Safeguarding – a concept that does not have a single counterpart in the Ukrainian language. In a broader sense, these actions aim to create a safe environment where the child is treated with dignity. These actions can concern children under 18 and vulnerable adults who cannot fully protect themselves for certain reasons.

For the environment to be safe, we can anticipate the threats (prevention) and know how to respond effectively (intervention).

Everyone has the right to a safe childhood. Feeling safe is one of our basic needs, without which we cannot live confidently and move forward. To prevent the emergence of threats, one must take care of two components: a safe place and a safe adult.

A safe place – a space in which the child is, a safe room, stairs, an area free of threats to the child’s life, health and development. A safe adult – a person who treats the child with respect, does not pose a threat to them, does not commit violence, and knows how to react if there is danger or inappropriate behaviour on the part of others.

In general, the world is a safe place. However, not all people have good intentions. Children are especially vulnerable to those with bad intentions. Our study “Sexual Violence in Ukraine” (2021) showed that 23% of Ukrainians experienced sexual violence and harassment in childhood. 4% experienced rape. 43% of them did not tell anyone about it as children.

How can violence be prevented or stopped?

If your organisation works with minors or vulnerable adults, here are five essential components of prevention:

In a structure or group that works with children, there are those responsible for safety. One or several persons work as a team to create a protection system by implementing five prevention components and reacting to detected violence cases. They have undergone appropriate training, have basic knowledge of the types and indicators of violence, and know how to respond to the appeal of a victim or a person who learned about abuse. There is a responsible group with specialists who can assist the victim or a referral mechanism. The contacts of those responsible are publicly available, and there is a clear mechanism for contacting them.

These documents adopted at the organisation level launch and support the mechanism of ensuring safety for minors and vulnerable adults among its participants. It helps to determine the risks of threats and establishes ways to eliminate them: safe hiring of employees, basic norms of behaviour and an algorithm for responding in case of their violations. It also suggests ways of introducing these mechanisms into the organisation's life. All its members know and share the policies, and the management reacts to their non-compliance. There is an adapted version of the document communicated to children and parents.

Such policies already exist at the level of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. You can find and read them here

These include:

● an algorithm for responding to dangerous situations and abuse, which all organisation members know, including children. Such an algorithm considers conflicts of interest and dilemma cases when those responsible for responding fail to do so.

● norms of behaviour adapted to the organisation’s context are explained to all members

● a mechanism for hiring employees to keep dangerous individuals away from minors

Employees should attend periodic training to help them understand security policies, the nature of violence, and the victim better. Perhaps there already are people who need help but do not recognise that what happened to them was wrong. Explaining the concept of violence, ways to recognise it, and openness to hearing victims out will help identify threats sooner.

Without monitoring and evaluating the process, we will never know whether our work is efficient, whether we made mistakes and how to rectify them. We can monitor all the basicelements of prevention: the quality of training, educational work, whether the response algorithm works and the hiring policies are effective, whether all those responsible fulfil their roles, and finally, whether the offender received the appropriate punishment and the victim and their family – the necessary support. Also, it is worth assessing the transparency of safeguarding mechanisms, whether all the most essential information is publicly available and whether there is no covering up and ignoring reported cases.

Information about violence against minors can come from three sources:

● the victim

● third parties who received information about the abuse

● third parties who recognised the signs of abuse or witnessed it

If you want to report a case of abuse of a child or a vulnerable adult, but you are unsure whether you recognise the signs right, hesitate whether it is worth reporting, or do not know how to act, we have some tips for you.

Physical damage is usually the first indicator that something happened to a child. As for the reaction at the psychological level, you should be cautious when there is a sudden and incomprehensible change in the child’s behaviour.

Certain signs (indicators) may indicate that a child has been subjected to physical, psychological, or sexual abuse. You can view those in the UGCC safety policy document. The list is not complete. Also, each indicator is not a 100% sign of experienced abuse and needs further clarification.

A child is also considered a victim of violence if they witness a crime.

If you hesitate about recognised signs or a heard fact, contact the National Hotline for Children and Youth at 0 800 500 335 (mobile and stationary) or 116 123 (by mobile phone) or write anonymously in the chat

Other primary emergency response contacts:

102 – the police

103 – the ambulance (in case of detecting physical damage)

And the Local Children’s Service

The same authorities should be contacted if the violence was inflicted by the russian occupiers.

Use our tips for the first conversation with the child who may have been abused.

Entities obliged by the Law of Ukraine “On Preventing and Combating Domestic Violence” to respond to a detected case of violence against a minor within one day:

educational institutions

healthcare institutions

services of social protection of children

social service centres

local self-government bodies

specialised institutions providing free primary and secondary legal assistance

territorial bodies of the State Emergency Service and subordinate units

More information can be found here

If the abuser of the child is a church representative (clergy, ordained persons, lay people working in the church, volunteers, seminarians) or the offense took place within a church event, check the next steps here.

The child might not be willing to tell what happened to them with you being a stranger, which is normal. More reasons why children do not talk about abuse can be found here.

Use our tips for the first conversation with an adult who suffered abuse as a child.

If the abuser of the child is a church representative (clergy, ordained persons, lay people working in the church, volunteers, seminarians) or the offense took place within a church event, check the next steps here.

If the offender is from a different sphere, you can encourage the victim to report to the police.

You can report cases with the abuser of a child or a vulnerable adult being a church representative or if the harm was caused during a church event. In this case, we:

● carefully study the received information without prejudices or accusations against the addressee

● we can send you a few basic questions via email (Viber or Telegram) to understand the situation better

● we forward your appeal to those responsible from your (arch)diocese, exarchate or congregation and to the Delegate from the Synod (we act per the document “Norms and principles of the protection of minors and vulnerable persons in the pastoral activity of the UGCC in Ukraine”)

Several conditions must be met to ensure this:

● the organisation must have a person / group responsible for safety who can be approached with information regarding the incident

● this person must be ready to undergo the necessary training, have an understanding of the importance of the case, and know how to act in the event of receiving a report – how to react and talk to the victim

● the algorithm of actions must be agreed and approved with the organisation’s management

● this person must be authorised by the organisation’s management, their actions must not be hindered. The head of the organisation cannot take this position

● information about the possibility of reporting the case to the relevant structures or the responsible person in the organisation must be publicly available: on the website, on social networks, on bulletin boards, adapted to children and at their eye level. Employees, parents, and children should be informed, too

● there must be a reaction algorithm in case the person in charge does not fulfil their duties (for various reasons)

An integral part of the response is the proper support of the victim and their relatives. You can make a contact list of psychologists and lawyers who agree to provide a free emergency consultation.

It is also worth building a network of cooperation with specialists who could provide long-term support, and find funds to implement the abovementioned.


If you have any questions