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Safeguarding: a real lifeline

When you think about it, there’s something not quite right about relying on victims, survivors and their associates to inform you of your safeguarding incidents…


The lead times for people to talk about abuse can be decades long. According to National Association for People Abused in Childhood (NAPAC): “The average time for a victim to speak out is 22 years after the last incidence of abuse, but it can be much, much longer”. And for every person who does come forward to report harassment at work, roughly 3 to 4 other people never tell anyone about it. This allows the harm to continue.

In NGOs and charities confidence levels in reporting mechanisms are low. This is partly about expectation management: when perpetrators aren’t arrested or punished due to the very high levels of proof needed for criminal cases; staff become disillusioned. But it’s also about fear: of damaging careers, of being disbelieved or of becoming embroiled. The end result: staff who’ve seen misconduct don’t report it.

And perhaps worst of all reporting mechanisms are ‘post-incident’ i.e. the harm has already happened and it’s too late for the victim or survivor.

The need to offer those who’ve been harmed a route to help is indisputable.

But looked at dispassionately, as a method to prevent harm or stop it, reporting is lousy. It’s reactive, untrusted, out-matched and statistically highly unlikely to help uncover harm.

There is however a different way to tackle harm. In professional investigative terms it's called Discovery. It’s a low resource, low cost and transferable skill which involves matching existing information you already hold with information you can easily get.

Done in the right way, Discovery highlights risk much earlier and can prevent harm from happening or enduring. It’s already used successfully in several other areas of risk and threat in the public and private sectors; and it’s supported by regulators and authorities in the NGO sector. It can lead to a strategic shift in protecting staff, beneficiaries and organisations from harm. And…anyone can learn how to do it.

Join in with other NGOs learning this different approach.


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