A small town in Missouri rallies around a community-wide code of conduct.
The small town of Bolivar, Missouri is thinking outside the box in their quest to protect children. Headed-up by the Polk County Community Task Force to Prevent Child Abuse and Neglect, the town is creating a community-wide code of conduct aimed at helping businesses, organizations, and schools to prevent child sexual abuse. The code of conduct was recently approved and will ask businesses and other groups to have their employees and volunteers sign on. A community-wide code of conduct is ground breaking in the world of prevention and we wanted to learn more about the effort.
We reached out to Becky Briggs, organizer of the Bolivar code of conduct effort and a Darkness to Light Authorized Facilitator. Her story is an inspiring one that is being led by her entire family, including her husband Eric, daughter Brittany, and son Ryan who is a child sexual abuse survivor. We asked them some questions in regards to getting a community-wide code of conduct off the ground:
What led to the development of Bolivar’s community task force?
Eric: Through sharing our story and searching for answers in our situation, we encountered and spoke with some amazing people. We decided we wanted to make sure our story didn’t happen again, so we were encouraged to create a task force to address the issue. Missouri Kids First, along with the Southwest Missouri Cyber Crimes Unit, were very helpful in pointing us in the right direction.
Who is represented on the task force?
Becky: We have invited anyone and everyone from our community. We have leaders from the Chamber of Commerce, law enforcement, the local school district, Children’s Division, County Health Department, the local hospital, the local newspaper, and our city Mayor. We would love to see some churches get involved. We have announcements in the paper and an email list we send invitations to and I call people often to personally invite them.
How did the idea of a community code of conduct come about?
Eric: The idea really came from Missouri Kids First through the Stewards of Children® training program. We discussed ways to impact our community in a positive way. We feel the code of conduct will give people the encouragement to speak up.
Will organizations be required to take a child sexual abuse prevention training prior to signing the code of conduct?
Becky: We are offering Stewards of Children® to all businesses, churches, and organizations in our community and will be offering community wide trainings as well. We want as many people as possible trained in our community. Knowledge is power and prevention.
What advice would you give to other communities who would like to develop a community-wide code of conduct?
Becky: My biggest advice would be to not give up. Call people, invite them, no matter who they are. Be able to give reasons why a code of conduct is important. Be prepared to answer questions and be persistent. Take the advice of the experts. Follow their suggestions. Keep moving forward, even when it sometimes seems too hard. We do not often think we can do something – believe you can. God will take care of the rest. Just don’t give up.
What are some of the obstacles you’ve encountered?
Eric: There are always people who don’t want to believe child pornography, human trafficking, and child abuse happens in their community, and there are people who don’t want to talk about it. We are not going to change their minds. The goal is to save lives, to help all families become stronger, and make our community stronger .
Do you have any personal words you’d like to share from your family?
Brittany: If the last year has taught me anything, it is that you can create good out of any situation. This code of conduct is my family’s slice of good.
What happened to Ryan does not define him, and my parents’ and my response to his disclosure does not define us. But I hope this code of conduct will. Ryan carried a heavy burden alone for a long time, but he shared that burden with us. Our hope is that as we share and talk frankly about childhood sexual abuse, that burden will become lighter until it is no longer heavy. We think every child deserves nothing less. If every community did just a little to prevent child sexual abuse, it would add up to a lot. Prevention is possible, and it starts with things like this code of conduct.
Eric: Or situation is not unique, and we would like to have a positive impact on others who may be struggling with a similar situation.
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