What have churches done for male survivors of sexual abuse?

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I'm a professor of Biblical Studies, a survivor, and I also lead a support group for other male survivors. I would like to hear from people about what is done at their church for male survivors. This concerned me enough to write a book (recently #7 on Amazon's books addressing sexual abuse), http://www.amazon.com/Long-Journey-Home-Understanding-Collaborative/dp/1608993957/ref=tmm_pap_title_0

The Sandusky scandal, his arrogant show at his recent sentencing, and the emergence of his male victims has created a vital opportunity for Christian leaders to discuss this openly, and also admit the presence of male survivors in our churches.

I would like to know how God's people can do a better job addressing this and stamp out stereotypes that keep men, husbands, and fathers from addressing their abuse.

I would like to have some dialogue about this, but all my effort on your site--even creating a login-in and brief profile--have not been met with any interaction.

Regards,

Andrew J. Schmutzer, PhD

[email protected]

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I think it would have to start with one person being willing to talk about their abuse and then making the offer to be a part of or leader of a group.

At one level, you are correct. With issues of such loaded pain like SA, there really needs to be a "point of contact" so other survivors can talk about their abuse stories. I get that. At another level, Christian leaders have not experienced everything to create such "experience-bridges" (thankfully!), yet they still need to speak out and name such deep issues that live on within the church--in part, because they are not taking up the prophetic voice. Scripture already addresses some of these horrific issues, but will our pastors stand next to such texts (Gen 34; 2 Sam 13, etc.)? We need people to step up and speak up--silence is always going to hurt the victim more--if they're even in the church anymore. 

Thanks for your thought. ~ Andrew

I think it would have to begin with one man being willing to step forward and say, "This is what happened to me." He could then offer to be part of a group or, more likely, offer to lead a group. Even then, it would be so out of the ordinary that it would probably take a while for others to begin opening up. But it would be a start.

Your phrase "out of the ordiinary" both stuns me and saddens me. This is a huge issue for men, in particular. Let me share some thoughts about the Delayed Disclosure of many victims. I talked about this in a survivor's support group last night:

 

·        They fear the abuser will intensify the threats,

·        Their guilt and shame is amplified by religious and social stigmas,

·        Society does not socialize men to speak of deep emotion and painful events,

·        Childhood coping mechanisms prove inadequate for adult pressures,

·        Support groups for male victims are almost non-existant,

·        Survivors encounter a “trigger” (e.g. honeymoon, their child’s key age, another’s story)

·        Their inability to recognize that their “odd experience” was actually sexual abuse,

·        They feel confusion and betrayal because they were physically aroused,

·        They feel responsible for the abuse and want to protect the family and/or abuser,

·        They are worried they will not be believed, will be blamed, or possibly vilified.

Thanks for the discussion. Maybe our talking will help change stereotypes in our churches! But my heart goes out to men trying to date with such silent pain, husbands who don't know how to talk to their wives, fathers who are taking out their anger and shame on confused children, etc. ~Andrew

By "out of the ordinary," I mean it would be unusual for anyone - and especially a man - to speak of their own sexual abuse in a public setting. I do think, however, that it would be more "out of the ordinary" for a man to speak for a couple of reasons.

1. Most sexual abuse is perpetrated against women. That might be an issue of underreporting. It could also be a statement of fact based on societal standards and raw, physical strength. Consider 2 Samuel 13 and the story of Amnon and Tamar.

2. Men are more likely not to talk about it.

I recently talked to a social worker about this. In her experience, she files 3-5 reports per year about sexual abuse for girls from her school. In her career (20 years?), she has probably only filed 4 total for boys.

I don't disagree with you. My wife is a therapist who works with SA survivors. I get the data: 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys. What I'm also concerned about is how both society and the church has done a poor job socializing men to discuss deep emotion and face traumatic experiences. Why do you think that men in society and the church don't feel safe to talk about their abuse sitiuations? The numbers you noted from your social worker friend underscore the disclosure problem in the list of reasons. Yet all of Sandusky's victims were what...men. 

Here's a site I'm working with to help men of faith. It's dedicated to helping male victims. www.1in6.org

We must learn to address this, and as leaders we must be willing to name it FOR the victims, or we force victims to ALSO break their own silence. That's just wrong. ~Andrew

.

I don't feel it would be out of the ordinary at all for men to step up.  In fact, I know it is not.  Men are crying out for the opportunity to give and receive help but the church is consistently shutting their attempts down.  Sometimes unwittingly, other times knowingly. The fact is, victimised men do not fit the ideology of organised church today which is main stream “Male as offender only and Female as victim only” ideology.

As an individual I have no difficulty discussing what Christ has done for me in my healing as a Survivor of sexual assault.  I find because I am open regarding my being a Survivor of sexual assault and the healing I received through Christ, men are open with me as well.   It is not a matter of the men not coming forward; it is the church community in general and the Pastors who prefer that men did not speak their truth.  I have experienced more than one Pastor advising me not to share of my history because “people may not understand”.  Imagine..... Christians not understanding the love and healing powers of God! 

Further men are being silenced by the anti-violence education that the Christian community is promoting, much of which is exclusively Male negative.  We need to re-examine our personal prejudices regarding violence and dispel the myths that surround victimization and offenders.  The portrayal of the offender as a male only is irresponsible and only perpetuates the silencing of victims and not addressing the reality of female offenders.  As I noted in a previous comment when I wrote to suggest we look at the sexism in the Safe Church articles, violence does not discriminate and neither did Christ so why is the information we share on violence so gender biased.

In a recent article from Safe Church it was stated that Males were the offenders against the vulnerable 88% to 98% of the time.   I asked where the stat was referenced from and I reviewed the information provided and found it was not a finding from a valid study.  It was a number arrived at having used information from different reports one of which was “Prevalence of Abuse of Women with Physical Disabilities.”.  The formula was skewed immediately to produce an agenda specific finding, in this case a gender bias.  Beyond not being valid my greater concern is why is a Christian web site sharing such biased information without reviewing the information first?  I believe the reason is because we have become comfortable in our worldly belief on violence that being, male as negative. 

Despite the negativity surrounding men and violence I believe men are ready to stand up if given the slightest opportunity.  We need to begin with acknowledging that we have overlooked our men, offer and receive forgiveness and move on to action. 

Blessings;

Shawn

I do understand your point and I do hear your frustration. Your pain is shared by many men. Churches are somewhere between afraid and confused.

Maybe the only thing more messy than facing one's sexual abuse is trying to get "systems", religious and otherwise, to face their role in the propogation of stereotypes that many men have to dig through. I recommend you read the first two chapters in The Long Journey Home: Understanding and Ministering to the Sexually Abused (2011). Written by Steven R. Tracy, PhD (Theologian and Ethicist) and Justin Smith, PsyD (Professor of Counseling), "Definitions and Prevalence Rates of Sexual Abuse" and "Characteristics and Typologies of Sex Offenders." These recent discussions will help clarify the data issues you raise. This is why Mary Kay Letourneau and Amanda Knox are described as "troubled" or "confused" but would have been roundly condemned had they been male. Similar twisted stereotypes are applied to male abuse victims.

Much of your frustration is a result of what I call "social atonement." The combination of power redistribution from feminist ideologies and social science commitments to proportionality arguments effectively means that men aren't allowed to talk about their abuse--the man's turn to speak is effectively over! I understand why the secular dialogue has bought into this, but it saddens me deeply when the church isn't able to address deeper realities tied to the "image of God" (Gen 1:26-28). Identity politics (= "I am my body") is a very loud voice. Yet should society minimize women's heart disease and research because it's proportionally a male concern?

In all fairness, seminaries don't train pastors to address SA, DV or trauma theory. But this is no excuse for stonewalling or not networking with trained counselors and psychologists. Churches must learn to be forward think on this issue, but it's easier to write a check for trafficking in Bangkok than address the abused teen in the church balcony. One-third of trafficking victims are boys, but organizations won't address this.

I've also been hurt by the stereotypes foisted on men (for others see 1in6.org). Until very recently, large national conferences on SA did not even address male sexual abuse. If a man asked for information to address his abuse, he was told how not to be a victimizer! Unfortunately this is largely the way secular society thinks. One male survivor tried talking about his sexual abuse perpetrated by a woman and was called a liar and told this was his "patriarchal fantasy." Society doesn't want to help abused boys (until costly football programs expose the problem), but does want to toss around the word "patriarchy", though little was done to address the man when he was younger. This is also why delayed admission for men is much later for males. Unfortunately, the vast majority of literature on SA still talks in the 3rd fem. singular, assuming women are victims and "he" is the perpetrator. Your point here is well made.

Personally, I look for the day when the church will lead the charge in a more holistic anthropology--then the pointless drama of comparing scars will stop. Maybe then, the average church will not only name sexual abuse (regardless of the gender), but actually promote support groups for abused men. Imagine that! I'm trying my hardest, professionally and practically, to help the church live out its mission to all its broken people and look beyond the gender distraction society is so infatuated with. It's a worldview, and it will take time to change it.

~Andrew

So what qualifications are necessary to lead men's support group? If some man steps forward at age 41 and discloses his abuse for the first time, does that make him the defacto leader of the group?

I do not believe a man who is just coming to the stage of opening up about his hurts is ready to facilitate a group for other men.  Christ did not begin to teach as an infant when he came into the world, Bill W & Dr. Bob did not start Alcoholics Anomymous while still drinking, and a Pastor does not learn to preach the word without having first read it.  We need to expereince recovery in order to teach others about how God walked us through it..

This being said, I certainly do not believe that you need a Phd for God to work through you any more than you need to be a Theologian to know God.  It is a matter of knowing who you are in Christ Jesus that is important.  Humility, honestly, courage, integrity, and a constant desire to walk with the Lord are what matter.

Degrees are admirable and I have a healthy respect for men and women who choose to further their education.  There is always a place for knowledge at any table where there is humility.  My concern with both church and society today is that we distinguish and esteem men and women based on the extent of their education rather than the fruit of their actions.   This is acceptable for the world but as Christians we have a road map in the bible on how we are to live and even more specific, we have a living example of how  we are to conduct ourselves as shown in 1 Peter 2:21 “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.”

Learned knowledge is needed but the knowledge which comes from having experienced a similar issue and a commitment to living a life of Christ-likeness are truly what mattered to me in my recovery.   

For the men who are following this discussion I suggest the book “Boys Cry Too” by a friend John Mark Clubb.  It is a story about his journey of forgiveness of his offenders and the redemption and forgiveness for himself as a Survivor of childhood sexual assault.  John’s story of forgiveness, his struggle to live today as a father, husband and friend to others are why I would suggest this read for others who may be ready to look at their hurts.  .

Possible triggers in reading Johns book are: homosexuality, alcohol & drugs, adultery, physical and sexual assault.

Andrew or Calvin would either of you like to share what you believe are the qualifications necessary to lead men's support group? 

Greetings,

I think the question is an important one. But let's acknowledge something here--men's support groups basically don't exist. Rather sad! I lead one because I started it and I needed the fellowship and encouragement from fellow-survivors. So here's some thoughts:

> Find the backing of a church that "gets it", and the Support Group can operate alongside other similar groups.

> Require every male survivor to be in (or to have been in) counseling in addition to the Support Group. Counseling and Support Groups have different goals.

> Don't look for the "right" curriculum to run the group--let honesty, brotherly love, and Christian integrity run the group, discussing the issues the men need at the pace they need. The leader must understand this, and when to gently nudge the discussion on to other issues.

> Find some quality books, chapters, or video material to use, but Celebrate Recovery, in my opinion, is not up to the task of for SA groups. 

> For guys, you should have a fellow survivor as a leader; it's necessary to social and psychological "connection."

> Be willing to go at the pace of the collective needs. I don't believe the "12-step" model (at least time wise) is realistic. Think of a male Support Group as an on-going brotherhood of accountability and deep fellowship.

> Be willing to exercise "tough love" with each other. I think most male survivors are too afraid to talk about their shame, anger, and even how they also perpetrated on others. These are not easy discussions! So, male survivors tend to address the SYMPTOMS (e.g. anger, codependency, pornography, etc.) rather than the root CAUSE--their sexual abuse.

> A leader must be willing to be vulnerable at the level of his own pain, and lead in this expression of vulnerability. There is such a crushed child in male survivors, and each child must be handled with utter care. 

> Leaders should attend regular training sessions on various aspects of SA and healing. While the leader need not be a trained counselor per se, they will be lacking in vital theory that is essential to know. Issues like: trauma, family systems, male fears and social stigmas, and triggers a leader must know and be fairly on top of. 

> Leaders must be willing to face the "good cop vs- bad cop" reaction from survivors. Some survivors will always test the loyality of others, so they throw "bombs" out to see if you will leave them, too. It can be gut-renching.

> Find some quality web sites (and discussion groups) that can help with ideas, resources, and even offer speakers.

> Be willing work to host a conference on SA in your own church or via a number of churches--this has to be named. Be willing to give your own story before other standard men's groups that many churches have. Remember, about 1 in 5 have had some kind of abuse, but they need someone to follow in a healing journey. Older men, in particular, have suffered in silence (and God knows what else they may have done to cope!)

This is a set of ideas to begin with. I would seriously recommend any Support Group leader read the material in The Long Journey Home, a book also just listed on 1in6.org. This combines the theological and pastoral aspects that standard clinical discussions almost entirely avoid. In addition, there are discussion questions to every chapter, written prayers to help survivors, a massive glossary, bibliography, and a list of web-based resources. I had the joy of editing it, and I learned a ton!

Blessings brother. ~Andrew

I think the main qualifications are:

- the ability to invite - you have to get the people there to have the group before it matters what the person can do in the group. I think a good facilitator will be a person who is good at seeing needs in others and the courage to make the personal invitation.

- the ability to follow-up with people - once there, some will not want to come back...for whatever reason. The 'tator needs to be one who notices when people are gone and is willing to go seek them out.

- the ability to listen - 'tators don't need to have answers for questions as much as they have to be able to ask the questions that will get others to answer. If a 'tator sees himself as someone who must lead by their knowledge, the group will be centered around him and dependent on him. If he sees himself as someone who gives the members of the group easy opportunities to enter into the conversation, everyone will eventually learn that skill just by observation.

- a willingness to learn - there will be those who come to the group who will be able to teach the 'tator as well as be taught by the 'tator. Further, there will be questions that are asked that will require research in order for an answer to be found. The 'tator must be willing to say, "I don't know." without ending the conversation AND be willing to look for "answers" when the group is not together.

I think you get the point. The main qualification for a facilitator is that they have good people skills.

Thank you Andrew for your suggestions and insights on how to create a group.   Gratefully here in the Peel Region we do have a programs (such as it is ) for males who have been victimize and while it nolonger requires the male victim/Survivor to undergo offender based treatment; the program is still overwhelmingly gender biased in its content.  IE: The reality of Female Offenders is still not recognised in literature or programming despite the knowledge that fully one third of all sex offences against children are committed by females according to the Badgley Report on Sexual Offences Against Children and Youths 1984, the only Royal Commission National Study in Canada on the topic.

Along with this Government sponsored program for male victim/Survivors there are many more off site groups which are facilitated by male Survivors who utilise the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous.  While this may not be the preferred path it is practical and it has proven itself to be beneficial and greatly appreciated by the men.  

Ideally the body of Christ would actively include male victims and their needs into the programming within the church but recognising that this may not happen for some time as we challenge religiosity and prejudice; I believe it is important that we recognise and support the efforts of organizations like Celebrate Recovery.  I personally believe are actively bringing Christ centred healing to many victims of violence and are doing so when many within the body of Christ are openly against their efforts.  Lastly there are Christ centred cell groups active in outreach to male victim/Survivors which has a recovery based on Christian forgiveness that is proving very positive.

The concern I have for my community is the same concern I have for every city and town where the body of Christ is represented in an organised church system.  That concern is for the teachings of Christ to be alive in the actions of the congregation.   I firmly believe that a non-judgmental and hope filled body of Christ is the first need of all victims of violence regardless of gender.  I accept that the dynamics in recovery differ in male and female victim/Survivors but I also know that God chose to create us differently and as a result, He understands those dynamics and our individual needs in addressing them.   

I am confident in this belief due to my own personal experience with Christ as the lead in my recovery as well as from my experience of working with other male victim/Survivors who chose to recognise Christ as their healer.  I have been changed and I have witnessed the change in other men and women who chose to give their lives fully to Christ and this included their hurts, shames and fears along with their honest desire to change and/or to be changed. Having a community of Christian men and women who want my recovery as much as I do is the first step to becoming useful to Christ and that is in my experience the cornerstone to recovery; being transformed so as to become useful to Christ. 

This being said, my question to anyone following this discussion is how do we bring the concerns of men and their needs to the leadership which is often blinded by the worldly concerns of the congregation such as: the need for a more eye pleasing carpeting or the tempo in the choice of music.  How do we teach the need to prioritize without alienating the leadership and congregation?  Scripture gives us instruction on how to address those who are falling away from the body but in practice, how do you tell a Pastor or a person who has been a church going Christian for 40 years that twe need to invite Christ back into the church and begin to emulate him?

Stay blessed;

Shawn

I'm a little disappointed in some of the comments which seem to be pitting groups against the church. Granted, I haven't spent much time in churches or other settings where it would be inappropriate for a man to talk about his abuse. But I am always leary of the "us vs. them" mentality. For example, "How do you tell a Pastor or a person who has been a church going Christian for 40 years that twe need to invite Christ back into the church and begin to emulate him?" When has Christ left the church? And how is anyone supposed to respond to such a question without getting defensive?

Perhaps that is because my goals are less lofty than yours. When I read, "Maybe the only thing more messy than facing one's sexual abuse is trying to get 'systems', religious and otherwise, to face their role in the propogation of stereotypes that many men have to dig through.", I think, "But I just want to help the guy sitting next to me...not the whole system. I believe change comes in churches much as cancer enters a body - a little bit at a time. If you are willing to talk about your experience and you are able to help another talk about their experience, gradually you will have enough people who are open about their experiences that it would be almost impossible to make it abnormal to not openly admit your hurts.

[name?] I don't know if you're a survior, but there are experiences of pain, ignoring overtures, denying stories, avoiding testimonies, avoiding teaching and sermons, minimizing trauma, etc. It is not pitting anything against the church, it's calling the church to account for its history of innapropriate choices and added trauma that has often been placed on victims. 

Church leaders are called to lead, pastors are "first responders"--but many victims, male and female, feel like firemen blamed for the fire. Like the previoius person's comments about quality listening as a requirement for Support Group leaders, survivors have not been adequately heard. 

I'd like to know: could you name any churches or programs that have started Support Groups for male survivors by one person talking to another?

If you're not a survivor, you have the opportunity to be the Samaritan who crosses the road to help a crisis you know nothing about, but brother, be sure you're also willing to listen to the expressions of pain from us as survivors who are working in the church to change it. ~Andrew

As I said, I may not understand the experience of survivors in other congregations. I'm a bit surprised by the responses you detail. Not that I doubt that they were given; I just don't understand what is going on in someone's mind when they would respond to allegations/reports of abuse in that way. I recently preached a series on Tamar and was told by a social worker that in many churches, this is an issue that is not normally talked about. I don't get that, given the number of people in our churches and around the world who are, like Tamar, living "desolate" lives.

I'm also the one who made the comment about the need for good listeners, btw.

I haven't seen any groups for victims of sexual abuse anywhere, including in churches. So I haven't seen any started by one person talking to another. But as an administratively challenged pastor, I don't think it terms of starting groups as much as I think in terms of putting people together. It is easier for me to have two people make a connection than it is to find someone to lead a group, find people (who haven't talked about their abuse) to attend the group and find material for them to study. I would rather see two people helping each other right now than hope for a group of 8-12 who are helping each other in the future. One more disclaimer: as a raving introvert, if I get into a group like that, I will probably just listen anyway.

I hear your pain, Andrew. I think what I am trying to say is that I simply have different goals and methodologies and hopes for how to bring about change. What I'm wondering (and I don't use that rhetorically - I really am asking the question) is whether some of the pain in the churches response for you is that you had your hopes set higher than I have mine. As a leader, I need to know not only how I would perceive my response. I also want to understand how others would receive my response.

One more quick thing. The main reason that I got into this discussion was to try and help you to get it moving. I heard some of the frustration in your original post and thought that if I responded, a discussion might get started. It sure did!

We need a "Like button" as on Facebook.... ha ha  I want to like this comment from you. 

I really like your analogy here Andrew.   "Pastors are first responders" who better to be the first responder  "" "

Thanks for your response to my comment Calvin.  I did not mean for my comment to be taken so literal actually.  I took for granted that others reading would be able to read into it that I was writing/speaking with a generality.  I did not mean my comments to be seen as a “letter of the law but rather, the spirit of the law”.  I apologise that my comment offended you in any manner as it is not my intention to offend anyone.    I have been told to read and re read Matthew many times for my tongue!

To answer your question “How is anyone supposed to respond to such a question without getting defensive” I don’t expect that the person will not get defensive.  I know when I am confronted I immediately become defensive and I expect this of most people; it is simply my humanness reacting.  This does not mean I need others not to confront me.  How would I grow or learn if I am never challenged.  The fact is I need others to confront and teach me regardless of whether or not I may get angry.  What is more important the fear that I may get upset if you confront me or to leave me in my untruth?  I don't know Christ to have shied away from telling people the truth and neither should we with one another.  We are to sharpen each other as iron sharpens iron and we can not do that if we can not be honest with one another or if we allow our fear of the persons possible reaction to keep us from bringing the truth to him/her..

I smiled when I read your comment that you thought my goals lofty.  I don't see them as lofty at all Calvin and in fact, I  more often than not feel like I fail Christ miserably in my limited goals.  What you see as lofty I see as doing the bare minimum. 

I believe my goals and expectations are often blended but I don’t believe that my expectation on a church who represents the body of Christ is too high or unattainable.  I don’t believe God would have put it on my heart if He were not going to make it happen.  I am just anxious for the body of Christ to listen and act.  I know that sounds arrogant but I want you and other readers to know that I write it in "truth of my expereince" not in arrogance.  I write it as a boldness for the men who are suffering silently in the pews because they do not fit the mold of what we have decided they should fit into.  I write it for my brother who died a victim at his own hand because we would not listen to his cries for help as a victim and instead told him to go deal with his anger.  I write it for my mother who died an untreated sex offender because she too did not fit the image we as a society and as a Christian community promote.  I write it for the countless other men and women who are nolonger with us because they could not live in their pain and silence.  I write it because I believe it with the same conviction that I believe Christ Jesus is the living son of God. 

My truth is not an attack on the church or a ptting of anyone or any thing aginst the other.  It is merely my statement of truth as I experience it.  I respect that your truth may not be experienced the same as mine is for me and I uphold your right to experience the same situation as I have differently.  I am just glad that you came back into the conversation and I will be conscious not to speak in such generalities. 

I admire and appreciate your efforts to reach out to others one by one.  God has called each of us to do His will but He has called us to do so in different manners.  The hand working with the wrist.

Remain blessed

Shawn

Thanks for sharing your story with us, and what you've going through in your healing journey. As I've noted, I sense your pain and frustration. Now...to redeem it for the sake of Christ's body.

When Christian leaders normalize the discussion of sexual abuse, through sensitive sermons, teaching classes, leadership training, seminars, printing literature, placing quality books in a library, it only reinforces what we know in church work--survivors often approach their church leader(s) first. A risk assessment must be done to determine when/if that person needs more specialized help.

Let's continue to bring healing to abused men (and women). I meet with my male Support Group I lead tonight, called CHAI (Courageous Healing of Abuse and Isolation). ~ Andrew

I am curious why we are not hearing from the Director of Safe Church Ministry Bonnie Nicholas or the Safe Church Guide Rachel Boehm on this issue.  Is it not directly speaking to the susposed failings and/or needs for improvement within the Safe Church Ministry? 

I also need help understanding why a Pastor would choose to create an anonymous profile and name on a Christian web site? This in truth I find very disturbing.

Blessings;

Shawn

Has anyone even alerted Bonnie to the fact that this discussion is happening? Or asked for a comment? I would never have expected her to weigh in on this unless there were some way that she were personally being notified/invited.

As to the anonymous pastor, is that on a different thread? Perhaps I have no need to know the context of that statement. But I can imagine a pastor posting political and personal thoughts anonymously if he/she served a congregation that would be offended by even having their pastor ask the question. You still want to have the dialogue with people who are willing to go there but not if it is going to be detrimental to other parts of your ife and/or ministry.

"I am curious why we are not hearing from the Director of Safe Church Ministry Bonnie Nicholas or the Safe Church Guide Rachel Boehm on this issue.  Is it not directly speaking to the susposed failings and/or needs for improvement within the Safe Church Ministry?"

Actually, I just was alerted to this conversation taking place. Although I post a weekly blog and try to stay on top of any feedback I receive, many of us who are guides or bloggers have other occupations and responsibilities that may prevent us from checking the Network pages throughout the day. So please understand that our silence was not due to lack of concern for the issue. Even now, at the end of a long work day and after attending to other family responsibilities, I have not had time to read the trail sufficiently to make an informed comment on it, but I wanted to take a moment to encourage you to continue to raise issues of importance to you. Thank you for your understanding.

Rachel,

Thanks for any time you can give. I can completely identify with your frenetic schedule! Thanks also for your gracious response. To all fellow writers, please be gracious in your comments. Some times we who are survivors can be curt and suspicious of others--let's be aware of that. 

Thanks for your ministry in holding up this issue, Rachel.

Blessings, Andrew

I would not have thought that Bonnie would need to be notified or a request made to her personally to comment on a topic concerning Safe Church which she is the Director of.  I also believe it only reasonable to think Rachel would comment on the topic rather than let the thread die off.   It is again a topic which I believe speaks to the Safe Church Ministry and their commenting as they have in other topics on Safe Church would help keep the topic running.  It is a legitimate comment.

I also feel asking why a Pastor does not feel safe enough in a Christian web site to speak without creating an anonymous profile is legitimate.  We as Christians are doing something terribly wrong if Christians do not feel safe with other Christians and certainly if a Pastor has to hide behind anonymity.

Community Builder

Greetings, I was just made aware of this conversation, and admit that I have not read every word. I wanted to write a response with the little time that I have right now.

I'm very happy to hear about survivors (male or female) making connections with one another - there is support there that simply is not available anywhere else. When you discover that you are not alone,  that someone else can understand in a way that most people (thankfully) simply can't; it's a wonderful thing. And I've seen the Lord powerfully work in support groups to bring healing and transformation.

I would love to see churches providing these safe places where people can be open about what has happened to them and how they are feeling about it. Small support groups are a perfect opportunity for that, and a good opportunity for churches to help meet a critical need. Often times professional help is also required and should be encouraged. As helpful as professional help can be, from my personal experience, there is nothing quite the same as a support group of other survivors - It's a beautiful gift to those who participate.

I've led many support groups with survivors over the years - which eventually led me to write "Bethesda: Come to the Water", a bible study guide for women who are hurting. It can be ordered from Faith Alive http://www.faithaliveresources.org/Products/151098/bethesda-come-to-the-...
 Perhaps there are similar resources for men's groups?

I have missed leading those groups in the busyness of my current position. My focus has shifted a bit to education and prevention - to prevent abuse before it happens seems the best strategy to me. If we can prevent even one child from experiencing the deep pain of abuse; that is good work. The Circle of Grace Program currently being promoted is the best tool that I'm aware of for abuse prevention in churches. It transcends gender stereotypes and emphasizes the infinite value of each and every person, and God's presence with each of us always in our 'circle of grace'.

Blessings to you and your work with survivors.

PS - Even with a focus on prevention, we must realize that our churches are filled with people who have been hurt by abuse and we need to respond well, with compassion, with justice, and with opportunities for healing for all parties. Studies show that the incidence of abuse in churches is not that much different than the general population. I always recommend using the most reliable statistics available - In the US, I like to use Center for Disease control stats (http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/) as these tend to be more comprehensive and less skewed than those published by organizations that have a specific agenda.

Thanks for your thoughts Bonnie. Indeed, the CDC is a credible source, but as a male survivor, it is not affirming nor adequately forthcoming about the abuse rates of boys/males. Please understand how difficult this kind of rhetoric can be for male survivors who are overwhelmingly castigated in the abuse literature as "he" (= the abuser).

Further, such sites have nothing to offer for the practical and theological concerns of churches who are called to address this in a redemptive manner as well. Only the Church is talking about real forgivenss, restoration, and reconciliation, in addition to facing the horror of the data.

I'm also working with 1in6.org. and GRACE.org. These should be consulted as well. Few sites focus on the needs of male survivors. So, again I ask, where are the ministries in our churches addressing male sexual abuse?

Again, thanks for your thoughts, Bonnie.

Andrew

I am glad you weighted in on the topic Bonnie for two reasons.  Certainly I think it is important that the Guide and Director speak to the topic if the time allowed but also and more importantly, I think you and Rachel commenting will help keep the thread active.

Stay blessed

Hi Everyone - Thank you for this lively discussion! I just wanted to let you know that I will be featuring this topic in an upcoming blog with a guest blogger to give this topic more attention and to raise awareness in our church communities. Thanks everyone for sharing your perspectives.

Hello Rachel: Thanks for sharing and for looking to promote the topic in your upcoming blog.  For those of us who are not that computer savvy…. I take it this is not your blog site?  If so, where do we go to read your blog and guest blogger writings?

I believe input in this from both you and Bonnie will help keep the thread alive but I fear I am less hopeful when it comes to the question the topic asked and which was reiterated by the Poster.  I believe our silence and refusal to attempt an answer is in fact, our answer.  That being no, we are not doing anything in our Churches for male victimization.  I suspect the shame I feel typing that answer is the same others experience and this is why the question has not been answered.  I would love to be corrected on this.

Personally I find the struggle in society as a victim/Survivor to locate services to be discouraging but I have to admit, the fight to be acknowledged within the Christian community is even more difficult.  Fighting myths, stereo-types, inaccurate information, agenda movements and sexism are not issues male victim/Survivors should be fighting within the body of Christ. 

I pray the veils be lifted from each of us and we begin to see the needs of people hurting first before we see the gender of the person.  I truly believe this is how Christ would act.

Remain blessed;

Shawn 

 

Hi Shawn, The Network has Blog and Forums. Blogs are usually written by the Network Guide (myself) or a designate, or guest blogger. Not everyone can post a blog. Network Forums, on the other hand, allow any member of the Network to ask a question and respond to it. As a Network Guide, I post a weekly blog but anyone can start a discussion on the Forum with or without my involvement, and we encourage people to do so. I want to encourage forum discussions, but I do not get alerts when a discussion begins, so I may not always respond when a discussion about a safe church topic is taking place. When people respond to a blog I have authored, I do get an immediate email alert. Forum discussions, however, may not come to my attention until someone sends me a message or when I have the opportunity to view the page and notice that there has been some activity. Thanks so much for your understanding.