Thursday, February 14, 2019

What Now?

With the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News investigative series concluded, the question now is "what now?"  How does the Southern Baptist Convention and churches under its banner proceed?  And how do its members as individuals proceed?

The Houston Chronicle has provided two supporting articles, covering how churches proceed to prevent sexual misconduct and how churches and parents proceed in protecting their children and youth from predatory youth ministers and volunteers.  Much of the information the articles is very straightforward.  Create and maintain the registry to track offense and offenders.  More in-depth hiring practices and background checks.  Education and training on sexual assault, sexual predators, grooming, and prevention.

For parents, the directives are similarly straightforward.  Education on the problem.  Preventing any direct contact between youth and an adult youth minister.  In other words, no one-on-one communication via phone or computer between a youth and a youth leader.  Too much opportunity for abuse.  Further, the reminder is to act on troubling information.  To trust your children's instinct regarding those who make them uncomfortable.

Thankfully, the response from the Southern Baptist Convention has been appropriate.  The current president of the Southern Baptist Convention, J.D. Greear, tweeted the following.
 Hopefully the action will match the statements.

And if it needs to be reiterated why this is so important, it bears repeating.
  • Every 98 seconds an American is sexually assaulted.
  • And every 8 minutes, that victim is a child.
  • 1 in 6 women have been sexually assaulted or raped.
  • 3% of men have experienced sexual assault or rape (likely higher due to under reporting).
  • An average of 63,000 children a year are victims of sexual assault.
  • 9 out of every 10 rape victims are female.
  • 6 out of every 1,000 perpetrators will actually see prison.
  • About 2 out of 3 sexual assaults go unreported.
  • 7 out of 10 rapes are committed by someone known to the victim.
If that statistic holds true with the Southern Baptist scandal, then the number is closer to 2,100 victims over 20 years instead of 700.  From general statistics of those who were assaulted and did not report, but offered a reason for not reporting

  • 13% believed the police would not do anything to help
  • 13% believed it was a personal matter
  • 8% believed it was not important enough to report
  • 7% did not want to get the perpetrator in trouble

While the most common reason was a fear of retaliation, the list of reasons above represent 41% that either did not believe anyone would help or did not want to trouble the perpetrator.  Because sadly, the perpetrator is most often someone they know and someone they think would be more believable than them.

Someone everyone else would think is a "good person."  Like the pastor, or the youth minister.  The "church man."

That's what we have to combat.

For churches looking for a place to start, consider Ministry Safe.

If you have been a victim of sexual assault or need to talk to someone regarding sexual assault, the National Sexual Assault Hotline is 800.656.HOPE (4673).  This is connected with RAINN, the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network.  They also provide a list of local service providers for counselling and assistance.

The time for silence is over.  We can no longer turn a blind eye.  We can't pass the buck.

It's up to us.

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