Isn’t it sad that abuse victims would have to fear retaliation by religious leaders? Yet, I’ve heard this same fear expressed by quite a lot of abuse survivors. It’s not at all unusual.
In fairness, I don’t personally believe that the particular Southern Baptist official who was involved this time would have been one to retaliate. But I nevertheless consider this to be a legitimate fear for Baptist abuse survivors.
After all, what are Baptist abuse survivors supposed to think when they see the head of a Baptist seminary calling a victims’ support group “evil-doers”?
[SNAP’s founder said that, in almost 20 years time, no church official in any other faith group had ever before called SNAP "evil." It took a Southern Baptist leader to stoop that low.]And what are Baptist abuse survivors supposed to think when they see a former Southern Baptist president saying that the survivors’ support network is “just as reprehensible as sex criminals”?
What are Baptist abuse survivors supposed to think when they see the current Southern Baptist president publicly castigate the victims’ support group as being “opportunistic persons”?
What are Baptist abuse survivors supposed to think when they see that the long-time attorney for the largest state-wide Baptist organization in the country will threaten to sue the victim who brings a substantiated report of abuse, rather than doing anything about the perpetrator?
What are Baptist abuse survivors supposed to think when they see that a survivor who attends an SBC committee meeting gets called “a person of no integrity” while every other committee member sits silent and allows it?
What are Baptist abuse survivors supposed to think when, over and over again, they write to state and national denominational officials and their letters are ignored or treated dismissively…while their perpetrators remain in their pulpits?
And then there are the retaliatory threats that the clergy-perpetrators themselves have made. Many victims were told that they will “burn in hell,” that they will be “crucified,” that they will be killed, that their siblings will be hurt, or that they will be “ruined.” Then, while the victims ponder those threats, they watch their perpetrators continue to stand in pulpits and other religious leaders do nothing.
So why shouldn’t Baptist abuse survivors believe that Southern Baptist officials are more likely to hurt than help?
When Southern Baptist officials can realistically answer that last question and can show abuse survivors why they should turn to them for help, then perhaps abuse survivors will begin to stop fearing them.
When Southern Baptist officials can point to what they are actually doing to help abuse survivors, instead of what they are merely preaching, then perhaps abuse survivors will slowly begin to trust them.
Of course, Southern Baptist officials will also need to stop with the trash-talk, and they owe some apologies. But I’m not holding my breath.
For now, I think the instinct of most abuse survivors is exactly right: Southern Baptist officials are more likely to hurt than help.