Adults and religious professionals who work with youth need to know our reporting responsibilities and know what counts as child abuse. Knowledge is power and youth (and parents) need to know what’s legal and what’s not in their state. As a healthy sexuality-positive community, we owe it to our youth to help them know the limits of healthy sexual expression.
Because the line from consensual to non-consensual behavior can be crossed so easily and because we (usually) have a large enough age span that sexual contact between the youngest and oldest youth would be in violation of laws, sexual behavior at our events needs to be a no-go. We cannot take the risk of child abuse happening in our program and on site.
While sexuality is a healthy and important part of young people’s lives, there are times and places where sexual behavior is inappropriate. Exclusive relationships distract from the community.
- Participants must respect each other’s physical boundaries. An appropriate expectation is that participants agree to verbally ask each other’s permission before touch such as hugs (“affirmative consent.”)
- Participants shall refrain from sexual, seductive, or erotic behavior while at programs and events.
- Sexual behavior and sexual harassment between participants are not permitted and will not be tolerated.
- The "age of consent" laws for your program or event's locality are known by participants and leaders. Violation of age of consent laws, even among minors, is child abuse.
- In your research, include laws around "sexting" and sharing substances.
- Every time you learn about sexual contact that has occurred at your program or event:
- Get accurate information on what happened including interviewing participants.
- Write an incident report. In the incident report, include birth dates of those involved.
- If the participants' age difference could be considered child abuse under the law, know the mandatory reporting requirements for your state.
- Parents should be notified about mandatory reporting requirements. Generally, clergy and religious educators are mandated reporters.
- Youth age 18 and over who participate in events need orientation to their responsibilities as adults under the law.
More About Mandated Reporting
Often any educational program counts as a mandated reporting organization and therefore most congregations consider themselves and their volunteers as responsible to follow mandated responsibilities.
Mandated reporters can’t make the judgment not to report based on a belief that the person is lying. Even if the family doesn’t want you to, even if you know that someone else has already made a report it is your duty and obligation to make a report.
Next Recommended Practice: Two Unrelated Adults