Do you know why sexual abuse can happen in churches? It has to be one of the largest conspiracies of silence in the world today. I was thinking about that especially this morning, and here are my thoughts why...
1) We deny that anything 'sinful' ever happens in our churches. Affairs? No way! Domestic violence? Absolutely not! These don't happen in our churches, let alone something as sordid as sexual abuse! Brother so-and-so and Sister so-and-so would NEVER do something wrong! And if a victim ever dares to utter even a whimper of accusation, they will most likely be hauled up for 'counselling' for 'lusting with your eyes'.
2) Homosexuality is never accepted in churches. The LGBT community is not even allowed in through most church doors. This denial that LGBT relationships even exist only hurts victims of same-sex sexual abuse. How can a victim ever say that they have been sexually abused by someone from the same sex in church when LGBT relationships are seen as 'so wrong'? By the time the Catholic church admitted it was happening in their ranks, it was rampant. The Christian church has yet to openly admit to anything happening in theirs.
3) Leaders and church workers are looked up to in all churches. The congregation looks up to them, listens to their every word, sometimes practically fawn over them. When a victim sees everyone around him in church looking up to the very person who abused them with adoring eyes, how can they dare to speak up? It is as clear as day that nobody will ever believe them.
4) As soon as a victim stops attending church because he feels uncomfortable around the abuser, he is at fault. He is, in Christian-ese (our very own language), a 'backslider'. How a backslider is treated depends on their particular church. I've been in a church that treats backsliders as 'goats' and warns the congregation against contact with them as they will influence the others. Some congregations are warmly encouraged to reach out to backsliders. But believe them when they make claims of sexual abuse that occurred in the church? No. Obviously their minds have been corrupted and they need to be gently shown the error of their ways.
Ours is a culture of silence. I have qualms writing this post. I know that most likely I'll get hauled up because to criticize the Body of Christ is seen as the sin of 'rebellion'. But if nobody speaks up, this silence is never going to end. If just one person thinks, "Maybe what so-and-so told me about that incident isn't a lie", then I think this post is worth it.