Why Sexual & Physical Abuse Coverage Is Important for Nonprofits

February 10, 2014 by

This will sound a lot like reminiscing and I just may be, but I was talking with old friends back in my hometown of Boardman, Ohio, at a high school reunion. One of the people in the group brought up the topic of the things we used to do as kids. We all chuckled, laughed and wondered why a lot of us made it as far as we had using what little brain matter we seemed to possess. We talked about being gone with friends all day on our bikes in the park, to swimming in quarries, to sneaking off to concerts in “far away” places, most of which do not seem so far now.

Personally, I cannot even recall my parents asking many details about where we were going or had been. Furthermore, as long as we got back to where we were supposed to be when we needed to be there, life rolled along without pause or interruption.

Fast forward to today, and we all ask our kids where they are going, who they will be with and advise them what time to be back before we send the police out looking for them. Our kids are tethered to us electronically via cell phones, and we check with them somewhat regularly. We can find them anytime we want merely by calling. I know parents that buy cell phone tracking software and monitor their kids’ every move. Some of these “kids” are now adults, and they are still being monitored.

It seems to me that in times of old, people moved around much less. Because everybody knew everyone, your reputation stuck with you, and people knew who to watch out for. In today’s mobile society with people moving frequently, two parents working and life in general being more complicated, much of the art of know who and what to look out for has been lost.

Scroll forward to today’s headline news, and rarely a day goes by that there is not some news about sexual abuse, misconduct, “sexting,” abductions and the like.

While empirical data points toward the world being safer than it may have been in the past, the awareness level of sexual and physical abuse has risen dramatically. Predators are continually seeking opportunities to exploit victims who may be unable or lack the capability of guarding themselves from these situations. Sometimes the very organizations we establish to serve individuals that need such protections become the breeding ground that fosters the activity.

The nonprofit world has brought about great positive change and assistance to people with critical needs. Abused and battered children, women, developmentally disabled and seniors all can become victims of aggressive predators seeking to practice their warped trades. Even those organizations with a strict policy and diligence can be compromised by a crafty individual.

Should a situation develop that requires a nonprofit to defend itself, the cost of doing so can be debilitating. It can lead to the nonprofit being forced to compromise its mission to fight for its own survival.

Attorneys’ court fees and other legal costs can mount quickly. They can financially drain even some of the strongest organizations. Internal resources in terms of manpower, financial and operations can be exhausted to the point where continuing the mission of the nonprofit is in jeopardy.

A key answer to protecting the organization’s viability for the long term is the purchase of the proper insurance. Coverage for abuse is readily available in the marketplace but should be evaluated carefully because not all coverage forms are alike. Be sure that the policy you select provides for:

  • Both sexual and physical abuse;
  • Has adequate limits both in terms of occurrence and aggregate;
  • Gas an aggregate limit that is at least twice the occurrence limit, if not three times;
  • Be sure excess coverage provides the same level of coverage as the primary policy;
  • Be sure there are no gaps between limit layers;
  • If coverage is claims made, be sure to maintain the retro date on all future policies, and do not let coverage lapse because that will most likely produce a coverage gap; and
  • Look to be certain that the policy provides for “client on client” coverage.

Now that your attention is focused on the topic of abuse and there are possibly concerns, you might ask, “how do I go about selecting the right coverage?” This is where the value of a really good insurance agent or broker comes into play.

An agent that has experience, knows coverage, the markets and has been through a few situations is invaluable. What you really need is a guide to take you through the maze of forms, limits, retention issues, carriers, quality and reputation of claim handling. Doing this on your own is at a minimum confusing and time-consuming. The old motto of “don’t risk a lot to save a little” is a good one when buying critical insurance that has wrinkles and complications.

People have asked, “What does insurance like this cost? Can I afford it?”

The short answer is that coverage is not as expensive as you might think, and in the event of a claim, it would look downright cheap. The moral of the story becomes – hire a professional to help, weigh the benefits against the drawbacks, and spend a few more dollars to get what you really need versus scrimping and finding out that there are inadequacies.

Every organization that mentors, counsels, assists or provides services to youth, seniors or individuals with diminished capacities should have abuse insurance. The future well-being of your organization lies in your hands.

Purchasing a quality insurance program is a responsibility that each organization must own-up to. Failure to do so just may be the undoing of all the efforts ever made to help those in need.