Friday, July 18, 2008

What should I tell them?

“Tom Robbins has become the face of the Archdiocese of Louisville for people who continue to come forward and report their abuse,” said the Louisville Courier-Journal in recounting the history of Catholic clergy abuse claims in Kentucky.

As I read the words of the article, I literally ached, thinking of all the people who have contacted me, asking who they could report a Baptist perpetrator to.

What should I tell them?

Who is “the face” of the Southern Baptist Convention for people who want to come forward and report Baptist clergy sex abuse? Who will hear the cries of the 90 percent whose cases cannot be criminally prosecuted?

For Baptist abuse survivors, there is no “face.” There is no one.

It hurts even to say such a thing. And yet it’s true.

A few days ago, I got still another email from a man asking who else he could try for reporting the Baptist minister who abused him as a kid.

What should I tell him?

I’m not about to send him to anyone at the SBC in Nashville. I’ve seen too many of their terse responses that sermonize on forgiveness and instruct on autonomous polity.

And I’m not about to tell him to go to the Baptist General Convention of Texas. Why would I put any abuse survivor through the hell of that organization’s duplicitous do-nothingness?

Besides, over and over again, the BGCT has told abuse survivors to “go to the church.” Rather than helping the person who reports abuse, they send the person to the den of the very wolf who abused them. It’s crazy.

It’s also extremely hurtful for victims. Reporting sexual abuse is painful, and reporting to a hostile environment makes it unbearably so.

For those trying to report priest abuse in Louisville, “the experience is so traumatic for some that they become ill on the steps" to Robbins' office.

“The walk up those stairs… is a heroic walk,” said Robbins.

At least for those who report priest abuse in Louisville, there is a “face” at the end of that “heroic walk.” There is a person who will compassionately hear them and who will look into the matter.

For those who want to report Baptist clergy abuse, there is no one.

Baptist victims are no less traumatized by sexual abuse, and they are no less heroic when they seek to report it. The difference is that there is no one in the Baptist faith community who will hear them.

“Am I having to relive everything for no reason?” That’s what another emailer asked.

He wants to help protect others, but if there’s no system for reviewing abuse reports, and if no one will do anything anyway, he wonders why he should keep putting himself through the misery of trying.

What should I tell him?

9 comments:

John said...

Christa,
Not to be over simplistic, just please do what you do the best. Tell him the truth and then offer him your amazing network of supporters. It is almost like a network for suvivors needs to be set up so that some local support is there for the victims on a day to day basis.
You are absolutely correct about not sending him to the local church.There is a scripture that warns us "not to cast pearls before swine." These precious jewels [victims] need to avoid the wolf's den, not be thrown into it.
John Harrison

Phyllis Gregory said...

Christa,
Tell him the truth then grieve with him over his loss and your own. Unfortunately, you alone cannot do that by yourself with every victim you come in contact.

This is where a nation-wide organized support group could come in play. I really know nothing about SNAP BAPTIST or BAPTIST SNAP or whatever it is called, but I do believe this is where healing could begin for many victims of SBC clergy abuse. I think your blog and Dee's blog (http://www.takecourage.org/blog/) are wonderful, but you two can only do so much. I believe organized groups started in cities across America could become very powerful.

Now maybe this is already happening and I just don't know about it. If that is so, great, but please create a list of places and people that victims could contact.

Just a thought. Take care.

Phyllis

Christa Brown said...

Thanks for suggesting I post this, Phyllis. Here is a link to the local SNAP groups where clergy abuse survivors can find support and help: http://www.snapnetwork.org/snap_regional_offices/snap_local_westcoast.htm

Though SNAP was started by Catholic abuse survivors and its membership is predominantly Catholic, the wounds are the same, and I urge survivors to seek out help through a local support group.

Kathryn said...

I read everything on your site. As a former victim of domestic violence of almost 25 years...it was not without the knowledge of my (then) senior pastor. However, it was always implied it was my fault. I needed to pray more, fast more, "fit into my husbands plans", be more submissive....plus 101 other things.

We were both ordained into the ministry and most of our career was outside the USA. Once we moved back the bottom of my life fell out. Police intervened...and there was a drastic positve change. Jump ahead a while........

I'm VERY happily remarried, and for the first time in my adult life know I'm truly living within a safe environment. Yet....there are still times I wonder how any "pastor" can condone uncontolled rage and consider it "correcting" the wife.

I'm not talking about a slap (although, that should also NEVER be tolerated)...over the course of the years, I've had a broken eye-socket, broken jaw, broken collar bone, numerous broken ribs, and more concussions than I can count.

So after almost 25 yrs of marriage to the abuser, I was left with the clothes on my back, my briefcase and new Sheltie puppy....and significant health issues.

Let me back up a bit...I should let you know that as leadership, we were required to sit in a certain area. One Sunday morning I was called out publically, and was told it "it may be better if you find another place to worship. You have been in rebellion against your husband's authority..." There was more....but I was so devestated, I just got up and walked out. This was almost 3 yrs ago...and I do NOT trust the "church"...this has affected every area of my life.

There is NEVER an excuse for violence...NEVER.

John Harrison said...

Kathryn,

How sad your story makes me. I was a pastor for 35 years and met men[?] like your former husband. I found that they were so caught up in themselves that besides being a husband they were also a "man[?] of God". Somehow they saw this a right to not only rule but to ruin. No amount of reasoning or Bible discussion ever did any good. I soon learned that the only thing you can do with a religious zealot is to get away or destroy.
I am so glad you have found some happiness in your life. Please enjoy God's grace to its fullest.
To answer your question about how they do it and how church members can condone it I remind you of Paul's great statement about these, "Lord deliver me from unreasonable and wicked people".
God bless you, [not the "church".

John Harrison

Christa Brown said...

Kathryn,
Welcome here! And thank you for sharing a piece of your story. Violence is violence is violence is violence. Cloaking it with "religion" doesn't change that reality... as your own broken bones attest to.

Your story is a sad example of why the "biblical womanhood" teachings of men like Bruce Ware are so dangerous. Those sorts of teachings have a terrible impact on the lives of real people.

You escaped! Physically and mentally! I'm so happy for you!

gmommy of the "RRR" said...

Kathryn,
Good for you that you not only got away but have allowed yourself to love and trust again.
That took courage! I hope God will restore the years the locusts stole:)
Thank you for sharing with us.

I keep thinking about how Jesus treated women and children when He was here. It's the way I cope with the saddness I feel when I hear stories like Kathryn's...or even Dr Klouda's.
Kathryn's husband, her pastor, Paige Patterson, and all the good ol boys have totally forgotten His example.
They demand women obey God's Word but they don't even know it.

Christa Brown said...

"...but they don't even know it."

Amen, gmommy, sister of the RRR!

Anonymous said...

You know, the way I see it is this:

It is time for ALL abuse survivors of Baptist clergy to stand up and unite for the cause that Christa and her colleagues have been lending a strong voice to for a while now.

If the Baptist Hierarchy will stand by and do NOTHING to save children at risk, then blitz the internet with these stories about how you have tried to get help from them but no one has listened.

Blitz the internet with your story of horror regarding your Baptist Predator (and use his name)!

Create your own power since no one else will do it for you!

We live in a technological age where any one of us can create our own websites or blogs to voice facts about our abusers. How fearful would you abuser be if he Googled himself and found his name showing up as a reported Baptist predator?

How happy would the leaders of your past, or current, congregation be if your story, with their names, showed up on Google for all to see? If they won't help, they are just as guilty as the 'god-fearing' man who raped you. They need to be exposed for their misdeeds also.

In the end, SHAMING THESE PEOPLE may be all that we can do. If enough survivors band together to SHAME each others perpetrators and other religious leaders asked to help but chose not to, then maybe lasting, and positive, change will occur!

This may be the only power we, as survivors, have in a neverending quest for justice. It may also be read by a parent who knows your perpetrator and who will now be very cautious with their children.

For me, I DARE my Baptist Predator to sue me for creating such a factual blog/website (should I decide to do so which I am seriously considering). I would LOVE to go to court and present my story, along with all documented facts and witnesses. Fact is, he doesn't want to go to court and have the proof displayed for all to see.

Most pedophiles and child molesters are cowards who don't want the attention that a lawsuit can bring.

So, in the end, I encourage all survivors to be creative in getting the message out about your perpetrator(s). Ensure that whatever you say is within the confines of the law and where you can prove it.

If you have no proof, other than your own horrific memories, then I encourage all to post anonymously. The message still gets out and people still get shamed.

You never know who else knows, or has had similar experiences with, your perpetrator. This might help create stronger bonds, and thus a stronger voice, to erradicate these plagues from the pulpits.

Wolves in sheeps' clothing... Remember this!

The time is NOW!! I am praying for all of you.