We Have an Abuse Problem

When I first saw this book available for pre-order, I knew I would want to read it. We Too: How the Church can Respond Redemptively to the Sexual Abuse Crisis, by Mary DeMuth, tells about how the #MeToo movement intersects with the Church. Her personal experience, years of advocacy, and research gives her an important perspective.

Here are some of my key take-aways:

**This is a problem in OUR churches– not someone else’s church.

As much as it would be easier to assume this is someone else’s problem, the data tells us that’s not true. Leslie Vernick shared that 1 in 4 women are in an emotionally destructive relationship. Abuse is prevalent. Even well-intentioned churches can be ignorant of how abuse looks and how best to respond.   A church may have a procedure that protects their liability, but nothing that actually looks out for the best interest of abuse survivors.  A policy to vet volunteers is not the same as having a procedure in place to thoroughly investigate reports of abuse. Both are necessary. Sadly, most churches do not have a specific procedure in place that ensures the protection of the victim.

**This isn’t just about sexual abuse. 

All abuse (sexual, emotional, spiritual, verbal, power abuse) acts the same. If you care about being a safe person or helping create a safe environment in your church, job, team, or family, this book is helpful. Mary quotes Steven Mintz, “Sexual abuse flourishes in environments with unequal power relationships, particularly when a church’s standing in the community is at stake.” Mary goes on to say, “Sexual abuse always involves the abuse of power and control, and when you have the church leaders needing a good communal and national reputation, survivors take a backseat.”

If we don’t want to be a part of a place where abuse flourishes, we need to take an honest look at what the power differentials look like. What checks and balances are in place? To what end would we defend our reputation?

Boz Tchividijian, lawyer/abuse advocate says this: “Too many protestant institutions have sacrificed souls in order to protect their institutions.”

**We need to understand how abuser/predators operate.

Mary shares a few traits in her book. This is just a few of them:

-They are never wrong.

-Abusers create elaborate conspiracy theories to deflect and to keep from being found out.

-They convince you that they are the victim. “Be hyper-vigilant when a person demeans their accusers or gossips maliciously about anyone who has brought an accusation to light.”

-Predators/Abusers don’t look like your stereotypical bad guy. Many are charming and highly regarded in their communities.

An abuser who is caught may offer repentance that is superficial.  It is vague and non-specific. I underlined this quote from Mary in my copy of the book: “Genuine repentance is always specific and is followed by a remorseful apology and acts of restoration. The one who truly repents cares nothing for their reputation.”

**We need to proactively address this problem.

Don’t wait to take action. There are things you can do today. We Too, has a chapter dedicated to practical things you can do. My favorite one is connected to my previous point. Educate yourself and those around you.

These are some resources I highly recommend:

We Too: How the Church Can Respond Redemptively to the Sexual Abuse Crisis.

Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men

What is a Girl Worth?

Child Safeguarding Policy Guide

Safeguarding certification for your church

Videos:

Suffering and the Heart of God: How Trauma Destroys and Christ Restores

Winter Inside the Church and Hope For Spring

 

I’ll wrap this up with a quote from Mary DeMuth’s We Too Manifesto:

“We repent of our penchant for institutional protectionism. Instead of indifference, we choose active compassion. Instead of deafness, we choose to dignify people by listening to their stories. Instead of shrinking back in fear of the messiness of sexual assault, we choose to face the Goliaths of those churches and institutions that would rather dabble in reputation management than participate in righteous repentance.”

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