At the time of an allegation or outcry, the organization’s priority (and therefore what it says and does) should be ‘victim-centric’. The priority should be protecting and caring for the alleged victim, and determining if other victims exist in your program. Make no mistake: at the time of an allegation, there are very few ‘neutral’ statements or positions. The organizational response will be either victim-centric or other-centric: actions and statements that clearly demonstrate a priority for something or someone other than the victim.
Too often, an organization adopts an organization-centric response: communicating and acting in a defensive manner meant to serve the best interests of the organization. This defensive posture appears self-serving, self-protective, self-justifying, blame shifting and self-righteous. The ‘message’ of the defensive posture is that the alleged abuse is unfortunate and inconvenient to the otherwise good work or service provided by the organization. The expressed (or unexpressed) concern is that ongoing business continues without disruption, including building campaigns and donation drives. The welfare of the alleged victim is secondary; the service has become more important than the served.
A truly harmful organizational response is abuser-centric: communicating and acting in a manner meant to protect the alleged abuser. Typically, this includes public statements focusing on the risk to the alleged abuser – his or her marriage, career, reputation or future. This defensive response is common when the alleged abuser is part of upper leadership, or related to an influential member of leadership.