Dealing with Sexual abuse in the church

http://www.worldmag.com/2013/10/the_high_cost_of_negligence/page1

 

After years of being a member of SI, I am finally starting a thread.  The above article is important for all of us, but especially those of us who are pastors.  I have met and several conversations with the lady in the article.  Her story is very tragic, and yet, she has still kept her faith.  I know we have discussed this issue at length, but this article sheds light and I believe is an important one for us to discuss.

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Julie Anne's picture

Roger, thank you for posting this article and speaking out about this important issue.  

Mr. O'Malley, her father's former board director is a real hero in my mind.  He may have been instrumental in helping her to "save" her faith:

By the morning of the sentencing hearing, Jennifer gathered in a local hotel with a small group of friends who traveled to Florida to support her. One was John O’Malley, the director of her father’s former mission board. The board dismissed Jennifer’s father from the ministry around the time of her police report, and O’Malley came to Florida to offer personal support.

O’Malley reminded her of the passage in Mark 7 when Jesus astonished a community by healing a man who was mute. “For years you’ve had no voice,” O’Malley told her. “For years no one listened to you. I believe that will change today. I believe the community will hear.”

I deal with people who didn't have anyone like Mr. O'Malley.  When they come to me, they are often dealing with two abuses:  the initial sexual abuse and then the abuse of being virtually abandoned by church leaders who should have immediately come to their aid and defended/protected them.  Many of the people I deal with want nothing more to do with church.  They may or may not even want Christianity, the pain is so severe.  In their minds, if their godly shepherd abandoned them and he is supposed to be in a position of trust and represents Christ, then where was God in all of this?  

 

 

rogercarlson's picture

Thanks Julie,

 

This was a well written article and I am suprised that the subject did not get more traction.

 

Roger Carlson, Pastor
Berean Baptist Church

Julie Anne's picture

This was a well written article and I am suprised that the subject did not get more traction.

Sadly, I'm not.   Usually it's not until abuse hits close to home that people get it.  When they see the emotional and spiritual fallout, they might get more of a reality check.  Roger, I'm sure that connecting with the woman in the article made it more real for you.   That is wonderful that you were able to hear her story and offer support.

rogercarlson's picture

Julie,

I have been vocal on this ever since things came to light a couple of years ago.  I have not stopped.  I hope many of my colleagues have changed their attitude regarding reporting vs. dealing with things internally.  I think for many it has, and my desire is all of us do so. 

I think the reason things are quiet on this one is probably fatigue.  The issue has been dealt with.  But I do believe that this article raises issues to the forefront again and is worthy of discussion.  Obviously, others do not agree.  Smile

 

Roger Carlson, Pastor
Berean Baptist Church

Mark_Smith's picture

For me personally, I can't imagine a person who says they are called of God to minister the gospel of Jesus Christ, and when someone bravely comes to them and tells them that they have been molested or taken advantage of sexually, to tell that person to forgive the accuser and to move on. I am incredulous about that. A FELONY IS A FELONY. You don't simply "forgive" that and move on. Someone goes to jail. I realize Paul says for Christians to not go to court against each other, but in my mind that is for things like financial grievances. Crimes are another thing and must be brought to the attention of the police and followed through on.

So, I find it hard to believe that ministers and school representatives actually did that. It breaks my heart to think that it has happened.

In the high profile cases I have heard of (Chuck Phelps for example) I personally would've followed up more as the pastor and I certainly wouldn't let a person who I knew abused a teenage girl sit in the pew like nothing happened. 

All I can say is if I hear of such things I will aggressively follow through to protect the person.

 

The main problem I see is, what if the initial situation is not as clean as hindsight suggests? A teenage girl says she WILLINGLY had sex with an adult...or initiated it. Hard to believe? What if the person doesn't want you to report it to the authorities? Must you morally even if not legally required to? I suspect both of these questions were on Chuck Phelps mind when he acted as he did. It is certainly a difficult situation and decision.

Julie Anne's picture

I appreciate your efforts in keeping this topic more visible, Roger.

I have a lot of opinions on this topic.  One is the legal aspect of mandatory reporting by pastors.  I do not understand why there is a clergy loophole.  In my church situation, my former pastor was within his legal rights to not report the sex abuse case he clearly knew about.  If he lived in OK, he could have been arrested for not reporting.  After a member left the church and reported the situation, CPS came in and investigated, charged the juvenile with multiple counts of sex abuse, he was convicted and served time.  My pastor thought he could take care of this.  With the pastor's full knowledge, the perpetrator lived in same house in which the crimes took place against the perpetrator's siblings.  

Another hot topic for me is the ongoing care of the victim.  Many pastors and well-meaning people are very quick to hurry up the healing process, telling the victim to forgive and get over it.  If the victim does not forgive on the pastor's timetable, then the victim can be pressured that she is in sin for having an unforgiving spirit.  Recovery process is not overnight.

Mark_Smith's picture

Why do you think the pastor was covering this up? Thinking the Bible says to not go to court? The potential embarrassment once the word got out? What do you think? Not looking for gossip but genuinely wondering why a man who accepts the job of shepherd of the sheep would let something like this happen to one of his flock.

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

There should never be a question of reporting accusations of illegal conduct. Confidentiality is not an excuse. Sexual abuse violates God's laws and man's laws. Even if the offender is also a minor, for them to be committing such crimes indicates that they are damaged as well. No one is protected or healed by covering up these crimes. 

 

rogercarlson's picture

Mark,

I appreciate your interaction.  One thing to remember, statitory rape is still a crime.  The adult has to be held accountable.  It is important to remember that when a minor is sexually aggressive with an adult, usually they have already been abused.

Why are these covered up?  Well, I think some of what you ask is the case.  Those who I have talked to who have been involved in these issues said that the biggest thing was the pastor was worried about reproach to the ministry.  I am not saying I agree, because I do not.  The scary thing is some of the cases I am thinking of, the pastor castigated the Catholic church.  At these the Catholic's kept track of where they criminal priests went.  Some in our camp, just let the criminal leave quietly to go to another church.

Roger Carlson, Pastor
Berean Baptist Church

Julie Anne's picture

Mark_Smith wrote:

Why do you think the pastor was covering this up? Thinking the Bible says to not go to court? The potential embarrassment once the word got out? What do you think? Not looking for gossip but genuinely wondering why a man who accepts the job of shepherd of the sheep would let something like this happen to one of his flock.

 

Mark, this was not a pastor, but a wolf.  The issue of going to court didn't matter to this guy, he sued me for defamation when I wrote a negative Google review about how dangerous this church was.  A pastor shepherds, a wolf devours and his primary objective is creating an environment in which he is in control with people admiring him.  

I've been studying this for years now.  A wolf is very sneaky.  They can say one thing with their mouths, but their behavior is what outs them.  A wolf is preoccupied with his image and the image of "their" church.  The use their position of authority to control others and act like the church is theirs and not God's.  These are very dangerous people.  There is little to no accountability, no transparency, they lack humility, etc.  

This is how you can tell the difference between a wolf and a shepherd in abuse cases.  A shepherd's concern is about the soul and emotional/physical well-being of the oppressed - just like Jesus was.  

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

This is not just a church problem, it is a cultural problem. What is accepted in our culture eventually leaks into the church if we are not vigilant. 

The Washington Post - Sexual Misconduct Plagues US Schools

Slate -  How Many Kids are Sexually Abused by Their Teachers? (probably millions)

BreitbartControversial California Bill Exempts Public Schools from Sex Abuse Lawsuits

USATodayExperts debate impact, gray areas of adult-child sex

Predators go where the prey is, and if someone is a child predator, they will position themselves in a place of authority, trust, and influence over children. The most obvious places are day care centers, schools, and churches.