Tammy ran across an article today on Christianity Today in the section called “Her-menutics.’ The title of the article was “Voice of the Victims: Sex Abuse Survivors and the Church.” The following are her reactions to the article.
I just finished reading this article, I was about to post in their comment section but decided that my thoughts were too lengthy for that context.
In the article the author, Michelle Van Loon discusses a recent suicide of a pastor. The pastor, Tom White, “committed suicide after allegations that he molested a 10 year old girl.” His guilt or innocence was not the focus of the article and is not the focus of this article either. The focus of the article was that the focus after his death has been on him instead of the 10 year old girl. The article suggested that instead of focusing on the crime or the abuser we, as a church, should spend our time focusing on the victims that are left behind.
The article did a good job at bringing up the need for help for victims. There was some focus on the trials that abuse victims and their family members face. I understand the succinct nature of the article, I myself could spend several pages going over the complexities that abuse survivors face and the many layers of healing that must be experienced.
Loon brought up the interesting point that, churches sometimes focus on the sins of abusers (although this is rare) but rarely speak of the victims themselves. The statistics change every year but 1 in 4 men will be sexually abused in their lifetime and 1 in 3 women will be sexually abused in their lifetime.
This is a wide pool of people that are not getting any help. By the time a person is ready to get the help that they need there is nothing available to help them.
I started this ministry for these people. I focus my ministry on women but I would welcome men to be a part of this ministry someday.
I’m sorry that this man took his life and even sadder that a child was abused but every year we hear more and more about children and adults being abused inside and outside the church. It is time that we implement ministries to help these people.
Praying in church, having survivors speak on a wide platform and providing counseling are just the beginning steps. We need to move beyond groups outside the church and start building a culture of healing within the church. We need to focus on how not only to prevent abuse but also to help those who are survivors. Survivors deal with many issues that run the gamut of relational issues, sexual issues, physical issues, and emotional issues. These issues must be dealt with on many levels and one of those levels is a healing level in a church culture.
We need to provide more places for these women and men to get the help that they need. We cannot turn our backs on them or point them in the direction of a counselor and hope for the best. We have to walk beside them and be willing to sit with them in the pain.
Support groups and therapy can be helpful but they are not enough. We must create a culture in the church that welcomes survivors and provides the much needed care and support and not just point to outside programs and groups.
Thank you for your response to my Her.meneutics piece. You’re absolutely right – we in the church need to learn to walk alongside victims of abuse. We had an introduction to the process in the church I referenced in my essay, but I haven’t seen many congregations respond in this way. I’d love to be able to point to more positive examples of care for abuse victims, if you’re aware of any.