Following yesterday’s “Ostrich Chronicles” post, I had a couple of direct questions…one fairly simple, the other more complicated.
Let’s start with complicated.
Several people raised the issue of false accusations. How do we deal with over-reporting of abuse, particularly with students who get angry with adults and use accusations against them? How do we guard against such false accusations?
Keep in mind that certain people, including church staff, are (or should be) considered MANDATORY REPORTERS of abuse allegations. There isn’t a choice for some of us; and even if there was, conscience and any shred of integrity should move us to do SOMETHING. Most of the examples in yesterday’s post demonstrated concern for everyone other than the victim(s), both now and in the future.
It is disheartening that I have witnessed this very thing happen, and it is absolutely tragic. Both were exonerated and cleared, thank goodness. But in the one case I encountered in the church, a very simple guideline that I listed yesterday would have solved the problem: Make sure that you have two adults in every classroom!
Unfortunately, I was just a young intern at the church and had little knowledge that this was not being implemented. However, this painful incident taught me a lifelong lesson.
That rule makes sure that both the adult and the children are protected. If an adult witness can say, “That didn’t happen, and here’s why I know it,” then everyone is significantly safer and more protected. It is also much less likely than an abuser can act if there is a credible adult witness.
I also believe that under-reporting is a much larger issue than over-reporting. No one is saying that the investigations shouldn’t be thorough before action is taken, nor should it be assumed that anyone is guilty without due diligence. But when we witness church staff “circling the wagons” to protect their buddies and reputations rather than the children in their care, it’s time to become a lot more proactive on the side of possible victims.
Finally, all of the guidelines listed were present to protect all parties involved with ministry to the most vulnerable. If those are implemented, it greatly decreases the chance for a problem to occur.
The easier question—at least at first—involves links from the post. Since some of you had trouble following those, I am listing the links here for you to read. I would warn you that some of what you will read is gut-wrenching to the point of heartbreaking.
Rachel Held Evans’ series on abuse in the church:
Jamie the “Very Worst Missionary” on human trafficking:
Brent Detweiler, former founding minister with Sovereign Grace Ministries, on the Southern Baptist resolution regarding sexual abuse:
Recently, courts dismissed a large portion of a lawsuit against a Christian organization called Sovereign Grace Ministries and their former leader, CJ Mahaney. Details of the lawsuit involving SGM, support that SGM ministers have received from Christian leaders, and responses to that myopic support:
Evans’ blog on Hannah Ettinger, former SGM member, and details of what might be called “spiritual” abuse in the church:
Prestonwood Baptist is a 32,000-member church in Texas. Their pastor, Jack Graham, has been a President and invited speaker at the Southern Baptist Convention.
In 1989, allegedly one month into Graham’s tenure, Prestonwood dismissed minister John Langworthy in light of allegations that he sexually abused children. None of this was reported, and Langworthy recently pled guilty to crimes in Mississippi. Here are the details, including the allegations of a cover-up by former members and advocates: