Q&A

The men I'm a part of in an abuse support group are writing brief entries of their stories, and we believe it offers an alternative to the traditional 12 Step program. We're not convinced such programs are adequately meeting the needs of male survivors.

I would like to hear from leadership...

December 24, 2013 0 3 comments
Blog

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres...."

December 23, 2013 0 3 comments
Blog

Wherever we find ourselves right now, we must keep the long view in mind. Our strength lies in humility, trust, and patience through trials.

December 17, 2013 0 0 comments
Q&A

Seeking wisdom and past experience, but am staying incognito to protect the innocent.

Our church has been dealing with a husband for more than a year who has repeatedly violated his domestic-violence probation and been arrested.  He is very religious-sounding, the type who speaks of...

December 8, 2013 0 11 comments
Blog

What to do? We’d rather not think about it – but that won’t stop those with a criminal sexual history from attending our church. To ignore, or not even consider the issue may be the most dangerous option of all.

December 3, 2013 0 0 comments
Blog

"[Your church's] abuse prevention policy should confirm your organization’s commitment to providing a safe environment for children and declare zero tolerance for abuse, harassment or neglect committed by any children’s or youth ministry worker, including employees, members and volunteers." - Robertson Hall Insurance

November 25, 2013 0 0 comments
Resource, Song

The following songs from the Lift Up Your Hearts hymnal would work well for an abuse awareness service. 

November 23, 2013 0 0 comments
Blog

Rallies along the way will provide special opportunities for churches and individuals to learn about the harms associated with pornography and supports that are available to those affected by it.

November 13, 2013 0 0 comments
Resource, Article

Safe Church arises out of a call to be a community that reflects our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. It's a collective calling; so our relationships are critical and the Bible provides the foundation. 

November 13, 2013 0 0 comments
Blog

Pay attention and report adults who repeatedly break boundaries and engage in inappropriate behaviour with children. Here are some helpful tips to reduce the risks of child sexual abuse.

October 31, 2013 0 2 comments
Blog

"Churches are natural targets for sexual predators. Thay have large numbers of children, a shortage of willing workers, and a culture of trust that no Christian could be suspect of such exploitation... What is really needed is a healthy suspicion of human frailty, our own as well as others." - Bob Harvey, Faith Today

October 21, 2013 0 0 comments
Blog

If boundaries are less about rigid rules and more about a way of thinking about relationship; then what principles should serve to guide a ministry leader in setting helpful boundaries?

October 14, 2013 0 0 comments
Resource, Article

Find resources that relate to emotional, psychological, and spiritual abuse. 

October 12, 2013 0 0 comments
Blog

At times it may seem that the person being abused doesn’t want help, but consider that the individual may be too scared to even consider reaching out to someone.

October 2, 2013 0 0 comments
Blog

According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), between 2011 and 2020, more than 140 million girls will become child brides.

September 17, 2013 0 0 comments
Blog

Get started on your screening today! Your congregation will be a safer place because of your efforts.

August 27, 2013 0 1 comments
Blog

Should regular boundary training be required for CRC pastors? Should the CRC adopt a code of ethical conduct for its pastors?

August 19, 2013 0 1 comments
Blog

In my community, the tragic consequences of cyber-bullying have been front page news. 

August 13, 2013 0 0 comments
Blog

Can a congregation maintain a safe church environment and also welcome those who have offended sexually?

July 30, 2013 0 0 comments
Blog

This short video and another helpful webinar will educate your congregation about abuse prevention and why it matters.

July 22, 2013 0 0 comments
Discussion Topic

The CRCNA was recently featured in the July Newsletter of “The Hope of Survivors”, a nonprofit organization dedicated to assisting victims of pastoral sexual abuse and misconduct, as well as providing educational and informational materials and seminars to pastors and churches of every...

July 15, 2013 0 0 comments
Blog

"What could possibly happen when you combine a little glue and glitter along with energetic kids and well-meaning volunteers?" A bit of planning will ensure that the environment you provide is secure and safe for all of the children who attend your VBS.

July 2, 2013 0 1 comments
Blog

Remember that being in this situation is not your fault! Be true to yourself.

June 27, 2013 0 1 comments
Blog

"Maybe we’ve focused so much on trying to keep children from becoming victims that we’ve forgotten to teach them not to be perpetrators."

June 19, 2013 0 5 comments
Blog

Now is the time to think and prepare for next year. 

June 11, 2013 0 2 comments

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In response to the question in the title, I would be very interested in hearing stories that would help me better understand the needs of male survivors. My job is to help churches respond appropriately and be supportive to those who have survived abuse. So greater understanding is always appreciated. Thank you for offering your story, and please feel free to contact me directly and privately. 

I must say that I am a bit confused about the reference to traditional 12 step programs, as those tend to be associated with addiction recovery. Addictive behavior may (often) be present when abuse is also present. However, treating the addictive behavior (a symptom) should not be equated with treating the trauma of abuse (the disease), even though they may be related.

I continue to look for advice "out there" on the Internet, from established church denominations that are at least somewhat close to the CRC in perspective and interpretation of scripture. 

One of the links I posted before had its own link to a site called A Cry For Justice.  The posts I myself find particularly helpful are from the category "Supporting Victims".  And of those approximately 100 entries, this one is probably the most relevant and helpful to the question I keep asking on this forum. One eye-popping aspect of the post is that the author recanted her previous book thesis, after she had continued to work with abused women and to understand their abusers.  And she herself had been abused--twice--by husbands.  It just goes to show how very very difficult and mind-boggling this issue is--even victims are confused and conflicted about how to proceed, and searching the Bible for help can be so very hard.  Worth a read:  http://cryingoutforjustice.wordpress.com/2013/10/04/church-discipline-an...

And still, I ask for help from churches, from MY denomination, who have dealt with a wife-beater, long-term.  I suppose you could always contact me privately under my alias up above in the left-hand corner.  I'm very good at keeping confidences, and Protecting Victims.

Yours prayerfully.

 

Rachel, this is such a creeative and biblically-based discussion. I hope any leader who is afraid to address abuse would take some cues from your wonderful piece!

Thanks for your insight and faithful voice,

Andrew

Thanks for posting this Rachel - respect is critical in preventing abuse; and in being the kind of community that our Lord is calling us to be as his church, his body, in this world. It's one of the ways we can "shine like stars" in a world where disrespect is far too common.

 

To "protecting victims", I agree with Bonnie's comment above.   A truly repentant wife beater will respect and honor the desire of the wife and the church to maintain distance and he should seek another church.   While true repentance may eventually lead to reconciliation and change of behaviour, as it should in all cases of sin, in this case some clear evidence of change needs to be demonstrated.  That evidence would need to be a fairly significant time of distance apart, as well as other clear indications of a new life.   Taking the abuser out of his comfort zone would be the first step, and leaving the abused in control  would be important.  By significant time apart, away from the church grounds and away from the wife, I mean perhaps a year, before there is a re-evaluation.   In the case of a repeat offender as above, two years or more would likely be more appropriate, from the time of the last incident, and then only if elders are convinced he has become a new person.   This is not based on personal experience in our church, although I am well aware of some abuse cases within my circle of acquaintences.   It would be difficult to assess if the person has become new, with a new heart and new attitude, if he is an experienced liar,  so a variety of assessments should be made.   It would be difficult to shut the door entirely forever, since this would indicate that God doesn't have the power to restore, or mend, or heal.   On the other hand, the healing and mending and newness ought to be clear and evident, and the abused person needs to be comfortable with the decision.  

Now perhaps some others may weigh in.   We can not all operate in this out of experience, but need to be psychologically and intellectually prepared to deal with this if it happens and we are confronted with it. 

Hi again,

You point to some excellent resources. I'm glad that they are posted; and I hope that people will refer to them and gain insight into this serious issue. I think the lack of CRC response shows how hidden this problem is - we don't want to talk about it; and that isn't very helpful.

As I said in my first reply - the highest priority needs to be the safety of the family, and the needs of the one who has been victimized. It would be my recommendation that the one who has perpetrated the abuse find a different church community in which to worship; that the church property be included in the protection order so that the one who has abused is not able to be there. Safety must take precedence. And the one who has been victimized must now be empowered to make decisions that affect her and her family - she knows best what they've been through and what is needed. No one looking from the outside knows what she knows - she is able to make the most informed decisions, the role of the church is to support her in those decisions.  There are other places of worship for the one who has abused - it's his behavior that has prevented him from involvement in the church where the family attends.

When I was working as an intern at a domestic violence shelter - I was truly amazed at how many women went to their pastors for advice. I honestly never knew that pastors were so popular - they're the place people go for help. And I was also amazed at the bad advice given by well meaning, generally very good pastors, who had no understanding of domestic violence. I especially remember one client who came in with multiple bruises and abrasions and said to me "i went back because my pastor told me to - I was only doing what he said". The pastor had assured her that he had talked and prayed with her husband and that she needed to return to him. So, who is really responsible for those injuries?

We simply must be better informed; and bring this issue out into the light. I and many other Safe Church team members are willing and able to do educational programs in your church that could help everyone better understand the dynamics involved in abusive relationships so that we can respond more appropriately. Please don't hesitate to contact me or your Safe Church representative. It's why we're here.

Bev, the issues that the women you're working with are rough, no doubt.  Dealing with sins of church leadership is indeed a tough beast.  We can see this hairy situation in the Catholic church.

But that is not the situation in my church.  It's not about pornography, nor about church leaders protecting each others' backs.  Our council and pastor, though new to the type of situation, are doing well in supporting both parties appropriately.  This Forum is about Safe Church.  That is, Safe in Church.  And so there is upcoming conflict in the fact that the wife-beater (who has pled guilty) wants to eventually return to worship services, and the beaten wife and children won't dare be in the same building with him.  And so in that case, what is church leadership to do? 

I'm trying to find examples of what has worked, to see if there's any experienced wisdom out there. 

I could go on and on about what *I* think should be done, but that's just one person's opinion, backed up only by what *I* think is logical and scriptural.  So I'd rather depend on the communion of the saints, so to speak, since we are inexperienced in this.

There are very large questions or issues that could come from this, I realize that.  On degrees of sin; on how secret or public a sin is; on grace and mercy and forgiveness and shelter and compassion. 

What's a church to do?

I have several women that the Lord has connected me with that are involved in various abusive type situations within the Church, and if you want to get an idea on how that has fared so far, you can read my recent comment under the Pastors network in response to a post by James Dekker titled "of Rob Ford and Pastors".

to summarize, we have found that spiritual leaders are protecting each other, at the expense of the victim, and that abuse thrives in a culture of shame and silence/cover up... and this is a very sad witness to the Church.

anonymous aka protecting victims, feel free to contact me directly (I think you can do so through clicking on my name and there is a tab to email me)...  FYI, none of the situations in my experience deal with domestic abuse though, but would fall under other related type garbage.  In one of the situations, it has been going through the Church Order process, and so I have become familiar with the CO a bit through that particular situation.

Well, I don't know what to think about the lack of experiences posted here.  Either it's too painful to write about, or few in the CRC have heard about any such occurrence, or maybe there's just not enough traffic on this site.  So many Christian books about dealing with domestic violence end with her getting away, but not about the scarred aftermath a year or more later, and the Christian community's response. 

So I went out looking for more advice online.  I had to look for "related sins," such as murder, rape, or child pornography.  Something where a crime was committed and the person (usually male) was either convicted or pleaded guilty, because it's got to be bad enough to make congregants sit up in horror and take notice, and struggle with the forgiveness and grace on one side, and the protection and safety on the other.  And while it's true any sin causes us to fall short of God's glory, some sins here on earth are just so big and horrid that the victim will always be horribly scarred.

So here are discussions I've found:

This article:  http://thewartburgwatch.com/2013/06/27/abusers-are-welcome-and-the-abuse...

The comments after this article are the most helpful, even though some make me wince a bit:  http://www.patheos.com/blogs/sarahoverthemoon/2013/06/when-my-abuser-is-...

Interesting discussion here--the entire site is interesting (Managing Your Church), although most of the "safe church" info addresses protecting children:  http://blog.managingyourchurch.com/2009/09/handling_disruptive_people.html

and finally: Lord love these naive pastors!  I know men like this, and understand why they react with such profound wide-eyed disbelief of the abuse, and wide-eyed belief of the repentance.  And in their zeal to demonstrate God's forgiveness here on earth, overlook the silently suffering victim....http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-shore/pastors-and-domestic-viol_b_858...

The above links are helpful, and demonstrate genuine Christian struggle with an intractable problem.  But again, I crave help from my brothers and sisters in the CRC.  Knowing how one of our own has dealt with the problem, using OUR church order, and getting help from OUR denomination would go far in knowing how to proceed in a Reformed fashion. 

Yours prayerfully,

Protecting  Victims

I'm glad that you are able to post anonymously in this place. (I actually don't play Dutch bingo well, not being Dutch and not having not been raised in the CRC). I agree with you that this issue is very important, and also that RestoredRelationships.org is a wonderful source for information. I hand out their "Ending Domestic Abuse: A Pack for Churches" quite often. It clearly describes the dynamics of domestic abuse, affirms that safety must remain a top priority, and includes lots of helpful tips for how churches can respond. I'm wondering how (or if) that has been recieved by the pastor, council members, or other church leaders.
 One note - anger management is not usually the best intervention in a domestic abuse situation, neither is individual or pastoral counseling. Group intervention in an accredited Batterer Intervention Program (BIP) has been shown to be most effective. The group aspect is extremely important, because those involved in group often begin to see the harm of their behavior in other group members first before they see it in themselves. Groups can also model and teach accountability and positive interaction in ways that other interventions cannot. Accredited BIPs usually include at least 52 weekly group meetings facilitated by specially trained professionals. Real change needs to be considered in terms of years rather than months. And accountability with an eye for safety must be maintained for a long, long time. In MI go to www.biscmi.org/ I think there may be links to programs in other places as well.

Professional organizations such as Batterer Intervention Programs and Domestic Violence Shelters and Service Agencies often have a good relationships with the court and criminal justice systems - these coordinated efforts are variable from place to place and are very valuable to a community. Faith communities need to be connected with them. No church should try to "go it alone" or "handle things in house" when domestic abuse is involved. The needs are usually too great, and the potential risks are way too high.

I've been informed that my anonymous postings are against policy, but considering that safety of the victims is paramount, and the seeking of options is so important, I will continue to post.  This issue surely exists elsewhere in our denomination, and there are so very many CRCs where that church is the only one in a community, and so "people" will know precisely who you're talking about. Yeah, I've played Dutch bingo all my life too. So I would implore anyone reading this and knowing of a church who has dealt with this situation, to post <strong>on behalf<strong> of those churches who have wisdom and experience but also want to also be sensitive to their congregants. 

In response to Bonnie N, this man IS receiving extensive anger management retraining, counseling by pastor, psychologists and psychiatrists, psychiatric evaluations, probation officer visits, and regular check-ins by the police.  The police consider the family to be at high-risk.  He continues to curry favor and sympathy from other church members who have not been involved from the initial arrest, and of course they are Christian and sympathetic, because don't we all want reconciliation?  He speaks to everyone about it, without reserve; she is so ashamed of him and the situation, so she doesn't--and then who gets the sympathy?  But the abuse has gone on for fifteen years before she reported it, and then after arrests, separation and a trial reunion, he continued to assault and violate probation orders.  He talks well--he knows what to say--but his actions speak otherwise.  But he genuinely still wants to be reinstated to the marriage and to the community.  Yet the family is terrorized. 

And so, the question remains:  What does ANY church community do with a situation like this?  It doesn't even matter if they are divorced or not--just being separated applies. Her family is far away in another state.  The church is her lifeline--we become her loving family who helps her and accepts her.  When the restraining order is over, he wants to come back to the church......  And just imagine that.... the man you are terrified of, who wants to come back to your home, to have a life together, who thinks of you as HIS, staring at you across the auditorium, or at the back of your head during worship....

Bonnie, those resources are good, but the best packet I've found is here:  http://www.restoredrelationships.org/resources/info/51/  .  It's from the UK, but is written so concisely, with tables and lists that are so very sensible.  And two pages addressing the helpful and non-helpful interpretations of key Biblical passages--so dear to our Calvinistic hearts....  Some pages aren't useful for North America because they are UK law, but the meat of the message is there in about 10 different pages of the 30 page packet.  Very absorbable by members because it's not such a wall of text like books can be. 

The risks of domestic violence are very real - many people die each year at the hand of an intimate partner. It can happen in your church. Rev. Al Miles, in the forward of his book, "Domestic Violence, What Every Pastor Needs to Know" begins with these words: "The monotony of a church board meeting was broken by a woman's screams and the sounds of a frantic scuffle in the next room. To their horror, the board discovered a highly respected church member being strangled by her husband ..." He goes on to describe how the church board members dragged the man away from his wife, and after a time of prayer, in which the man was repentant and promised never again to behave in such a way, the couple was sent home. The next morning the pastor received a call that the man had killed his wife; although she was in fact resuscitated by the paramedics. The church was split over what to do in response to the situation. It was a wake-up call to this church of the need to gain an understanding of the issue of relationship violence. This problem, though hidden, affects many people in our churches. The time to take action is now, rather than after the death of a church member. I’d encourage every church to be aware of local domestic violence resources, which can be very valuable in dealing with situations that arise. And sooner is always better than later to contact someone for help as the abuse tends to escalate over time. More information can be found on the Safe Church website (www.crcna.org/safechurch) and also here (www.theraveproject.com)

I was impressed with the actions of one church that I know of. Aware of several restraining/personal protection orders in effect between congregants, the council decided to hire a police officer on Sunday mornings to monitor the compliance of these orders – the officer is right there ready to arrest the non-compliant party. Council members are aware that they are to contact the police immediately, during other times, if any non-compliance is noted. Other churches, in slightly different situations, have worked out a written and signed covenant or agreement with parties involved so that they are never in the church at the same time. However, if one person is “terrified”, this may not be a viable option. Those who choose to abuse also often choose to deny, minimize, or rationalize their behavior. Safety and the needs of those who have been victimized must be maintained as the top priority. They should have the option to attend church without fear from those who have perpetrated abuse. That may mean that those who perpetrate abuse need to find a different church community, they are the ones to suffer the consequences of their actions, which have caused so much harm already.

The man needs professional long-term intervention; again the local domestic violence shelter may be able help point to the right kind of resources for him as well. One option would be to include the church address in the protection order so that the man may not be at church at all. It should be understood that the police will be notified of any violation of his order. Accountability is critical.

 

Thanks, Bonnie! Yes Circle of Grace is an excellent curriculum! Check it out on the Safe Church Ministry website http://www.crcna.org/SafeChurch/education-best-prevention.

 

Thanks for your post Rachel - teaching our children personal safety is so, so important in today's world where the risk of abuse is high. The two websites listed 'kids in the know' and 'door that's not locked' provide excellent resources for families who are concerned with protecting their children from abuse.

Churches must also do their part; in collaboration with other community partners, churches have an important role to play in the protection of children. That's why Safe Church is promoting Circle of Grace. It helps our children understand that all people are created in the image of their creator, and live always in God's loving presence in their circle of grace. It affirms the sacredness of all relationships, and gives deeper reasons for treating one another with dignity and respect. This is something that secular programs cannot do, this message must come from the church.

Imagine that you are the only house on the block that does not have a security system and the signage that denotes it.  If a burglar has to make a choice as to which home to break into, your non-secured home will likely be the primary choice.  

The same logic applies to ministries without screening protocol.  Which church is most likely to attract the sexual predator?  As more and more charities and ministries implement screening protocol, your church (if it has no such protocol) will be more likely to attract the prowling of predators.

Screening is only a minor part of a proper Safe Church Policy but it is crucial (ask your insurer).  It won't stop the first-time offender but it will severely limit the likelihood of repeat offences.  

I agree whoeheartedly that boundary training is crucial for pastors.  Also a code of ethical conduct would help give some important information to pastors, church leaders and congregations which could prevent anyone from becoming the victim of any power or control issues within the church family.

 

I find it hard to understand that the implementation of a proper screening policy is being viewed by some as an unnecessary expense.  It is an INVESTMENT in the safety of your children.

And, if such a policy is required (either by state or insurance), non-compliance may result in the "directors" of your church (council members) being deemed negligent and being held personally liable for any resulting damages.  It is cumbersome that checks have to be repeated every 3 -5 years (depending on your insurer or local law) but I know of at least one church where a volunteer who had previously cleared screening was forced to resign when a subsequent screening failed to clear the volunteer.  So, while weighing risks and costs, take a good look at your children and youth... and then make the INVESTMENT!!  

As for the use of "common sense", I can't help but think of the days when "common sense" meant we didn't have to use seat belts for our children, smoking while pregnant was acceptable and hockey helmets weren't required.  Of course the use of common sense is a good idea but who defines it?  And should financial expense be a major determining factor?

Greetings,

In response to your first question: This Network post came directly from the Safe Church Newsletter, which goes out to all classis Safe Church Team members. The Safe Church Training Notebook mentioned is our way of equipping classis Safe Church Team members to be resources to the churches in their classis. The power point presentations, which are on our website, are included in the notebook; however the notebook also includes additional information, handouts, etc. that are not on our website. Since the Safe Church Training Notebook is a relatively new item, not all Safe Church team members have one yet. They have been distributed in places where Safe Church team meetings and training events have taken place. We hope to get them out to all Safe Church team members in time. We also hope that the notebook itself will not remain the same but will grow, by adding additional resources. We are working to create a web space that will be available to all classis Safe Church team members, where notebook resources will be held, so that all classis Safe Church team members will always have the most updated information available to them for their notebooks. If you have additional questions regarding this, please feel free to contact the Safe Church office.

Regarding your second question about general Safe Church resources for Abuse Awareness Sunday - I'm glad you asked! This is a great time to let people know more about Safe Church in general. The topic is there for those who would like to use that topic, but that is certainly not required. On our website, look at the quick links on the right side bar - especially the fact sheet. You can also click on the left sidebar under "What is Safe Church Ministry?" for additional ideas. Also, on the left sidebar under "Resources for Abuse Awareness Sunday" there is a page of general resources that don't correspond to a specific topic. A letter will go out soon to all pastors and to classis Safe Church Team members about Abuse Awareness Sunday - thank you for your interest in doing something at your church. Again, please feel free to contact Safe Church for assistance and for more ideas and resources.

 

I was glad to find this post today in my search for some updated materials on Safe Church. The second bullet points mentions a "Safe Church Training Notebook" and I was able to find the place that has links to the power point presentations (here: http://www.crcna.org/SafeChurch/what-safe-church-ministry-team), and I also see there are lots of resources like previous bulletin inserts, worship resources, etc., but I'm just sort of wondering where to start with all of this as far as what we should have in our Safe Church Notebook?

Also, a second question, I see that there is a specific topic for this year's Abuse Awareness Sunday in September, but I think we might be in a place where we need to talk about this more generally this year, and was wondering what of the resources you might recommend to meet that need?

Thanks for the post and the comments!

Check out resources at http://www.acalltomen.org/ - An organization dedicated to creating a world where all men and boys are loving and respectful and all women and girls are valued and safe.

Be sure all volunteers, adults and teenagers alike, understand the church's abuse prevention policy and how to implement it in the VBS setting. The parents of these children trust us with their children. It is our comission to keep VBS a safe environment for all participants.

Thanks for the good info Rachel. There are tons of good resources on the RAINN website.

What strikes me when I look over the list of "reducing your risk" is how all the focus is on the one potentially victimized. We must also focus on how to stop those who perpetrate rape and sexual assault. We need to change attitudes that prevent disclosure and keep this issue hidden. We need to make changes to the criminal justice system to increase the conviction rate (a proven deterrent). Sexual assault and rape will stop when the perpetrators stop doing it, period. There are times when no amount of tips for reducing risk will prevent it. (See 2 Samuel 13 for a case study)

And, perhaps against better judgement, I have to mention gender here. When I worked on campus, I helped lead seminars about sexual assault and rape. One of the activities was asking all the men in the room what things they did on a regular basis so that they would not be raped. I got lots of blank stares, and sometimes a few answers. Then we asked the same question to all the women in the room. I check my car before I get in; I leave work before dark; I hold my key ready to use as a weapon; I carry pepper spray; I never walk alone; and the answers went on and on and on.  It was an eye-opening exercise for the men in the room who didn't understand the experience of living in fear of sexual assault, which  was common for most of their women colleagues. I believe a culture change is needed - Male or female, sexual assault and rape are NOT OK.  We, as the Church, must be champions and stand for protecting the dignity of all people, and an end to sexual assault.

A warning, from Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Prison Letters: The displacement of God from the world, and from the public part of human life, led to the attempt to keep his place secure at least in the sphere of the ‘personal’, the ‘inner’, and the ‘private’. And as every man still has a private sphere somewhere, that is where he was thought to be the most vulnerable. The secrets known to a man’s valet – that is, to put it crudely, the range of his intimate life, from prayer to his sexual life – have become the hunting-ground of modern pastoral workers. In that way they resemble (though with quite different intentions) the dirtiest gutter journalists – do you remember the Wahrheit and the Glocke, which made public the most intimate details about prominent people? In the one case it’s social, financial, or political blackmail and in the other, religious blackmail. Forgive me, but I can’t put it more mildly. From the sociological point of view this is a revolution from below, a revolt of inferiority. Just as the vulgar mind isn’t satisfied till it has seen some highly placed personage ‘in his bath’, or in other embarrassing situations, so it is here. There is a kind of evil satisfaction in knowing that everyone has his failings and weak spots. In my contacts with the ‘outcasts’ of society, its ‘pariahs’, I’ve noticed repeatedly that mistrust is the dominant motive in their judgment of other people. Every action, even the most unselfish, of a person of high repute is suspected from the outset. These ‘outcasts’ are to be found in all grades of society. In a flower-garden they grub around only for the dung on which the flowers grow. The more isolated a man’s life, the more easily he falls a victim to this attitude. There is also a parallel isolation among the clergy, in what one might call the ‘clerical’ sniffing-around-after-people’s-sins in order to catch them out. It’s as if you couldn’t know a fine house till you had found a cobweb in the furthest cellar, or as if you couldn’t adequately appreciate a good play till you had seen how the actors behave off-stage. It’s the same kind of thing that you find in the novels of the last fifty years, which do not think they have depicted their characters properly till they have described them in their marriage-bed, or in films where undressing scenes are thought necessary. Anything clothed, veiled, pure, and chaste is presumed to be deceitful, disguised, and impure; people here simply show their own impurity. A basic anti-social attitude of mistrust and suspicion is the revolt of inferiority. Regarded theologically, the error is twofold. First, it is thought that a man can be addressed as a sinner only after his weaknesses and meannesses have been spied out. Secondly, it is thought that a man’s essential nature consists of his inmost and most intimate background; that is defined as his ‘inner life,’ and it is precisely in those secret human places that God is to have his domain! On the first point it is to be said that man is certainly a sinner, but is far from being mean or common on that account. To put it rather tritely, were Goethe and Napoleon sinners because they weren’t always faithful husbands? It’s not the sins of weakness, but the sins of strength, which matter here. It’s not in the least necessary to spy out things; the Bible never does so. (Sins of strength: in the genius, hubris; in the peasant, the breaking of the order of life – is the Decalogue a peasant ethic? –; in the bourgeois, fear of free responsibility. Is this correct?) On the second point: the Bible does not recognize our distinction between the outward and the inward. Why should it? It is always concerned with anthropos teleios, the whole man, even where, as in the Sermon on the Mount, the Decalogue is pressed home to refer to ‘inward disposition’. That a good ‘disposition’ can take the place of total goodness is quite unbiblical. The discovery of the so-called inner life dates form the Renaissance, probably from Petrarch. The ‘heart’ in the biblical sense is not the inner life, but the whole man in relation to God. But as a man lives just as much from ‘outwards’ to ‘inwards’ as from ‘inwards’ to ‘outwards’, the view that his essential nature can be understood only from his intimate spiritual background is wholly erroneous. I therefore want to start from the premise that God shouldn’t be smuggled into some last secret place, but that we should frankly recognize that the world, and people, have come of age, that we shouldn’t run man down in his worldliness, but confront him with God at this strongest point, that we should give up all our clerical tricks, and not regard psychotherapy and existentialist philosophy as God’s pioneers. The importunity of all these people is far too unaristocratic for the Word of God to ally itself with them. The Word of God is far removed from this revolt of mistrust, this revolt from below. On the contrary, it reigns.

Having recently read numerous blogs/articles related to the sovereign grace ministries lawsuit, as well as becoming aware of a number of situations where (all kinds of) abuse and inappropriate sexual behavior have been covered up in the Church, I have found several headlines that I believe sum up what is going on:  "Abuse thrives in a cultures of shame and silence" and "protecting the powerful at the expense of the weak" 

it is time for honest transparency in the Church, to stop covering up and saving face...

it's time to follow I Timothy 5:20 so other leaders will be warned.

and it's time to deal with the sexual objectification of women that is so prevalent in our culture

 

It's time to speak up on behalf of the weak and vulnerable, that are the victims of abuse!

 

Thank you for sharing this, Rachel. As the mother of two daughters and a son, I find this to be an important reminder to have these conversations. I particularly appreciate Christina's tips. 

Most certainly, respect knows no boundaries! Everyone needs it and deserves it. However, in this blog I am specifically trying to draw particular attention to a big concern in many of our communities, which involves teen girls being assaulted by boys.

Just thinking about some of the school shootings in the news over the years . . . seems like these lessons are equally applicable for how to treat boys as well as girls.

An article reviewing President Barak Obama's remarks about mental health in a speech made on June 3, 2013, says, "The president also pointed out that persons with mental illnesses statistically are far more likely to be the victims of violence than the perpetrators, and the vast majority of gun violence in America is not linked to people with mental problems. 'I want to be absolutely clear the overwhelming majority of people who suffer from mental illnesses are not violent,' he declared."

Yes, I'll echo the thanks for the good information posted about abuse and those with disabilities being more vulnerable. Thanks Rachel!

Thanks for the link to additional resources, Mark! This is an important issue. Many parents with children and adult children living with disabilities have told me that abuse is a big worry. So I am most certain that these resources are appreciated!

Rachel, thanks for your work on this helpful series on disability and abuse. It's painful to read the statistics of how people with disabilities are much more vulnerable to abuse and sexual assault than the general population. Readers may like to know that Disability Rights Wisconsin has produced a number of guides and background papers that may be helpful.

One of the things I love about the Circle of Grace program, currently being sponsored by Safe Church, is the way it encourages children to talk with a trusted adult when something feels unsafe. Children are taught to identify trusted adults in their lives (adults who are honest and who care about them). They also learn to look the adult in the eyes and say "I have something important to tell you". Then they can describe what happened and how they feel using Circle of Grace language, which they are familiar iwth. And because the program includes information for teachers and parents; it helps adults in the church community learn how to respond to a child who discloses feeling unsafe, or an abuse situation. The Circle of Grace program makes our churches safer places because it helps children do exactly what has been recommended in this blog. Find out more about Circle of Grace on the Safe Church website - click on the left sidebar where it says, "Education is the Best Prevention."

Thank you for sharing this helpful article.

Thank you for this useful information Rachel.

As I read this post I couldn't help thinking about the Circle of Grace program that Safe Church is promoting for all CRC churches. It's not just a program for children and youth in grades K-12, equipping them to be active participants in creating a safe environment for themselves and others. With the information that goes to parents, and the training that is included for teachers, it raises awareness and changes the culture in the entire church community. It gives us a common language to talk about these important issues. I believe it is one of the best comprehensive tools available for buidling communities characterized by respectful, open, and healthy relationships. Is there a better way to to prevent abuse? Find out more about Circle of Grace on the Safe Church website www.crcna.org/safechurch - under education is the best prevention.

Thank you, Rachel, for the great resources.

I would like to highlight one of the resources you listed, Circle of Grace. Safe Church Ministry has this curriculum for churches to use. Please contact our office for sample lessons and further information.

Our goal is that every church and youth program in the CRCNA uses a curriculum that teaches respect and promotes healthy relationships.

Alicia Mannes

Associate, Safe Church Ministry

amannes@crcna.org

Dear Jan,

Thanks for your question. I am providing you and others with some links on our website that may be helpful regarding Policies and Healthy Relationships.

http://www.crcna.org/sites/default/files/policy_basicelements.pdf

http://www.crcna.org/sites/default/files/policy_relationships.pdf

 

Alicia Mannes

Associate, Safe Church Ministry

Thank you, Bonnie, for your answer.  It is helpful.  The local Police Dept told me there is no law in our state regarding background checks, and our insurance agent told us there is no requirement from an insurance standpoint, so we need to use our best judgement.  I decided to follow our Christian School's practices.  You are reminding us of the importance of using our "common sense".

It’s important to note that any criminal background check has limitations. For starters, it’s only good until the moment it is completed. It doesn’t predict first offenses, and doesn’t include any offenses that went unreported. It may not reflect an accurate record of an offense (often plea bargains are made in court for lesser crimes, so the background check may not record the actual offense committed, only the plea deal reached in court). Depending on the criminal background check, it may only be good for the state or province in which it is conducted; and may say nothing about offenses that occurred in other places. As important as a criminal background check is, we must be aware of these limitations. Each church must weigh risks and costs, and then make a decision about how to proceed in terms of criminal background checks for staff and volunteers. It’s a good idea to check with the church’s insurance provider to see what is recommended or required. Insurance agents can be good sources for information and help to churches who may face obstacles in meeting requirements.

 

A criminal background check is not a panacea and does not stand alone as a method for screening church staff and volunteers. It is one part of an overall process, which includes an application, an interview, checking references, and getting to know the person in other ways. Because no screening can perfectly predict behavior, policies must also be in place and must be followed that limit risks for abuse. For example, a policy that doesn’t allow an adult to be alone with a child, and includes provisions for transportation, discipline, etc. provides an extra measure of safety.

 

So, back to the question; do background checks need to be repeated every three years? Given all the limitations just described, is it worth spending the money for a new background check? Some churches instead require self-reporting each year by their volunteers. In other words, each year a document is signed by the volunteer that says nothing has changed with regards to certain offenses in the last year. If a rigorous selection process was originally done, and if there are strong policies also in place, is this enough? Again, we come back to the fact that each church must continually weigh the risks and costs of its actions. The church must come to a decision that it can live with; one that gives peace of mind that due diligence has been done to create and maintain a safe environment. There are costs (time, energy, money) involved in providing a safe environment in our churches. If you’ve ever had to deal with the horrific after-effects of abuse, you know that the resources spent preventing it from happening in the first place are well worth it.

Thank you Rachel for your past two posts. Great ideas, keep them coming.

Wow, Wendy, you are quick.   Well, to answer your simple question which has so many possible situations,  "someone" would have to have an identity first.  And the "beater" would also have to have an identity.   If it was one of my sons who did the beating of his wife or child for example (can't see that happening), then they would be in big trouble.... likely get a serious talking to by my wife with my full support, and perhaps being physically restrained or even punished by my other sons and myself, for example.   Simply not acceptable.   Okay... what if it is a stranger?  or a friend?  Do they have a "protector"?   every situation requires examination of circumstances, was it once in a lifetime, or is it habitual, or somewhere in between.   The woman would simply be supported;  either given a place to live, or security of protection, or opportunity to prosecute, or opportunity to forgive provided true repentance (meaning no recidivism) occurs.  

The same general concern for a man or boy who has been beaten.   Depending on cause, severity, repetition.   Given a safe place and a remedy to prevent reoccurence, which may or may not include legal action.   Of course, beaters are human beings as well, perhaps sometimes also victims of abuse, and God provides grace and redemption for the worst of sinners.    So, consequences with grace.  

A small child beating another small child might get a spanking, or be isolated, or something else, depending on what has the biggest impact. 

A child who was beaten(abused) by a mother - a different situation again.   Depends again on how well we knew the child and mother, the circumstances, the likelihood of re-offending, etc.   But in no case is it acceptable beyond a simple spanking in appropriate  circumstances which would not be considered to be a beating.   Protection of the life and health and emotional well-being of the child would be paramount. 

In the same way, we adopt children, support single mothers, and maintain the value of the unborn female child, and the ability of the mother to give birth, as a response to those who would kill the unborn females. 

Well, you possibly knew you wouldn't get a short answer to a short question?  :) 

so your response to someone who was beaten would be what?

Abortion is also violence against women.   About half the unborn aborted are females.  They are not just beaten.  They are killed.   Therefore it is not a separate issue.  Secondly, in many, many cases, abortion is part of the abuse of women by males who persuade or encourage or threaten the woman into getting the abortion.  Therefore it is not a separate issue.   In a few cases, the opposite happens, where a woman gets an abortion and it is in effect a form of abuse against  the father, to destroy his child.   I personally think that violence against women is worse than violence against men, because men are often expecting or living in expectation of a higher degree of violence, whether it is in sport such as football or car derbies, or in work such as wrestling calves or riding bulls.  But the abuse of the vulnerable by the more powerful is much the same.   I think that abortion is part of that violence, and that the mentality of abortion is the same as the mentality of abusing women, because both are centered around abusing those who are less powerful.   Unborn females are the least powerful of all. 

While I appreciate both comments by Wendy and Bonnie, as long as abortion is put on the sidelines or separated from abuse issues, then solving the problem of abuse of women is only an issue of dealing with outward symptoms, and not of the heart of the disease.   The abuse of women also happens by women who happen to be more powerful than other women who have caught the disease of using power to abuse and manipulate and attain selfish desires at the expense of the less powerful and more vulnerable.   Therefore I think KW has a very valid point. 

This blog was written for people who are already born and alive in the world, all the already-born women, grandmothers, mothers, sisters & friends - of whom 1 in 3 will be raped or beaten in her lifetime. That's the topic here. Don't you think the church should take a stand against that?

OK, I see what you're saying now. I still think the primary issue addressed in this post - violence against women - deserves its own consideration. Abortion is a separate issue, albeit an important one.

I'm sorry, but that's not the same thing at all. Are you really lumping together women who have been victims of violence  - through no fault of their own - with those who choose to have an abortion?" 

Wendy, why do you think I am lumping them together?   Actually, I am lumping together those who are encouraging women to have abortions, with abusers.  And I am lumping together those women who are victims of abuse, with the victims of abortion, the unborn who died. 

I'm sorry, but that's not the same thing at all. Are you really lumping together women who have been victims of violence  - through no fault of their own - with those who choose to have an abortion?

Bonnie, don't you think that many cases, maybe most, are the result of men abusing women?  using them and not supporting them?   And women permitting the abuse?  (Sex without committment is abuse.)   And then pushing the abortion on the woman... isn't that also a form of abuse?   And what about the abuse of the fetus, the unborn, the new life?  Is this not also violence? 

Greetings,

Thank you for your comment and for expressing your concerns.

I hesitate to enter into this discussion because it IS ALL about VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN - NOT about abortion, which is an entirely different issue. Until the church is more vocal in its opposition to violence against women, I will choose to stand with those who are taking a stand - we can agree on that, and stand in solidarity - even though we do not agree with the position that those organizations take on every other issue. When I was a student at Wheaton, I heard the phrase "all truth is God's truth" - it's like rain that falls on the good and bad alike. In standing against violence against women, we are finding common ground - it's a point of connection that can allow our lights to shine in a dark place.

Regarding sexuality - Safe Church has a free downloadable resource called "Driver's Training for Dating" which will help youth learn the sacredness of the sexual relationship and navigate through the highly sexualized culture that we live in.  We also offer "Circle of Grace" a program for all ages that teaches respect for one another in healthy relationships - We have offered this excellent resource free of charge to the first 50 churches that agree to use it - it's sad to me that only about half that number have signed on. Do our churches really care about this?

Regarding abortion - I am a member of "Feminists for Life" http://www.feministsforlife.org/ which is an organization that follows in the footsteps of  great feminists of the past, those who fought so bravely for women to have the right to vote. These women were strongly opposed to abortion. Did you know that the number one reason that a woman seeks an abortion is because of lack of resources and support? So, if we want to see fewer abortions, we need to support women. I base my opinion on abortion on my belief that life begins far before someone is born - that the Lord is creatively working in the womb. I understand that not everyone shares that belief. I also feel that I must say one more thing in response to the post. It makes no sense to me to compare abortion to violence against women. Please understand; in an abortion a woman agrees to a sanitary, surgical procedure - however unpleasant and difficult that may be. That is nothing at all like the experience of terror and powerlessness that occurs in violence or in rape - nothing like it at all - there simply is no comparison.

While I am definitely against violence against women and support bringing awareness to the issue,  I wonder how the CRCNA can recommend the above websites? It less about violence and more about indoctrinating a mindset. I would think the logo would be the first clue, it's messages to girls on sex, sexuality and abortion is in direct opposition to the Bible and what I believe the CRC believes and mandates. Bringing attention to violence against women is one thing, but promoting abortion, which is one of the most violent acts against women and their unborn babies is a whole other matter. The connection to Planned Parenthood and poor sexual messages to our young girsl seems very in poor judgement. It's time we look beyond the hype of trendy "social justice" organizations, look beyond the spin, and find a clear biblical way to promote the message. What you've suggested above is clearly about much more than violence against women.

I think Safe Haven ministries is a great outreach, I just don't think we need to connect it to this.

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