Stop the Stigma. Prevent Abuse with Risk Management

Posted in: Commercial Insurance

Did you know that one in four girls and one in six boys will experience some type of physical, sexual, or mental abuse, and that 80% of abuse cases go unreported? The expansion of the #MeToo movement has brought to light the severity and frequency of abuse scenarios, and has also aided in breaking down some of the barriers and stigma surrounding reporting abuse. Because of this, insurance companies are seeing a large volume of abuse claims where they never did before. This huge increase in abuse claims volume will result in more difficulty securing coverage for certain industries as well as more expensive policies. This begs the question: How do we prevent abuse and reduce our exposure?

PSA recently partnered with Selective, one of our carrier partners, to provide a training around risk management solutions and abuse prevention for those who work with vulnerable populations. Sadly, some of the places where abuse occurs most are in environments such as schools, daycares, eldercare, social service settings, religious organizations, and shelters, where children, the elderly, or the disabled can be easily targeted. Having an effective risk management plan to prevent abuse is imperative to protect your vulnerable population, your employees, and your organization.

In order to effectively protect your population, preventing abuse needs to be a cultural commitment—not something you’re complacent about until it’s too late or something you skimp on and cover only the minimum state requirements. When it comes to an effective risk management strategy to prevent abuse, there are four key areas for success.

  1. Written procedures

    1. Clearly define boundaries that state what types of contact and behavior are acceptable and unacceptable. This outlines the behaviors that constitute abuse and communicate a culture of zero-tolerance.
    2. Distribute, review, and require signatures on a code of conduct document for your employees.
    3. Include a written plan for responding to incidents and false allegations.
  2. Screening and selection

    1. Require background checks for all prospective employees as well as contractors and volunteers who are repeatedly given access to your population. Re-screen your employees and volunteers who have regular and repeated contact with your vulnerable population at least every three years, and make sure that you are checking national records and not just your state.
    2. Ask for professional AND personal references during the interview process. Professional references can only legally tell you so much. You may receive more information from a personal reference, which could create red flags early on in the process.
  3. Training

    1. Walking the walk is important. Your policies don’t matter if no one knows them. Provide training videos and seminars around topics such as how to recognize and prevent abuse.
    2. Create a culture where employees are encouraged to report any suspicious actions. If you see something, say something. If an incident occurs and claim is made and it’s found that someone at your organization knew but didn’t report, your organization is liable. The more red flags reported immediately, the less large incidents you’ll encounter in the long run.
  4. Documentation and monitoring

    1. Put policies in place to outlaw one-on-one scenarios. If you work in an industry where one-on-one care is unavoidable, put parameters in place such as observation windows, open door policies, and security cameras. Also, make sure you have a policy to go along with the need for one-on-one contact in your organization.
    2. Monitor high risk activities, such as bathroom breaks, transportation, and overnight events. Unsupervised, these activities give predators the three things they need to act: access to your population, privacy with them, and control over them.

In addition to these prevention strategies, it’s vital to make sure you have ample and appropriate insurance coverage. Firstly, you need to understand the coverage that you have. Does your policy only cover sexual abuse? What about physical or mental abuse claims? If you work with vulnerable populations, you’ll want to ensure that you have separate claims limits for abuse rather than lumping that coverage and limit in with your general liability coverage.

The importance of working with a trusted broker advisor who can connect you with carriers providing comprehensive coverage and training resources cannot be overstated. If you have questions about your abuse prevention risk management program or you’d like to learn more about strategies and resources available, contact me at jeffw@psafinancial.com.