Bojanowski | Building a sexual abuse prevention system in Catholic schools in Poland

Prevention of Sexual Violence Against Students in a Catholic School is a document that presents the policy of the protection of minors in the educational institutions governed by the Catholic Church in Poland. The creation of this publication stems from the demand to adapt the prevention regulations issued by the Polish Bishops’ Conference, dioceses and religious orders to the school context. It was created by the Child Protection Center and the Catholic Schools Council with the support of the Saint Joseph Foundation.

The document is designed as an instruction for school principals, who play primary role in creating a safe environment in the educational institutions. It is also useful for psychologists and guidance counselors, as well as all teachers and employees who should have adequate knowledge in the prevention of sexual violence against minors and know how to respond appropriately when it occurs.

The authors defined three goals of the publication. First, it is to identify measures that will contribute to creating a safe environment at school, with a particular focus on protection against sexual violence. Second, it is to provide members of the school community with basic psychological and legal knowledge on the subject of sexual abuse of minors and the prevention of this problem. Third, the goal is to provide regulations that can be incorporated into in-school policies and procedures, or become an inspiration and basis for schools to create similar policies.

The theoretical assumptions of the document are based on the comprehensive child sexual abuse prevention strategy developed by Stephen Smallbone, William L. Marshall and Richard Wortley. This concept draws on the public health model and research on sexual abuse of minors. It proposes taking action on three levels. The first one, known as universal prevention, targets a wide audience and is undertaken before a problem occurs. The second, called selective prevention, identifies people, groups and places of increased risk and focuses prevention efforts on them. The third, known as indicated or interventional prevention, is applied in the case of sexual abuse of a minor. The publication applies this model to the school environment in Poland, especially in Catholic institutions.

The publication consists of two parts. The first one, entitled “How to make the school safer?” describes mainly the elements of universal prevention, and also takes up some topics that can be classified as selective prevention. The authors outline here the roles and responsibilities of each community member in building a safe school, indicate the rules of the verification of the employees, postulate that each school should appoint a person of trust, i.e. a school delegate for the protection of children and youth, present elements of a safe school infrastructure, propose guidelines for adults’ behavior towards students, too.

“What to do when harm has occurred?” is its second part that addresses the topic of interventional prevention in the school environment. First, it presents theoretical knowledge on sexual abuse of minors and explains how the Polish law protects minors against various forms of sexual violence. It also describes symptoms suggesting that a minor may be experiencing abuse. Then it deals directly with the intervention that should be taken in the case of a report or suspicion of sexual abuse of a student, regardless of where they have suffered the harm. Finally, it introduces the basic principles of providing support to minors that has suffered sexual abuse and other people affected by the crime.

The document is primarily aimed at Catholic schools, as it takes into account the prevention system of the Catholic Church in Poland. However, it can also be useful in other types of schools as most of the provisions are universal. The publication is available in Polish on the website of the Child Protection Center. Its detailed description in English was published by the journal Studia Paedagogica Ignatiana .