Making Space for Victims
Updated: Jun 2, 2022
On Sunday, Christianity Today broke a story revealing the contents of the Guidestone Report. This report was an independent investigation of The Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee's Response to Sexual Abuse Allegations and an Audit of the Procedures and Actions of the Credentials Committee.
It was devastating.
I've been processing all of my thoughts and emotions this week on the subject while also now processing the tragic school shooting in our great state. To say that our hearts are raw and broken would be an understatement.
But what I don't want is for the victims of sexual abuse to be a story that cycles out of the news as a result of another horrific story. These men and women cannot continue to be hidden underneath a different set of hurting people.
And so, I will write in an attempt to continue this conversation wherever possible.
At the outset, I want to clarify one thing: My abuse was not covered up by the church, but my abuser was in the church. Jeff and I have had many conversations about why this report has triggered me. And although I still can't pinpoint it exactly, I think it's the lack of care that has been given to victims over the years.
My father minimized the abuse. He referred to it as "an indiscretion" when asked why he was estranged from his family. He acted as if I should move on already.
When the reality is that abuse lives with the victim forever. While the abuser might not feel guilty, the victim lives with the consequences forever. And to read about how the church (in general) has participated in (and sometimes perpetuated) the minimization of sexual abuse is absolutely triggering.
Some churches have remained silent in the wake of the report's release. And it is deafening.
Why are you not fighting for victims? Why are you not asking questions on our behalf? Why are you not advocating for those of us who have been wronged by leadership, staff, or your members? Why are you not outraged by this rampant problem in churches across the country? Why are you not encouraging victims to come forward?
Years ago, you could plead ignorance or say that you didn't know what to do. But in the future, you can no longer pretend like you don't know.
Victims are not safe at churches that continue to remain silent.
Churches that refuse to acknowledge sexual abuse as an issue within the church walls, and likely their OWN church walls, will eventually become ineffective in their attempts to preach the gospel. The gospel I cling to is for the hurting, the messy, and the broken- all of them. And an unwillingness to acknowledge a large portion of that population's brokenness forces victims to seek hope, love, acceptance, and value elsewhere.
It's a shame that reputation and blame-placing have become more important than comforting the offended. It's a shame that survivors feel their outcries have fallen on deaf ears. It's a shame that the church has cultivated a culture that shelters the abuser instead of the abused.
And if we are to find any way forward for the church, we must change that culture, and we can. We can advocate for and acknowledge that victims exist among us. We can recognize their pain and offer empathy and listening ears. We can encourage support groups and bible studies. We can create a path forward within our churches by talking about the problem from the platform and caring for the victims among us. We can and must do this. It is the only way to make progress.
The definition of insanity is repeating the same action and expecting a different result. We have to change our approach; we have to step up and make space for the hurting - even if it costs us. The world is watching Christians as we navigate this storm... let's do this well.
Lord, you have heard the desire of the humble; you will strengthen their hearts. You will listen carefully, doing justice for the fatherless and the oppressed so that mere humans from the earth may terrify them no more. (Psalm 11:17-18)