Resource, Article

When we are confronted with an allegation of abuse, there are always two paths we can take, two stories we can choose from. And one story will always be easier to believe.

February 9, 2017 2 7 comments
Resource, Law or Legal

This letter on Bill 132 (a bill about sexual harassment in the workplace) is meant only for churches in Ontario, Canada. The letter gives guidelines for local churches to fulfill the new bill.  

November 28, 2016 1 1 comments
Blog

This is a painful election that is in many ways dividing this country and the church. But please, when it comes to assault against women, let’s not be divided.

October 18, 2016 5 47 comments
Blog

During the Rio Olympics, a disappointing report was unveiled, detailing years of USA Gymnastics ignoring allegations of sexual abuse of gymnasts by coaches. The report is a stark reminder that fighting for justice is never an easy task.

August 23, 2016 2 0 comments
Blog

Fully confronting abuse by spiritual leaders in the CRC  is a necessary first step to a safe church: if we cannot hold accountable even those entrusted with the souls of the church, called to be “blameless” how can we effectively address other forms of abuse?

January 28, 2016 2 4 comments
Resource, Webinar Recording

This webinar examines how sexual abuse happens, what some of the impacts are, and then explores how churches can play a key role in ending this epidemic in our culture. 

November 11, 2015 0 0 comments
Blog

The word “forgiveness” sent my mind in a thousand directions. Those who have survived abuse are all in different stages of healing. Will my prayer help survivors forgive or set them back?

September 28, 2015 3 8 comments
Blog

What stuck in my head were the words, “No one in the family knew...”. I immediately said aloud to the other people in the room who were watching this with me: “That’s a lie, someone did know.”

September 19, 2015 2 2 comments
Blog

I understand our penchant to protect and cover favorable people. Even in our churches this happens with well-loved leaders and personable congregants. Does this outweigh protecting the flock?

August 17, 2015 1 6 comments
Blog

The publicness of the Duggars' lives has created space for a wider conversation about abuse. What will it take to move the church to speak more openly and courageously about abuse?

August 8, 2015 3 0 comments
Blog

How has this culture of rape, disrespect, and devaluing others entered into our lives and into our congregations?

August 3, 2015 1 0 comments
Blog

Yet, there was a question burning in my heart, as my eyes searched Bella’s face hoping to glean more insight. It was a question I wanted to ask but never could: “How did you know to fight back?”

July 21, 2015 4 3 comments
Blog

"The God I serve is a God of presence, not a God of protection."

June 27, 2015 2 8 comments
Resource, Website

We always seem to say that King David committed adultery with Bathsheba. However, I would say that what King David did was sexual assault.

May 30, 2015 3 4 comments
Blog

In April, Safe Church leaders from the U.S. and Canada came together for strategic planning. One priority rose to the top. “We need to be able to talk about abuse!”

May 11, 2015 1 0 comments
Blog

There are ways to illustrate the horror and the impact of rape in the storyline, without explicitly showing the rape. What are your thoughts on this?

April 10, 2015 0 0 comments
Blog

One in four girls and one in six boys are sexually abused before the age of 18. We cannot bury our heads in the sand and ignore this issue.

March 2, 2015 1 0 comments
Blog

Which story would you rather read: A story about a woman alleging gang rape at a prestigious university? Or a story about how the reporter covering that story failed to maintain good journalistic standards?

February 16, 2015 3 6 comments
Blog

One in four females and one in six males will be sexually abused by the time they reach 18. Are they missing from our congregations?

January 28, 2015 2 3 comments
Blog

Our denomination and each of our congregations also have a culture. Is it a culture that promotes openness, or one that encourages hiding difficult struggles? What messages are implicit in our culture about disclosing experiences of abuse?

November 17, 2014 3 7 comments
Blog

In July, a news story hit the web about four male students who developed a fingernail polish that indicates the presence of date rape drugs by changing color after being dipped in the drink. While many applauded this invention, some saw negative implications.

October 21, 2014 1 0 comments
Blog

Abuse concerns us all and needs to be addressed by us all.

September 22, 2014 2 2 comments
Blog

I was sexually assaulted by a professor from my Christian undergraduate university. After reporting it to the university, I sought out my church family and other Christian friends for guidance and comfort. What I often received, though, were pointed questions and veiled accusations...

September 14, 2014 1 7 comments
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I agree. Thank you.

I want to be clear that I am not trying to badmouth "restorative justice," or a "restorative justice process."  I have practiced both in my 37 year long practice of law, starting decades before the CRCNA ever said a word about it (it was a big thing for the Friends community out here and I just thought it made sense).

But, it is a difficult thing.  It is the harder way.  And sometimes, those who just know of the phrase (it is fashionable these days, which in a way is not helpful) but don't understand the complexity, nor the nuance involved, nor that sometimes, maybe often, it can't be done, at least not in the immediate timeframe or when in the context of certain kinds of firmly held perspectives by one or both parties.

And the fashionable popularity of "restorative justice" and "restorative justice processes," as good as those concepts may be, will likely be cause for mistakes like this to be made.

Things in life are sometimes complicated.  I just wanted suggest why and how I thought this situation was complicated.  Understanding complication helps us "do better" with it.

Thanks Bonnie, that's really helpful and an important clarification. I wasn't aware that restorative justice was a part of the CRC's recommended process, and definitely was not intending to cast a negative light on its use in the CRC or in general. I agree completely that what is powerful about restorative justice is that it can be a way to prioritize a victim's needs and the real damage and impact on a community. I heard Doug's comment more in light of stories I have read in the past where in the case of grave crimes it can easily be misused if a community is not prepared or adequately trained in the process and able to skillfully see through distorted versions of an event from the perspective of the culprit, like this article from the Guardian discusses. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/jan/12/restorative-justic...  The problem may not be the model of restorative justice at all, but like any issue with abuse response, missteps highlight the need for extensive training and awareness because the potential for human error is always so great. 

 

While I agree that Restorative Justice may be misused; and perhaps your comments reveal that it is often misunderstood. I have to note that a true restorative practice is not an easy fix or a simple process. Rather, in its true form, it's a process that allows space for the voice of the one victimized, a voice that so often gets lost in other forms of justice. It allows him or her to tell the story and, just as important, it allows others to listen and to hear, to enter in to that dark space, to get up close an personal with some of the devastation and serious impacts caused by the abuse. It gives attention to the harm done and also gives the one victimized a voice in determining what happens next, or what is needed to make things right. It is a process recommended in the Abuse Victim's Task Force Report approved by Synod 2010. 

Perhaps its name betrays the process a bit. Restorative justice is about restoring relationship - we are called to be one in Christ. It does not mean that a situation will be restored to a former state, or that a church leader will be restored to a former position. In cases of abuse that is not possible. Nothing may ever the same again after an experience of abuse, the damage cannot be undone. Yet our God is an amazing God who can transform, who can create beauty from ashes, redeem brokenness into something strong. He can use Restorative Practices to transform a community, as well as the individuals in it. I think Restorative Justice or Restorative Practices fit the title of this article perfectly; because it's a harder path. On a Restorative path, I believe there is more opportunity for healing, redeeming, and transformation - relationships not the same, but deeper. This path will also require more pain, commitment, and engagement. Choose the harder path.

Wow, thanks Doug. Such insightful comments. I agree completely with your concerns about restorative justice. It seems similar to forgiveness in that it can be powerful and freeing if the situation is appropriate for it but has similar real dangers for misuse and distortions when forgiveness is extended to someone who is unrepentant (by any standard more rigid other than a superficial "I'm so sorry.") I have read some stories upheld as models of restorative justice that made me really cringe. A danger of restorative justice can be that victims and their families in a Christian context have internalized deep pressure to forgive and forget great harm, and may not have the appropriate skills and training to assess whether or not the culprit should be extended grace or remains a danger to society. 

This: "It so wants the perpetrator and victim to be restored, but it needs to hold perpetrators accountable.  The former "want" can overwhelm the latter responsibility, especially when the perpetrator is skilled, and sexual predators are often quite skilled" -- seems exactly the problem. Christians are deeply deeply conditioned to see grace and restoration as the desired outcome for sin, any sin, so there's a tendency towards idealism in many churches, this optimism that the gospel can fix anything and anyone if we just try hard enough. But sometimes it can't, sometimes abusive patterns are deep rooted and possibly even incurable in this lifetime. The church needs to learn to love without having this ingrained triumphalism/naivety that assumes all problems can be fixed by our own willpower and good intentions. We can genuinely love an abuser while refusing to compromise on the care and safety of both the victim and other potential victims. But, as the CT missteps illustrates, I think very few churches are prepared for how to handle a charismatic abuser such as this who knows exactly how to manipulate the Christian worldview to their own ends.  

 

Monica. I would very much agree that this abusive pastor was and may well still be a highly skilled, manipulative predator.  Most lawyers, not just prosecutors, would recognize the profile.

What I have long wondered is whether there is some connection between the church's rather fashionable inclination toward "restorative justice" and a particular vulnerability to being manipulated, as this publication was, by these kinds of predators.

Don't get me wrong.  I love "restorative justice."  But I also believe that "restorative justice" is pretty hard to come by in the real world, and usually because the perpetrator wants to be excused, not restored.  It takes two to have true restorative justice, a truth that restorative justice advocates would sometimes like to not be the case.  That may be a harsh thing to say but I think it is true.

In other words, I think there is a tension here for the church: it so wants the perpetrator and victim to be restored, but it needs to hold perpetrators accountable.  The former "want" can overwhelm the latter responsibility, especially when the perpetrator is skilled, and sexual predators are often quite skilled.

This is just difficult in a way, especially for kind hearted, merciful and gracious "church people."  Not sure of the solution to this but I quite believe this tension exists and can be a serious problem, as evidenced by this article.

For training in abuse awareness, I've adapted many items from my predecessor, Beth Swagman. One of her presentations was entitled, "The Short Course on Abuse". In that presentation, the very first point is: Expect denial from everyone, including you! We simply don't want to believe that abuse really happens, especially when the one who perpetrates it is someone we know, love, and respect. We have to work, to choose the harder path, to overcome our tendency toward denial. We also need to understand the devastating effects and deep impacts of abuse on those who have been victimized by it. Their experience must not be minimized. Instead we honor them by listening carefully, by giving them a voice, by not being afraid to enter in, with them, to a dark place. The Lord can only bring healing when we have acknowledged what has happened and the harm that has been done. This is not an easy path, but the rewards are well worth it. It's been said that the truth will set you free, but first it will make you miserable. A long term perspective is needed. The first step is overcoming our own strong tendency to deny and to minimize. We do so much harm, re-victimizing those who have already been hurt, when we fail to take this first critical step. 

My church also uses electronic check in - you may contact Shalom Jaconette at River Terrace Church in E. Lansing, MI if you would like to find out more about how it works there.

Marian,

Our kids have participated in some summer programs at Harvest. They have an amazing check-in system with tablet kiosks attached to nametag printers. If you gave the church office a call, I'm sure they would tell you what they use. It's very efficient.

And I just noticed that Planning Centre Online has also added this functionality.

James

So glad to see safe church ministry in BC hosting this event. Hopefully, it will lead to much fruitful discussion. No problem goes away when we hide it or ignore it - bringing it out into the open is the first step toward change and toward healing. Safe Church Ministry offers many resources about internet pornography, and how the church can play a role in fighting this problem that causes so much destruction in our communities, and our congregations.

Hi Marian: 
This is a great question! My church has not switched over but I found this article on church check in software that seems helpful. 

Would love to hear what you end up using!
Staci 

Hey Marian :)

I think LaGrave CRC in Grand Rapids has something like that, unless I'm not remembering correctly from my visit. 

I was part of an ecumenical "Living Free" inner healing prayer ministry for many years. It was transformative for me and for the many people that we prayed with and for, as we saw the Lord show up in amazing ways and bring healing. We were trained from various folks, in various types of inner healing prayer. Brad Long/PRMI, Terry Wardle, and Ed Smith/Theophostic, which seems to fit closely with your description of Alf Davis. We considered all these methods and our training as tools in our toolboxes - tools that Jesus could use. The main focus of the ministry was bringing people into the presence of Christ, like the friends of the paralyzed man who tore through the roof to lower their friend to Jesus. It was their faith, the faith of the friends that brought healing (see Mark 2). And some of us also had other tools, such as bachelor and master degrees, training in Spiritual Direction, etc. What we learned in doing the ministry together was that the Lord can work with our expertise, and also without our expertise. The key is learning to listen and trust the Holy Spirit. Usually we would be completely surprised at how something unfolded and what happened in our prayer sessions. And then we were surprised again that we were surprised, because it happened all the time. I pray for healing prayer, and for prayer in general, to be a greater part of our ministry in CRC congregations. I also pray that the Lord will use this Trauma Healing workshop to further healing in his church. It's another tool that we can have in our toolbox, one that the Lord can use for his glory.

posted in: Trauma Healing

There is a Christian Counsellor, Alf Davis, who resides in Bracebridge Ontario.

He has a healing prayer ministry where during the counselling process, asks the client to invite Jesus into a memory and then to ask Jesus to tell them the truth. Healing is instantaneous.

Alf comes to two federal prisons where I volunteer. Statistics show that 90% of the men in federal prisons come from fatherless homes or homes where they wish the father had been absent. I have seen men, when they meet with Alf, completely changed in one or two one hour sessions.

Alf travels around the world teaching lay people how to do this type of healing. His teaching manual and 5 hours of free video instructions are on his website: https://www.lovehealstv.com/

All the materials are under the heading: "Counsellors".

Alf says his counselling is easy as he spends most of his time leading the clients to be led by Holy Spirit into a memory and then asking the client to ask Jesus to be present bringing his truth.

 

Blessings

regc

 

posted in: Trauma Healing

Very helpful article - Thank you so much for sharing it. There are many commonalities in the experience and the impacts of various kinds of trauma, as well as unique aspects to the experience of physical and sexual abuse. I appreciate those who don't ignore or deny that these issues exist within our congregrations, but rather choose to learn, and to respond in helpful ways. Thanks again for sharing.

posted in: Trauma Healing

I recently discovered this resource, 4 Truths Church Leaders Should Know about PTSD. I am not personally acquainted with Reboot Combat Recovery (so this is not an endorsement), but the linked article is great! It lays out many of the same principles discussed above and can help church leaders begin thinking in terms of helping heal the spiritual wounds of trauma. Although Reboot is a resource geared toward combat trauma, it is not exclusive to that population. The article points out that their principles can apply to any trauma.

posted in: Trauma Healing

Thank you for your kind words. 

Merry Christmas Bonnie. May God bless you in your work. Thank you for your ministry among us.

 

In reply to Bonnie Nicholas about the word "rape" stating the " all rape is criminal." I talked with the Deputy Chief of my City and asked him about the correct wording for "rape." Being that we don't talk about this subject very often, I thought I would be educated !

He replied; With a weapon- -aggravated criminal sexual assault

                   Without a weapon- - sexual assault

                   Illinois does not use the term of rape..

I believe that when talking about a sensitive subject like "abortion" we should try to be thinking on how the law frames the situation, and also on how the medical profession chooses their words. The layman's term, miscarriage is used when a woman delivers a nonviable fetus. The short, medical term is; "she aborted." Now, if someone retells that event, and states that Ms. or Mrs. X had an "abortion", rather than say the medical, "she aborted", one could see how this event could have a damaging effect to Ms or Mrs. X life !

I think that when discussing this subject, "abortion", we should have a short personal prayer to choose our words properly.I know I need to say that prayer ! I am pleased that the CRC is openly discussing many issues in its Network News ! Please continue this practice !

Dean Koldenhoven

Thanks for your comments, Beth. I added the note about the study in JAMA Psychiatry because it got quite a bit of news last week. Like you, it contradicts most of my experiences with post-abortive men and women.  

Hi Beth,

The summary conclusion of the study sited (involving over 900 women over a five year period) compared women with unwanted pregnancies who were denied an abortion, with those who had an abortion. The summary conclusion, says, "In this study, compared with having an abortion, being denied an abortion may be associated with greater risk of initially experiencing adverse psychological outcomes. Psychological well-being improved over time so that both groups of women eventually converged. These findings do not support policies that restrict women’s access to abortion on the basis that abortion harms women’s mental health."

That being said, abortion affects women differently. A previous non-CRC congregation that I attended for over a year offered a post-abortion support group as part of its ministry offerings - a welcoming announcement was listed in the bulletin every week. This seems to me to be a valuable ministry, offering a safe space to those who need to explore with others, others who understand because they've been there, the intense feelings that surround their decision. It was wonderful to be part of a church that so powerfully, and in so many ways, sent the message that we are all sinners, saved only by God's grace. In that kind of environment, difficult issues such as this could be freely acknowledged.

PS - I'm a strong believer in support groups, for all kinds of issues and addictions, not just abortion. There's a strong connection to discipleship in support groups within a congregational setting, and I believe we have a lot to learn. How can we learn to support one another in our state of fallenness and grace?

 

 

 

I agree the church does need to talk about abortion. I am curious about this statement in the article  "Just this week, a study published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry asserts that having an abortion is not detrimental to the mental health of a woman." Is the author or the OSJ agreeing with that statement? AAPLOG (The American Association of ProLife OBGYNs) has many professional position papers that would argue to the contrary, which I happen to agree with. I have the privilege of working with women making pregnancy decisions. I have seen some of the emotional trauma abortion has caused men and women. When talking about abortion Christ's love, forgiveness and grace must always season the conversation.

Thanks for this account, Dean. Like Shannon said, we too often make abortion about an issue rather than real people.

In answer to your question about how to advise in a case like this, I would likely encourage that as soon as the rape kit was complete the hospital should be asked to immediately perform an emergency D&C. Not all will agree, but I would see this morally as preventing pregnancy, akin to taking the pill, rather than terminating a pregnancy.

I had to search for the link. This is the one I suggested for the OSJ abortion page: http://abortionprocedures.com/

Unlike too many anti-abortion sites, I found this one to be medically accurate without being too graphic and without hysterical screeds against women who get abortions. It clearly explains the four types of procedure, and at which stages of pregnancy they are used.

Thank you for sharing this story. Too often our conversations about abortion are about an "issue" and not real people, made in the image of God, who have been victimized.

Seems we also need to talk about rape. Most rape happens by someone who is known; and all rape is criminal. There is no criminal vs. non-criminal distinction for rape (even though the vast majority of cases do not end in the criminal justice system).

 

  For what it is worth.............I was fortunate enough to have friends who could openly discuss "abortion." In those discussions I gave an example of ..."What would you do ?"

A woman discovered that she needed to go up to the grocery store to get some food for the next day's lunches for her family. It is about 9:00pm, it is dark, when she parks her vehicle in the parking lot and goes into the store to buy her groceries. She comes out and starts to put her groceries into her car when she is grabbed by men who had parked next to her in a van, and throw her into their van and close the door.

There were 5 men in the van and they all took turns raping her while having a knife held against her throat to keep her from yelling out for help.This is known as a criminal rape !

After they all took their turn they threw her out on the parking lot pavement and took off in their van. 

Someone spotted her laying there and went to her aid. They immediately called the police and an ambulance. They took her to the hospital to have her treated for the rape, and checked her out for injuries to her body.

NOW...because this woman was in her fertile stage, she could have gotten pregnant by anyone of the 5 men that raped her !

If she takes a RU 486 pill immediately and another pill 8 hours later, she most likely would NOT get pregnant.The doctors would also have to check her out for any diseases she may now have from the 5 rapists. If she don't take the pill, she could have a baby with a terrible disease, besides the mental anguish she most likely will need professional mental care and counseling.

This is the question; Do you consider the treatment the woman had from the doctors a form of an "abortion" or the proper physical and mental treatment she should have ? Maybe the word "abortion" should not be used in such a case, For the victim's sake it should be called a criminal assault. The word "abortion" is damaging enough if used in an unexplained manner.

YOU make the CALL !

 

deankoldenhoven@yahoo.com

 

    

I'm curious about what the link was, and why it wasn't posted. Also wondering why you didn't try to post it here.

I believe that any discussion of abortion needs to include the underlying reasons that would lead a woman to make such a decision. I like to refer folks to feminists for life. Perhaps if we lived in a perfect world, there would be no need for abortion; we're not in heaven yet. Personally, I would like to see abortion become very rare, and I'm happy to work toward that end. 

As this piece states, "We owe it to everyone to educate each other about reproduction and abortion. We also need to create spaces in our ministries to extend the love, mercy, and grace that we have in Christ." This is why this piece concludes with a request for recommended resources that speak the truth with mercy and grace. 

Thank you for this post. It helpfully reminds us of the various pressures women with unplanned pregnancies face.

You said of women seeking abortion counseling that "few knew the facts about what having an abortion entails." Yet, when I sent a link giving a clinically accurate, non-graphic description of what happens during different abortion procedures with a suggestion it be posted for information on the OSJ abortion page it was rejected. If you didn't like that one, perhaps you could find another. As you said about women seeking an abortion, "They need education, resources and support."

Thanks Shannon for a thoughtful article. We do need to talk about abortion. And we also need to remember that we are called to love one another, including people who face an unwanted pregnancy. We live in a very, very broken world where children are not always valued or loved as they deserve; where the amazing ability of women to bear new life is not always celebrated as the miracle that it is; where men don't always take their share of responsibility for the children that they have fathered; and where sexual violence has reached almost epidemic proportions; and this list could go on... Abortion is wrong; so are many aspects of this broken world that lead up to abortion. How do we talk about abortion, and also reflect the love and compassion of our Savior.

Thanks, Michelle ,  Yes, that's an equally important fact for people to know -- that leaving is the highest period of risk. It takes a lot of courage and support to leave an abusive relationship. 

  I just read about a physician in Toronto whose body was found in a suitcase last Friday after she had been reported missing by her mother.  Her husband has been arrested and charged with first-degree murder.  Apparently the couple was going through difficulty, and the wife had filed for divorce.  And friends of the victim say she was in an abusive relationship.  I have heard it said by no less than Dr.Phil McGraw that women who are in abusive relationships are never in greater danger than when they are planning to leave, and what I have read elsewhere confirms that, but apart from the delusion of the honeymoon stage, it can be difficult for the victim to get out without the patner knowing since abusive husbands are often very controlling people who will check their spouse's cellphone for unusual phone numbers or anything that might suggest things to be suspicious of.  Heck, I even read of one case in Scientific American Mind some years ago in which the wife had to ask the neighbors if she could throw stuff out in their trash cans because her husband looked through their garbage for stuff to start a fight about. 

Safe Church has resources about domestic abuse on our website, including a webinar that was produced in partnership with Safe Haven Ministries. We have these resources available, knowing that this issue is so prevalent among us, even though it remains dangerously hidden. 

Very powerful article, Monica. Thank you! 

 

Thanks for posting this! Safe Church recommends that churches regularly have their policies reviewed by their insurance provider, or professional legal counsel to be sure that they are in compliance with changing laws in their state or province.

thanks again.  . 
your words in 2013 meant a lot. they were honouring to me as a survivor.  those words did change something for me then - I didn't anticpate that.  so thank you.

this work being done does change the world for others, not only the children of today and tomorrow, but other survivors who today can feel like it's okay to speak up, and find support when they do (within their church family).  May the shame be eradicated through love. I believe in the power of love (agape).  

I don't think I've ever sat in a circle with Christian survivors and engaged in that kind of frank and open discussion about the healing journey and what that was like (with the added feminist understandings dialogue.piece).  That piece in it was kind of cool for me. Empowering.   I understood the kinds of questions that came up for them and reflected on my similar questions (with the feminist awareness) that I worked through.  So much resliency came through in their telling of their journey. It was good to listen to. 

all of this matters- it makes for a better world.  (thumbs up for all this work being done and your response)

Thank you for your thoughtful words and for your encouraging affirmation Jennifer. It's not easy to go against the grain, to break the culture of silence and speak up. Yet I believe, as it seems you also do, that there is great value in the telling of these stories, and much to be learned in the hearing. So, thank YOU so much  for listening and responding to the recording.

I appreciated what you said that, "Shifting the shame away from the survivor is critical and validating when the unspeakable is spoken is so important." Yes, I agree. May our congregations, not only the CRC but all who claim the name of our Lord, Jesus, acknowledge the unspeakable that happens among us, and validate the stories of those who have experienced it. It's time to end the silence. Blessings to you in your own journey; may you have good companionship along the way.

I watched the conference video online, and appreciated the openness and frankness in the discussion.  Thanks much for posting it.  Interpersonal violence exists within the church and outside of the church, and is a social problem.  So much of the dialogue addressed questions that I'd also had.  I could relate to their process.   I also loved that it addressed the culture of silence that has existed for so long (in all it's forms).  I love that it is acceptable for survivors to speak out in this way within the CRC.  there is more work to be done, but the work already done is huge. 

DIM is good!  I thought perhaps that a B could be added (blame). 

I love the reference to the "unspeakable".  There are many levels in this.  The internal code of silence (internalized teachings that are shame based - self blame) and the external code of silence (DIMB) increase the level of trauma experienced beyond the actual events.  How it is dealt with has an impact on the scope of what one needs to heal from.  the depth of the trauma is increased when in a culture of silence that victim shames and blames. 

Shifting the shame away from the survivor is critical and validating when the unspeakable is spoken is so important.  Addressing the attitudes and beliefs that make DIM so prevalent (within the church and society at large) is huge.  It takes so much time for that kind of change to occur  because the beliefs are sometimes core social and individual beliefs, and reinforced in society.  Shifting that can mean shifting peoples' whole perception of the world and how they fit into it (eg. patriarchy and shifting thinking that marginalizes women).  For some people, they learned that this way of being was okay. 

I remember the headship issue and women's role within the crc (discussion topic when I was at college),  Headship was almost perceived as a God mandated edict tied into their identity and role in life.  Yikes!  Shifting that kind of stuff is huge, and takes a long time. Headship may have been a piece in that patriarchal ideology.  Addressing interpersonal violence to me seems even bigger than that.     . 

Thank you for your courage in tackling this stuff.  It is truly important work. 

I am a survivor who left the CRC, and you are receiving my thanks.  The work being done in addressing interpersonal violence is critical and watching this video left me feeling hope. Listening to the women speak was like hearing some of my own healing process relayed.  Somehow, it undid a piece of disconnection that I felt.  I could relate to their experience, talk, and awareness about the power dynamics built into our culture and how their healing journey reflected processing all that.  I would have loved to sit down and talk with them.  Hearing them speak gave me a feeling of hope and connection.   

Thanks you for posting the video online.  Thanks again for posting it online.  Even though, I am not a CRC member, I would have loved to attend your conference.  Thank you for honoring these women, and for the work being done to support and protect others from experiencing this.    

 

I'm not exactly sure what you are trying to say in your comment, Bill. Obviously, there is no blood with no cut. But in reference to abuse in our congregations, harm has been done, we're already cut and bleeding.

And dealing with the devastating aftermath of abuse is tremendously more difficult, time-consuming, painful, and costly than working to prevent that abuse from happening in the first place. It makes so much more sense to focus our efforts strategically on prevention. Let's work toward a day when there will be no more harm, no more abuse.  

 As DC Regional Advocate for Classis Eastern Canada and church advocate for my own congregation, I could tell you the problem is similar in that people assume that if I handle the case, they're off the hook and don't have to do anything to educate or sensitize themselves to the obstacles that people with various disabilities encounter in a church building where the only accommodations made are for people using wheelchairs to get around. And even then someone using a wheelchair who would like to participate in a service by doing a reading would not be able to access the stage because there is no ramp, and when I suggested one be built I was told, "What's the point?  We don't have anyone using a wheelchair in our church."  People who have never experienced abuse are as clueless as those who have never been sick other than with a cold, if that, to the needs of those who suffer from exclusion either because of abuse or disability, and the most frustrating feeling is that they don't even WANT to know.  Sometimes it feels like a slap in the face, or as if they told us to our face that they don't give a damn.  Maybe it's because the questions that people who have been abused ask make them anxious and to feel threatened (cf "Where Was God?), so they get knee-jerk reactions and run away to protect their feeble faith that can't handle challenges?  Whatever the issues some people resort to avoidance not to have to change their own attitudes, let alone doing anything to change abusive situations or situations that shut people with disabilities out of their buildings and faith communities.

Didn't St Paul write, "Don't bleed before you are cut?" 

Great and timely article that is not about politics or the presidential election but about human dignity. Trump is simply the latest high-profile public figure that has been exposed as an abuser of the basic human right to dignity and the maintenance of proper sexual boundaries.

No women or man for that matter can, under Christ's Lordship be sexually trespassed against in word or deed. I have been involved in many cases as a victims advocate for the sexually abused by those who suffer at the short end of a power differential. Victims of clergy and church officer sexual abuse sit in our CRC pews by the hundreds in silence due to the power structure of the white male ecclesiastical oligarchy. Research statistic by Baylor University reveal that 1.5/100 members of the clergy (This goes across all denominations) sexually abuse women that are under their power as parishioners. This is a horrifying statistic that leaves so many abused women in our CRC pews without a voice to express their pain, receive proper treatment or find safety. As Michelle Obama so eloquently stated, "It hurts". These women and men, weakened and marginalized through church officer sexual abuse must stand up to the ecclesiastical straight-jacket that has been placed upon them, however they are afraid to do so because its not safe to do so. They will be shunned, ostracized and removed from their communities as temptresses, or loose. The voices of the 11 women who came forward accusing Donald Trump have been pretty much silenced, no charges brought, seen as slutty or even unworthy of Trump's advances. How shameful and despicable can a predator be?

The damage done to the psyche and spirit of the spiritually and emotionally abused is acute, tragic and often permanently disabling. Safe Church needs more teeth in the CRC, so that the real fear of God can be put into church officer's hearts if they contemplate crossing clearly defined sexual boundaries that must be respected by the people of God.

peace,

 

Kelly

Thank you for this beautiful testimony. If I had to write the piece over I too would adjust it to avoid implying the point was endorsing a candidate, so I too apologize for any misunderstanding. Your heart for justice in both the church and the political realm is so laudable, and those conversations critiquing both left and right are so needed, it just became clear this wasn't the best forum for that. What I was trying to hold up was the experiences of women and the gravity of such behavior, ideas which you communicate here so gracefully.

I agree that this was not the place to dive into politics and other issues. That made it more hurtful for those women who are already hurting and already feel unheard in their struggle against gender-based violence. I apologize for my part in getting "off topic" at times in my comments. I will freely acknowledge my own bias toward social justice, which doesn't always fit with the political right in this country. But I don't always fit with the political left either; I am a member of Feminists for Life after all. It can all be quite frustrating - but this was not the place for that, and so again, I apologize. 

What seems critically important to me is to make space to "hear and respect stories of experiences of life different from our own". I agree wholeheartedly that this can do a lot to heal perceived divides. Where are those spaces in our congregations? In our denomination?

I am a wife, a mother, and a grandmother; and I long for my grandchildren to grow up in a world where the value of each and every person honored; and where each person is treated with the dignity and respect that they deserve as image bearers of their Creator. That's what Safe Church is all about. I believe that the experience of women is not the same as that of men, we are less valued generally speaking (I realize that I don't speak for all women). There is much evidence to show this is true (if you doubt, read the book Half the Sky). I've prayed for many years and will continue to pray that my daughter and my granddaughter, and all of our daughters, will never have to go through the gender-based violence that I've experienced, that continues to impact my life. And I have prayed and will continue to pray that those who have suffered will find compassion and healing with the Lord and with his people; this includes so many women in our congregations who have suffered gender-based injustice. And I have prayed and will continue to pray that the Church, men and women together, can become a force for change, building a better world, a world where all people are valued and honored. And I pray with hope in the redeeming power of our Lord.

"Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me" Ps. 51:10.

Hi Ken,

Thanks for this comment. I think it gets at why this is a difficult conversation to have. I understand how hurtful it can be to be too feel one is too quickly labeled or characterized. And yet, I think we do have to acknowledge the difference in gendered experiences. I don't think it's labeling to acknowledge women as a group have experienced more objectification and sexual violence than men. It's not labeling to talk about the problem when many men don't seem to quite understand, and women shouldn't need to silence or apologize for their frustration and pain out of fear that some men might feel unfairly targeted by virtue of being male. If men are standing with women, hearing their stories, and not dismissing their feelings on this, there is no reason to feel shame or guilt. 

Discussing the dynamics of abortion, etc., are valid conversations, but the post was in response to a staggering lack of sensitivity from many men in response to the misogyny so prevalent this campaign. The men I've heard make hurtfully dismissive comments in regards to Trump's words and behavior towards women, which I still can't talk about without starting to physically shake, did not seem to understand what it like to be a woman and how serious such behavior is. That doesn't make them villains, but it does mean it's valid to talk about this. In such an atmosphere, a call for men to stand with women, to hear their stories, and refuse to engage in conversation that minimizes the character implications for who Trump is seems valid to me. Comments like "it's not that big of a deal," "he apologized," "it was 10 years ago," all demonstrate ignorance of the dynamics of abusive behavior and the connection between the blatant misogyny Trump shows on a daily basis and the abuses he speaks of and seems very likely to have committed.  "Forgive and forget, he apologized," in particular, a line I heard quite a few times, is the same kind of logic regularly used to silence abuse victims after their abuser makes any sort of apology, however surface level. Again, this doesn't suggest that all or even most men are making those kind of comments, but they have been happening pretty regularly, so it's not inappropriate to appeal to men in particular to use their power to oppose such statements, and to listen to the stories Trump's words are reopening from women, instead of immediately pivoting to the flaws of the other candidate.  

I think you're right that race, immigration, and shifting views in the CRC are too off-topic to really dive into, but I think on each of those issues making space to hear and respect stories of experiences of life different from our own can do a lot to heal perceived divides. 

I'm disappointed that this has become a "men-vs.-women" discussion. Unfortunately, that feeds into the perception suggested in the title of the topic.

It's also unfortunate that some have resorted to the labeling that has become a strategy at even the administrative levels of CRCNA. Should we ban such labels as anti-immigrant, anti-women, Christian right, and others that unfairly characterize individuals, and are just as hurtful as ethnic slurs, labels referring to sexual orientation, or disparaging references to one's religion? Such labels and the half-truths they convey are used by some politicians, but why here?

As the husband of a terrific woman (my dear wife for 57 years) and the adoptive father of two sweet babies who now are wonderful wives and mothers, I respect women. Participating in a discussion such as this one as I have shouldn't make a man feel obligated to say something like this, but I suspect that such participation may leave me indelibly labeled as one of the bad guys.

Does anyone wonder how many faithful, long-time CRC members feel that their views on issues of the day are not Christian from the perspective of the denominational leadership? I do.

Sorry if this is off-topic.

"Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of Him who is the head, that is, Christ" - Ephesians 4:15.

Missing in some of these posts and in this presidential election cycle is speaking the truth in love. By speaking in truth, we build up one another; it is how God gives grace to others through us, and builds unity.

It is my fervent prayer that we speak the truth in love to one another so that we will grow to a strong maturity to do the work God has appointed us to do.

God is in control.

Thank you Nancy for your encouraging words.

Monica thank you for a thoughtful, timely, and much-needed article and your responses to the comments here. Bonnie thank you for your contributions to the discussion. Clearly, the topics of sexism in general and sexual assault/abuse in particular need much more attention in the CRC. There is much ignorance out there concerning these subjects. Blessings on the work you do in educating the church!

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Carol Vander Ark Champion
Bonnie Nicholas
Elizabeth Schultz
Steven Bowman