Beth Swagman

About Me: 

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.

Blog
56 views
0 shares
0 rating
9 comments

Con-cent: When Your Consent Isn't Worth a Penny

Although it does vary, in most states and provinces, the age of consent is 16. Below age 16, a minor is regarded as unable to give consent; 16 or older and the minor is regarded as able to give consent. That does not mean, however, that everyone who is of age to give consent to sexual acts has given consent ... 

Safe Church
Blog
101 views
0 shares
0 rating
2 comments

Conned-sent

Consent is not just permission; consent also implies that we understand the consequences of our actions.  Learn more about consent in this blog and in future blogs.

Safe Church
Article
201 views
0 shares
0 rating
0 comments

End It Now Today!

From North America to Africa, from Europe to Asia, one of the great tragedies facing humanity, a tragedy not often talked about (or certainly not enough), is that of women as victims of violence—even in the church.

Safe Church
Blog
62 views
0 shares
0 rating
0 comments

View From the Sparrow's Nest - Day Two

I mentioned in my first synod blog the anxiety I felt driving to synod and then how it seemed to dissipate with meeting and greeting old friends and colleagues.  I felt like the sparrow protected by God's almighty hand.  So I'll refer to these synod blogs as the "view from the sparrow's nest".

Safe Church
Blog
8 views
0 shares
0 rating
3 comments

Synod - Day One

Synod for me is like a lot of training events.  In one respect, synod is a friendly environment to discuss a subject matter that is dear to my heart and therefore easy to talk about.  On the other hand, delegates, like conference attendees, often ask pointed questions and challenge the speaker's knowledge or the opinions of others.  It is this second respect which draws out the anxiety in me and probably in a few other speakers. 

Safe Church
  • Mark's post about Dick Clark reminded me of a statistic from the Calvin Collge research on abuse completed back in 1990.  Persons with a disability were 2-3 times more likely to be victimized by...

  • Hello Ken.  "What's next"?  In the third blog in this series, I will look at what the Bible says or doesn't say about the concept of "consent".  I'm sorry I wasn't clearer about my intentions.

  • You caught me bare-handed about my lack of FB experience.  If people want to change their pics to cartoon figures for the purposeof raising awareness of abuse, I say bring it on.  Do you know if...

    posted on: Conned-sent
  • Hi Rebecca,

    Here are some suggestions for an agenda with the ministry leaders.

    First, I would talk about the reality (not the possibility) of abuse of children in the church setting...

  • Hello

    You are a brave person and I am grateful for people like you who find the courage to challenge the evil.  I'm grateful, too, that the superintendent believed your story.  That first...

  • Thank you! The reunions are a comfort, but so is the knowledge that people throughout the denomination are praying for this ministry and for the delegates of synod who will seriously consider the...

    posted on: Synod - Day One
  • Hello Angela. If I had a nickel for every time that issue was raised.... Child safety policies are a two-sided coin or nickel. On one side, we need to protect children because they are too...

  • I agree that the perfect screening procedure does not exist. However, if a tool is inadequate by itself (the criminal record check), then we should be willing to seek out other steps of screening...