Speaking OUT to end clergy sexual misconduct.

What happens when church leaders learn that a victim is thinking of filing a complaint? Here are the voices that influenced my decision:

From my offending pastor: “I don’t think you’d get the result you hoped for. I would likely just get a note in my file.”

From the associate pastor: “If you report him, you lose control over the information.”

From a friend on staff who knew the pastor well: “You have to report him.”

My friend had nothing to gain if I reported; the pastors had everything to lose. I listened to my friend, and I talked with my new pastoral counselor, “Joyce.” (In addition to her work with me, Joyce also supervised all of the real pastoral counselors at my church. By that time, I had figured out that my pastor was untrained, unlicensed, and totally unfit for counseling). Joyce seemed awed by the fact that I was willing to report my pastor despite the personal risks. I told her I had no choice: I believed other women were in danger.

Two days after I reported my pastor, Joyce and I met in her office. She seemed stunned that I had actually done it. She asked me, “Couldn’t you have just walked away and let those women fend for themselves?” Needless to say, that was our last meeting. I may be a hero or I may be a fool, I told her, but it doesn’t much matter which. I had to turn him in or I couldn’t have lived with myself.

August is Clergy Sexual Abuse Awareness & Prevention Month. I’ll be posting all month with helpful, hopeful resources from The Hope of Survivors and others. Check out the THOS blog for another survivor’s story about what a church leader said to her when she was about to report.

Stay strong and hopeful, friends!

Comments on: "What the Church Says to Victims About Reporting" (2)

  1. “Joyce” may have benefited from a re-read of Esther who was counseled that silence isn’t an option, even for those who are seemingly safe. You’re definitely the hero, not the fool.

  2. Thanks for the affirmation, Betsy! Esther’s courage inspired me as I considered that hard decision. I never had as much at stake as she did, but like Esther, I eventually felt I had been placed in that position for a reason. I don’t even know if prayer and fasting Esther-style would have protected me when I came forward. The backlash was overwhelming, but I will never regret my decision. I know I made the church safer for my sisters in faith.

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