The Church’s responsibility in sexual abuse reconciliation

Victims should be the first priority.

Lauren Vander Tuig, Staff Writer

It is no secret that the Church has a lengthy history of sexual abuse. According to a Pew Research Center survey, 79% of U.S. adults believe that recent reports of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church reflect problems that continue to happen. Various statistics and reports surfaced of the church’s worldwide record of sexual abuse scandals, yet proactive action and defenses are seldom utilized.

ABUSE OF POWER

Abuse in the church is affected by the hierarchy of church leadership. The Child Abuse in Prostestant Congregations found that 34.9% of male offenders were pastors. Most individuals trust in pastoral leaders and would not second guess their morals, creating an environment that does not hold predators in positions of power accountable for their actions.

“I considered church people easy to fool…they have a trust that comes from being Christians. They tend to be better folks all around and seem to want to believe in the good that exists in people,” said a convicted child molester in an interview with clinical psychologist Anna Slater for Religion News Service. The church is seen as an easy target and the congregation is often naive.

According to The Gospel Coalition, individuals are more likely to be abused by someone in the church, than for the congregation to experience an active shooting. Lifeway Research reports that from 1999 to 2018 there have been 18 fatal church shootings, which reveals the nature of abuse within the church is much larger than a single scandal per year.   

VICTIM NEGLIGENCE

Unfortunately, oftentimes the Church does not accept this reality for the sake of its public image. According to Al Jazeera, several lawyers have claimed that more than 11,000 complaints were lodged in the U.S. by victims of priests and church districts paid hundreds of millions of dollars in court settlements, Al Jazeera reports 

The Church lacks resources for prevention and victim support, despite many responses to the issues dating back to 1962. Additionally, the Church often responds by demoting church leaders, which is better than passivity. However, the healing of victims’ trauma and future prevention is not at the forefront of the conversation. 

BIOLA’S STEPS TOWARD HEALING

The Biola Counseling Center makes significant efforts in providing aid for victims through their “Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse” group. The group is described as “a safe space to explore the common ways trauma can impact our lives and relationships and ways to cope with them more effectively.”

This group is an incredible effort by the counseling center, whether intentional or not, to bridge the void of the abuse and its male victims. In general, male victims of sexual abuse have a certain pressure to keep quiet about their trauma. This pressure is reinforced by strong gender stigmas and deters victims from reporting abuse because of shame or embarrassment. 

In an effort to care for the body of Christ, the people and their well-being should be prioritized to avoid passivity or the repression of brothers and sisters’ feelings and traumatic experiences. 

Christians have the strongest tool in healing, God’s love, which should be abundantly overflowing to restore the hearts of those who have been burned.

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