“I mean, my dad was a deacon at our church.”
I can still remember the hurt and anger in those words as my friend explained why the abuse she endured from her father as a child has made returning to the church impossible for her. She still loves Scripture and the gospel, still follows Christ, but because of her abuse has decided she must follow him from a distance, away from the pain-filled and unsafe walls of a church. Her story is not uncommon and echoes the story of so many harmed by abuse and failed by the church.
Perhaps no form of abuse provokes such strong emotions of disgust, anger and fear as child sexual abuse, yet it remains frighteningly common (1 in 4 girls, 1 in 6 boys*), with no evidence of lower prevalence in the church. Many believe the Protestant church world, which is only beginning to talk about the issue, is on the verge of a sexual abuse scandal as serious as that which erupted in the Catholic church.
Abuse Awareness Sunday is coming very soon (September 27), and here at Safe Church Ministry we have been working hard to gather resources for this year’s topic of Child Sexual Abuse. At Safe Church, we believe the only way to curb sexual violence against children is for the church to address the issue head-on with courage and conviction. There is a deep need for more open conversation creating an environment of trust and safety, policies that put children’s safety first, and worship services that lament abuse, pray for justice, and open the door for healing for its victims. Please see our new resource page on Child Sexual Abuse. The “Articles” section is a good place to turn for quick overview articles on the issue. It includes articles highlighting where the church often fails in its attitudes and response to abuse and an article reflecting on the impact of abuse on worship.The Worship Resources page will be valuable for pastors and worship teams crafting liturgies appropriate for abuse awareness. In addition, Circle of Grace is an inexpensive program that can easily be incorporated in most churches which helps children understand God’s will for healthy relationships and the warnings signs indicating unhealthy relationships.
Please be in prayer for those harmed by sexual abuse in your congregation, and prayerfully explore and consider using some of the resources that Safe Church has prepared in your own context.