Child Abuse and the Church: A Call for Prevention, Treatment, and Training

Article excerpt

Child abuse is both a sin and a crime. In this article, we present a call to the global Christian church to prevent and treat child abuse, and to train professionals across disciplines to do so. Vieth discusses effective child protection policies in churches. Among other recommendations, he encourages consultation with child protection experts, thorough screening of child workers, and accountable supervision of children in church. Tchvidjian examines cultural aspects of missions organizations that contribute to the abuse of children in the mission field. He suggests that missions organizations who have failed to protect abused children in the past placed their reputation above child protection, failed to treasure children, and believed in God-sanctioned power and control of missions workers. Knodel reviews the efforts of Christian organizations to prevent the trafficking of children worldwide. She finds effective advocacy occurring across the globe but among Christian organizations that are rarely tied to any specific denominational support. Next, Walker reviews evidence-based treatment recommendations for children and adolescents. Trauma-focused CBT is a leading empirically supported treatment for child abuse. Recently, efforts have been made to sensitively integrate faith into TF-CBT. Vieth then discusses effective church responses to allegations of abuse. He suggests suspending the activities of a church worker when allegations are made against him or her in addition to informing the police. Tchivdjian coneludes by discussing the mission and vision of the GRACE foundation--a multidisciplinary Christian nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting children from child abuse and treating children who have been abused.

"... deliver us from evil" (Matt. 6:13)

In this article, we present a call to the local and global church to prevent, respond to, and train others to comprehensively address child abuse. In making this call, we review child abuse prevention policies for churches and faith based organizations. We then discuss institutional factors involved in child abuse prevention globally among missionary organizations, and highlight efforts to prevent child trafficking among international Christian organizations. Afterward, we review spiritual issues that arise for children who have been abused, and discuss spiritually integrative treatment options for children. Next, we suggest ways in which churches can respond pastorally to disclosures of abuse by children. We conclude by discussing the work of the Godly Response to Abuse Within a Christian Environment (GRACE) organization, a multi-disciplinary, faith-based organization dedicated to training professionals across disciplines to prevent and treat child abuse in churches and Christian faith-based communities.

Preventing Child Abuse Within the Local Church Although churches are increasingly implementing policies to protect children from abuse, the policies adopted are often inadequate and of limited value. In order to make the policies as effective as possible, I (Vieth) have proposed the following six guidelines (sec Vieth, 2011, for a review).

Consult With at Least One Child Abuse Expert in Developing Child Protection Policies

Church leaders need to realize that few insurance companies have a vested interest in investigating, prosecuting, or otherwise treating sex offenders. The primary interests of insurance companies are in limiting liability. As a result, we encourage faith leaders to consult with their insurance providers without limiting the development of their child protection policies to the recommendations made by their insurance companies. In addition, we urge church leaders to contact law enforcement, prosecutor offices, and sex offender treatment providers and ask these true experts to assist in developing policies on child abuse. Making these contacts in advance will also assist the church or other faith institution in working with these very departments if and when a case of child abuse arises within a congregation. …