Moving at the Speed of Creativity by Wesley Fryer

MinistrySafe Online Video Training for Youth Protection from Sexual Abuse

These are my notes from the MinistrySafe online training video for churches. This is a required training program our church has paid for all adult volunteers who work with children and youth to complete. My wife saw these trainers (who are lawyers in the Dallas area) present in person and helped bring this training program to our children’s and youth ministry programs. These are NOT issues which are comfortable or pleasant to learn about and discuss, but are critical to include as education requirements for any program involving youth: church-related or otherwise. The Boy Scouts of America has a “Youth Protection Training” program required of all boys as well as adult leaders/volunteers. I think the MinistrySafe training is excellent and high quality, and I commend it to you and the organizations in which you’re involved. If your organization is not a church or faith-based, MinistrySafe does offer training videos/materials/programs which are geared toward a secular audience. From what I understand and know watching the church-focused videos, the training is very consistent in content for different groups but the scenarios discussed may vary. MY THOUGHTS AND COMMENTS BELOW ARE IN ALL CAPS.

'Carpet store child' photo (c) 2006, Daniel Oines - license:

The definition of sexual abuse is broader than many people realize, it’s not just physical touching/abuse. The definition used in this series is: “Any tricked, forced, manipulated, or coerced sexual activity for the pleasure of the abuser. This can be physical, verbal or visual.”

Conservative studies show sexual abuse is at epidemic levels today
– there are 60 million sexual abuse survivors in the U.S. today
– we have 300 million people in the U.S. so that means 1 in 5 people alive today in our country are sexual abuse survivors
– 1 in 3 females are predicted to be sexual abuse victims before the age of 18
– 1 in 6 males are predicted to be sexual abuse victims before the age of 18
– 66% of sexual abuse victims won’t talk about it until they are adults
– this cuts across all economic, ethic, and racial lines

Less than 10% of sexual abusers will ever enter the criminal justice system
– so 90% of those who want to harm our children are not in the justice system for us to find them with a background check (we still do background checks in our organizations, but background checks alone are insufficient protection)


Almost 90% of children are victimized by someone the child knows and is taught is “safe”
– “stranger danger” has its value, but is not sufficient awareness

It’s a myth that sexual abusers have a clear, identifiable visual profile
– many are educated, married, have jobs, look like productive members of society
– it’s also a myth that all sexual abusers are men: some are also females
– 85% of convicted sexual abusers are men, 15% are women (some point out cases against women are more difficult to prosecute, so that may contribute to these skewed numbers)
– there is NO VISUAL PROFILE to rely on

Children are not just victimized by adults, peer to peer sexual abuse is high and rising
– children are not only learning about sexual behaviors from adults, they are also learning from it through the Internet

The “abuser triangle” is used by counselors to treat sexual offenders, and it has 3 elements:
1- deviant sexual desire (adults who prefer children as sexual partners)
2- faulty thinking (ability to justify and rationalize deviant desire)
3- access (the offender having access to children)

Molesters intentionally groom both children and “gatekeepers”
– gatekeepers are the people who stand in the way of molesters to gain access to the child
– “molesters are looking for trusted time alone with a child they are grooming”

“edge of the herd” concept: the children most at risk for grooming by a molester / sexual predator / abuser:
– are often on the fringe, in need
– looking for someone to follow or trust
– from a broken family
– from a single parent home
– involved in alcohol or drugs
– interested in pornography

Every case the MinistrySafe law practice has handled involving boys and male sexual predators has involved the use of pornography during the grooming process
– predators use nudity and sexual touch for “barrier testing and erosion” with children
– often use sexual discussions and joking, playful touch and ‘accidental nudity”
– magazines and movies depicting nudity and sex

Keeping victims silent through secrecy, shame & embarrassment, and threats (subtle or direct) are also a critical part of the grooming process

Many people who have been sexually abused or assaulted report feeling some sense of guilt or responsibility for what happened to them, molesters use this psychology against victims

#1 reason kids don’t tell: No one will believe you
– often this is true, because of the way molesters groom the gatekeepers

Common grooming behaviors
– gift giving: single adult to single child
– kid-magnet activities (things children are attracted to)
– repeated time alone with the same child (unsupervised or not easily overseen)
– touchy with children, pushing physical boundaries
– sometimes using playful but inappropriate touch
– breaking the rules: providing alcohol, tobacco and/or pornography (can be other rules you have setup for your organization)

Peer abusers tend to be more opportunistic (they don’t create their own schedule and drive their own cars)
– this should be distinguished from natural sexual curiosity, and we do this by looking at power relationships between the peers involved
– power can be due to age, size, economic resources, social connections (popularity), or differing abilities

Children with different kids of disabilities are particularly at risk for peer abuse

risks are highest any place where clothes come off (swimming/bathing) and any place that is less easily seen

To reduce risks, we should always report any grooming behaviors we observe
– adequate supervisors for all activities are key (use programmatic ratios)
– avoid unmonitored, 1 on 1 interaction


avoid individual gift giving, always better for the gift to come from a group rather than a single individual adult giving to a single individual child

Short term impacts of sexual abuse on children:
– poor self esteem
– shame/guilt
– anxiety / nervousness
– fears / phobias
– loss of trust
– disinterested in person or activity previously enjoyed (we need to ask questions to find out what has changed)
– anger
– self-mutilation
– bedwetting
– nightmares
– rebellion
– running away

Long term impacts:
– depression
– suicidal thoughts or acts
– substance abuse including self-medicating behaviors
– molesting other children (not a 1 to 1 scenario, some victims- especially boys who do not receive any kind of treatment
– drop in grades
– promiscuity / seductive behavior
– STDs
– excessive modesty or affection seeing behaviors
– prostitution (95% of prostitutes on the street were sexually abused as children)

If a child reports abuse:
– listen and respond calmly (don’t respond emotionally)
– be sensitive to vague and partial disclosures (children often test you with part of the story to see if you respond with anger or disbelief)
– it is ok to ask for more questions that simply ask for more information: “Do you to tell me more?”
– don’t ask shaming questions: What were you wearing? What were you doing in that location? These questions can make the child feel they were responsible for the abuse rather than the adult and clam up.
– report this to a supervisor immediately

If the child asks you if you will keep it a secret, you need to respond with something like: “There are some things I can’t keep a secret: if someone is being abused, being hurt, etc.)

statutes by law vary, but generally all states not only require reporting of physical abuse but also emotional abuse and neglect. Many require reporting of “suspicion” of abuse and neglect. Entities we report to, how long we have to report, and what information we have to report varies. Generally we don’t have to investigate, but we do have to report.

Google “Child abuse reporting” for your state (example: Oklahoma Department of Human Services, Child Protective Services) also has resources

We need to always create cultures of communication in our programs
– we need to open up lines of communication for policy violations that cause us discomfort also… not to create a witchhunt, but to create a culture where a supervisor can identify “red flag” information when grooming and barrier testing is taking place.


Ministry Safe

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One response to “MinistrySafe Online Video Training for Youth Protection from Sexual Abuse”

  1. Heather Weaver Avatar

    My name is Heather Weaver and I am a student at the University of South Alabama. I am currently enrolled in EDM 310 Class and will be sharing the information from this post on my blog HeatherWeaver’s EDM 310 Class Blog on 2/5/12. After reading about the Ministry Safe program, I thought about my own church and how the ministry team has gone to great lengths to ensure the safety of each child. There has been a plan in place to handle volunteers who come in contact with children for at least ten years. My husband and I have always felt very good about leaving our children in the nursery. Mostly because we knew that every effort had been made, through background checks and interviews, to keep anyone out who possibly raised a red flag.  It has been my experience that adults who have grown up in church find it hard to believe that there may be predators in their congregation.  Child sexual abusers look for places where they have easy access to children. Intrigued by your notes on the Ministry Safe website, I researched this program and watched the videos for myself. The information presented was very matter-of-fact and very thorough. I believe it is time for churches, youth sports organizations, scouts, and other places where children participate in activities to stand up and say we will not make our children easy targets for these abusers. Education is the key to helping everyone become more aware of the tricks and manipulations used by these abusers. The trainers in the video made a very good suggestion to the staff members or volunteers who will interpret the background checks regarding prior offenses. They brought to light what some of the “priors” on the background checks really mean. What very valuable information! Thank you for sharing this.