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Youth Protection Guidelines

What is child abuse?

    Generally speaking, child abuse is injury of a child by an adult or older child that might not be intentional, but is not accidental. It is usually classified as physical abuse, emotional abuse, or sexual abuse. Harm caused by withholding life's necessities - food, clothing, shelter, medical care, education - is called neglect

How can I tell if a child has been abused?

    Each child reacts to abuse differently. In physical abuse, injuries to the child might be evident, but with any kind of abuse, children often give only behavioral clues. You should be alert to change in behavior that is maintained for a week or longer is a sign that the child is experiencing stress that could stem from a variety of causes - including child abuse. If you notice this kind of change in behavior, you should consider seeking help for the child. Some of the specific signs for each kind of abuse are listed below:

What should I do if I notice any of these signs?

    First, you should not jump to any conclusions. The signs of child abuse are often ambiguous; they can mean something other than child abuse. Consider stating your observations to the child's parents. For example, you could say, "For the past two weeks, Johnny has been very disruptive at den meeting. He is very aggressive with the other boys and uses foul language. This behavior is very unlike him. I hope that everything is okay." You should not make any accusations to the parents that the child is being abused. Even if you file a report with the Scout executive or the authorities because you suspect child abuse, you should not make accusations or state your suspicions to others who are not responsible for determining if abuse is occurring.

What should I do if I suspect that a child is being abused?

    If you suspect that a child in the Scouting program is being abused, you must contact your Scout executive. He has already establised contacts with the child protective services and law enforcement agencies in your area. He will be able to tell you what you should do. he will also tell you that he must contact the appropriate authorities and report your suspicions to them. If you suspect that a child who is not a Scout is being abused, you should contact your local child abuse hot line. Generally the telephone number to report child abuse is listed in the white pages under "child abuse."

What if I am not sure that the child is being abused?

    The law requires only that you have a reasonalbe suspicion that a child is being abused. Once a report has been made, the appropriate agency will investigate and determine if abuse can be substantiated. Unless you make a report, the child might remain in grave danger.

How can I tell if a person is a child molester?

    Child molesters, individuals who sexually abuse children, do not fit the common stereotypes that we hold, i.e., strangers, dirty old men, mentally disabled, etc. There is no test or other screening mechanism that will identify a child molester prior to committing an offense. Child molesters come from all walks of life, all social and ethnic groups, and all occupational categories. Child molesters might have positions of prominence in their communities. The vast majority of molesters are known by the children they victimize and might have a position of authority over children, such as a teacher, clergy member, youth group worker, or police officer.

How can we protect our children from child molesters?

    Child molesters often try to gain access to children through legitimate means such as becoming involved in youth activities. They use this access to identify children who they perceive to be vulnerable to sexual abuse. To protect our children, we must establish and maintain open lines of communication so that they feel free to report any inappropriate or worrisome contact with adults or older children. We also must educate our children to enable them tounderstand what abuse is and that they have the right to resist any offensive contact.

How does the BSA prevent child abuse in Scouting?

    The Boy Scouts of America has adopted a number of policies aimed at eliminating opportunities for abuse within the Scouting program. These policies focus on leadership selection and on placing barriers to abuse within the program.


    The Boy Scouts of America takes great pride in the quality of our adult leadership. Being a leader in the BSA is a privilege, not a right. The quality of the program and the safety of our youth members call for high-quality adult leaders. We work closely with our chartered organizations to help recruit the best possible leaders for their units.
    The adult application requests background information that should be checked by the unit committee or the chartered organization before accepting an application for unit leadership. While no current screening techniques exist that can identify every potential child molester, we can reduce the risk of accepting a child molester by learning all we can about an applicant for a leadership position - his or her experience with children, why he or she wants to be a Scout leader, and what discipline techniques he or she would use.

Barriers to Abuse Within Scouting

    The BSA has adopted the following policies to provide additional security for our members. These policies are primarily for the protection of our youth members; however, they also serve to protect our adult leaders from false accusations of abuse.

How can parents help protect their children?

    Parents participate in the protection of their children in a variety of ways. We have already mentioned the need for open lines of communication so that children are encouraged to bring any troubles to their parents for advice and counsel. In addition, parents need to be involved in their sons' Scouting activies. All parents receive important information concerning the Scouting program as part of their sons' membership applications. This information is provided so that parents can detect any deviations from the BSA's approved program. If any deviations are noted, parents should call these to the attention of the chartered organization or the unit committee. If the problems persist, parents should contact the local council for assistance.
    Parents also need to review the booklet, How to Protect Your Children from Child Abuse and Drug Abuse: A Parent's Guide, inserted in every Boy Scout and Cub Scout handbook. The information in this booklet should be the subject of discussions between Scouts and their parents prior to joining a troop or receiving the Bobcat badge.

Why do most child victims of sexual abuse keep the abuse secret?

    A victim of child sexual abuse is under a great deal of pressure to keep the abuse secret. In many cases of child molestation, the molester has threatened to harm the child or a member of the child's family. The molester might have told the child that he would not be believed even if the child did tell. Another common situation is that the molester will tell the child that if the child tells about the abuse, he will get into trouble. The clear message is given to the child that if another person finds out, something bad will happen to the child. This pressure to maintain silence can often be successfully overcome by establishing open communication between children and adults through a proper educational program for children.

What should I do if a child tells me that he has been sexually abused?

    How an adult responds to a child when he tries to disclose abuse can influence the outcome of the child's victimization. By maintaining an apparent calm, the adult can help reassure the child that everything is going to be okay. By not criticizing the child, we counteract any statements the molester made to the victim about the child getting into trouble. Reassure the child that you are concerned about what happened to him and that you would like to get him some help. Allegations by a Scout concerning abuse in the program must be reported to the Scout executive. Since these reports are required, the child should be told that you have to tell the proper authorities but that you will not tell anyone else. It is important that you not tell anyone other than the Scout executive or the child protective services agency about allegations of abuse - if the allegations cannot be substantiated, you could be sued for defamation of character.

How do I know what my reporting responsiblities are?

    Every state, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. territories have different reporting requirements. As part of this training, you will recieve reporting instructions for your area and for you council. People are often concerned about being sued for reporting child abuse. YOu are not required to know for certain that a child has been abused. All that the law requires is that you have a reasonable suspicion and are reporting in "good faith." When these requirements are met, all states provide immunity from liability for child abuse reporters.

What educational materials does the BSA have for youth members?

    The BSA produced separate age-appropriate videos for Cub Scout-age and Boy Scout-age boys to address the problems of sexual abuse. The video for Cub Scouts, It Happened to Me, should be used annually by packs or dens, but only for Cub Scouts accompanied by a parent or other adult family member. The video for Boy Scouts, A Time to Tell, introductes the "three Rs" of Youth Protection, and should be viewed by troops annually.

How can Scout leaders who are not social workers teach children about youth protection?

    The BSA recognizes that many of our leaders feel unprepared to talk to children about preventing sexual abuse. For this reason, the BSA has meeting guides for both of the videos produced to be viewed by youths. The guides address everything from scheduling the meeting, contacting the police or social services for assistance, and notifying parents (a sample letter is provided), to questions and answers for discussion after the video has been viewed.

What are the "three Rs" of Youth Protection?

    The "three Rs" of Youth Protection convey a simple message that the BSA wants its youth members to learn:

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