PROTECT is a simple plan built upon the most complex, quantitative research. We regularly visit churches that are currently using the best protection plans that are out there. Within minutes we are able to recognize gaping holes where perpetrators can easily gain access to children. Most plans are very complex, are weighed down with legal jargon, and are based on faulty research. PROTECT is unique on many levels. First of all, it is intentionally built on 7 principles that are easy to remember. It’s also built from a combination of Jon’s 9,000 + clinical hours logged with thousands of sex offenders and Jimmy’s 20 + years living in the same home as his father. It is the only protection plan that was built by someone who has real life experience and observation knowing how perpetrators interact in the real world, in real time, with real victims.
The purpose of PROTECT (Prepare, Reinforce, Object, Think like a pedophile, Establish boundaries, Call authorities, Train adults and children) is to use common sense principles that actually work to protect children from predators. Adults and children are trained, and churches are taught how to communicate this to would-be abusers. We believe the tables should be turned where churches are no longer safe for abusers but are safe for children.
Be prepared to prevent abuse, maintain a safe place for children, and be a hospital for the wounded. A spiritual war is being waged—“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers , against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:10-12 ESV). Some will be soldiers in this battle, others will tend to the wounded. Regardless of our roles in the battlefield, it is spiritual malpractice, unethical, and immoral to be intentionally unprepared while “hoping for the best.”
Reinforce training often.
“So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified” (1 Corinthians 9:26-27 ESV). ~Most folks are clueless—Letter from prison by a perpetrator who successfully sexually abused dozens of victims for nearly 50 years of his life. He was a former youth minister and preacher.~ Most organizations recognize the value in continuing education and training. Very few businesses exist anymore where employees do not receive reinforcement training. Pedophiles are among the most sophisticated class of criminals while churches remain the least trained, making them the safest and ideal places for perpetrators to offend.
Object to any attempt for pedophiles to be near children.
Because pedophiles are highly skilled, manipulative, and rely on secrecy and lies for success, the risk of reoffending is very high. In many states, it is illegal for registered sex offenders to go to places where there are a high number of children, including churches. In the words of the famed Dr. Gene Abel, “The first condition of treatment: the patient must keep a distance between himself (or herself) and children. This is by far the most important treatment condition. . . These rules have a single aim: to separate the molester patient from children and to separate him from any pictures of children that might help him maintain his sex drive toward children. . . To separate himself from children also means he must avoid places where children congregate” (Abel & Harlow, The Stop Child Molestation Book). “. . . They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin. They entice unsteady souls. They have hearts trained in greed. Accursed children!” (2 Peter 2:13b-14 ESV). In our experience, we have yet to see a scenario end well, for the perpetrator or the children, when a church invites a known pedophile into their congregation. A repentant pedophile will welcome the idea of an adult-only worship alternative. A church dedicated to protecting God’s children will too.
Think like a perpetrator.
“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16 ESV). We believe that the most vital component of protecting the innocent is to get behind the eyes of a pedophile. We could talk about risk indicators and “red flag” behaviors, but the reality is that these create massive blind spots. These do not take into account how charismatic abusers are and what their real-life step-by-step tactics are. To truly protect against perpetrators, we have to train people to walk in the pedophiles’ shoes—to think like they think, to maneuver the way they maneuver, to know both how and why they gain easy access to children. Our on-site training includes a walk-through of the building where our trainers get into role and play the perpetrator. It is a live demonstration that illustrates how easy it is for perpetrators to gain access to children in even the most restricted areas. The Church Protect Predator Recognition Assessment© is a 20 point assessment developed by the son and wife of a pedophile. It was designed by over 50 combined years of observation of real life interaction of a pedophile and is used to train people to know how predators gain such easy access to children while receiving praise by those closest to them.
Establish very strict boundaries, restricting access to children.
This is just another safeguard to protect children. No parent or church should have to apologize or explain why they have boundaries keeping adults and older kids from isolating younger children. Many places have a “two deep” rule but still fail to restrict access to children. Adults still regularly gain access to children by having sleepovers, private Bible studies, offering to babysit, and can easily find corridors and/or open rooms in church buildings where children can easily be isolated. We train churches to restrict access to children at every level, not just in the classroom. High risk areas within buildings are assessed and we develop comprehensive common sense solutions.
“Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. . . when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible” (Ephesians 5:11, 13 ESV). Whether someone is a mandated or permissive reporter, we train all people to report suspicions of abuse. Child abuse is not only immoral, it is illegal. It also is illegal for mandated reporters to be aware of suspicions of abuse and not report it. Most incidents are not reported because they are so easily explained away. This is where only the best training is crucial. We believe that, in order to deter potential abusers from thinking they will ravage our children, we must return the clear message that anyone who offends our children will be caught and will go to prison.
Train adults and children alike.
Most programs train adults but fail to train children. Even if children are trained, “good touch/bad touch” training is not enough. We believe in having highly trained adults and children. Children are empowered to know if and when an attempted perpetration is taking place, how to safely respond, and how to report the incident to an adult. We believe that communicating to churches that our adults and children are well trained will make the risk of an offender getting caught skyrocket. In the words of an incarcerated sex offender, “The scariest thing is a child who says, ‘No!’ Even scarier is a child who says, ‘I’m telling.’ That’s a child I won’t mess with.”