Preventing Child Sexual Abuse Begins With Distinguishing Between Right And Wrong Touch

Written exclusively for My Community Workplace for Religious Organizations

Police arrest a teacher at a Catholic school in Guam on accusations of criminal sexual conduct with a student.

A parent told school officials that a teacher at the school inappropriately touched her daughter during the 2016-2017 school year. School officials immediately notified child protective services and the Guam police department.

Law enforcement investigated and, as a result, charged the 53-year-old teacher with criminal sexual conduct and child abuse. The school has placed the accused teacher on administrative leave pending further legal proceedings. Jolene Toves "Catholic school teacher arrested for sexual abuse," (Aug. 30, 2017).

Commentary and Checklist

Adults who work with children must understand the difference between appropriate and inappropriate touching.

A pat on the shoulder or back from a coach or teacher, for example, is a positive form of touch.

However, inappropriate or negative touching includes any touching against a child’s will or that restrains a child. Touching that is intimate, even if non-sexual, is also inappropriate. Wrestling, tickling, mouth-kissing, lap-sitting are examples of inappropriate touching that can easily lead to sexual touching. Too much touching, of any kind, is also inappropriate.

Train those who work with children on what forms of touching are appropriate. Safe adults should maintain a healthy vigilance regarding other adults. If there is an adult in the workplace who engages in “over-touching” (touching children or a particular child persistently and often) interrupt the behavior and report your concerns. Make it clear in your training that inappropriate touching will lead to disciplinary action, including possible termination and contacting the police.

Here are some additional examples of inappropriate touch:

  • Groping a child
  • Rubbing a child's knees or thighs
  • Forcing a child to cuddle or sit on an adult's lap,
  • Grabbing or rubbing a child's buttocks
  • Touching a child's breasts or genitals.
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