Implementation in Belgium by Sensoa
Inspired by Gale Ryan’s article on the prevention of sexually abusive behaviour by juvenile offenders, Sensoa began to develop their innovative Flag System. Between 2008 and 2010 they tested their basic concept through workshops in youth care institutions and schools, integrating the valuable feedback into the first version of the Flag System: ‘Talking to children and young people about sexually abusive behaviour’
In 2010 the first book was published and adapted for a Dutch audience in collaboration with Movisie. The context for both Belgium and Holland was similar - cases of sexual abuse emerged in the media and the need for effective preventative interventions was high. Sensoa developed 5 training modules that were shared with Movisie and Rutgers, and the demand for training professionals in the Flag System has been growing ever since.
Sensoa soon worked together with youth workers Pimento, to create additional ways of working in youth work and sports (ICES, Spel met Grenzen, 2012). Extra pictures were produced and pre-tested, and some organisations participated in a ‘train the trainers’ course so they would be able to implement the Flag System in organisations within their own sectors
A first evaluation, held in 2012, showed that the Flag System helped professionals feel more confident, and more able to understand, talk about and respond to situations of sexually unacceptable behaviour. It also helped them to accept sexuality as a natural part of the development of children and young people. Additionally, the majority of respondents reported that working with the Flag System influenced their own organisation’s policy on sexuality.
Alongside the positives, a few shortcomings were identified. These were understanding how the Flag System should be used with children with a disability, different cultural background or traumatic upbringing. And whether the method’s theoretical foundation could be demonstrably more evidence-based
Some of the points from the evaluation stage were integrated in the second print of the original book ‘Flag System’, while some were used as part of a second book, ‘Outside the lines’, published in 2016. Additionally, in the same year, a working group was set up with parents, health professionals and educational policy makers to develop a version of the Flag System for schools. Sensoa and Movisie worked to strengthen the theoretical foundation and are proud that the Flag System is now a theoretical approved intervention in The Netherlands.
Meanwhile, extra materials were being developed:
- Oké: A game about sexually abusive behaviour. re-tested with children aged 10-12 in different contexts including youth care institutions, this game was also adapted for the Dutch country policy.
- Between the sheets: A package of educational resources around the topic of sexuality, with a target age of 12-18 years. This includes 4 modules, one of which is about sexually abusive behaviour.
- ‘Boundaries crossed’ (2013): Interactive electronic whiteboard lessons which are downloadable from an educational platform. Collaboration with VTM (a Belgian television network) allowed the integration of film fragments for a richer learning experience.
- ‘Methods Flag System’(2011) and ‘Training manual’ (2012)
Part of the success in the development and implementation of the Flag System, is the constant collaboration between Sensoa, The Flemish expertise centre for sexual health, and specific partners from the setting where the intervention is to be used. The development process in a working group helps to adapt the system to the needs and language of the professionals who will be working with it. And as a fortuitous side effect, the members of the working group take it upon themselves to act as ‘ambassadors’ of the Flag System going forward.
Sensoa now boasts ‘Partners of the Flag System’ (those who take care of its implementation in workplace settings)in sport, education, youth care and youth work, as well as those who have a speciality in working with people with disabilities and children. These partners are invited for updates twice a year.
Sensoa has noticed that partners tend to start developing their own methods and practices in working with the Flag System. For example, how to use it with parents, how to integrate it into working with juvenile sexual offenders and so on. At the end of 2018, Sensoa plans to organise a symposium where partners can exchange and present their ‘good practices’.