The Reviver Statute Today: Preventing Abuse and Preparing for a Response
The “Reviver Statute” of the Child Victims Act, a potentially significant provision, took effect in New York on August 14, 2019.
Over the past few years, states within the U.S. have started to review and rethink their statute of limitation laws regarding the filing of child sex abuse claims. As part of the reviews, some of these states chose to make amendments to the statute of limitations to extend the length of time an individual has to file a criminal and/or civil complaint against both organizations and individuals. Included in those amendments is language that, for various specified periods depending on the state, revokes the current statute of limitations, allowing previously barred complaints to be revived—regardless of the survivor’s current age.
We have yet to see the true effects of these amendments as they are passed within their respective states, but general first impressions and reports from within the media indicate that there will be a significant uptick in the number of cases that were not previously brought forward due to the deadlines established by the previous versions of the laws. One thing can be certain as more survivors come forward with credible reports of abuse, is the awareness of just how large the impact is on our society. We must listen to survivors and lend credibility to their reports. We must seek to protect and prevent our youth and seniors, both today and tomorrow, from those who would seek to do them harm.
My high school football coach would dedicate hours of practice to teaching us the “basics” of football - the “fundamentals” of blocking and tackling. In his eyes, every mistake, loss, fumble, penalty, and win was attributed to how well we executed the basics of the game. “If you can’t get those right, then you can’t get anything else right,” he used to say. I came to despise how often we ran drills on the basics of the game. I thought the drills were boring and “beneath” a player as skilled as (I thought) I was. I realize now just how much this “back to fundamentals” mindset applies to day-to-day life. To succeed in your mission of protecting youth, you must continuously rehearse the “basics” – everything from practices, policies, training, response plans and oversight.
Recent events and societal changes have pushed legislation to move in a direction that allows survivors to speak out. The focus of these strategies is to help organizations who serve youth understand the importance of taking a proactive approach to establishing a preventative and responsive strategy, rather than exhibiting a complacent or indifferent attitude.
As an organization providing services to vulnerable clients, you should do everything reasonably possible to stop and prevent potential incidents now. Review the following fundamentals of building an effective abuse and molestation prevention plan.
The culture within your organization is a direct reflection of the impact current leadership has on its employees/volunteers within the organization. There should be a clearly communicated commitment to risk management from the top down, and likewise from the bottom up, to sustain a successful prevention program. It starts every day with attitude. What is the attitude toward preventing abuse and molestation in your organization? Will employees and volunteers be measured and held accountable for their decisions and behaviors on the job? A binder full of policies and procedures is worthless if they are not put into practice.
Leadership must also establish the “why” before the “how” can come into focus. Employees and volunteers need to know the reasoning behind the policies and procedures before accepting the implementation and enforcement processes. This should begin on day one of service. Make sure each employee and volunteer knows the assigned Code of Conduct within your organization. Your organizational assigned Code of Conduct is the first line of defense, and noncompliance with your clearly communicated policies should be grounds for termination.
Risk Vulnerability Assessment
Do you know what areas of your operation are most vulnerable? How well are you minding the gap between what is supposed to be done and what is actually being completed? Run a thorough assessment to be sure you are aware. This step is often overlooked, as leadership often makes a quick assumption that they know everything going on within their organization without taking the time to verify. But ask yourself honestly, do you really? Do you know everything that is happening at all times? Let me assure you of one very important fact – if you ever do have a sexual predator present in or around your organization, that person certainly will know where your organization is vulnerable and will exploit those vulnerabilities to their advantage. By then, it is too late to do anything to prevent the unspeakable from happening. Conduct an assessment and be prepared. Consult outside sources, such as reputable companies like Praesidium to help ensure a thorough review. Have the assessment conducted by multiple members of your organization or team to make sure all operational divisions are represented and contribute.
Policies & Procedures
Once you’ve identified the areas of vulnerability within your organization, you can establish policies and procedures that will strengthen your ability to prevent, protect and respond. Remember that your policies need to make sense for your organization, be consistent across your organization, and need to be sustainable. Key components of this step include but are not limited to:
- Employee/Volunteer Hiring Practices – Companies like Intellicorp can help you conduct comprehensive background checks and score employee and volunteer applicants. Other resources such as Praesidium can help you learn applicant screening best practices, such as:
- Background Checking
- Behavioral Interviewing
- Reference Checking
- Written Application & Resume Requirements
- Operational Policies & Procedures – Support providers like Nonprofit Risk Management Center offer templates to help you build effective policies that fit the needs of your organization. Always be sure to review policies with your dedicated legal team.
- Three Person/No One-on-One Rule
- Open Doors Policies
- Sleeping Quarters Rules & Requirements
- “Off Premises” Trip Rules
- Required Supervision Ratios
- Designate Appropriate/Acceptable Behaviors and Unacceptable Behaviors
- Child Attendance and Accountability Controls
- Drop-off and Pick-up Controls
- Training on Prevention & Operational Policies & Procedures – It is important to conduct ongoing training that addresses the grooming process that predators use to pursue victims. Resources like SafeSport.org can offer training on the grooming process.
- Every employee
- Every volunteer
- Clearly communicated
- Repeat training annually at minimum, or as needed to refresh working memory
- Record attendance and sign-offs for each training session
- Reporting & Investigations – You, your staff and volunteers should know what it means to be a mandated reporter, and whether or not they qualify as a mandated reporter in your state. You can find state specific requirements for mandated reporters on ChildWelfare.gov.
- What constitutes a “report?”
- How are reports recorded?
- Who can receive reports?
- How are victims to be treated?
- How will you preserve confidentiality? Apps like the one offered by StopIt can help students feel empowered to report incidents anonymously.
- How will the report be investigated?
- Will law enforcement be notified?
- How will the results be documented and communicated?
- Facility Changes/Improvements – Identified by assessment
- Installation of windows
- Removal of doors and/or locking mechanisms
- Installation of cameras as permitted by law
- Protection from the public view/access
- Measurement & Accountability
- Periodic inspections
- Operational area checklists
- Designated management staff to provide monitoring
- Enforcement – coaching and disciplinary Action
- Record all actions and keep records
- Periodic Review
- Record results of measurements and disciplinary action, analyze for trends
- Report results to leadership
- Create plan to address undesirable trends
- Update and add policies and procedures as needed
- Internal/External Communications
- Designate a Public Information Officer
- Determine what information will be provided
- Determine when or “how often” the media will be updated
- Be sure to have a social media and external communications policies in place and train your staff on the policies
This is not intended to be a complete list of everything your organization needs as part of an effective prevention plan. It is up to you and your organization to determine your specific needs. But one thing is certain, the fundamental policies and plan that your organization develops must be practiced every single day in order to be effective.
Great American Insurance Group Specialty Human Services is equipped with tools and resources to help our insureds develop a plan. Contact your agent, or visit Specialty Human Services for more information.
Jared serves as Great American Specialty Human Services Division’s Risk Management Director.
The information presented in this article is intended to provide guidance and is not intended as a legal interpretation of any federal, state or local laws, rules or regulations applicable to your business. The loss prevention information provided is intended only to assist policyholders in the management of potential loss producing conditions involving their premises and/or operations based on generally accepted safe practices. In providing such information, Great American does not warrant that all potential hazards or conditions have been evaluated or can be controlled. It is not intended as an offer to write insurance for such conditions or exposures. The liability of Great American Insurance Company and its affiliated insurers is limited to the terms, limits and conditions of the insurance policies underwritten by any of them. Policies are underwritten by Great American Insurance Company, Great American Assurance Company, Great American Alliance Insurance Company, Great American Insurance Company of New York and Great American Spirit Insurance Company, authorized insurers in all 50 states and the DC.