The NewSpring: Hope for the Sexually Abused ministry is determined to raise awareness within VPC and the larger church community with caring education about sexual abuse. Specific goals include increasing awareness among church leaders, staff, lay leaders, volunteers, and the congregation regarding the warning signs and symptoms of sexual abuse; maintaining a healthy and safe church environment; and doing all we can to prevent abuse from occurring in the future.
After thorough research, NewSpring Ministry with the approval of VPC Session, has introduced the VIRTUS ("VEER-toos") program, Protecting All Children, created by the National Catholic Group. The program helps to create a safe environment and teaches that:
- Sexual misconduct is not tolerated;
- Children (to include Youth and vulnerable adults) are vigilantly protected;
- Victims are listened to, heard, and shielded from further abuse; and
- Offenders are identified and punished.
The VIRTUS program trains adults (clergy, church staff, volunteers and parents) to teach children safe and appropriate boundaries, to recognize the dangers and warning signs of abuse, ways to prevent abuse, and the methods of properly reporting suspicions of abuse, and responding to allegations of abuse.
In addition to training for adults, the VIRTUS program includes a “Safe-Touch” educational curriculum for children because “the prevention of child sexual abuse requires more than adult awareness training. We must also give our children the tools they need to overcome the advances of someone who intends to do them harm.”
Members of Session, Deacons and Church Leadership participated in an in-depth, customized training session on sexual abuse including elements of the Protecting God’s Children program. Adult volunteers with Children’s and Student Ministries and interested congregational members had the opportunity to participate in the VIRTUS Pilot Program in the spring and summer of 2011. By the Fall of 2011, most volunteers in Children’s and Student Ministries had completed the Protecting God's Children training prior the start of Sunday School and all Student Ministries programs. The Safe-Touch curriculum was also implemented in the fall of 2011 for children from grades K-12.