Safeguarding, like data protection, is one of those words that seems to have crept up on us in recent years, often feeling as if it just makes life, or at least running a group, a lot more complicated for us all. We are well aware of the high-profile cases of abuse, ones that hit the headlines, cases that we all abhor. The child killed or badly physically abused. The cases of sexual abuse, both outside and within the church. However, there are also less obvious but still damaging forms of abuse, from discrimination to control, and anyone may be at risk.
Any organisation has a responsibility to prevent abuse of any kind. This is why WCCM in the UK has a safeguarding policy. This can be found under that title at the bottom of the front page of our website (www.wccm.uk). The aim is to raise awareness of situations of possible abuse, how to recognise them, and a clearly laid out process of what to do if you think they are occurring. There is a very helpful appendix at the end of the document that gives a brief outline of different forms of abuse, ways that we might not have thought about previously.
Like all organisations, we have safeguarding officers. Any incident of possible abuse needs reporting to them and they will advise you how to proceed from there. They are also supported by experts, in our case by the Christian organisation Thirtyone:eight. They also advise on when DBS checks are necessary. This all reflects that we take these matters very seriously.
The above is the formal response to possible situations of abuse. There is though, another approach to safeguarding, which is that safeguarding is the responsibility of everyone. It may not be so high-profile, but forms of abuse can be going on all around us. There are times in our life when we may all be vulnerable to being a victim of some form of abuse. This may be at a time of loss in our lives or a time of great change, or when we feel out of our depth with new technologies. We may feel ashamed at not being able to cope with the situation we find ourselves in.
What a meditation group can offer is a safe place where a meditator feels comfortable to speak openly. A place where they feel listened to and not judged by anyone, but a place of compassion and love. This is the responsibility of everyone, but especially the facilitator of the group.
There is a further positive in seeing safeguarding as everyone’s concern. By being aware of these negative behaviours, we can try and ensure that our group, or our community, or our church, is in fact a welcoming place, an inclusive place, a place where everyone is accepted for who they are. A place where a person is able to speak freely without fear of retribution, however subtle this may be, and where there is not any abuse of power.