Listening Ear Votes: YES to background checks, YES to banning sex offenders

Published: Jun. 5, 2016 at 8:01 PM EDT
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The Listening Ear voted Sunday evening on a policy proposal to require all current and future volunteers to undergo background checks. And, to not allow sex offenders to volunteer.

This comes after it was revealed that three sex offenders had been volunteering at the crisis intervention center. The three men were taking phone calls, possibly from victims of sex assault crimes. One of them served as Center Coordinator, a role the former board chair calls "the face of the organization."

Twenty-five members were present at the meeting Sunday evening. Listening Ear could not give details on what happened or how many voted. But, the media liasion, Carly Geraci tells News Ten it was a consensus decision.

That means they look at reservations, objections and support. If there were two objections, the policy would not have gone through. Geraci says there was one.

The three sex offenders were officially dismissed today, but Geraci says they have not been taking calls in the past week.



"We, at The Listening Ear, understand that some in the Lansing community have felt betrayed upon learning that three people who are listed on the Sex Offender Registry served as crisis line volunteers. We thank our community partners for working with us as we were in the process of updating our policy to be in line with current best practices for crisis intervention centers. We look forward to continuing to work with them in the community, and are committed to regaining any trust that was lost. We believe that the first step in rebuilding that trust lies in our organization’s actions and, as such, announce that we have passed, through consensus vote, a new policy today.

Effective immediately, all current and future volunteers are subject to a background checks. No individual listed on the Sex Offender Registry is allowed to volunteer with us. As a result of this new policy, we have already begun running background checks on all volunteers, and the three volunteers who are listed on the Sex Offender Registry have been removed from their positions as crisis line volunteers and are no longer with The Listening Ear.

From the night that the issue of having people on the Sex Offender Registry as crisis line volunteers was introduced at an emergency board meeting, we have been working on creating this new policy. Given the seriousness of the issue, we felt it was important to discuss our policy with all of our board, staff, directors & coordinators, and community partners. We immediately confirmed that none of our Sexual Assault Counselors were listed on the Sex Offender Registry. The week after the board meeting, the three volunteers who were listed on the registry were taken off the phone lines while we were discussing the remaining details of this policy. Soon after, we began getting questions about these three volunteers from the media; at that point, we included the Greater Lansing Community in the conversation as well. We sincerely appreciate all the helpful comments we have received as we created this policy. We have heard your concerns and considered them in our decision.

We are committed to serving the diverse needs of our community. Having operated a 24/7 hotline for the Greater Lansing Community for the last 47 years, we take pride in providing this crucial and free service to those in crisis. For the past 38 years, we have also had the privilege of providing counselling services and medical advocacy for sexual assault survivors at no cost.

We appreciate the patience and support that we have received from the community. We recognize that the trust we are asking for will not come easily, but we are working to regain that trust and rebuild the relationships we hold so dear. In alignment with our commitment to transparency, we are, of course, open for questions. If you do have additional questions or concerns, we encourage you to leave a message on our business line (517-337-1728) with name and phone number. One of our coordinators will follow up with you within 48 hours.