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Four practical steps churches can take to eliminate sexual violence.

In our first article we shared lessons taken from our work as mental health professionals with survivors of sexual violence. We continue the conversation here by offering further considerations for churches wishing to respond to sexual violence in an informed manner. We do not consider our assertions and recommendations to be exhaustive, but offer them as pieces of an important, broader conversation.

1. Recognize that sexual violence is in the sanctuary.

Given the prevalence rates of various forms of sexual violence, churches must continue coming to terms with the reality that members in their congregations have experienced sexual violence.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report sexual violence involving physical contact at the astounding frequencies of one in three women and one in six men (2018). Child sexual abuse is underreported, but estimated at one in five girls and one in 20 boys (The National Center for Victims of Crime, 2012).

Over 7,000 claims of sexual abuse by church staff, congregation members, volunteers, or the clergy were made to just three insurance companies over a 20-year period (Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 2007). Recently, a study of over 300 alleged child sexual abuse cases in protestant Christian congregations found the overwhelming majority took place on church grounds, or at the offender’s home, most frequently carried out by Caucasian, male clergy or youth pastors (Denney, Kerley, & Gross, 2018).

Beyond the large number of individuals directly affected by sexual violence, many more lives are impacted indirectly through relationships with family, friends, acquaintances, or in connection to the larger community. Without an acceptance of the scope of this problem, along with the …

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