Opinion: You can prevent abuse

Mennonite World Review

A church that keeps children safe meets three essential standards

Apr 10, 2017 by Anna Groff and For Meetinghouse

For many of us, church feels good and safe. We were loved there as children and respected there as adults. In fact, we often describe our churches as “families” or caring communities where all are accepted. We trust one another and feel confident that others want the best for us and our families.

But for some of us, church was not only unsafe, it was destructive. Abuse by a church leader or an adult in the church community impacts us forever and can drastically change how a victim/survivor understands God.

We know one in six boys will experience some form of sexual abuse and one in four girls. While this abuse hasn’t necessarily occurred in church settings, we can consider how much of our lives and our children’s lives are connected to church and church institutions like schools, camps and more.

No church is immune to an abuse crisis. And if we’re not a part of the solution, we may be part of the problem.

The clear majority of victims/ survivors know their offender as a family member or friend of the family. This gives new meaning to the “we’re like family” description. We don’t need to start distrusting everyone, but we should acknowledge that the higher the trust, the higher the risk that an offender may exploit our trust. “Stranger danger” is a myth.

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