LONG BEACH, Calif. – Organizational leaders who promote clear boundaries backed by enforcement mechanisms can successfully manage the risks of child abuse and molestation, experts say.
Statistics show that one in four girls and one in 13 boys will be sexually assaulted before they turn 18, but many incidents go unreported, said Candace Collins, director of strategic alliances at Arlington, Texas-based Praesidium Inc., which specializes in on preventing sexual abuse in organizations serving youth and vulnerable adults. She spoke during a session Tuesday at the Public Risk Management Association’s annual conference.
These children will later be exposed to serious physical and behavioral consequences, including mental health problems, says Dorothy Gjerdrum, St. Paul, Minnesota-based senior managing director at Arthur J. Gallagher Risk Management Services Inc.
Organizations are beginning to pay more attention to the issue, due to events such as the testimony of Olympic gymnasts who accused Larry Nassar of molestation and the passage of state “revival”; laws that extend the statute of limitations for molestation victims to sue.
Another external factor “that is putting extraordinary pressure on organizations right now” is the volume of litigation, Collins said.
“The sexual assault and harassment liability insurance market continues to tighten,” she said. “It’s getting harder to get coverage on the right terms and at the right price, and that’s not changing.”
Collins said a survey her company conducted found that insurers are asking questions about organizations’ policies, training, screening processes and monitoring of children.
Insurers’ efforts are beginning to result in changes in how organizations manage risk, Collins said.
In those that have successfully addressed the problem by setting standards and putting in place enforcement mechanisms, “everyone has ownership and is participating,” she said. “All of this really starts with a voice from the top.”
Gjerdrum added, “The most expensive (sexual harassment) claims that we’ve looked at are [are?] when a district tries to cover it up, or when they pretended it didn’t happen. So walking away from this is not a path to success.”