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Abuse in youth organizations

For many young people, participating in youth organizations is an important part of childhood. Children are able to build friendships, learn teamwork, learn valuable life skills, and have fun at the same time.

The vast majority of children will have positive experiences while participating in these groups.

But there is a dark side to some youth organizations.

Recently, the Boy Scouts Of America has been in the news as allegations of sexual abuse within the organization have arisen. Thousands of former Boy Scouts members have come alleging abuse by troop leaders and others involved in the organization.

Many of these abuse survivors are filing lawsuits and seeking compensation, while the Boy Scouts organization is facing the possibility of filing bankruptcy.

The top priority of youth organizations, sports teams, clubs, etc., should be ensuring the safety of their members. This includes ensuring the safety of members when allegations of abuse arise, immediately removing the abuser, and notifying authorities.

Sadly, many organizations work hard to cover this information up. This was the case with the USA Olympics. Top officials within the organization knew about the abuse by Larry Nassar, former USA Gymnastics doctor – but they chose to keep it secret. It wasn’t until the news story broke that the organization took action.

How can sexual abuse in youth organizations be prevented?

There are simple steps every organizations should take to ensure the safety of children. First, it is important to screen applicants, volunteers, and anyone who will be working closely with youth.

Organizations should also educate staff, volunteers, parents, and others to create awareness about sexual abuse. Safety trainings and workshops may be held to help individuals spot warning signs of sexual abuse, and work on preventing it from happening in the youth organization.

There should also be clear guidance on procedures for reporting sexual abuse.

Parents should look out for red flags that may indicate abuse is occurring. It is important for parents and caregivers to take any suggestion of sexual abuse seriously, and to take steps to ensure the safety of the child/ren involved.

Children should always be safe when participating in youth groups and organizations. Those who have experienced abuse may have legal options and may be eligible for compensation. It is advisable to speak to an attorney what options may be available.

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