RICHMOND, Va. (BP) -- The International Mission Board (IMB) has selected Somer Nowak to fill the newly created position of prevention and response administrator for the 175-year-old entity. In this role, Nowak will oversee and manage prevention and response efforts for child abuse (physical and sexual), sexual harassment (including sexual assault) and domestic violence.
IMB is the first Southern Baptist entity to create a position for this purpose, fulfilling IMB President Paul Chitwood's commitment to lead the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) in abuse prevention and response.
"The prevention and response administrator position is evidence that IMB absolutely remains committed to making changes necessary to better prevent instances of child abuse and sexual harassment (including sexual assault) and to better care for victims while holding perpetrators accountable," Chitwood said, announcing the selection of Nowak during the January 30, 2020, plenary session of IMB trustee meetings in Riverside, Calif.
IMB created the position in response to recommendations from Gray Plant Mooty, the external firm tasked with examining IMB's handling of past allegations regarding child abuse and sexual harassment (including sexual assault) as well as a review of IMB's policies and practices. During Nowak's first year, she will focus on implementing all of the recommendations from the external examination in addition to handling new cases as they occur.
"IMB leadership is implementing every recommendation presented by Gray Plant Mooty, diligently moving toward the highest standards in abuse prevention and response, including providing compassionate care," Chitwood said January 30. "The prevention and response administrator position is another vital step of implementation." (See related story.)
Ronnie Floyd, president of the SBC Executive Committee, welcomed the addition of this new role. He stressed the importance of equipping missionaries and staff with the tools necessary to prevent and respond to allegations of abuse in a timely and effective manner.
"With an organization as large as the International Mission Board that has personnel located across the entire globe, we need to do all we can to equip our missionaries and all personnel to prevent abuse in every way and to respond in a timely and effective way to any matters relating to abuse," Floyd said. "I want to thank Dr. Paul Chitwood and the trustees of our IMB for adding this new prevention and response administrator position."
J.D. Greear, SBC president and pastor of The Summit Church in Durham, N.C., added his affirmation of the role as a standard for the convention.
"I am glad to see our SBC agencies continue to take concrete steps to ensure that we care well for those who have been abused and do all that we can to prevent future abuse," Greear said. "The IMB hiring someone to serve in an abuse prevention and response role is an example of the kind of staffing decision our agencies need to consider."
In July 2018, then-IMB President David Platt called for the external examination. IMB trustee officers interviewed numerous potential outside investigators for the task and selected Gray Plant Mooty, headquartered in Minneapolis, to conduct the examination. After his election in November 2018, Chitwood affirmed his commitment to the examination.
Nowak previously worked as a counselor with the Cherokee County Board of Education in Centre, Ala. In this role, she worked alongside county officials to identify victims of child abuse and take appropriate steps in reporting. She also educated school staff and parents on child abuse and prevention, including identifying the signs of child abuse and how to report it.
Nowak also worked as a forensic interviewer, forensic counselor and educational consultant for Children's Advocacy of Cherokee County. In this role she assisted local schools in reporting child abuse cases and counseling victims of abuse and performed forensic interviews for local law enforcement in suspected child abuse cases.
Nowak holds a bachelor's degree in sociology and psychology, a master's degree in community agency counseling, and an educational specialist degree in school counseling from Jacksonville State University.
Ann Lovell is editorial design manager with IMB.