What inspired me to share the information in yesterday’s blog, Age of Consent & Sexual Assault, and the links I will provide over the next several posts, is several sexual abuse cases that took place in my cultural background.
Two in particular have my attention. One is more recent, the other a bit longer ago, but less than fifteen years ago. They appear to be linked through generational chains. I have not pursued information on this case (yet), nor have I spoken to any of the victims directly… what I know has recently come to me.
It is very likely that some of my readers will recognize the story, and if you find yourself feeling responsible to report the case, because you know too much…. Well, follow your conscience…
The case most influencing me is that of a 14-year-old having sexual relations with an adult Mennonite teacher, who also molested other children. (Of this type of scenario, I have been made aware of several separate cases, in Ontario, and in USA. I will write here only based on Canadian laws, as I am not familiar with USA laws, or state laws.)
The problem here was that, since the relationship with the teen was consensual, so the church treated it as fornication and a mutual consent affair. This allowed them, whether intentionally or unintentionally, to quickly treat it as sin for both parties, and apply church laws to ‘take care of it’. (To my knowledge the teacher who abused the children and engaged in inappropriate sexual relations with the student has not been reported or brought to legal justice That is a matter I still need to confirm. Those who have spoken with me about it, did not know for certain. But that is not really the point I am trying to make, it is about putting responsibility on the student, when the teacher has the power.)
Under no circumstances is it appropriate to put this on a 14-yr-old child, nor would it stand up in court. It would not stand in defense of the teacher, who is in a position of authority and would be held accountable even if it was an older student, because it is an abuse of power. Nor would the law accept that church leaders and others in positions of authority, who were aware of the inappropriate sexual relations, are innocent.
I am still in the process of determining my own moral/legal obligations, having recently been made aware of these details. When I know what I am required to do, I will do it. And in the event that it has already been reported and dealt with, my understanding is that I am not required to do anything further. However, because of the situation with the teen, there may still be a legal obligation on my part, and, again, I will do it if that is the case.
It is a tragedy that numerous similar scenarios are coming to light, and, even with multiple victims, it appears as though it has been quietly swept under the carpet of the church. It is important, and it cannot be stressed enough, that a perpetrator of sexual abuse be reported. To apply church discipline is a matter completely separate from the law, and in no way overrides the laws of our land, especially when it comes to protecting innocent children.
There are questions surrounding consequences for children who abuse children. According to the information I posted yesterday, children, ages 13 and under, are not charged unless they are in a position of authority and trust. My understanding is that if they are 12 or 13, they still need to be reported, so that they can get appropriate help, and it is just common sense to find help for all children who display obsession with sexualized behaviour.
In the case of 14 to 17 yr olds, they are typically charged as juveniles, and those 18 and over are charged and tried as adults.
Religious leaders, principals, school teachers, Sunday school teachers, and all those in a position of authority and trust, can be held to account for not reporting. However, all adults are required to report.
In a recent case (USA) a spouse who knew of abuse was also arrested, and in another case a priest was charged for knowingly covering abuse. More and more, I anticipate seeing this type of consequence for silence and turning a blind eye.
In Australia, Prime Minister Julia Gillard had recommended a Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse in all institutions, to determine how much cover up is happening. This includes, but is not limited to churches. If this were to happen in Canada, I am confident that what would come to light in the church would shock the world, and our communities, and it would cost the church. (Though it might also do some unexpected house cleaning.) I am saddened that this is the case.
I pray that we do some serious house cleaning before it comes to this. It would result in serious, and justified, attacks on Christianity. And, undoubtedly, we would cry ‘Persecution’, but it would not be that at all.
Persecution is when we suffer for the sake of Christ, not for the sake of evil, corruption and iniquity hidden in the walls of the church, while declaring our own righteousness. That kind of attack is the result of our own godlessness.
1 Peter 3:13-18
New King James Version (NKJV)
Suffering for Right and Wrong
13 And who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. “And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.”[a] 15 But sanctify the Lord God[b] in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; 16 having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed. 17 For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.
Christ’s Suffering and Ours
18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us[c] to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit,
God forbid that we would continue to hide our sin and crimes, while judging the world for their ungodliness, and then pretending to suffer for the name of Christ when they judge our lies and abominations. That is blasphemous, at best.
If we continue to do this, we will stand in judgement for such pretences, I believe, far more than the ungodly who have never known Christ. We have known Him, and willingly defiled His name and His church–the body of Christ–to protect our pride.
And to those leaders who declare, “I didn’t know”, my question is, “Why? Why did you not know? What door are you afraid to open, for fear of the consequences?”
Ask God to show you the true state of things, and then be prepared to act on that, both biblically, and according to the laws of our land. God isn’t much for turning a blind eye, so He will show you if you are willing to know.
I could name numerous leaders who have been approached by victims, who have been told how bad it is, but have not gotten their hands bloody to ‘know’ the truth. They have chosen not to believe, and each time they hear it again, they do the same thing.
But God is calling some, including some who have done this in the past, to rise up, hear hearts, face the truth and be the channels for God’s grace and forgiveness to flow out to His people. It is a call to all Christian leaders who will hear and respond, not only those in my cultural background, but every denomination.
God is not pleased with what has been done. He is giving us this opportunity, as believers, to deal with our sins appropriately and according to the Bible and the laws of the land. (None of the laws of the land, regarding Child Sexual Abuse, violate our biblical call to repentance and God’s justice, therefore we are bound biblically, to live in submission to those laws.)
If we do not obey those laws and repent, God will expose our sins and the cost will be far greater than anything we can imagine.
We can pretend that we are ever so holy, that we have it together and our life is a picture of true holiness, but as long as we hide sin in our churches, and refuse to protect our children, we are nothing more than a spiritual slum…
…To Be Continued…
© Trudy Metzger
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You said “I am confident that what would come to light in the church would shock the world, and our communities, and it would cost the church. (Though it might also do some unexpected house cleaning.)”
It needs to happen…
In the past number of years many churches (Evangelical for sure…) have had major changes in the way they deal with the safety of children thru “Protection Plans”… I remember it being a big deal and a lot of work…. changing doors so they all had windows in the classrooms; and never having a leader alone with a child of any age for example; but the churches that have neglected to follow this precaution have likely only created more of a ‘monster’….
Sadly; it may take something of this proportion to bring the necessary way of help for the victims in our religiously sheltered pockets of Canada.
My prayer is that it won’t take that, Mary, but if there is no change to the ‘sweet little lies’ of abuse, and the ways we deal with it, that ‘explosion’ will come. It will cost us much, but the church will be refined and truth will once again have dominion, and Jesus will reclaim centre stage of Christianity. From that perspective I long for the exposure at any cost.
I was shocked at the extensive Abuse Prevention Policy and training we had to take to work with minors in our current church. It was such a change from the practice of our former Con. Menn. church, I actually kind of thought it was “going overboard”. But the more “church-enabled” abuse that is revealed, the more grateful I am for a church that takes proactive measures!
With you there! Better overkill on protection than the alternative.
‘Religious leaders, principals, school teachers, Sunday school teachers, and all those in a position of authority and trust, can be held to account for not reporting. However, all adults are required to report.
In a recent case (USA) a spouse who knew of abuse was also arrested, and in another case a priest was charged for knowingly covering abuse. More and more, I anticipate seeing this type of consequence for silence and turning a blind eye.’
What about ‘people’ in authority that stop someone (a victim) from saying anymore because they don’t want to hear about the abuse that is happening because they know they will then be held accountable for what was shared with them in confidence? What advice do you have for such a victim in such a circumstance?
This is another common behaviour of leaders who do not have the best interest of a child/victim at heart. A true leader will lay down his or her life for those they lead. They will risk losing position for the best interest of that child/victim. These leaders are rare…
It is difficult to give advice in a broader sense, without knowing details, nor do I consider myself an authority… Having said that, I would go up one level. If it is at church, approach a different leader, if it is at school, go to a principal or another teacher. Or simply go to the police and CAS directly. What they will do with it, God only knows.
Thanx Trudy, people need to know this. It takes alot of courage and strength for a victim to confide in an authority to then be shut down and told they don’t want to know anymore…it just breaks my heart that this happens to courageous victims that took the chance to be vulnerable…
Sometimes it breaks my heart… and sometimes it just makes me mad. It is, in my opinion, the most heartless and ignorant of responses. To not know, when one should know, is bad enough. To be told and then silence the victim is brutal.
Wow i kind of wish this would happen in the “plain” circles because i think it is high time they r held accountable for their abuse.it doesn’t stop @ sexual abuse either. I know cause i grew up there. N i m dealing with the aftermath now of things that they ignored so i never got closure or dealt with. The emotional abuse in their school @ the hands of other children n some their parents was awful. Anyway i don’t mean 2 rant. I just would like 2 see accountability begin.
Bethany, God is moving powerfully in the ‘plain’ circles, and healing is coming to many. You are right that too many have turned a blind eye, and there is a need for accountability. Along with accountability (for those intentionally turning a blind eye and sweeping it under the rug, as well as for perpetrators) there is a desperate need, for victims and perpetrators alike, to discover the love and hope of Jesus. He is a Gentle Healer and only when we grasp that is freedom and long-term change possible. And that is just what is happening! I’ve never seen, or been part of anything more exciting in my life! If you have not yet experienced it, my prayer for you is that same healing. And if you have experienced it, I thank God!