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To Publish a Predator

Jun 16 2014
What the regrettable Leadership Journal post reminds us about the nature of sexual abuse.

We know for every story, there are many more left untold and kept secret. Like me, many victims choose to remain silent out of fear or shame. Worse, if caught or forced to confess, the predators responsible for these abuses may go on to describe an "inappropriate relationship" or even a "consensual extramarital affair," but the proper legal term is statutory rape. I think we in the church should also get used to calling it rape—as harsh as that sounds—when it involves a younger victim prior to the age of consent.

Again and again, we see that sexual predators tend to view and depict themselves as victims. They may admit guilt, but they do not take ownership of the consequences of their actions, often shifting some of the blame to the other party. My own rapist told me directly, in the guise of an apology, "You were just too much of a temptation for me."

Sexual predators ultimately view the world and their actions selfishly. Cases of "recovery" may focus on the abuser's ministry or marriage, seemingly oblivious to the devastating effects on the victim, now shaken by early sexuality, involvement with a married man, the destruction of her church family, and the sexualization of the pastorate. The church must become a safe place for victims to heal, to tell their stories, to understand the true nature of what happened to them. Often, in conjunction with the hubris of perpetrators who tend to victim-blame, victims of sexual abuse also blame themselves, and victims of sexual abuse by clergy are perhaps even more susceptible to this belief. For months after I'd been assaulted, I believed I was responsible for what happened to me because my rapist was a pastor, a person I believed was divinely ordained by God to shepherd us. How could he be in the wrong? It was much easier to believe that I was responsible.

Apart from the transforming work of the Holy Spirit, sexual predators often do not show remorse for what they do. Humbert Humberts don't think like you nor I do. They are unreliable narrators that cannot be trusted, and this is why we cannot allow them to have privileged positions of influence in our publications and our pulpits. As Ed Stetzer recently responded: "Anyone who thinks this is simply a minor issue in American evangelicalism haven't been sitting in counseling rooms. Statistics tell us that you and I worship with a child sex abuse victim every Sunday. My friend Boz Tchividjian thinks our response has been worse than the Catholics simply because we tend to be so insular and have not responded as aggressively—he may be right."

From: June 2014

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