The fourth in a series of questions frequently raised in training sessions: I am a man who cares deeply about sexual abuse, but what can one man do to make a difference? Isn't (sexual abuse) primarily a problem women need to learn how to keep themselves safe?
Gerry Heyboer writes the following response. The answer to the first question is "A lot!" The answer to the second question is "No!"
Let's look at the second question first. There is an unexamined belief in this man's question. The unexamined belief is a woman's behavior needs to change in order to rid the church or society of sexual abuse. This is not simply a woman's issue. The author, Dan Allender, himself a suffer of sexual abuse, in an interview with Dick Staub is asked the question, "How widespread is this issue truly in American life and society?" Here is Allender's answer: It's pervasive. If it were an issue of the common cold, we would see it as a tragedy and it would be at the very front of Newsweek every week. (Taken from an interview by Dick Staub with Dan Allender on June 1, 2003, entitled How Dan Allender Broke on Through [to the Other Side]).
Sexual abuse is a human sin affecting women and men in all Protestant Churches including the CRC.
Now, the first question. What can a man do to make a difference? First, you must be convinced that the Church is called on by God to make its ministry and facilities safe for its children and adults. Every time a child is baptized a congregation makes a vow answering the question, "Do you, the people of the Lord, promise to receive these children in love, pray for them, help them inthe faith, and encourage and sustain them in the fellowship of believers? We do, God helping us." The task of making the local congregation a safe place is not simply to keep us out of the courts, but is one which we undertake because we have vowed to God to care for all the people of our congregation beginning with infants.
Second, you must pray for courage and wisdom. In some churches there is no perceived need to have a Safe Church Policy. There will often be resistance to having such a policy. You will need courage to inform yourself, change your mind, and then to firmly proceed to share your concerns with the church leadership. When you meet obstacles, you will need the insight of others who have faced similar difficulties.
Third, as you inform yourself, you must be willing to change your mind when you meet a reality that is not the way you perceived it in the past.
Fourth, if your church does have a Safe Church Policy, you can offer your help in giving it more visibility within the local congregation.
Remember, a local congregation needs to be diligent in forming, implementing, and following policies that lessen the opportunity for the occurrence of sexual abuse so that the well-being of all persons, male and female, and all ages will be enhanced. The Safe Church Ministry of the Denomination stands ready at any time to help develop Safe Churches.