Churches and para-church organizations have far too often neglected – and often re-victimized – survivors of abuse. Leadership has denied accusations in order to protect perpetrators. Victims and their families have been shamed and mistreated. Boz Tchividjian illustrates this trend with one of many heartbreaking stories of the abuses suffered by children on the mission field in Bangeldesh:
This is most tragically illustrated by the case of a young girl who was sexually abused by a missionary doctor on the mission field. When she finally stepped forward and reported the abuse, the missionary leaders made this little 13-year-old girl sign a “confession” letter in which she had to acknowledge having “participated in a physical relationship” with the offender and end the letter with “…I know what I did was very wrong, and I am very sorry for it.” Years later this survivor told me that this damning letter is what shamed her into decades of feeling worthless and being silent. It doesn’t take a demand to sign a confession for a church to become an unsafe and unwelcoming place for survivors. Hurtful comments, the embracing of alleged perpetrators, the failure to offer assistance, and the pretending that this offense doesn’t exist in the Christian community are just a handful of ways that further wound survivors and drive them out of the very places that should be their refuge.
This should never be the case. It does not have to be the case. Boz Tchividjian, a former child abuse chief prosecutor and founder/executive director of GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment), offers 7 simple yet effective ways for church attendees and leaders to love, protect, and promote the healing of survivors of abuse (linked above).