I consider it a privilege to have been appointed the first director of Safe Church Ministry in 1994. Back then, the ministry was called Abuse Prevention. The name evolved as the ministry evolved – moving from identifying ‘abuse’ to ‘creating safe places’. I was given the opportunity to raise awareness of abuse and to assist the church with its efforts to reduce the risk of abuse and offer a just and compassionate response to those affected by abuse. My tools for creating awareness and assisting the church are resources, training, developing Safe Church Teams, and designing policies and protocols.
Here is a bit of my background. I was a therapist for many years before starting Abuse Prevention. From that perspective, I knew education and prevention go hand-in-hand. I also served on the “Study Committee on Abuse in the CRC” from 1989 – 1994. Recently, from 2004-2009, I attended law school. I don’t practice law for the office, but I use the legal education to inform churches and to assist their efforts to reduce the risk of abuse.
When Abuse Prevention began, I turned my focus to preventing child abuse because of a child’s vulnerability. I also knew state and provincial laws were on my side. As a therapist, I observed and counseled many children (and adults) wounded and scarred by child abuse. I couldn’t imagine starting anywhere else. Along side of that focus, was a draft protocol for a process to help church councils intervene when allegations arose against a church leader. That protocol is now known as the advisory panel process. Each year, I crisscrossed the United States and Canada training churches on various types of abuse including the impact on victims, offenders, families, and congregations. I’ve reviewed hundreds of child safety policies for reasonableness and for compliance with state or provincial law. Resources were developed on child abuse, domestic violence and dating violence, elderly abuse, and church leader misconduct. Along the way, I’ve responded to over 1700 complaints of abuse brought by a victim, a family member, a school teacher, a church leader, a church member, a board member of an agency or institution, and by others who had an interest in a situation.
Now, a new leg of this journey toward safe churches begins with this Network website. Welcome aboard, and feel free to share your wisdom and insights.