A few years ago, in a meeting of a few Christian prosecutors, I learned that these individuals (from 5 different states) had never remembered a pastor attending court with a victim of sexual abuse. However, these individuals remember numerous times when pastors attended hearings in support of the alleged offender. One of the prosecutors recalled one sad conversation while sitting in court with a young victim. This child said, “Does this mean that God is on his side?” (since her pastor was sitting with the offender).

You can understand how this kind of thing happens. The offender is in dire need of character witnesses to mitigate the evidence of their abuse. They need others to stand up for them and swear that such things could never be true of an upstanding person such as this offender. The victim usually makes no such demand/request and so, often fails to be supported.

Think this is just something that happened in the past? At a sentencing hearing for Rev. Jack Schaap, it was noted by the DA that the courts had received more than 100 letters asking for leniency and providing excuses (e.g., work, medical problems) for why he sexually abused a teen girl.  

Ways Pastors Can Support Victims

I want to commend this document for you to consider 12 ways a pastor/theologian can participate on a multidisciplinary team to care for victims. What are some of these ways?

  1. Clergy support to victims during criminal proceedings
  2. Supporting the work and purpose of abuse protection officials to the congregation
  3. Empowering victims to divulge; empowering offenders to confess
  4. Educating the larger world as to how offenders use distortions of faith to abuse
  5. Presiding over prevention strategies for churches and communities.

This paper does a great job illustrating many ways church leaders and theologians can be deeply involved in the healing and preventing of sexual abuse of children.

It is time for us to improve the image of the church in the protection and care of victims of abuse.

Phil Monroe is Professor of Counseling & Psychologyand Director of the Masters of Arts in Counseling Program at Biblical and the Seminary’s newest initiative, Global Trauma Recovery Institute. He maintains a private practice at Diane Langberg & Associates. He blogs regularly at www.wisecounsel.wordpress.com.



0 # SB 2013-05-13 13:22
I wish it didn't have to be the victims that have to get this news out. I can't help questioning who God is when pastors, Christian school administrators, missions, etc. consistently support the offenders. What DOES that mean about me? There are a few who stand out against the tide - G.R.A.C.E., perhaps a couple of churches, but for the most part I have seen and heard only condemnation from the world of Christianity. I think sometimes they just want us gone, hidden from their presence. We are defiled. My own pastor father would never stand with me against a perpetrator, especially one who is considered useful to the ministry. I am quite sure he would rather see me dead then report a "Christian" sex offender. Reporting leaves me cut off from much of the Christian world. The secular world is supportive.
I sometimes wonder why the Christian world seems to be the last to care? The G.R.A.C.E. people and a few others say they care BECAUSE of God, but that stands directly in contrast to so many others. How do people sort it out?
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0 # Philip Monroe 2013-05-14 19:34
S.B. Thank you for commenting. I am not surprised but still sad to hear your experience. Yes, we at GRACE (I'm on the board) do promote our stance as in keeping with God's commands to protect the most vulnerable. When we see humans acting in an opposite manner from the character of God, then they no longer reflect his love and protection. Why do Christians fail to be different? Because they may be more focused on self than other. By the way, we are finding more and more churches who are willing to do what is right and minister to victims well. As you can imagine, their activities don't make the news.
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