For many survivors of sexual abuse, faith in God is supposed to be a primary source of strength and healing. Sadly, many victims have found no refuge in their religious institutions – instead, it is within these institutions that they experienced the abuse or felt even more traumatized.
Sexual abuse has historically been alleged in the Catholic Church, but in recent years, reports have cropped up giving rise to similar controversies involving Protestant entities. Two key issues stand out from these stories: that sexual abuse occurs in Protestant institutions, and that such institutions are seen to shield abusers and blame victims.
Sexual Abuse Cases In Protestant Churches
In 2007, the Associated Press revealed data from insurance companies that insure majority of the country’s Protestant churches. According to these companies, they typically receive more than 260 reports every year of children under 18 years of age being sexually abused by members of Protestant churches.
Psychologists and counsellors have weighed in, saying that the number of reported cases may be a lot smaller than the actual number of abuse incidents that have occurred. Sex abuse is seldom reported and only a small number of victims come forward.
A different study conducted by the Christian Ministries Resources (CMR) found that most of the alleged abusers in Protestant congregations were not members of the clergy or the staff, but church volunteers.
According to Dr. James Cobble, CMR executive director, churches provide a perfect environment for sexual predators, partly because there is a culture of trust that is essential in such organizations.
How Protestant Institutions Handle Sexual Abuse Allegations
Even for abuses that did not occur within their institutions, Protestant churches and schools are still criticized for victim-blaming and shielding abusers.
The 2014 controversy surrounding Bob Jones University serves as an illustration of this. An independent investigation found that more than a hundred sexual assault victims were actively discouraged by the university from going to the police. The university told the victims that reporting to the authorities would damage their families, their church, and the university.
Moreover, respondents in the investigation revealed that the university had a “blaming and disparaging” approach towards abuse victims, especially ones who went to counseling there. Counselors reportedly told victims, “Did you repent for your part of the abuse?” “Did your body respond favorably?” and “You love yourself more than you love God.”
This approach left many of the sex abuse victims feeling penalized, shamed, and more scarred. Further, they ended up thinking that the traumatic experience that happened to them was their fault. This culture of victim-blaming is a reason sexual abuse is highly underreported, experts say.
Recourse For Sex Abuse Survivors
When the church – a most trusted institution for many – no longer feels like a sanctuary, where can a sex abuse victim go?
A personal support system is crucial for anyone who has experienced abuse, and the first people that can provide this are family and trusted friends. There are also independent organizations all over the US that can provide proper counseling, therapy, and advocacy for abuse victims.
A large part of healing from an abusive experience is finding justice. Pursuing a legal case may result in financial compensation for victims, but this is not the primary reason they should take legal action. For many sex abuse survivors, it is not about the money but about righting the wrong that has been done to them and ensuring that the perpetrator faces the law. A sense of justice helps survivors regain their peace of mind after their ordeal.
Sexual abuse cases are highly delicate. Those who wish to pursue a case should choose an attorney who is sensitive when dealing with clients yet aggressive when representing. This is especially important when the case involves a religious institution.
Competent, Compassionate Sexual Abuse Lawyer
In Ohio, the Fitch Law Firm is known for its handling of abuse cases and compassionate treatment of clients. We work hard and fight aggressively to prevail on each case, while treating the client with utmost respect, sensitivity, and kindness.
If you or someone you love has been sexually abused, call the Fitch Law Firm for a free and confidential initial consultation by calling (855) LAW-OHIO today or use the consultation form on contact us page.