Definitions used in Safe Sanctuaries Template


The following definitions are part of the Safe Sanctuaries Policy template:

Abuse: intentional, negligent, or reckless behavior by a volunteer or staff person that is harmful, injurious, or offensive. Abuse takes many forms and includes, but is not limited to: physical abuse, neglect, self-neglect, abandonment, verbal and emotional abuse, financial exploitation, sexual abuse, involuntary seclusion, and wrongful restraint.1

Child Abuse: an act committed by anyone which is not accidental and which harms or threatens a child’s physical or mental health or a child’s welfare.2

Physical Abuse: when an adult injures a child other than by accident; including, but not limited to: assault, battery, shaking, slapping, burning, scalding, kicking and strangling.

Sexual Abuse:3

  • any sexual contact or sexually explicit behavior initiated by an adult, youth or child toward a child;
  • any sexual contact or sexually explicit sexual behavior initiated by an adult toward a youth;
  • any nonconsensual sexual contact or nonconsensual sexually explicit behavior initiated by a youth toward another youth including, but not limited to sexual harassment; [and] any sexual behavior by a youth toward another youth younger than 14 and where the initiating youth is three years older;
  • any sexual contact by anyone (outside a recognized, committed, intimate partnership) toward a vulnerable adult, or sexually explicit behavior by anyone toward a vulnerable adult where the vulnerable adult is unable to provide meaningful consent.

Emotional Abuse: verbal assault or emotional cruelty.
Adult: a person 18 years old or older.
Activities: any activity or programs in which children, youth, or vulnerable adults are under supervision of staff persons or volunteers.
Background Checks: researching references and records for indications of past or potential abusive and/or criminal activity.
Child: person from birth until they turn 12 years old.
Conference: The Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
Person-in-Charge: staff person or volunteer who is the person responsible for the event or activity.
Prevention and Risk Reduction: Risk Reduction are those actions taken to lessen opportunity for sexual assault. Most policies focus exclusively on risk reduction, and do very little to prevent sexual abuse in the broader community. ____________________________ is committed not only to lessening risk within congregational facilities and the activities, but ____________________________ is also committed to Prevention of abuse by transformational ministry to survivors, justice and equity ministry, and social change.4 ____________________________ recognizes that understanding the difference between Prevention and Risk Reduction is an important step in developing effective Prevention strategy.5
Sexual Contact: means any touching of the sexual or other intimate parts of a person or causing such person to touch the sexual or other intimate parts of the actor for the purpose of arousing or gratifying the sexual desire of either party. Regarding children, youth, and vulnerable adults, Sexual Contact herein includes, but is not limited to kissing, hugging, massaging, rubbing, blowing on or breathing on, and other touching with any intent by anyone to sexually arouse any person.
Sexually Explicit Behavior: means actual or simulated behavior and remains a common form of harassment and abuse. It includes but is not limited to: words, gestures, sexting and media representations of sexual activity, jokes, nudity or partial nudity, and other behaviors.
Staff person: any person employed by the local ministry setting on an ongoing basis, and, especially anyone employed who is responsible for activities involving children, youth, or vulnerable adults.
Volunteer: a person who assists in conducting activities under the supervision of person(s) in charge.
Vulnerable Adults: any persons over the age of 18 who possesses a physical or mental disability or dysfunction that impairs the individual’s ability to provide adequately for the individual’s own care without assistance, including but not limited to: a) the inability to independently or effectively communicate, and/or b) the ability to independently remove oneself from a situation, location or another’s presence, and/or c) the inability to comprehend initiation or perpetration of abusive sexual behavior or physical mistreatment upon the individual’s person by another, and/or d) because of the dysfunction or infirmity, the individual has an impaired ability to protect the individual’s self from maltreatment.
We: (the entity named in the template)
Youth: any person 12 years old to his/her 18th birthday.


1 Wrongful restraint means the use of physical (i.e. tying, holding) or chemical (i.e. sedation) means to limit the movement of an adult for the convenience or discipline of a caregiver.
2”Harm” includes taking a child into a dangerous place. In OR, for example, abuse is present when permitting a child to enter or remain in a place where methamphetamines are being manufactured. See ORS 163.537. “Anyone” means all people, and includes but is not limited to: a stranger, a parent, a caregiver, or a person in a position of trust.
3 Generally, in sexual abuse, a significantly older, more powerful person initiates the behavior. However, please note that prevention also includes preventing peer abuse, including behavior such as inappropriate words or gestures, taking or showing sexually explicit photos of or to a child or youth, or exposing a child or youth to pornography or adult sexual activity. Abuse also occurs in similar situations regarding vulnerable adults where meaningful consent is unlikely.
4 Many professionals who work in the field understand Prevention as applied in three phases: Primary, Secondary and Tertiary Prevention of Sexual Abuse/Assault. Primary prevention engages everyone to keep sexual violence from happening. See the Center for Disease Control, Sexual Violence Prevention: Beginning the Dialogue, page 3 or link at http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/svprevention-a.pdf
5 Primary prevention work is cultural change consistent with the Gospel: God loves each person as God’s own. Often referred to as “moving upstream,” primary prevention directs us “upstream” to locate the place where the potential for victimization is created through social inequity. This concept is captured in the “Three Sisters” story, as told by Lisa Brunner from the Sacred Spirits First Nations Coalition’s “Three Sisters” story, recorded by Oregon Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence in 2012 and located at
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1iIyvmXQ3JI
Each sister represents a stage of prevention: Primary (preventing the violence before it occurs), Secondary (responding in the crisis including bystander intervention); and Tertiary (addressing the longer term impacts of the violence and supporting survivors through trauma). [Adapted from “Primary Prevention,” a “paper” of the Oregon Sexual Assault task Force, 2014].

Boldly Making Disciples of Jesus Christ - Vitalizing the Church - Transforming the World