In safe environment, our primary prevention is stopping abuse before it happens by understanding risk factors, informing ourselves and empowering others. It means recognizing the dignity of all people, without exception.
To promote a safe environment in the Archdiocese of Anchorage there is plenty of information that one should have access to, such as training materials, faith formation curriculum materials and policies and procedures.
Another image I have this time of year, especially when we hear of so many communities devastated by storms, is how people come together when a shared crisis occurs. Individuals and communities all over the country and the world have offered assistance and prayers to those suffering from destruction and loss. As Catholics we understand the need to offer relief to those in vulnerable situations. We try to give them hope that recovery is possible.
That comment reveals just how difficult it is to change a culture, even if policy improves people’s lives, because a new policy can challenge an old way of thinking about something that has been part of the culture for years.
In the Anchorage Archdiocese, the Ministry of Safe Environment grew out of the Charter For the Protection of Children and Young People promulgated by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2002. Since that time, the archdiocese has joined dioceses across the country in promoting April as Child Abuse Awareness Month.
Our hope is that by realizing one’s innate dignity they will accept that they are worthy of respect and will then recognize when they are being treated in a way that offends their human dignity.
Archbishop Schwietz developed a ministry of hope, healing and prevention. Under his leadership, I felt unfettered freedom to support victims who came forward by reaching out to the community at large through collaboration with government and non-profit agencies and other churches to address all forms of violence and abuse.
Healing and reforming ourselves from flaws, whether we are victims or the ones harming, requires honest reflection, trust and risk. It is through this path that we cooperate with God to re-form ourselves into the people who are originally created with dignity and for love.