Helping Pastors Help The Victims of Sexual Abuse
In a recent blog post for Biblical Seminary’s Faculty Blog, Phil Monroe shared an anecdote from a meeting with a couple Christian prosecutors from at least five different states. Not a single one of the prosecutors could remember a time when a pastor attended hearings in support of a victim of sexual abuse, however they all remembered numerous times when those pastors came out in support of the accused offender.
On the surface level, it is easy to understand how this happens. Rarely are victims asked to prove their strength of character or moral fiber, whereas accused offenders often look to clear their reputation by showing their upstanding position in the community. Who better to ask than your pastor?
Sadly, these decision to support accused offenders regularly while not reaching out to offer support to the victims of sexual abuse highlights a clear failing on the part of the church and sends a bad message to the victim. As one of the prosecutors recalled to Monroe, one child, upon seeing the pastor sitting with the offender, asked the lawyer, “Does this mean that God is on his side?”
This is far from a new issue, and the church’s response to sexual abuse allegations has been an increasingly troublesome problem for churchgoers and staff alike. Along with the regular questions that arise during high profile sexual abuse scandals, such as concerns of how to protect your congregation, many churches are also dealing with members who have suffered abuse or are accused of abusing another person, and they don’t have to always be there to support an accused child abuser, even when past interactions give you the opinion that the accused is “a good person.”
Monroe shared a document suggesting 12 ways a pastor, or really any religious leader, can work in a multidisciplinary team towards healing and preventing the sexual abuse of children. They aren’t complicated and can be easily implemented in even the smallest of churches to help protect the congregation.
We all know the Church isn’t responsible for the actual abuse that occurs to children, but we are responsible if we stand in the way of actively protecting the children involved. We need to act more to protect children and show them the protection of the lord rather than defending accused offenders. As Monroe says, “It is time for us to improve the image of the church in the protection and care of victims of abuse.”