Valuable Information to Help You Protect Your Ministry
Today I want to focus on the serious topic of child sexual abuse. The statistics of child sexual abuse are startling to say the least. The Abel Harlow Child Molestation Prevention Study states that pedophilia molesters average 12 child victims and 71 acts of molestation. Out of 561 sexual offenders there were over 291,000 incidents totaling over 195,000 total victims. These are enough victims to fill 2 ½ Superdomes! This same study found that only 3% of these sexual offenders have a chance of getting caught.
While we know these horrific crimes are happening across our nation, we sometimes think these things cannot possibly happen within our community; however it is critical to note that this abuse is no less prevalent within the faith community. In fact, there are studies that demonstrate that the faith community is even more vulnerable to abuse than secular environments. The Abel Harlow study revealed that 93% of sex offenders describe themselves as “religious” and that this category of offender may be the most dangerous. Other studies have found that sexual abusers within faith communities have more victims and younger victims. This disturbing truth is perhaps best illustrated by the words of a convicted child molester who told Dr. Salter,
“I consider church people easy to fool…they have a trust that comes from being Christians. They tend to be better folks all around and seem to want to believe in the good that exists in people.”
Besides sending shockwaves down your spine, why is it critical for those within the faith community to be aware of these statistics? Though there are many reasons, here are a few to consider.
1. If approximately 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men have been sexually abused as children, this means that our churches are filled with abuse survivors. For example, a church of 200 members (100 women and 100 men) will have at least 41 child sexual abuse survivors. Yet, sexual abuse is still too seldom talked about inside our churches. How would your church respond if:
* 20.5% of the congregation had cancer; or
*20.5% of the congregation had lost a child; or
*20.5% of the congregation had been fired from employment?
Is it safe to predict that addressing this issue would become a primary focus of the church ministry? Is it safe to predict that pastors would preach sermons addressing the spiritual issues associated with trauma? Is it safe to predict church members would expend themselves in love and service to those experiencing such deep hurt? Is it safe to predict that the church would not respond to this criminal offense in silence? As a faith community, we must learn to approach the horror of child sexual abuse no differently.
2. Those who sexually victimize children likely have victimized dozens of other children during their lifetime. Not only does this open our eyes to the prevalence of this tragic epidemic, but it should also help to equip us to respond to individuals within our faith community who get “caught” for engaging in this criminal behavior against a child and beg for “grace,” claiming that this was the only child they ever victimized. Based upon these statistics, the offender is most likely lying, which means they are continuing to deceive in order to reestablish trust and access of our children. Perhaps these statistics can help drive our faith communities to open their eyes to the dark truths about those who abuse.
3. Most children never report sexual abuse, and when they do, it is often ignored. Perhaps these statistics will prompt our faith communities to actively educate our members about this crime, and to dialogue openly about these issues with our children. Two key components of such education are prevention and response. Educating all members of your ministry on policies and procedures to prevent sexual abuse is a must. Running background checks on every single volunteer who works with minors is a must. Learning the signs of sexual abuse is a must. Our risk management system provides sample policies from sexual misconduct, sexual predators, and youth safety that will help your ministry build a solid foundation of prevention.
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4. In the event of an abuse allegation it is important to have sexual abuse coverage in place. While some carriers assure their clients that low limits provide adequate coverage statistics disagree. The following are a few examples of sexual abuse cases and the monetary settlements:
Jehovah Witness 2014 $13.5 Million
Boy Scouts 2015 $11.8 Million
Elementary School Teacher 1999 $6.8 Million
Youth Pastor 2000 $4.2 Million
Volleyball Coach 2006 $1.8 Million
Pastor 2008 $800,000
One religious organization has paid a grand total of $2,786,897,033 in sexual abuse settlements. This money was rewarded to 5,679 victims reaching a grand total of $490,737 per victim.
If your current sexual abuse limit is $250,000, and defense costs are outside your limit, the carrier can choose to write you a check on day two for your entire limit and they are no longer responsible to defend your ministry. This leaves you with the financial cost of hiring an attorney, paying court fees and restitution. If on average a sexual abuse victim is awarded $490,737 your ministry now owes the remainder $240,737. This is why having low limits on the number one crime affecting churches is never a good idea. We recommend a $1,000,000 limit.
In this world we live in today, protecting your ministry through prevention and response, policies and procedures, communication and coverage limits, should be your number one priority.
Copyright Boz Tchividjian – Source Material