You are herePart 2 - Perspective’s on the problem

Part 2 - Perspective’s on the problem

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Suffer the little children Part 2


Over the years CCG Ministries has highlighted some of the leadership abuses in numerous cults and extreme religious fringe groups. From time to time we have mentioned dangers to, and abuse of, children in some of these groups. Sexual abuse, and sometimes rape, of older teens and adults has often been, and still is, a serious problem in many such groups. It generally has nothing to do with emotionally or mentally disturbed people, nor does it have anything to do any perversion of love. In most cases it has everything to do with leaders exercising and abusing power and control over vulnerable followers.

The main causes and factors in child abuse, especially child sexual abuse, seem to be much more complex. In recent years the media has been informative, but sensationalism has generally not been helpful.

We believe there should never be any cover-up when religious leaders use their position of trust to abuse others, especially children. We have copped our share of criticism for daring to report on the abuses of TV-evangelists (for example). However, the media is sometimes guilty of focussing somewhat sensationally, and almost with glee, on the sexual sins and perversions of priests, pastors and other church leaders — and distorting reality to the point where people get the idea that there is a epidemic of clergy abuse out of all proportion to the truth.  A legal and taxation advice group serving more than 75 000 congregations and 1000 denominational agencies in the USA, Christian Ministry Resources (CMR), has been researching some of these issues since 1993.

It has found that the pace of child abuse allegations against US churches has been averaging about 70 per week. It also found that more Protestant Churches than Roman Catholic congregations have abuse allegations made against them — but that., at least in part, is explained by the fact that CMR covers more Protestant Churches than Roman Catholic congregation, and there ARE more Protestant Churches and congregations than Roman Catholic ones.

CMR also discovered that MOST of the alleged abusers are church volunteers, rather than clergy or other church staff. It also found that most church child sexual abuse cases involve a single victim, AND, surprisingly, that children at churches are accused of sexual abuse as often as are clergy and other staff.

Under-reporting of abuse is fairly common and many researches feel that actual child sexual abuse may occur more frequently than CMR’s 70 allegations per week average in the USA.

Research in the USA and Australia indicates that clergy — including Roman Catholic priests — do not have a higher incidence of involvement in child or teenage sexual abuse than other men in society. A report on paedophilia by the NSW Wood Royal Commission estimated that some 46 per cent of all child abuse came from family members; about 44 per cent involved paedophiles gaining access to their young victims through the family or friends; only an estimated 5 per cent of child abuse came through carers or parent substitutes such as clergy, teachers and babysitters; 5 per cent came from total strangers. In Perth the Department of Justice has a small team making up the Child Witness Service. This service endeavours to provide emotional support and practical preparation for children and young people under 18 who are scheduled to give witness evidence in criminal court cases. It is a support service only andaims to: ’Provide information about the process and progress of legal proceedings; Reduce trauma experienced by the child witness as a result of involvement in the social/legal process; Increase case and systems coordination involving child witnesses; Conduct research on the needs of child witnesses; and heighten the awareness of professionals to the issues, needs and problems faced by child witnesses.’ It does not deal with the pros and cons of a child’s evidence

According to the CW Service, in the 2001/2002 financial year almost 300 children made allegations of sexual and physical abuse, while an additional 128 testified in sexual assault and domestic violence cases. 105 children - most of them complainants in sexual abuse cases - were under the age of nine, with the youngest being only four. Figures compiled by the service revealed that about 60 per cent of sexual assault complainants were under 14; most of the abuse cases involved known and trusted adults; of all child abuse cases presented to the courts 93 per cent involved some form of sexual abuse; and approximately 37 per cent of the children who used the CW Service were boys.

Research and related data also suggests that overall there appears to be a general decrease in the incidence of child sexual abuse — especially in relation to allegations involving churches — in spite the very damaging revelations of (mostly past) child abuse within the Roman Catholic Church which continues to grab headlines around the world.

Churches and church leaders around the world have had to face the reality of child sexual abuse, accept their duty of care, and take positive action to decrease the problem. Church insurers have played a major role in making churches face up to both the realities and their duty of care responsibilities.

James F. Cobble Jr., founder and Executive Director of Christian Ministry Resources (CMR) is a specialist in the field of continuing professional education for churches. He oversees CMR’s on-line education and programs. He has stated that churches are an attractive for sexual predators, because most churches have many children’s programs and generally a shortage of staff and volunteer workers to lead them. They also have an essential culture of trust and care. Cobble also reports that since the early 1990s many churches and their leaders have been addressing the problem, and CMR and other similar organisations, as well as denominational committees and/or departments in the USA, Australia and other Western countries, have been producing policy guideline and resources. However, Cobble has commented with some insight: ’What drove leadership to begin to respond to this issue was not the welfare of children. It was fear of large, costly lawsuits.’

Many churches (in Australia as well as the USA) are now insisting that all children’s and youth ministry workers — volunteers and staff — have police clearances.

At Grace Community Church in Tempe, Arizona, USA, the leadership has adopted a tough approach for all those involved children and youth leadership including: criminal background checks; finger printing; detailed questionnaires. Church policies there require adults and children never being in a one-on-one situation; adults to go in pairs when supervising children’s toilet breaks; checking to ensure there are no adults in toilets before a child may enter; only female helpers may change babies’ nappies; all adults working with children are to wear special clearance badges (with identity photos). Those not happy with the strict church policies are not permitted to work with children.

(From TACL Vol 23 #5 2002)

Suffer the little children Part 2.pdf93 KB