Mission resources

Plan to Protect

Fully adopted at the Parish Assembly on 30 January 2022.

Overview — Protect Through Awareness

Holy Myrrhbearers Orthodox Mission is committed to creating safe places for people to strive corporately to worship Almighty God in the Holy Trinity — the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, One in Essence and Undivided, — and to forgive and love one another in community as Jesus Christ has loved and forgiven us, and to offer healing to the world by proclaiming in our loving words and deeds the gospel of Jesus Christ as it is revealed in the scriptural tradition of the Orthodox Christian Church.

This includes safe spaces for children, students, and vulnerable people of all ages. We recognise that we are a reflection of God’s love to those in our care and we take our responsibility to them seriously. We view ourselves as partners with parents, seeking to provide quality care and instruction in our ministry to the family.

Churches have unique features that can make them susceptible to incidents of child molestation – they have large numbers of children, a shortage of willing workers, and a culture of trust that assumes no Christian could be suspect of such exploitation. Children are naturally trusting and impressionable, and readily place their faith in adults who care for them. It is our God-given and legal responsibility to safeguard that trust.

We consider all forms of abuse to be a serious matter. Child abuse can potentially leave scars that last a lifetime, and the effects of abuse are too often minimised or dismissed.

The degree of damage that results from abuse depends upon several factors including the intensity, duration, and frequency of the abuse, as well as the nature of the relationship of the perpetrator to the child. If the abuser is a known and trusted authority figure in the child’s life, the degree of impact increases dramatically.

Holy Myrrhbearers Orthodox Mission is committed to providing a safe environment for children, students, and vulnerable people, and maintains a policy of zero-tolerance for abuse, harassment, or neglect. All staff and volunteers who teach, care for, have access to, or have positions of trust with children, students, and/or vulnerable people within Holy Myrrhbearers Orthodox Mission are required to follow the guidelines and procedures as defined in this document. Every activity involves some risk, but this plan is designed to prioritise the safety of children, students, and volunteers with the goal of making all programmes and activities as safe as is reasonably possible.


Unfortunately, child abuse is not a rare occurrence in Ontario. According to Ontario’s Children’s Aid Societies in 2007 over 27,000 children suffered some form of abuse or neglect: “Canadian authorities estimate that the incidence of child abuse and neglect in Canada parallels that of the United States. At least one in three girls and one in seven boys are sexually abused by the time they reach the age of 18. In the vast majority of cases, sexual abusers are known to their victims. More than half of all sexual abuse occurs within the family. Offenders come from all economic, ethnic, racial and educational backgrounds and religious traditions. They may be respected members of the community, church or synagogue.”

Abuse is primarily categorised as physical, sexual, emotional, or involving neglect. All child abuse involves the misuse of power. Misuse of power takes place when people take advantage of the authority or power they have over vulnerable people. Vulnerable people include adults with physical or mental disabilities and children (under age 18).

For the purposes of this document a child is defined as a person from birth to grade 5 (age 10 or 11). A student is defined as a person from grade 6 (age 10 or 11) to grade 12 (age 17 or 18). A ministry leader is defined as anyone (volunteer or paid) who is working with children and/or students.

  • Physical abuse includes any non-accidental action that causes, or could cause physical harm to a child/student such as hitting, shaking, or the unreasonable use of force to restrain a child/student.
  • Sexual abuse includes using a child/student for sexual purposes such as through sexual contact, inappropriate exposure to sexual activity or material, or exploitation through prostitution and related activities.
  • Emotional maltreatment includes behaviours that harm a child’s/student’s development or sense of self-worth such as humiliation, rejection or withholding love or support. Witnessing or exposure to domestic violence is considered a form of emotional maltreatment under some legislation.
  • Neglect includes the failure of a parent/guardian or caregiver to provide a child’s/student’s basic needs such as for food, education, health care or supervision.
  • Harassment involves persistently and wrongfully badgering a person with annoying, offensive, or troubling behaviour.
  • Improper discipline includes any physical punishment, verbal or emotional abuse, or neglect. Corporal punishment is absolutely prohibited.

Symptoms of Abuse and Molestation

What constitutes reasonable grounds to report a suspicion of abuse? Reasonable grounds are what an average person, given his or her training, background and experience, exercising normal and honest judgment, would assume to be an action that needs attention. No action would be taken against a person making a report unless it is made maliciously or without reasonable grounds for the belief.

The following characteristics may be indicators of abuse, although they are not necessarily proof. One sign alone does not constitute abuse and may simply be indicative of other issues. Pray for discernment and wisdom as you watch for patterns or a combination of these warning signs.

Physical signs may include:

  • lacerations and bruises
  • recurring nightmares
  • irritation, pain, regular discomfort, or injury to the genital area
  • difficulty sitting
  • torn or bloody underclothing
  • venereal or sexually transmitted infection

Behavioural signs may include:

  • anxiety when approaching a child care area
  • nervous, hostile, or rejecting behaviour toward one or more adults
  • sexual self-consciousness
  • acting out of sexual behaviours or other expressions of sexual knowledge beyond that appropriate for the child’s age
  • withdrawal from church, school, or sports activities
  • withdrawal from friends and family

Child abuse can happen at home. Child abuse can happen at school. Child abuse can happen at church. Having been placed in positions of trust, it is our responsibility, before God and before the governing authorities, to be aware and prepared to create safe places for our children and students.