PO BOX 5079 (51102)
SIOUX CITY, IA (51105)


Safe Environment Update
Creating a Safe Culture

By Colleen Sulsberger
Protecting the Innocent

How successful have we been in creating a culture within society that is aware of the issue of child sexual abuse, and more importantly, will not tolerate it? At the very least, Americans are aware that there are predators among us, in all walks of life. But in other ways, the constant stream of media filth inflicted upon us daily has caused a disordered and dysfunctional view of sexual expression by many in society.
There is no single reliable way to identify an adult who would abuse a child. Looking for simple explanations and simple solutions to this complex psychological issue can actually increase the risk to children. The best way to stop abuse from happening is to eliminate the opportunities that the abuser needs in order to isolate a victim.
Here are some simple steps anyone can take:
1. Attend a VIRTUS class or some other training program on child abuse awareness, so that you can recognize the signs of abuse and the opportunities and situations where abuse could occur

2. Look for areas and situations where children could be taken by an adult without being noticed, such as public restrooms, unused classrooms, campgrounds, or isolated outdoor areas. Insist that two or more adults accompany children when in or around these areas, and if there are not enough adults available, designate these areas as “off limits”.

3. Let children know where they can and cannot go, and enforce the rule of two – that is, two or more adults whenever children are present, and two or more children together in areas that are not closely supervised. There is safety in numbers!

4. If it is necessary for an adult to meet alone with a child, it should always be in an open area where others can see or could enter unannounced. but this situation should be avoided!

There is virtually nothing that adults can do to impact an offender’s desire for sexual contact with a child. However, we can send the message that any attempt to abuse a child will be discovered, because we are watching! Heightened awareness, clear articulation of the rules and expectations for adults and for kids, and keeping a watchful eye on the surroundings can prevent the irreparable harm that abuse can cause to a child, a family, a parish, and the entire community.

(Sulsberger is the Safe Environment Coordinator for the Diocese of Sioux City. Contact the Safe Environment office at (712) 233-7517 or e-mail Colleen at

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