Why Background Checks Don’t Protect People From Sexual Abuse

Criminal records checks are the first step many organizations take in executing a sexual abuse prevention policy. Parents talk about running background checks on child care providers. Employers run background checks on future and current employees. Community members search sex offender registries to see if any perpetrators live in their neighborhoods.

Unfortunately, background checks provide a false sense of confidence. Criminal record checks only reveal what a person has been convicted of and has not been cleared from their record through pardon, pre-trial intervention, or other tools. Background checks do not show the original charge – only the charge of the conviction.

This is particularly challenging when trying to protect people from sex offenders. 

Any sexual abuse prevention policy must include layers of protection. And most importantly, people must be held accountable for acting in fidelity with the policy. No exceptions, no excuses. It’s not mean to remind an adult not to take a child to the bathroom alone. It’s not nosy to ask your church or school for copies of their policies and how they ensure compliance. We are all responsible for ensuring any organization that we are part of has policies in place that are actively enforced to prevent sexual harassment and abuse.

Are background checks part of a sexual abuse prevention policy? Absolutely – but they are only the first step. If you need help figuring out what to do next, please contact STSM. We’re here to help.

Mary Dell Hayes

Mary Dell Hayes rejoined the staff at STSM as Development Coordinator in 2013, Director of Development in January 2015, and Executive Director in February 2016. Her job is to help the community achieve the vision of healthy survivors thriving in a community free of sexual violence and engage people to end sexual violence through philanthropy and advocacy.