have both high standards and high support. We know humans learn best in supportive relationships and shame and social cutoff interferes with learning. We know youth will make mistakes. We seek to create communities and cultures which help youth learn, through both holding them accountable and supporting them in their learning.
As communities centering covenant and right relationship responding to conflict, harm to each other, and rule breaking must center restoring trust, safety, and right relationship over punishment.
No sexual behavior at events: We recognize that sexual exploration is a healthy and appropriate part of adolescence. However, sexual behavior of any kind at UU youth ministry events reduces the safety of the space for many reasons including: the creation of implicit or explicit peer pressure, possible presence of survivors of sexual assault, the possibility of sexual assault including unintentional non-consensual sexual touch, and the possibility of illegal sexual touch such as over a large age gap. Therefore, it is both UUA and CER policy that there is no sexual behavior allowed at youth events.