Dealing with Sexual Abuse in the Church: Advice for Pastors

Recent events have sparked vigorous debate regarding the proper handling of sexual abuse in the church. This essay is not an attempt to directly address a specific incident, but it will certainly intersect well-known incidents at points. While I was pastoring, I dealt with a multitude of sexual abuse cases that occurred both prior to and concurrent with my ministry. The list of tragedies included several rapes of teenagers, gang rape, incest, one entire family of five children molested by the father, and bestiality. While I am certainly not the most experienced person in this regard (not by a long shot), I think I have enough experience to contribute to the conversation.

I feel compelled to write this essay primarily for the younger generation of future pastors. Unless a clear message of what is biblical, right and courageous is sounded, I fear that many of them will enter ministry confused, fearful and uncertain of the proper manner of dealing with sexual abuse. I am afraid that many will swallow the weak excuses for leadership that are often given when pastors fail to properly deal with this terrible phenomenon in the church. Too often believers defend obvious failures of leadership, offer weak excuses, or attempt to bury offenses and hope everybody eventually forgets about them.

A Word for the Pastors

Before you think I am being overly critical of pastors, let me give a few caveats that I hope will communicate my sympathy for any pastor who has to deal with sexual abuse. First, sexual abuse is everywhere. Estimates of abused women range from 1 in 5 to 1 in 3. For men, abuse ranges from 1 in 7 to 1 in 5. Take the average church of 100 people, evenly split between males and females. In this accounting, 20-33 females and 14-20 males will have been or will eventually be sexually abused.1 This is a staggering number, and it screams for colleges and seminaries to give those preparing for ministry clear and sophisticated training on dealing with sexual abuse. In this essay I will primarily speak in terms of male predator and female victim, but the dynamic happens in every possible combination.

Second, any case of sexual abuse is messy, complex, emotional, and exhausting. Sexual abuse implies predation, and predators are notoriously deceitful, conniving, and evasive. A pastor can often feel like a detective, trying to track down and extract the truth from a situation clouded in lies, emotional devastation, fear, anger and cover-ups. In addition, a pastor cannot depend upon the police department or Department of Children and Families (or whatever it is called in your state) to be of much help in most cases. In the state of Connecticut where I pastored, DCF was rife with corruption, neglect and even abuse of children in their charge. My experience with DCF was with a few well-meaning case workers overwhelmed with caseloads often being managed poorly by bureaucrats. The police often had bigger concerns with which to deal, such as drug lords and gangs.

Finally, until the past 15-20 years, sexual abuse was never spoken of in many fundamental and evangelical circles. Only in the last decade have colleges and seminaries made concerted effort to provide quality training to future leaders. Most pastors who were trained more than 15 years ago literally have no formal training in dealing with sexual abuse. Today there are many good resources to help a pastor effectively deal with abuse, but these are recent developments. (On a personal level, I know of no more qualified experts than Chuck and Sue McLain at Calvary Baptist Seminary in Lansdale and Bruce Meyer at Maranatha. Readers would do well to take their classes.)

Understanding Sexual Abuse

Before we go any further, we need to define sexual abuse. The National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect defines child sexual assault as: “Contacts or interactions between a child and an adult when the child is being used for sexual stimulation of the perpetrator or another person when the perpetrator or another person is in a position of power or control over the victim.”

There are several key components to this definition. First, sexual abuse is any contact or interaction…when the child is being used for the sexual stimulation of the predator. Contact or interaction includes actual physical contact, in addition to forcing a child to watch sexual acts or pornography, etc. I would add that lewd comments, gestures and looks also qualify as abuse.

Second, the legal definition of “child” is anyone under eighteen years old, even though the age of consent may be lower in certain states. Legally, and I think, wisely, children under eighteen are not considered to be responsible for sexual behavior with adults. This may seem like an arbitrary determination by some. As the father of seventeen- and fifteen-year-old daughters, I think this is just about right. This is not to deny the fact that some teenagers occasionally seduce adults, but the occurrences of children seducing adults are rare in comparison to the vast majority of cases where the minor is preyed upon. The reason responsibility is not placed upon the minor is simple: It is not normal behavior for a minor to initiate sexual contact with an adult. I know this point will raise howls of protest from men who have “fallen” to the charms of teenage girls, but it is simply not the case that very many teens are out there looking to initiate sexual relations with forty-year-old men. Besides, as Christians we hold adults to a higher standard. Let me say this very clearly. If a teenager should ever initiate sexual contact with an adult, it is the adult who is first and foremost responsible to resist temptation and refuse the contact.

Why so many people don’t understand this is a mystery to me. In so many instances where Christian men (especially leaders) have preyed upon teenagers, it seems that the automatic assumption is that this “godly man” would never do such a thing willingly. He must have been seduced by a perverse teenage girl. She is to blame for ruining the man’s ministry or position or life. This kind of response needs to be identified as the twisted delusion that it is.

Third, sexual abuse happens when the perpetrator or another person is in a position of power or control over the victim. This neglected point is often misunderstood or ignored in cases of sexual abuse. Having control over a victim is a powerful dynamic that can leave one absolutely in the grip of the perpetrator. Power is gained in many ways, and unfortunately religious or spiritual power is often the best tool of the abuser.

Predators use a variety of scare tactics: everything from threats of bodily harm against the victim or her family to threats of public exposure and shame and loss of family support and love. They may appeal to her sympathy and incite fear of church discipline or even damnation. Recently in our area, a “Christian” man was exposed as raping his now nineteen-year-old adopted daughter continuously from the very first night he brought her home at the age of twelve. All those years he threatened that if she told anyone, the family would reject her and have nothing to do with her. And he was right! When he was finally exposed, the negligently ignorant wife blamed all those years of abuse on the daughter and threw her out of the house. The power dynamic in sexual abuse cannot be underestimated.

If this description so far makes you sick to your stomach and afraid to ever have to deal with sexual abuse, it should. It is not for the faint of heart or the ill-prepared. Without the training I received in seminary I would have completely failed the sheep that limped into my office, broken and bleeding from the wolf-attacks they had endured. So how should a pastor deal with sexual abuse in his congregation?

Shepherding the Victim

First, a distinction needs to be made between sexual immorality and sexual abuse. They are not the same. The issue of consent is not a minor issue; it is the issue. When two adults or two minors engage in consensual sexual immorality, they are both morally responsible for their actions. When one person forces another to engage in a sexual act, there is no responsibility on the part of the victim. And by definition, there can be no consensual sexual contact between minors and adults. Why? Because adults have inherent power over minors. Again, I am aware of the rare cases where a sixteen- or seventeen-year-old may appear to be consensually involved with an adult. But even at that age, there is a power dynamic in the relationship that makes it abuse.

What does this mean for pastoral care? In the case of sexual contact between a minor and an adult, the minor ought to be considered the innocent victim unless clear and compelling evidence says otherwise. And even in such rare cases, the responsibility of the act still rests squarely on the shoulders of the adult. I am amazed at the confusion on this issue. In an attempt to somehow explain how a “Christian” man who seemed to be godly, seemed to be a good family man, and seemed to love God could do such a thing, blame is quite often laid at the feet of the minor. It is especially appalling to me when women rush to blame a teenager for sexual contact with an adult. Perhaps many women who respond in this fashion were abused themselves, and have never stopped blaming themselves for the abuse they suffered.

The main role of the pastor with the victim at this point is that of the gentle shepherd, recognizing that he is dealing with a severely wounded lamb who needs care, comfort, counseling, support, courage and more. A pastor needs to demonstrate compassion toward the victim, reassuring her that the abuse was not her fault, and that the church will be there to help her through the trauma that will unfold in her life over the next years as she comes to grips with this most devastating violation of her person.

It is not uncommon for abuse victims to suffer depression, thoughts of suicide, eating disorders, self-mutilation, and a host of other symptoms in the years following an act of abuse. Pastors need to be prepared for the long haul to minister patiently to the victim. The victim will be wracked with guilt, fear, anger and other emotions. She will be tormented with questions such as, “Could I have fought harder? Did I do anything to encourage him? Why am I such a bad person?” In addition, the victim will most likely suffer the humiliation of ignorant people making hurtful comments. All this adds up to a monumental task for a pastor in the post-abuse care of an abuse victim.

The pastor needs to take the lead in finding women who will come alongside her in the process. He needs to help the family find a good counselor and perhaps a good lawyer. He needs to fulfill the commands of 1 Thessalonians 5:14 to “encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.” Above all, the pastor needs to ensure that the victim is not exposed to shame in any way for the heinous act committed against her. The one place a violated person ought to be able to go to find relief from shame and condemnation is the church. How a pastor prepares his people for this eventuality will make all the difference in the world. This will be discussed later.

(See Part 2 on shepherding the perpetrator and shepherding the church.)

Notes

1 Editor’s note: Perhaps the congregation size would need to be 200 to produce the final numbers indicated here (since the statistics are calculated based on 100 females (1 in 5 = 20/100, 1 in 3 = 33/100) + 100 males (1 in 7 = 14/100, 1 in 5 = 20/100)? Or if the average church is 100 and not 200, the ranges of abused women/men should be adjusted in half (for a congregation of 50 women/50 men). Still a “staggering number.”


Mark Farnham is Assistant Professor of Theology and New Testament at Calvary Baptist Theological Seminary (Lansdale, PA). He and his wife, Adrienne, grew up in Connecticut and were married after graduating from Maranatha Baptist Bible College (Watertown, WI). They have two daughters and a son, all teenagers. Mark served as director of youth ministries at Positive Action for Christ (Rocky Mount, NC) after seminary and pastored for seven years in New London, Connecticut. He holds an MDiv from Calvary and a ThM in New Testament from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (South Hamilton, MA). He has also studied ancient manuscripts at Harvard Divinity School and philosophy at Villanova University. He is presently a doctoral student at Westminster Theological Seminary (Glenside, PA) in the field of Apologetics. These views do not necessarily reflect those of Calvary Baptist Theological Seminary or its faculty and administration.

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Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

there is more to a church's proper functions in dealing with sin in the midst of the congregation than what our society has deemed legal/illegal. It is true that the first step is to notify the authorities. Period. But it is also reasonable for the pastor to consider how to minister to both the victim and the accused. The accused may need to be removed from office or be subject to church discipline, and the victim and both families may request counseling.

The legal system considers someone innocent until proven guilty- but should the church wait to take action until the legal wheels have stopped turning? Or should they assume the worst in order to protect children? What if the charges are found to be false- does the accused have grounds to sue the church for defamation of character because they took punitive action before the verdict was handed down by the justice system?

This is not so cut&dried as what folks want to make it. We don't simply punish the accused and ask questions later. These tragedies, as has been pointed out, create more than one victim. The whole flock is affected to one extent or the other, from the families involved to the inevitable rippling outward.

BTW, the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) was originally passed in the early 70's, but has been amended and reauthorized several times. [URL=http://www.childwelfare.gov/systemwide/laws_policies/state/ Each state has different statutes[/URL ] as to who is/isn't a mandatory reporter. Some states still do not require members of the 'clergy' to report. Some states require film developers to report. It would behoove pastors to know the law in their state.

Anna Walker's picture

It is not as simple as forgive and forget. How I wish it was. As I mentioned previously, I am in the middle of an open investigation with my childhood rapist. There are two arrest warrants out for his arrest for sexual battery of a minor. Two warrants because he raped two little girls. If the pastor had done the right thing and dealt with it properly or the other people who knew of the situation and chose to view it as consensual or look the other way had reported it -- then, he would not have been free to continue his nefarious acts. You cannot forgive without true repentance on the part of the offender. Without true repentance there is no changing of a person's ways. There are four known victims of this man (two are in a different state). If I chose to just forget what he did and ignore it -- then how high would that number be -- 40?

Don Johnson's picture

RPittman wrote:
Thus, the secular concepts of victimization and recovery become lifelong therapeutic processes that never achieve closure. The answer is true Biblical forgiveness, not psychotherapy. Once true forgiveness is given, one has satisfied God's requirement (Matthew 6:14; Matthew 18:35; Mark 11:25) and one experiences closure through peace with God and the peace of God within. Needlessly to say, granting forgiveness is not easy as Christ's disciples recognized and realized that it was an act requiring faith (Luke 17:1-10). Oftentimes, forgiveness is difficult because it violates our sense of righteous anger and hatred toward one who has caused us pain and violated our sense of self. This, however, is a wrongheaded spirit of vindictiveness encouraged by many in the victim and recovery movement.

RPittman, I think the secular concepts of victiimization etc is part of what makes me react to the statistical statements so much. You said earlier that many young people are coming forward with stories of abuse, etc. I don't doubt that this is a huge problem, but I wonder how much of it is fed by the secular mindset that seems to permeate our thinking at every hand. I also wonder how healthy it is for these people to be hung up on the past. That is not to minimize how horrible these events are, but to question how healthy it is to dredge them up.

When crimes are committed, it is vital to do what we can to bring the criminals to justice, but sometimes that is impossible. In one case I have dealt with, the perpetrator was long dead. What good did it do for the victim to dwell on those past experiences? Better for her to forgive and live now to the glory of God. (Easily said, of course.) The past shouldn't be allowed to cripple the present.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

RPittman's picture

Anna Walker wrote:
The first thing to do when someone comes to you with suspected abuse is to involve the authorities. It is not your place as a pastor or other Christian leader to decide if the claims are true. I am in the middle of an open investigation with my childhood rapist. My detective was very alarmed when I gave my affidavit at the number of mandatory reporters who did not report. Two of them in particular are or will be in serious legal hot water because of their failure to report.
The phenomena of sexual abuse has been a matter of growing awareness. Even the legal authorities have changed in their approach over the past twenty-five years. In the past, they were much more reluctant to do a thorough investigation against a prominent person in light of little evidence. Also, the mandatory reporting laws have changed in many states over the past decade. They are much tighter and more comprehensive today. In some states, the clergy was exempted but this has changed for the most part. Furthermore, there is a lack of knowledge and understanding about mandatory reporting amount Christian workers for the most part. Part of what I do is train and educate Christian school teachers, pastors, church workers, etc. on reporting requirements. Also, I train them on how to recognize signs of abuse for those kids who don't confine in an adult. I don't like the feeling but sometimes I get the impression that we are so mired in recriminations about the past that we neglect the present and future in preventing abuse. IMHO, a good part of the abuse can be eliminated if we are willing to go to the trouble and effort. Is it not worth the effort to prevent the abuse of just one child?

Anna Walker's picture

Children statistically do not make false claims of sexual abuse. Most children in our IFB churches are so sheltered about sex, that if they claim abuse -- then it is very probable that it occurred simply because they wouldn't have had that knowledge otherwise. If you give kids the impression that you aren't going to believe them, then they won't tell you what is happening. I know in my situation two of the victims never shared about their abuse because they saw how badly I was punished when I told and they were afraid of getting in trouble too. My story is NOT unusual. And, I'm not running on emotions here. I'm trying to give you facts. By "ministering" to the accused, you are showing the victim that you don't believe them and care more about the perp than them. In the rare chance that a perp is falsely accused -- then deal with that on a case by case basis. I honestly don't think false accusations are nearly as common as people are led to believe. I think that the kid is usually too scared to continue with the investigations.

REPORT, REPORT, REPORT.

Then, wrap that little girl or teenage girl up in your arms and tell them that it was not their fault and keep repeating it to them. You as a pastor/shepherd have the responsibility to protect all of your sheep. And, if someone hurts one of your sheep, then you need to do everything you can to make sure it never happens again. Don't wait for the victim to request counseling -- offer it -- give them names/phone numbers of professional counselors to help. Show them you care by keeping the perp away from them and away from the church.

RPittman's picture

Don Johnson wrote:
RPittman wrote:
Thus, the secular concepts of victimization and recovery become lifelong therapeutic processes that never achieve closure. The answer is true Biblical forgiveness, not psychotherapy. Once true forgiveness is given, one has satisfied God's requirement (Matthew 6:14; Matthew 18:35; Mark 11:25) and one experiences closure through peace with God and the peace of God within. Needlessly to say, granting forgiveness is not easy as Christ's disciples recognized and realized that it was an act requiring faith (Luke 17:1-10). Oftentimes, forgiveness is difficult because it violates our sense of righteous anger and hatred toward one who has caused us pain and violated our sense of self. This, however, is a wrongheaded spirit of vindictiveness encouraged by many in the victim and recovery movement.

RPittman, I think the secular concepts of victiimization etc is part of what makes me react to the statistical statements so much. You said earlier that many young people are coming forward with stories of abuse, etc. I don't doubt that this is a huge problem, but I wonder how much of it is fed by the secular mindset that seems to permeate our thinking at every hand. I also wonder how healthy it is for these people to be hung up on the past. That is not to minimize how horrible these events are, but to question how healthy it is to dredge them up.

When crimes are committed, it is vital to do what we can to bring the criminals to justice, but sometimes that is impossible. In one case I have dealt with, the perpetrator was long dead. What good did it do for the victim to dwell on those past experiences? Better for her to forgive and live now to the glory of God. (Easily said, of course.) The past shouldn't be allowed to cripple the present.

Don, I'm with you in spirit. Yes, I have doubts and know definitely that there are false allegations. Many of the false accusations are, no doubt, the result of the hubbub and copycat syndrome of the secular victim/recovery industry. Some of the more radical ones believe that every male is a sexual abuser. Well, this is patently wrong. However, we know the problem is present in our churches and we must address it strongly. The larger problem is that we live in a sexually oriented society. We, including believers, are bombarded daily with sexually oriented stimuli that is becoming increasingly explicit. Exposure to sexually stimulating things builds lust (desire). Mankind, being the sinner, simply cannot deal with all the temptation when the opportunity arises. Unfortunately, Christians, who are intertwined with this secular, sexual culture, are subject to the same temptation and fall into sin. This is a strong case for personal separation from the world but I am afraid that we are not willing to pay the price for purity. We place ourselves in temptation by viewing the same movies, watching the same TV show, listening to the same music, reading the same books, adopting the same attitudes, dressing with the same immodesty, going to the same places, etc. as the world. There's little difference between us and them.

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

Anna Walker wrote:
Children statistically do not make false claims of sexual abuse. Most children in our IFB churches are so sheltered about sex, that if they claim abuse -- then it is very probable that it occurred simply because they wouldn't have had that knowledge otherwise.

I agree that false claims are few and far between, but I do not believe that most children in IFB churches are sheltered about sex. I grew up in IFB churches, and the kids always knew a whole lot more about the birds and bees than they let on to the adults, and many were sexually active at a very young age. It's why my dh and I don't allow sleepovers nor do our children attend overnight church activities or go away to camp without one of us attending as a counselor. I've mentioned here at SI that I saw my first R-rated movie at a 'church' sleepover... and it certainly wasn't my last experience with a sexually charged atmosphere at a church function.

That was more than 20 years ago- and now more than ever children are being sexualized. Today [URL=http://www.foxnews.com/us/2010/06/24/mass-district-policy-let-elementary... ]elementary schools have policies[/URL ] that make "condoms available to all Provincetown public school students and takes effect in the fall. Under the policy, any student requesting a condom from a school nurse must first receive counseling, which includes information on abstinence....without the knowledge of their parents." If our IFB kids are attending public schools, they aren't ignorant on sexual issues. And they aren't likely ignorant even if they attend Christian schools. You really have to have a tight grip on your kids for them to be truly innocent in today's world.

We need to get a clue- not only should we educate our kids on sexual issues (before the perverts do it for us) but they need to understand what they can do to prevent their own victimization. Stating that abuse can be prevented does not mean that when a child is victimized they are at fault, but it does mean that they can reduce their risk by understanding how to listen to their instincts and by parents giving them the freedom to disobey authority when they believe authority has overstepped their bounds. I teach my kids that if anyone- be it pastor, teacher, or other authority figure- makes them feel creeped out, they are to immediately leave and come and find me or their dad- and we will protect them. Any adult who cares about kids is not going to be upset that a child left a situation where they felt uncomfortable or afraid.

Jay's picture

Anna Walker wrote:
The first thing to do when someone comes to you with suspected abuse is to involve the authorities. It is not your place as a pastor or other Christian leader to decide if the claims are true. I am in the middle of an open investigation with my childhood rapist. My detective was very alarmed when I gave my affidavit at the number of mandatory reporters who did not report. Two of them in particular are or will be in serious legal hot water because of their failure to report.

I CANNOT emphasize this enough. While I haven't been abused, I know of family members who have been and the utter failure on the part of the pastor to report what was clearly ongoing, graphic abuse has utterly destroyed any relationship that I could have had with the Pastor. I still can't understand why he didn't do report it, and it's been at least three years since I found out. Fortunately, the victim has started getting the help she so desperately needed.

The hardest part for me personally has been knowing when to step back once the report is made. I doubt that I'm the only one who would like to be the judge, jury and executioner when abuse situations come up in the course of personal/pastoral counseling.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

RPittman's picture

Anna Walker wrote:
Children statistically do not make false claims of sexual abuse. Most children in our IFB churches are so sheltered about sex, that if they claim abuse -- then it is very probable that it occurred simply because they wouldn't have had that knowledge otherwise. If you give kids the impression that you aren't going to believe them, then they won't tell you what is happening. I know in my situation two of the victims never shared about their abuse because they saw how badly I was punished when I told and they were afraid of getting in trouble too. My story is NOT unusual. And, I'm not running on emotions here. I'm trying to give you facts. By "ministering" to the accused, you are showing the victim that you don't believe them and care more about the perp than them. In the rare chance that a perp is falsely accused -- then deal with that on a case by case basis. I honestly don't think false accusations are nearly as common as people are led to believe. I think that the kid is usually too scared to continue with the investigations.

REPORT, REPORT, REPORT.

Then, wrap that little girl or teenage girl up in your arms and tell them that it was not their fault and keep repeating it to them. You as a pastor/shepherd have the responsibility to protect all of your sheep. And, if someone hurts one of your sheep, then you need to do everything you can to make sure it never happens again. Don't wait for the victim to request counseling -- offer it -- give them names/phone numbers of professional counselors to help. Show them you care by keeping the perp away from them and away from the church.

Anna, I must strongly disagree with you. I have any number of verifiable situations where kids did lie. Just Google one of the most infamous cases, the Martin preschool case in CA. This made life miserable for several innocent people for about a decade. The kids told horrfic tales of SRA, underground tunnels, etc. but there was no substantiating evidence. Much was beyond credible belief but the social workers believed it because kids don't lie. Well, if they don't lie then they sure can fantasize. It is still untrue whether it is a fantasy or a lie.

As for knowledge, most of our church kids today are more knowledgeable of sexual things than their parents were as teenagers. It's all around them in the culture. You would be surprised what your kids know. Of course, they're probably not talking to you about it because they know you think they don't know. Even kiddie cartoons carry an amazing amount of sexual content. Kids talk among themselves and kids listen when adults talk. Don't be naive; the kids aren't.

Anna, your attitude of uncritical acceptance is dangerous. It is documented that even professional counselors and therapists fall into the trap of suggestion. On the other hand, I am NOT advocating disbelief or critical contradiction. One listens, encourages spontaneous revelation, and carefully questions. Judgment is reserved until enough verifiable facts are gathered to make a judgement (And I know mandatory reporting is when there is reason to believe that sexual abuse may have taken place and the reporter is not to make judgment whether or not it occurred; this is the domain of the authorities--I am well versed on the requirements).

Furthermore, counseling is not the answer of itself. After all, there are many contradictory schools of thought in counseling. The rash involvement of abused children in counseling may ensnare the person into a lifetime of ongoing psychotherapy. Many children naturally cope with the problem. This is an age-old problem but children handled it without psychotherapy for thousands of years. As humans, we are equipped with some mental tools to help us handle our emotions and hard situations. Studies show psychotherapy to be about as effective as the spontaneous remission rate. Yes, I'm saying that psychotherapy may extenuate the problem by reinforcing the emotional reactions. As believers, we have additional resources beyond the human resilience. Wise and godly parents are better counselors that most so-called professionals. In some cases, children may need pastors or Biblical counselors.

Disclaimer: Knowing how folks read into what one says or does not say, I would like to make the following statements:

  1. Child sexual abuse is real and it is everywhere including the Fundamentalist churches.
  2. Some individual pastors and churches have handled sexual abuse cases poorly in the past. We cannot impugn their motives without evidence because it may have been due to ignorance and lack of wisdom.
  3. Christians are to obey the reporting requirements because it is the right thing to do.
  4. Christians are to show compassion and support for a victim as well as insure the safety and well-being.
  5. Christians ought to avoid presumptive judgments until the evidence is gathered and evaluated. There are real incidences of sexual abuse and there are false allegations.
  6. Although Christians advocate punishment for the wrongdoer, they should show concern for his or her soul and welfare as well as his or her family who are victims of his or her sin as well.
  7. Christians should be actively committed and working to prevent child sexual abuse.
  8. Christians ought to beware of the views in the secular victim/recovery movement and realize that many of the ideas are not necessarily compatible with Biblical teaching. We must thoughtfully develop and articulate a Biblical view.
  9. My passion is to work toward a Biblical response to the horrendous sin of child sexual abuse.
Duane Braswell's picture

Blaming a victim of sexual abuse because they initiated a relationship with older men/even youth pastors is ridiculous. PERIOD.

Do we exonerate someone who shoots a child because the child was playing with a gun? Do we exonerate someone who burns a child because they were playing with matches? Do we exonerate someone who beats a child because the child hit them? Is it not abuse when a man puts a woman in the hospital. Yes, I know and have heard, ‘she hit me first.’

A Child abuser/Rapist is a sinner, period. If we want to hold onto the image we had of them, that is our own weakness and should not be directed to the victim. It is natural to want ask, "are you sure?" We do not want to believe that of ‘one of our own.’ Could have done such a thing.

Yet, DO NOT DO THAT. Do you not hear how that line of questioning ends up telling a victim that they are lying, untrustworthy. The passionate person with no control yells, “No you are lying!” And now the victim has been further victimized. Chances are the victim has been threatened with not being believed, asking that question gives the abuser credence. "Tell me what happened?" would be a better line of questioning. and following that up love and assurance that you value the victim. There is a great chance they withheld information and were just testing to see if you would believe them. IF you do not believe them, still ask more questions without a cynical nature, do not interrogate them. If you find it hard to believe then do report it immediately, find someone with experience to talk with them.

Do the promiscuous teens bent on attacking 'Godly Men' exist? I suppose, I have not met them in my experience. I have met adults with such a bent, but not a child. A 30 year old man has as much emotional and intellectual power over a teen as they have physical power. The promiscuous teen so often blamed is usually the victim of previous abuse, or just terrible training on what it is to be a young woman.

A Child is a child. PERIOD. Their parents encourage to become close to the youth pastor/pastor/Sunday School teacher/coach/teacher/uncle/step father/etc. I would sooner blame the parent for not protecting the child from a predator than the child for opening up their heart to an adult. I understand, their ‘opening up’ could be very sexual in nature. Our culture is saturated with sex equals love. A child, even a fully developed teen, does not understand their ‘sexuality.’ You can disagree with me, that is fine, but I would sooner take responsibility for the action as the pastor for failing to protect than blame the child who has been taught incorrect use of their God given body.

We are not talking about looking down someone’s shirt and blaming them for wearing it so low. We are talking about planned actions of deception that are executed. Even the most streetwise teen can not manipulate an adult male to that extent. It would be easier for the girl to physically defeat their rapist than for them to manipulate a 'godly man' into rape. What Bibles are we using that we forget Matt 18:6 and Luke 17:2? Their actions are not the result of the victim, James 1:14 IT is his own lusts, not the child’s schemes. A child opening their heart to an adult, even in the rare case where it is in a sexual manner, is NOT the sin, the abuse is the sin.

He who created us without our help will not save us without our consent. - Augustine

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Quote:
And so we can conclude that if a church has no one in its membership who has been sexually abused, that church probably hasn't been doing the work of the gospel. If we're bringing wounded sheep to the Good Shepherd, membership won't be uniform, and these cases will exist.

Just want to caution about what stats--even good ones--mean. If you have any kind of "average" calculation (as in, [URL=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arithmetic_mean ]mean[/URL ]), the reality is that there are not necessarily any "average" cases. Rather, the individuals/groups involved can usually be mapped on something that resembles a bell curve so you have a fair number of exceptional cases at either end and a bunch in the middle. This is if your sample is large enough.

To be more concrete, you can have 5 people in a room and calculate that their average age 21. But it is possible that none of them are even close to 21 in age (like, roughly age 10, age 10, age 11, age 40 and age 35).

So even if the national averages are accurate, there will be some churches, towns, villages, maybe even whole states or regions that are way above or way below "average."

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Jonathan Charles's picture

When a minor is sexually assaulted, that minor's identity is not disclosed by the press or police. How should a church handle a situation if that minor also wants her/his anonymity preserved in the church? It definitely should be done, but in a small church context, how would you handle the proneness people have to talk, speculate? How can the whole church rally around a child who wants to remain the unknown victim of a predator within the church? Would you just seek to let a few people who might minister to the victim in on it and swear them to silence. Or if the victim wants it to go no further than the pastor and his wife, just have the pastor's family minister to the victim? I know the answers to these questions; it just occurred to me that often victims do want to remain unknown and churches have to respect that.

RPittman's picture

Duane Braswell wrote:
Blaming a victim of sexual abuse because they initiated a relationship with older men/even youth pastors is ridiculous. PERIOD.

Do we exonerate someone who shoots a child because the child was playing with a gun? Do we exonerate someone who burns a child because they were playing with matches? Do we exonerate someone who beats a child because the child hit them? Is it not abuse when a man puts a woman in the hospital. Yes, I know and have heard, ‘she hit me first.’

A Child abuser/Rapist is a sinner, period. If we want to hold onto the image we had of them, that is our own weakness and should not be directed to the victim. It is natural to want ask, "are you sure?" We do not want to believe that of ‘one of our own.’ Could have done such a thing.

Yet, DO NOT DO THAT. Do you not hear how that line of questioning ends up telling a victim that they are lying, untrustworthy. The passionate person with no control yells, “No you are lying!” And now the victim has been further victimized. Chances are the victim has been threatened with not being believed, asking that question gives the abuser credence. "Tell me what happened?" would be a better line of questioning. and following that up love and assurance that you value the victim. There is a great chance they withheld information and were just testing to see if you would believe them. IF you do not believe them, still ask more questions without a cynical nature, do not interrogate them. If you find it hard to believe then do report it immediately, find someone with experience to talk with them.

Do the promiscuous teens bent on attacking 'Godly Men' exist? I suppose, I have not met them in my experience. I have met adults with such a bent, but not a child. A 30 year old man has as much emotional and intellectual power over a teen as they have physical power. The promiscuous teen so often blamed is usually the victim of previous abuse, or just terrible training on what it is to be a young woman.

A Child is a child. PERIOD. Their parents encourage to become close to the youth pastor/pastor/Sunday School teacher/coach/teacher/uncle/step father/etc. I would sooner blame the parent for not protecting the child from a predator than the child for opening up their heart to an adult. I understand, their ‘opening up’ could be very sexual in nature. Our culture is saturated with sex equals love. A child, even a fully developed teen, does not understand their ‘sexuality.’ You can disagree with me, that is fine, but I would sooner take responsibility for the action as the pastor for failing to protect than blame the child who has been taught incorrect use of their God given body.

We are not talking about looking down someone’s shirt and blaming them for wearing it so low. We are talking about planned actions of deception that are executed. Even the most streetwise teen can not manipulate an adult male to that extent. It would be easier for the girl to physically defeat their rapist than for them to manipulate a 'godly man' into rape. What Bibles are we using that we forget Matt 18:6 and Luke 17:2? Their actions are not the result of the victim, James 1:14 IT is his own lusts, not the child’s schemes. A child opening their heart to an adult, even in the rare case where it is in a sexual manner, is NOT the sin, the abuse is the sin.

No one has a problem in condemning the perpetrator. He or she (Although most sexual abuse is by men, a percentage is by women. Several recent sensational incidents involve female teachers with their JHS male students.) is wrong PERIOD! However, your reasoning is specious.

  1. No one is trying to defend or exonerate the adult perpetrator. It is sin and wrong! No one is denying that he or she should be punished.
  2. The victim, so-called, may have culpability and guilt as well as the perpetrator. What about the soliciting of a teen prostitute? Now, back the argument up from there.
  3. Your analogy of a child playing with a gun is somewhat misappropriated. If you were a NY policemen and a 12-year-old gang member was aiming a zip gun at your head, would you shoot him? Soldiers in Viet Nam shot kids who were shooting at them. Kids can pull triggers as well as have sex.

We seem to be ignoring the moral accountability of even children (Proverbs 20:11). Is it sin if a twelve year old girl offers herself for sexual relations to a twelve year old boy? (While sitting in a doctor's office waiting room, I once saw this sickening TV show interview with elementary school children who were having sex.) Well, is it sin if she does the same with a twenty-one year old man? Please explain.

RPittman's picture

Jonathan Charles wrote:
When a minor is sexually assaulted, that minor's identity is not disclosed by the press or police. How should a church handle a situation if that minor also wants her/his anonymity preserved in the church? It definitely should be done, but in a small church context, how would you handle the proneness people have to talk, speculate? How can the whole church rally around a child who wants to remain the unknown victim of a predator within the church? Would you just seek to let a few people who might minister to the victim in on it and swear them to silence. Or if the victim wants it to go no further than the pastor and his wife, just have the pastor's family minister to the victim? I know the answers to these questions; it just occurred to me that often victims do want to remain unknown and churches have to respect that.
Most states do not allow confidential privileges for clergy. There are mandatory reporting requirements. However, it is not necessary to bring it before the church. Everyone does not need to know--this is only gossip value. Confidences should be on a need-to-basis. For example, the child's teacher may need to know in order to deal with emotional issues or phobias.

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

Bro. Farnham mentioned the tactics predators use to exploit their victims- I think that an understanding of these tactics could be tremendously helpful when dealing with the victim of a molestation/assault. These situations don't arise out of the blue- it takes time for a predator to groom his/her victim (let's not forget that boys can be victimized as well by a man or woman). In a church situation, the element of trust is often assumed- IOW, the kids and the parents assume that the church has done it's homework in choosing Sunday School teachers, camp counselors, youth leaders and chaperones for activities. Are our churches really making sure that the people they place in charge of children are not just knowledgeable of Scripture, but also of good character? 'Cause let's face it- kids do develop intimate and affectionate relationships with their teachers and counselors, and there is nothing wrong with that on the face of it, unless the person in charge is exploiting that trust for their own ends.

In a [URL=http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/04/080417163856.htm nutshel[/URL ]l-

Quote:
According to the researchers, in order for the process of entrapment to take place, the perpetrator must first gain access to the potential victim through various exploitive means. Olson and her team identified several communicative elements in the cycle of entrapment, including the core phenomenon of "deceptive trust development." Deceptive trust development describes the predator's ability to build a trusting relationship with the victim in order to improve the likelihood of sexual encounter.

Deceptive trust development is central to other manipulative strategies used by the predator such as grooming. Grooming sets the stage for abuse by desensitizing the victim to sexual contact. Grooming may include activities such as sitting on a child's bed and watching them get into their bedclothes; "accidentally" touching the child inappropriately; showing the child pornographic images; and making contact or sex play with implicit sexual suggestions.

As perpetrators are grooming their victims and building deceptive trust, they also work to isolate them both physically and emotionally from their support network. Isolation strategies may include offers to baby sit, giving the child a ride home, and taking advantage of fragile family and friend relationships. Isolation causes the victim to become more and more dependent on the perpetrator.

A third strategy is approach, which is the initial physical contact or verbal lead-ins that occur just prior to the sexual act. Examples of approach strategies include suggestions to play sex games, more explicit discussions about sexual issues, giving a child a "rubdown," bathing or undressing a child, and instigating wrestling and other physical games as a means to escalate sexual physical contact.


Are these tactics being used because of our ignorance in our churches? What are the kids doing for entertainment at activities- are they watching movies with sexual content? Playing games like "Baby, do you love me?" Are there games where girls encouraged to smear their youth leader head to toe with shaving cream? How are youth worker/teacher relationships with children from fragile/dysfunctional families supervised? Why do some churches even have mixed gender overnight activities?

Bro. Pittman- in Bro. Duane's 'defense', I don't think he's aiming at anyone in this thread per se, but at the incidents where churches have 'circled the wagons' around the perpetrator and left the victim to fend for themselves. I think the underlying thought is that if one church leader is exposed as a lecherous creep, then the whole kit-n-caboodle will collapse. But sin unacknowledged and unpunished always seems to blossom into something pervasive and destructive.

BTW, this isn't just a problem in churches, but in schools as well. It's called "[URL=http://www.rd.com/your-america-inspiring-people-and-stories/sexual-preda... passing the trash[/URL ]".

RPittman's picture

There many apparent assumptions in our discussions. Whereas it is true that most sexual abusers are male, there is a significant percentage of female abusers. Newspaper headlines have revealed female teachers who had sex with their male students this past year. Also, sexual abuse is not necessarily adult abuse on children but there is a significant percentage of child on child abuse. Many of the children abusers have been abused themselves and perpetrate what happened to them at home on other children at school. A child, who left my school, returned after being abused by another student at a different school. Thus, we cannot assume that abusers are always male and adults.

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

RPittman wrote:
There many apparent assumptions in our discussions. Whereas it is true that most sexual abusers are male, there is a significant percentage of female abusers. Newspaper headlines have revealed female teachers who had sex with their male students this past year. Also, sexual abuse is not necessarily adult abuse on children but there is a significant percentage of child on child abuse. Many of the children abusers have been abused themselves and perpetrate what happened to them at home on other children at school. A child, who left my school, returned after being abused by another student at a different school. Thus, we cannot assume that abusers are always male and adults.

I think sometimes we talk from what is statistically most probable, knowing that there are exceptions. In all the books I have on the subject, the male pronoun is used when referring to the perpetrators of sexual crimes because they are overwhelmingly adult males, but those statistics are increasingly changing. And if we think girls are further victimized because they aren't believed, just try being a boy who feels victimized by the sexual advances of an older woman.

RPittman's picture

Jay C. wrote:
Anna Walker wrote:
The first thing to do when someone comes to you with suspected abuse is to involve the authorities. It is not your place as a pastor or other Christian leader to decide if the claims are true. I am in the middle of an open investigation with my childhood rapist. My detective was very alarmed when I gave my affidavit at the number of mandatory reporters who did not report. Two of them in particular are or will be in serious legal hot water because of their failure to report.

I CANNOT emphasize this enough. While I haven't been abused, I know of family members who have been and the utter failure on the part of the pastor to report what was clearly ongoing, graphic abuse has utterly destroyed any relationship that I could have had with the Pastor. I still can't understand why he didn't do report it, and it's been at least three years since I found out. Fortunately, the victim has started getting the help she so desperately needed.

The hardest part for me personally has been knowing when to step back once the report is made. I doubt that I'm the only one who would like to be the judge, jury and executioner when abuse situations come up in the course of personal/pastoral counseling.

Jay, I am assuming the referenced events happened sometime ago. The mindset and thinking has changed over time. Failure to follow a specific course of action, especially in the not-so-recent past, is hard to judge. Public viewpoints and opinions of acceptable action changes with time. Within memory, the thinking in these situations was to protect the ministry. Although this is no longer an acceptable view, it did seem the right perspective at one time. When judging others, we have to consider what they faced and did with context. Furthermore, many pastors and leaders were uninformed and simply didn't know what to do. We don't know what mental anguish they went through to arrive at a decision. In such cases, it is best "not to judge a man until you have walked a day in his shoes."

Jay, my frustration is that we are living in bitterness, vindictiveness and recriminations about the past. I'm more concerned about the present and future. Let's get to work on curtailing and preventing sexual abuse from occurring. What do you say?

RPittman's picture

Susan wrote:
Bro. Pittman- in Bro. Duane's 'defense', I don't think he's aiming at anyone in this thread per se, but at the incidents where churches have 'circled the wagons' around the perpetrator and left the victim to fend for themselves. I think the underlying thought is that if one church leader is exposed as a lecherous creep, then the whole kit-n-caboodle will collapse. But sin unacknowledged and unpunished always seems to blossom into something pervasive and destructive.
Okay, thank you, Susan, for your observation. Duane, please forgive me if my response was overly heated (I am passionate but not malicious) or misconstrued your meaning. Please allow me to moderate and restate my intent. I basically agree with your post but I wanted to give it balance by emphasizing that even a child does bear responsibility for his or her behavior. Of course, this does NOT justify or excuse any sexual abuser. Furthermore, I am not in agreement with "circle the wagons" mentality. I wasn't in agreement when it was the accepted strategy to protect the ministry. I got myself in plenty trouble then by speaking up as I have a way of doing now. Smile

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Y'all, call me Victorian but we don't need to discuss the details of arousal OK? Let's focus on what pastors and churches can do to deal w/this problem and/or prevent it.

Also, let's shift focus a bit here. We can all agree that kids are sinners, too but in these cases the vast majority of them do not involve guilt on the kid's part. So though it is possible where much older kids are involved, it's rare and is not where the emphasis belongs.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

RPittman's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:
Y'all, call me Victorian but we don't need to discuss the details of arousal OK? Let's focus on what pastors and churches can do to deal w/this problem and/or prevent it.

Also, let's shift focus a bit here. We can all agree that kids are sinners, too but in these cases the vast majority of them do not involve guilt on the kid's part. So though it is possible where much older kids are involved, it's rare and is not where the emphasis belongs.

YES, we talk and talk but we show little interest, commitment and action in working toward prevention. Whereas we cannot ignore the past abuses, there is nothing we can do to change what's already done, except comfort the victims. We can take steps for prevention!

  1. Every ministry needs a written set of enforcible sexual abuse prevention policies and procedures that are periodically reviewed, assessed, and updated.
  2. Each ministry should give annual training to all staff and ministry workers in organizational policies and procedures, recognition of abuse signs, mandatory reporting requirements, recognizing situations conducive to abuse, etc.
  3. The ministry needs rigorous guidelines and a vigorous action plan for reports of abuse.
  4. The problem of child sexual abuse needs to be kept high profile. Light and exposure drives away the vermin that love darkness.
  5. Heightened awareness and eternal vigilance are the keys to prevention.
Greg Long's picture

FWIW, Iowa law states that any time there is a "reasonable suspicion" of abuse it must be reported (although clergy and church volunteers are not mandatory reporters in Iowa). A pastor--or "Response Team" in our child protection policy--are NOT the judge and jury, but they have a responsibility to discern whether or not there is a reasonable suspicion that abuse occurred. It is just as wrong to impugn the reputation of a church member by reporting an unreasonable accusation than it is to fail to report a reasonable suspicion of abuse.

HSAT, I'm sure there are far more instances of actual abuses going unreported in churches that there are of false accusations being reported. And our child protection policy states that all suspicions of abuse, misconduct, or policy deviations are to be reported to ministry leaders immediately. Then a Response Team is assembled to listen to the person making the report and to determine if the authorities should be notified (again, if there is a "reasonable suspicion" of abuse).

-------
Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

Louise Dan's picture

RPittman wrote:
Jay, my frustration is that we are living in bitterness, vindictiveness and recriminations about the past. I'm more concerned about the present and future. Let's get to work on curtailing and preventing sexual abuse from occurring. What do you say?

We have to be careful with this line of reasoning, because for every child who comes forward (or adult who was abused as a child), it was in "the past." Certainly we want to prevent such abuse. But we also have to have an answer better than "forgive and forget or you'll become bitter" for those who finally, maybe even decades later, come forward with past abuse against them. For some, just the simple statement, "You sinned against me" gets them labeled bitter and vindictive. We need something much better than just a reverse recrimination against the person who comes forward to say they were abused.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Quote:
We need something much better than just a reverse recrimination against the person who comes forward to say they were abused.

Well said. If anybody here disagrees with that, I'm not seeing it here in the thread.

What I am seeing is differing emphases based, probably, mostly on what they've experienced. Roland's point about focusing on future prevention isn't the same thing as "let's ignore the past," but rather let's not get stuck on past things once everything that can be done about them has been done.

Tomorrow's post focuses on dealing with the abuser and the church and touches on some of the things that come up in the thread here. We might close this thread to continue discussion there rather than continuing it in two places at once.
Thanks everyone for not going into discussion about what happened or didn't happen in Concord etc. We do appreciate that.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Jim's picture

Prevention is key

  • Training
  • Controls
  • Criminal background checks for all who work with youth
  • Reporting all abuse cases to legal authorities

Also suggest that pulpit committees require criminal background checks on prospective pastor before extending a call

Louise Dan's picture

We also need to inform our children. We need to teach them when it is right to say no to an adult. We sometimes give the impression to kids that they are to always obey all adults. But the over-obedient child afraid to question authority is set up for failure on this issue. Children need to understand that not all adults are safe. Along with this, we should teach children that if someone inappropriately touches them to KEEP telling a grown up again and again and again until someone believes them.

RPittman's picture

Louise Dan wrote:
RPittman wrote:
Jay, my frustration is that we are living in bitterness, vindictiveness and recriminations about the past. I'm more concerned about the present and future. Let's get to work on curtailing and preventing sexual abuse from occurring. What do you say?

We have to be careful with this line of reasoning, because for every child who comes forward (or adult who was abused as a child), it was in "the past." Certainly we want to prevent such abuse. But we also have to have an answer better than "forgive and forget or you'll become bitter" for those who finally, maybe even decades later, come forward with past abuse against them. For some, just the simple statement, "You sinned against me" gets them labeled bitter and vindictive. We need something much better than just a reverse recrimination against the person who comes forward to say they were abused.

I don't think that I said what you think I said or implied. I was just trying to counterbalance the excessive wallowing in anger and pity. Of course, I believe that we must punish the offenders and comfort the offended. Having worked in this area for a number of years, I think that I have a much more detailed counseling perspective than "simply forgive and forget." Do I appear that naive and clueless? Give me credit for some intelligence, please. I was simply expressing my frustration with the blame game that goes nowhere. That was it. Read the fifty plus posts and see that few addressed prevention. The scenarios that you describe in your post do NOT reflect my views or practice at all.

Jason's picture

Great post. It is mind-boggling that this needs to be said, but it obviously does. If you're reading and you doubt this approach, do Christ's church a favour and stop counselling until you've settled these issues. I'm dead serious.

RPittman's picture

Jim Peet wrote:
Prevention is key

  • Training
  • Controls
  • Criminal background checks for all who work with youth
  • Reporting all abuse cases to legal authorities

Also suggest that pulpit committees require criminal background checks on prospective pastor before extending a call

Jim, these are good steps in prevention. The criminal background checks are essential but I recommend going beyond them because many abusers have not been caught and convicted. Asking for knowledge of sexual abuse allegations on references and a personal worker's statement of no abuse allegations are supportive materials. However, it would surprise you, or perhaps not, that some churches do not even follow through on references. Churches are legally liable only for negligence because they are not guarantors of a child's safety. Negligence comes in the form of negligent hiring (i.e. failure to do background checks, follow up references, etc.) and negligent supervision. Negligent supervision is two-pronged in that it involves negligent supervision resulting in adult-on-child abuse as well as negligent supervision of children resulting in child-on-child abuse.

There are basically two type of sexual abusers, the serial abuser and the opportunistic abuser. Just checking references and criminal backgrounds will usually drive away the serial offender from one's ministry. These serial predators or pedophiles look for easy access to children in ministries that are slack and loosely run. On the other hand, opportunistic offenders are discouraged by a well organized and functional prevention program. A good prevention program minimizes opportunities for abuse. It utilizes everything from engineering controls, such as view windows in doors, to procedural requirements, such as the two adult rule. A well-trained staff recognizes potential situations as opportunities for abusive and takes appropriate preemptive action. ( "Kids, you can't play in that dark area underneath the stairs--come out and play in the open, lighted areas.")

RPittman's picture

Louise Dan wrote:
We also need to inform our children. We need to teach them when it is right to say no to an adult. We sometimes give the impression to kids that they are to always obey all adults. But the over-obedient child afraid to question authority is set up for failure on this issue. Children need to understand that not all adults are safe. Along with this, we should teach children that if someone inappropriately touches them to KEEP telling a grown up again and again and again until someone believes them.
This is definitely a parental failing. Oftentimes, the parents have exercised poor judgment or lack of judgment by trusting the abuser. When the abuse is occurring, they usually fail to pick up on the signs. Teaching children is an essential element of prevention. Again, balance must be maintained between being naively gullible and being absolutely fearful of everyone. It is hard to do and demands constant effort.

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