Friday, November 30, 2007

Prevention and compassion

For faith groups that proactively try to address clergy sex abuse, prevention and compassion go hand in hand.

After all, how will people find out about clergy child molesters if victims are turned away and intimidated when they try to report their abuse?

For Southern Baptists, their leaders are still way behind the curve compared to the leaders of other faith groups.

Southern Baptists don’t even provide a safe place to which victims may report abuse. So most victims don’t try.

Why should they?

Why should Southern Baptist abuse survivors risk being re-traumatized by the process of reporting clergy abuse when there is no denominational system for responsibly handling their reports?

Why should they risk the horrible hurtfulness of hearing Southern Baptist leaders shoo them away with that “all churches are autonomous” line while their reported perpetrators stand smiling in their pulpits?

Why should they even attempt to speak of something so profoundly painful with church leaders, who typically have neither the training nor experience to properly hear it, and who are almost always predisposed to circle the wagons around the accused minister?

Why should they risk being threatened with lawsuits by church attorneys, and shamed and vilified by pastor-loving congregants?

Why should they try to report their abuse when they can barely speak about the pain of what was done to them in the past and when reporting it will almost certainly mean having additional pain heaped on by still more religious leaders?

Why should they try to report their abuse when they know that, more than likely, nothing will come of it, they will receive no help, and their perpetrators will remain in their pulpits anyway?

The answer is this: They shouldn’t. Rationality would dictate against it.

Yet, extraordinarily courageous victims defy rationality and try to report their perpetrators anyway. Even in the face of so much heaped-on hurtfulness, they cling to a tiny thread of hope that their action might make someone else safer.

Usually, their efforts are futile. Church and denominational leaders still do nothing.

Why should anyone believe that Southern Baptist leaders will be able to prevent abuse by clergy child molesters they don’t yet know about when, day in and day out, they do nothing about the clergy child molesters they’re specifically told about?

Until the victims themselves are received with compassion and until there is some system for hearing their reports and assessing them, other steps will never be adequate. No amount of Lifeway brochures or subsidized background checks can substitute for the need to treat the victims with compassion and to hear what they have to say.

If there were a system for receiving clergy abuse victims with compassion and for responsibly hearing their accounts of abuse, many more would take the risk of reporting their perpetrators. Then we might eventually learn who many more of the clergy-perpetrators are.

Perhaps that is exactly what some Southern Baptist leaders don’t want people to find out.


Anonymous said...

I've been following your website for nearly nine months and want to thank you. It means alot that you speak so openly.

Christa Brown said...

anonymous: Welcome to the blog! I hope you'll check back often and share your comments from time to time.