Rules Were Made to Be Broken: Why Churches Are Not Totally Protected by Sex Abuse Prevention Policies

Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows! Opening to The Green Lantern

This is a short post that is a prelude to the next post which I will put up this evening. I want it to be a stand alone because I believe many people are naive when it comes to molesters of all stripes. I spoke with a person who told me that she felt her children’s were safe in her church because they have a rigid sign in and sign out policy. Many churches also have mandates that children must be accompanied to the bathroom by two adults. I am sure all of you could give me some thoughtful rules that churches have put in place.

I am here to tell you that such rules will never fully prevent a molester from having access to your children and teens. Let’s look at a case in point. When Andy Savage was Jules Woodson’s youth pastor, that church had a rule that no pastor should ever be alone in a car with a student in the youth program. What happened? Savage did a work around and was alone with Jules Woodson in a car. She was assaulted and has lived with that pain for 20 years.

Folks, these predators are everywhere. They know what the laws are and they figure out ways to break those laws. So many people, including myself just a decade ago, believe that the pastors and volunteers in churches were to be trusted. In my former church, that molester who is serving 13 years in prison (he should be serving more, in my opinion) was an SEBTS seminary student. His family was well known in church circles. He was also thought to be on of those “good* kids. He wasn’t. He seriously hurt many, many young teen boys.

What am I saying? None of us know for sure who is and who isn’t a predator. All of us need to be on the alert for the *tells.* These might include: being overly touchy feely with kids, over friendly with kids-attending their parties and giving them gifts, being overly friendly with the parents of certain kids, etc.

My next story is going to involve a John Piper post in which he blames sex abuse on egalitarians. My point for now is this. It doesn’t matter if you attend the most doctrinally pure church with strict child protection policies, your kids are still at risk. Sadly, there is no policy or correct doctrine that can fully protect our children. That part is up to us. If you see something that bothers you, even the tiniest little bit, report it. The child you save may be your own.

Remember: Rules will not stop predators, merely slow them down.


Comments

Rules Were Made to Be Broken: Why Churches Are Not Totally Protected by Sex Abuse Prevention Policies — 18 Comments

  1. The problem is, as a pew peon, when ever you question the system, you are not part of the “program”. Think that church leaders, workers, can be just as sinful, or worse than Joe Blow,? you are accused of being cynical, or worse of all, not “saved” based on the criteria of your specific flavor of Christianity.

  2. “I am here to tell you that such rules will never fully prevent a molester from having access to your children and teens. – Dee, in the post.

    Exactly, after the Sandusky exposé, there was an awakening to what is hiding in plain sight.

    9.24.2012 “The New Yorker”, Malcolm Gladwell wrote: “In Plain View: How child molesters get away with it.’

    He mentions: a 2001 book, “Identifying Child Molesters,” by psychologist Carla van Dam.

  3. …John Piper post in which he blames sex abuse on egalitarians.

    Yeah, I saw that Desiring God article. I look forward to your take on Piper. It seems that he and his compatriots are unable to live in a world without strict gender roles. What a small world they live in.

  4. Jeffrey J Chalmers wrote:

    The problem is, as a pew peon, when ever you question the system, you are not part of the “program”. Think that church leaders, workers, can be just as sinful, or worse than Joe Blow,? you are accused of being cynical, or worse of all, not “saved” based on the criteria of your specific flavor of Christianity.

    Ah….but you must remember that only certain people have the keys to the kingdom per Jonathan Leeman & 9Markists. (insert smiley face)

  5. “I am here to tell you that such rules will never fully prevent a molester from having access to your children and teens.”
    On a similar note we have been doing cybersecurity training as part of our range of technology services. Good security software and best practices are one thing but the human element, social engineering, is the main weak point in security systems. Even as we research and discover the ploys used for online or over the phone hacking or phishing and point them out to clients, we continually find the criminal element also finds new ways to circumvent our suspicions and gain our trust.

    Those on the dark side are not dumb and know their “craft” well, they are master manipulators. It is at our peril to think we can identify the bad guy because he is bumbling or ugly. Thus our main training point is for people to always maintain a degree of skepticism.

  6. @ Darlene:
    Exactly, to them it is all about doctoral purity…. the ironic thing is my funny teachers would fight Piper and Dever et al over some points as if their salvation depended on it..

  7. Darlene wrote:

    “…John Piper post in which he blames sex abuse on egalitarians.
    Yeah, I saw that Desiring God article. I look forward to your take on Piper. It seems that he and his compatriots are unable to live in a world without strict gender roles. What a small world they live in.

    Yuh huh …….. sex abuse was nonexistent before the 19th amendment was ratified! (Snort!)

  8. While it is true that child abusers will groom people and find ways around rules, there is a LOT to be said for educating the “masses” and teaching people how to spot warning signs. The more you can call attention to the problem, the more people are aware and trained to be on the lookout, the harder it will be for the molesters to get away with stuff. It would be nice if everyone in every church was so hyper-vigilant that predators would no longer feel welcome. Unfortunately, we have an awfully long way to go. Sigh.

  9. You can’t trust anyone! It can happen anywhere and anytime. Whether it’s a man woman adult or teen you just can’t leave your kids alone. Had we never attended church up to that point my child was safe. The minute I opened us up to people it happened. You can’t keep them 100% safe but I was sure close until the church. I love Christians and I love Jesus without a doubt however we are not the same and my son is having difficulty even with therapy. Counseling doesn’t cure abuse and I’m not saying it doesn’t help it does however I have a front row seat to the aftermath of what my sons abuser left behind. Let’s just get real here if we all responded with fury in the church house maybe there would be less children abused. Maybe the church needs to exercise righteous anger towards anyone hiding and covering abuses. Just another mother’s opinion in the meantime I will continue to walk with my son through the fire.

  10. Learning the tells is very important. It is also important to recognise the high risk areas, such as church, where there is a tendency to lower your defenses. Churches are targeted by predators because it is easier for them to get away with things there.

  11. Shauna wrote:

    You can’t trust anyone! It can happen anywhere and anytime. Whether it’s a man woman adult or teen you just can’t leave your kids alone. Had we never attended church up to that point my child was safe. The minute I opened us up to people it happened. You can’t keep them 100% safe but I was sure close until the church. I love Christians and I love Jesus without a doubt however we are not the same and my son is having difficulty even with therapy. Counseling doesn’t cure abuse and I’m not saying it doesn’t help it does however I have a front row seat to the aftermath of what my sons abuser left behind. Let’s just get real here if we all responded with fury in the church house maybe there would be less children abused. Maybe the church needs to exercise righteous anger towards anyone hiding and covering abuses. Just another mother’s opinion in the meantime I will continue to walk with my son through the fire.

    It’s such a fine line, Shauna. A parent’s desire to protect but not smother. I am sorry that your son has been a victim and that you must now help him to navigate what was done to him. Your love and tenacity will get him through. Healing will come in time. He has a fighting chance because of the steps you took. Oh how we wish we do not have to be skeptical and untrusting. But the reality is a clear warning in this world…

  12. FYI, MinistrySafe is contracted to do training for my denomination’s churches. The conferences are free to the churches but not mandatory. Churches have the option of paying MS an annual fee for more extensive services. I attended one yesterday and, although I think I’m pretty well informed on the subject, found that the matter was much more involved that I thought.

    MS, more or less, ridiculed typical church “policies” and focused more on recognizing grooming, bad practices, and screening.

  13. I liked and trusted the predator in my church. I never had a clue. Was never on my radar…no telltale signs. Just a genuinely neat guy. Beware! You can be fooled!!!

  14. The biggest warning sign is when you see boundaries violated. When clergy seek to meet their own needs, versus the appropriate needs of church members, the relationship is inherently suspect. My experience, too, is that where there are small boundary violations, larger ones often lurk right behind the scenes.

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