Sexual Assault by Fraud


Informed Consent' and Why it Doesn't Work

Image courtesy of PetaPixel.

New Jersey nurse, Mischele Lewis, fell in love with the wrong man [1][2].  It was a mistake that would propel her into a world of deceit.

Lewis, a divorced mother of two, believed she had found true love.  The object of her affection, William Allen Jordan a/k/a Liam Allen, described himself as an undercover operative for the British Ministry of Defense.

Jordan turned out to be a con man and convicted sex offender, with ex-wives on two continents, and a half dozen children.  After wearing a wire, Lewis managed to secure a conviction of Jordan for scamming her out of funds.

Lewis then sought unsuccessful passage in New Jersey of a controversial rape law which would have criminalized sex by deception [3][4].  A comparable effort is currently underway in New York, supported by victims of former Hollywood producer, Harvey Weinstein [5].

At issue is the question of informed consent [6].  Though women subjected to the type of fraud Lewis experienced feel profoundly violated, only a small number of states have laws along this line [7].

Rape laws generally focus on the use of force, the threat of physical harm, and mental defect or incapacity (as with use of the “date rape” drug rohypnol).

The concern is that expanding the definition of informed consent to include deception could create a “slippery slope” requiring courts to distinguish between the white lies in which lovers commonly engage and material misrepresentation sufficient to undermine consent [8].

For there is no faithfulness in their mouth;
Their inward part is destruction;
Their throat is an open tomb;
They flatter with their tongue” (Ps. 5: 9).

Scripture tells us that the human heart is deceitful (Jer. 17: 9).  It is little wonder that violence, callousness, and deception characterize even our most intimate relationships.

[1]  NBC News, “’I Wanted Justice’:  Con Victim Turns Focus to Changing Rape Law”, 1/24/15,

[2]  Dateline, “The Mystery Man”, 2/12/17,

[3]  Wikipedia, “Rape by Deception”,

[4]  NY Times, “Is Sex by Deception a Form of Rape?” by Abby Ellin, 4/23/19,

[5]  ABC News, “New bill that would define ‘consent’ in New York has the support of 2 Weinstein accusers” by Marlene Lenthang, 4/7/21,

[6]  IMDB, “Web of Lies”, The Candyman, Season 3, Episode 10,

[7]  NY Times, “Is Sex by Deception a Form of Rape?” by Abby Ellin, 4/23/19,

[8]  Other situations potentially falling within this umbrella are so called “gender fraud” (disguising one’s biological identity prior to sexual intercourse) and failure to disclose positive HIV status to a partner.

Connecticut may expand the state’s domestic violence laws to cover “coercive and controlling behavior”.  This would include such behavior as isolation, so called “revenge porn”, and financial abuse.

Actress Evan Rachel Wood (who has accused Brian Warner a/k/a Marilyn Manson of abusing her) testified in favor of the proposed expansion.



Surviving the Fire

High Park fire, Larimer County, CO (2012), Author US Air Force, Source, (PD as work of federal govt.)

Read the blogs of child abuse victims and those concerned for them.  Somewhere along the line, you will find mention of what the abuse damaged or destroyed outright.

Our innocence.  Our childhood.  Our peace of mind.  Our self-confidence.  Our self-esteem.  Our ability to trust.  Our capacity to select loving partners, and sustain healthy relationships.  Our faith.  Our voice.

And from far too many, the abuse took their very lives.

For many of us, what the abuse left behind was isolation, grief, anxiety, depression, rage, and a permanent sense of violation.

Unfortunately, that we will never be the women (or men) we might have been is not helpful information.  We are who we are…marked by these scars.

In some sense, the scars are our badges – if not of honor exactly, then certainly not of shame.  We were the ones sinned against, not the ones sinning, no matter how we were made to feel about the torture inflicted upon us.

As with the veteran who has lost a limb to war or the woman who has lost a breast to cancer, this is simply our reality now.

No single statement can characterize us all, except that we were blameless.

Some of us were victimized by priests; others, by family members or strangers.  Some of us pressed criminal charges against our abusers; some chose to remain (or were forced to remain) silent, sometimes for decades.

Some of us lived in denial, maintaining a painful status quo in our attempt to protect loved ones.  Some of us fled to the streets, from one kind of horror to another.  Some changed sexes or became sex addicts.  A few fled from sex, itself.

Some of us forgave; some never will.

The abuse did not make us bad citizens, bad neighbors, bad employees, or bad friends. Many of us became high achievers, first at school and later at work.

A surprising number of us have found a strength we did not realize we had.  We have found a way to use our anger to fuel the struggle against abuse and injustice; use our pain as a subject for art and literature.

A surprising number of us have reclaimed our joy.  We remember the past, but choose to focus on the present.

Somehow we managed to survive the onslaught against our hearts, minds, souls, and bodies.  Whether by luck or fate, intestinal fortitude or grace, we survived the fire.  We are here and entitled to live our lives.

Originally posted 10/19/14


In Abuse Cases, Don’t Trust Your Gut

Malcolm Gladwell’s new book leans too much on private interpretations of truth.
In Abuse Cases, Don’t Trust Your Gut

It’s understandable if you think Malcolm Gladwell’s latest book Talking to Strangers is a foray into the subtle art of conversation and bridge building in an increasingly fractured society. After all, the subtitle promises to clarify “what we should know about the people we don’t know,” and for readers familiar with Blink! and Outlierssuch positive fare would be natural fit for Gladwell. But Talking to Strangers is a surprisingly darker book. Gladwell’s main focus is on underscoring the limits of our ability to make sense of strangers in the first place.

Coming almost six years after his last book David and Goliath, Gladwell can be forgiven for his more pessimistic tone. After all, the western world is a markedly different place where public trust is increasingly vulnerable and the sinister forces of racism and sexism have taken center stage. In fact, Talking to Strangers emerged from Gladwell’s own struggle to make sense of the 2015 arrest of Sandra Bland in Prairie View, Texas, after failing to signal a lane change—an arrest that eventually led to her death. While Gladwell hopes to understand what escalated the encounter between Bland and police, he also views the story paradigmatically, illustrative of the ways we misunderstand strangers in our increasingly polarized, fear-driven society.

In classic Gladwellian fashion, Talking to Strangers takes readers on an expansive and winding journey through history, psychology, and media headlines in an attempt to weave the threads of seemingly disparate histories. I say “attempts” because Gladwell often loses the thread, leaving readers tangled in conflicting advice about how to relate to those around them.

Gladwell begins by exploring the sociological necessity of “defaulting to truth.” In other words, we need to believe people (even strangers) are telling us the truth until evidence to the contrary becomes undeniable. Batting second is the concept of transparency, or the assumption that body language and facial expressions accurately convey and correspond to what a stranger is truly thinking and feeling. And third is the concept of “coupling,” or the recognition that human actions are strongly shaped by place and immediate context.

Gladwell argues that these three hidden forces—either by presence or absence—explain what happened that day in Texas. His point is not to blame police so much as argue for greater humility and trust in our dealings with strangers. “To assume the best of another is the trait that has created modern society,” he writes. “Those occasions when our trusting nature is violated are tragic. But the alternative—to abandon trust as a defense against predation and deception—is worse.”

While Talking to Strangers unearths some of the hidden forces behind Sandra Bland’s arrest and by extension, other similar cases, it obscures the dynamics inherent in sex abuse cases. In so doing, the book itself becomes Exhibit A for how relying on our own judgment can lead us to disastrously misinterpret the actions of others.

In the section devoted to “defaulting to truth,” Gladwell uses two high-profile scandals to illustrate our human tendency to trust that people are telling us the truth: the Jerry Sandusky case and the Larry Nassar case. Bringing his cool, analytical style to emotionally-charged conversations, Gladwell parses case files, courtroom testimonies, and eye witness accounts. Some readers may object to such detachment, but the problem with Gladwell’s treatment of these cases is not one of tone but of substance.

Whereas the rest of the book includes interviews and expert testimony, Gladwell does not include the perspective of sex abuse experts, opting to interpret and handle the public facts of these cases himself. Were we to hear from a sex abuse expert, however, we’d learn that the majority of abuse cases sit outside the bounds of Gladwell’s thesis: 90 percent of children who experience abuse know and trust their abuser. In other words, most abusers are not strangers, to either their victims or the communities around them.

A sex abuse expert would also tell us this startling insight: The reason we mishandle sex abuse cases is not because we default to truth or don’t know how to talk to strangers but because we default to truth with the wrong people, and also because we fail to follow investigative procedures that are meant to help us identify the victim and the abuser.

Gladwell suggests it was entirely natural and human for Penn State officials to “default to truth” when questions were raised about Sandusky. But he doesn’t explain why they did not default to the evidence right in front of them—or at the very least, establish protocol. Sandusky’s behavior had long been flagged as unusual. Friends and colleagues had even warned him to change some of his habits—like showering with young boys—lest it make him look like a predator.

In fact, when an eye witness saw in him such a situation, school officials took the ridiculous route of trying to themselves ascertain whether the encounter was sexual or not. Unbelievably, no one stopped long enough to recognize how profoundly abnormal it is for a grown man to be showering alone with a young boy in the first place. Had Sandusky actually been a stranger, administrators would have defaulted to the truth that he looked and acted like a pedophile because he was one.

While Gladwell may be right that we need a basic level of trust with strangers in order to function as a society, he misses the extent to which sex abuse is an entirely different conversation because of the proximity of abusers to their victims. Such a misstep is so glaring that I initially wondered if I’d misread him. But near the end of the book, he returns to abuse cases to argue for greater trust as a society:

We could start by no longer penalizing each other for defaulting to truth. If you are a parent whose child was abused by a stranger [emphasis mine]—even if you were in the room—that does not make you a bad parent. And if you are a university president, and you do not jump to the worst case scenario when given a murky report about one of your employees, that doesn’t make you a criminal. To assume the best of another is the trait that has created modern society. Those occasions when our trusting nature is violated are tragic. But the alternative—to abandon trust as a defense against predation and deception—is worse.

But is the choice really so binary? Is the choice really between abandoning public trust and improving our ability to prevent and respond to sexual abuse? It is, in fact, ignorance about how abusers manipulate established trust that leads us to misjudge and fail to act. It is ignorance about the nature of abuse, not our inability to read strangers well, that leads us to arrogantly rely on our own judgment when allegations surface.

The answer, then, rests not in becoming either more or less trusting of other people or more or less trusting of ourselves. Both of these place the locus of truth within the individual. No, instead of simply assuming the best or trusting our guts, we must move the locus of judgment toward external, objective facts, established protocols like mandatory reporting, and the guidance of experts.

As believers, we also move the locus of judgment to God’s righteous goodness.

Scripture speaks a lot about interacting with strangers, arguing for an openness and compassion toward them. Whether it’s the story of The Good Samaritan (Luke 10: 25-37) or Old Testament commands to welcome the stranger (Lev. 19:34; Deut. 10:19), the Bible consistently calls us away from fear-based isolationism. But it also speaks a lot about learning to make wise decisions and exercising discernment in a broken world—one where both stranger and family member has the potential to harm us.

Perhaps this is why Jesus himself calls us as his disciples to be both “shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves” (Matt. 10:16). As Gladwell suggests, we must not ricochet into cynicism. We must not become hawkish or abandon common trust. At the same time, however, we cannot collectively shrug our shoulders when we are walking among wolves. In a world as dangerous as ours, we must learn to judge righteously and base our judgments on shared facts rather than private feelings. We must learn to recognize the ways in which our personal relationships can blind us to reality. And we must learn to judge impartially, not on social status, power, or wealth.

In this respect, books like Talking to Strangers are helpful in illuminating our hidden motives and giving us greater clarity on our epistemological limits. As Gladwell himself writes, the only way forward is by accepting that “the stranger has real limits. We will never know the whole truth. We have to be satisfied with something short of that. The right way to talk to strangers is with caution and humility.”

But ironically enough, practicing caution and humility with strangers means understanding the limits of our ability to correctly understand a situation by ourselves—whether we are a police officer at a traffic stop, a leader wrestling with an allegation of abuse, or a writer writing a book about the topic. Embracing humility means learning to rely on the expertise of others and testing our conclusions and perceptions by external measures.

Ultimately, humility means moving away from private interpretations of truth to a place where behaviors and actions are tested in the light of God’s own goodness and justice.

Hannah Anderson lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. She is the author of Made for More and Humble Roots: How Humility Grounds and Nourishes Your Soul(Moody). You can find more of her writing at, hear her on the weekly podcast Persuasion, or follow her on Twitter @sometimesalight.

SBC President: We Failed to Heed Victims’ Voices

At the recent Caring Well conference, J. D. Greear said the denomination mistakenly saw abuse claims as “attacks from adversaries instead of warnings from friends.”

SBC President: We Failed to Heed Victims’ Voices


Southern Baptist Convention President J. D. Greear acknowledged that while sexual abuse survivors have pleaded with leaders for years, the denomination had failed to act on their claims and in some cases, sidelined them as attacks.

“It is wrong to characterize someone as ‘just bitter’ because they raised their voice when their warnings were not heeded,” Greear told the crowd at the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC)’s Caring Well conference last weekend. “Anger is an appropriate response, a biblical response, in that circumstance.”

Greear praised the outspokenness and ongoing courage of SBC abuse survivors, naming from the stage both those who spoke at the event in surburban Dallas as well as others who have continued to critique the denomination’s response.

After hearing his remarks, “I actually choked up,” tweeted Tiffany Thigpen, whose story of allegedly being attacked by pastor Darrell Gilyard in the early 1990s was recently featured in the Houston Chronicle.

She wrote on Friday, “Yet there is no apology for [church leaders not rushing to defend abuse survivors from the start]. There are hundreds of victims out here in great agony from the secondary abuse & you still haven’t said, ‘We all have taken part and we all failed greatly, and now we are going to show you.’”

At the three-day event, more than 1,600 Southern Baptist pastors, leaders, and laypeople gathered to hear abuse prevention experts and survivors share on topics from how to screen church employees and volunteers to how to recognize grooming behaviors and respond to abuse disclosures.

Sexual abuse survivors Megan Lively, Mary DeMuth, and Susan Codone took the stage along with prominent leaders who are also survivors themselves, such as Beth Moore, Kay Warren, and Jackie Hill Perry.

Greear’s statement came during a Thursday night keynote to address myths about abuse in the church. He called out the idea that “Sexual abuse in the church is not really a problem; it’s simply the latest leftist attack against the church,” saying:

Friends, you understand that the problem of sexual abuse in the Southern Baptist Convention did not begin in February with the publication of an article in a newspaper.

Survivors and advocates have been calling our attention to this for years. And many, like Megan [Lively] just now, have shown great courage in doing so. Honestly, [it’s] courage they should not have needed to show.

Believing this myth has caused us as a convention to miscategorize the words of people like Christa Brown and Tiffany Thigpen and Mary DeMuth and Anne Marie Miller and Dave Pittman and Jules Woodson and Megan Lively and so many other victims as attacks from adversaries instead of warnings from friends.

It is wrong to characterize someone as “just bitter” because they raised their voice when their warnings were not heeded. Anger is an appropriate response, a biblical response, in that circumstance.

Survivor Christa Brown, whose memoir This Little Light of Mine documents her account of sexual abuse and subsequent coverup in the SBC, tweeted, “For me, the only truth resides in the reality of their deeds. Action is what matters. Action is what will protect kids and congregants. Action is what shows care. I think my view is similar to what [Greear] himself acknowledged.”

Author Anne Marie Miller—whose abuser, Mark Aderholt, went on to become an International Mission Board missionary—tweeted, “Thank you, @jdgreear. As I told you and @ToddUnzicker last year, I will choose to believe the best about what you say. I’m grateful you acknowledged many of us by name, and hopefully you see the thousands of other survivors that walk with us. #CaringWell.”

Southern Baptist Bible teacher Beth Moore led a session where she brought up the question of whether complementarian theology fosters abuse.

“The answer’s no,” she said. “Sin and gross selfishness in the human heart cause abuse. Demonic influences cause abuse.” However, she added, complementarianism shaped “a culture prevalent in various circles of the SBC” that has contributed to abuse.

“Complementarian theology became such a high core value that it inadvertently … became elevated above the safety and well-being of many women,” she said.

Sexual abuse wasn’t the original theme for the ERLC’s annual conference. But after the Houston Chronicle reported on over 700 cases of sexual abuse in the SBC, convention leaders changed the theme.

The SBC passed a resolution at its annual meeting in June that names pastoral sexual abuse as grounds for disfellowshipping an SBC church. It also released a 52-page report detailing the failures of the denomination to adequately respond to abuse allegations.

Earlier in the year, Greear requested internal investigations of ten churches, but a subcommittee determined that all but three did not have credible claims of wrongdoing to investigate in the first place. Survivor and advocate Rachael Denhollander said at the Caring Well Conference that this response “undermined everything [Greear] had done … and no one said a word.”

In the eyes of Denhollander and many fellow survivors, the SBC has yet to take sufficient action against sexual abuse. The denomination has made more resources available to churches, but the training is voluntary. As of August, about 750 churches (less than 2%) had signed up.

While attendees received a copy of the Becoming a Church that Cares Well for the Abused guidebook, which accompanies the free, video-based Caring Well curriculum, many survivors have also voiced frustration that the resources are provided by an institution that is itself inundated in scandal.

“Behind every statistic, there is a story,” said Phillip Bethancourt, ERLC executive vice president, during his message at Caring Well. According to survivors, the time to listen to each and every story is now.

Abby Perry is a freelancer writer. Her recent Prophetic Survivors series at Fathom Mag featured profiles of survivors of #ChurchToo sexual abuse. She lives in Texas with her husband and two sons.

Jeffrey Epstein and Some Food for Thought…

by  insanitybytes22


The title of this article is a bit of clickbait, but I really thought it was well done. Excellent, even. Peter Leithart presents us with an essay by Rev. Ralph Smith called, “What Jeffrey Epstein Got right.”

Don’t be scared off by that title, he’s not endorsing Jeffrey Epstein’s behavior nor advocating in favor of child sex trafficking.

We’re very complacent here in the West in modern times, complacent and conditioned to accept cultural mores that are the Christian norm, “just how things are,” to the point where they’ve almost become invisible to us. Unbeknown to many of us, our ingrained moral standard is actually a  Christian standard. Most of us are shocked and horrified by the idea of small kids being forced to work in factories all day. In brothels. On the streets.We don’t even realize that the very notion of even having “a childhood” is really a Christian ideal, a value, a worldview.

It’s not enough for us as a culture to chase down the Epstein’s of the world, or to wage an angry #Metoo social justice movement, or to “drain the swamp” or to expose Pizzagate. The missing piece of the puzzle, the foundational change that needs to happen in our hearts is to ask ourselves one question, by Whose standard are these things wrong and why??

Why is it not okay to dress young boys in drag and have them perform in nightclubs? Why is teaching gender fluidity in kindergarten wrong? Why do we have age of consent laws? By Whose standard are these things wrong and why?

Why do we value the innocence of children and strive to protect them? Why do we value monogamous marriage between one man and one woman? By Whose standard and why??

Rev Smith’s closing paragraphs nailed a couple of vital truths that I think people really need to examine, “We’ve jettisoned this heritage. Now everything goes. And in that setting, Epstein isn’t an aberration. He’s a symptom…….Either we embrace Christian standards, or we create a world of Epsteins, a world where Jeffrey Epstein looks a little less monstrous – because we’ll all have become monsters.”


VIDEO Clergy Sex Abuse Rising, Changing: Newest Ruth Institute Report Charges

By Don Feder – June 7, 2019

Press Conference on Latest Report from Fr. Paul Sullins: “Child Sex Abuse and Homosexual Priests Since 2000”  

June 4, 2019 For Immediate Release

For More Information, Contact: Betsy Kerekes  

On June 6, The Ruth Institute will hold an exclusive online press conference to release a new report by Fr. Paul Sullins, Ph.D. The new report, Receding Waves: Child Sex Abuse and Homosexual Priests since 2000, finds that male victimization and homosexual priests rose together through the 1980s, they have also fallen together more recently. The report also shows that the proportion of female victims has risen.

However, overall, Ruth Institute President Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, Ph.D. warns:

“There has been a disturbing rise of the sexual abuse of children by priests, after reaching an all-time low just after 2002.”

Morse continued:

“The good news is that since 2000, only a small fraction of overall cases of abuse (11%), has been perpetrated by newly ordained priests (those that have been priests less than 10 years), while 52% has been perpetrated by priests ordained 30 years ago or longer.”

Among its recommendations, the report urgedL

“Catholics must remain vigilant in protecting all minors against clerical sexual abuse.”


“The Church or interested lay organizations should increase educational programs on authentic Church teachings on human sexuality.”

An Executive Summary of the Report can be found here.

The press conference will take place on June 6, at noon EST. More information, including log-in instructions can be found here.

Fr. Paul Sullins, Ph.D., is a retired Professor of Sociology at the Catholic University of America, who is currently a Senior Research Associate at the Ruth Institute.

For more information on Fr. Sullins’ earlier report on clergy sex abuse, please visit:

Ruth Institute President Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, Ph.D. is the author of “The Sexual State: How Elite Ideologies Are Destroying Lives and Why the Church Was Right All Along,” and has spent decades working with survivors of the Sexual Revolution

The Ruth Institute is a global non-profit organization equipping Christians to defend the family in the public arena. On April 26-27, the Institute held a Summit for Survivors of Sexual Revolution in Lake Charles, Louisiana. The Summit included discussions of the long-term impact of childhood sexual abuse.

For more information on the Ruth Institute

EDITOR’S NOTE: We hope to have a followup to this post in the near future. 


Original here

Read the first Globe Spotlight article that helped expose the Catholic Church scandal in 2002

The report shook Boston to its roots and won the Spotlight Team a Pulitzer Prize. Now, that story is portrayed in a film that’s gathering Oscar buzz.


By Ashli Molina November 3, 2015

The film Spotlight wasreleased November 6, 2015. Here, we bring you the first story about the Catholic Church’s sexual abuse scandal that was published by The Boston Globe’s Spotlight team in 2002.

For three decades, the Catholic Church was negligent of former priest John J. Geoghan’s compulsive sexual abuse of children, The Boston Globe reported.

More than 130 of Geoghan’s victims had come forward with vivid accounts about how they had been groped or abused (up until the date the report was published).

Since the 1980s, the archdiocese’s top officials had enough evidence of Geoghan’s predatory behavior. But the Church still shifted Geoghan from parish to parish. Geoghan continued working with altar boys and youth groups at each reassignment—one of his victims was as young as 4 years old.

Evidence over the years, which the Globe Spotlight team gathered, included a letter from the aunt of seven boys who had been raped by Geoghan, several suspicions from within the parishes, a record of abuse that dates back to the 1960s, and a letter from Bishop John M. D’Arcy directly to Cardinal Bernard F. Law expressing D’Arcy’s concern about Geoghan. Geoghan even admitted to molesting four boys in 1995.

Read the full story here.


Original here

The Boston Globe Spotlight Team

Spotlight TRAILER 1 (2015) – Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton Movie HD

Spotlight (2015) – Six Percent Of All Priests Scene (4/10) | Movieclips

1 in 10 Young Protestants Have Left a Church Over Abuse

As the generation most likely to report experiencing misconduct and least likely to tolerate it, Christians under 35 stand to shape how congregations respond.


1 in 10 Young Protestants Have Left a Church Over Abuse

Surrounded by revelations of #MeToo and #ChurchToo, younger Christians are more keen to recognize sexual abuse—and less likely to put up with it.

According to a new study sponsored by LifeWay Christian Resources, 10 percent of Protestant churchgoers under 35 have previously left a church because they felt sexual misconduct was not taken seriously. That’s twice as many as the 5 percent of all churchgoers who have done the same.

Among the younger demographic, 9 percent said they have stopped attending a former congregation because they personally did not feel safe from misconduct.

Churchgoers ages 18 to 34 are more likely than older generations to report experiencing sexual harassment—ranging from sexual comments and prolonged glances—at church and to know others at their church who are victims (23%).

“It is not surprising that young adults who have only known this frank ‘call it what it is’ sexual culture to be more likely to identify instances of misconduct than older adults,” Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research which conducted the survey, told CT.

Another factor: Younger churchgoers are also closest to the ages when most sexual assault takes place. The highest risk spans ages 12 to 34, peaking between 16 and 19, according to Justin Holcomb, an expert on sexual abuse in the church and a board member of GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment).

While 14 percent of those ages 18 to 34 say that sexual advances from people at church have led them to attend less frequently, just 1 percent of those over 65 said the same. The youngest generation is two to three times more likely than the oldest generation to say they have experienced sexual harassment in the form of sexualized compliments and jokes, sexting, or prolonged glances.

These gaps between the youngest and oldest churchgoers around sexual misconduct are significant—and signal a growing demand for better ministry resources and procedures for victims.

“I believe the gaps are generational in that the younger generation has had it with fakery, and they are bent toward telling it like it is, whereas older generations grew up with the ‘don’t tell secrets’ unwritten mandate. To be sure, both ages have experienced sexual abuse, but younger believers are more apt to share them,” said Mary DeMuth, a survivor of child sexual abuse and an advocate.

“I can’t tell you how many times I have told my story, only to have people whisper their story to me for the first time. These are people who have never told and are 60, 70 years old.”

Most Christians have seen improvements in their own congregations, particularly with policies for ensuring children’s safety in Sunday school and ministry programs. A total of 69 percent believe their church is more prepared to protect children than it was a decade ago (46% say “much more” prepared; 23% say “somewhat more” prepared).

Evangelical congregations tend to report the greatest change, with more than half of Pentecostals, nondenominational Christians, and Baptists saying their church was “much more prepared,” compared to 35 percent of Lutherans and 38 percent of Presbyterians.

Again, younger generations may be the driving force spurring change in these evangelical congregations, since they tend to have more young families and “therefore are more attentive to issues of preparing to prevent and address abuse,” said Holcomb. “Also, the leadership of evangelical churches are also younger than mainline leaders and are more likely to not just have young families in their churches but also to have young families themselves.”

Despite some concerns that the abuse crisis in Protestant churches will continue to unfold—just under a third of respondents believed that there are “many more” abusive pastors than the public has heard about—most respondents showed a high degree of confidence in their own churches.

More than 90 percent said their churches were safe places for children, teens, and adults, and more than 80 percent believed their leaders would not cover up misconduct and would bear the cost of addressing incidents correctly, LifeWay found.

“These findings reveal that congregations assume the best about themselves and assume the best about their leadership. Unfortunately, these churchgoers’ optimistic views do not match up with the reality of a majority of churches,” said Holcomb, an Episcopal priest and co-author of three Christian books addressing sexual abuse.

Joshua Pease, a former pastor and abuse survivor, describes a “cognitive dissonance” when sexual abuse takes place in a context that churchgoers see as safe and healthy.

“Church members can’t reconcile their identity—my church is a good place with good people—with reality,” he said. “Far too often this leads to minimization (‘What happened wasn’t THAT big a deal’), victim blaming (‘Well, if you had done _____, maybe it wouldn’t have happened’), and denial (‘I know that person; they would never do that’).”

In the past year alone, major investigations have uncovered hundreds of victims among Southern Baptists and independent Baptists, while allegations of abuse among missionary kids and within other evangelical organizations continue to come out.

“I suppose the encouragement for me is that we’re simply talking about it at all,” Pease told CT. “I think the next 5 to 10 years will be pivotal. There’s a rush to say, ‘Okay we’ve learned our lesson, and we’ll be better now.’ But until we create space to grieve and mourn and repent for the systemic sin of abuse in the evangelical church, we are in danger of letting it stay.”

Holcomb recommends nine steps for pastors who want to practically reflect Jesus’ heart for those who report abuse:

  • Stand with the vulnerable and powerless. God calls his people to resist those who use their power to oppress and harm others (Jer. 22:3). Institutions defend themselves at the expense of victims, but that is not God’s way.

  • Listen. Don’t judge or blame the victim for the assault. Research has proven that victims tend to have an easier adjustment after abuse or an assault when they are believed and listened to by others.

  • Believe survivors; don’t blame them. Assume they are telling you the truth unless you have evidence against them. Anyone disclosing abuse gets the benefit of the doubt. Blaming victims for post-traumatic symptoms is not only erroneous but also contributes to the vicious cycle of traumatization because victims who experience negative social reactions have poorer adjustment. Research has proven that being believed and being listened to by others are crucial to victims’ healing. Because of the shame involved with being abused, sexual assault and domestic abuse are the least falsely reported crimes.

  • Clearly communicate the hope and healing for victims that is found in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, the message victims hear most often is self-heal, self-love, and self-help. The church’s message is not self-help but the grace of God. Grace does not command “Heal thyself!” but declares “You will be healed!” God’s one-way love replaces self-love and is the true path to healing.

  • Assess your church culture first and make needed changes: Do your current members experience safety and freedom in sharing their own stories of suffering? Do you have a qualified counseling staff who know how to approach assault or exploitation survivors with care and competency? If a survivor comes into your church, will they hear stories of redemption from other survivors?

  • Do not ask probing questions about the assault. Probing questions can cause revictimization. Follow the victim’s lead and listen.

  • Say, “I believe you” and “It was not your fault.” The power you have as a pastor is enormous.

  • Empower the victim. Refrain from telling him or her what should be done and from making decisions on the victim’s behalf. Present the victim with options and help him or her think through them.

  • Encourage the victim to talk about the assault(s) with an advocate, pastor, mental health professional, law enforcement officer, another victim, or a trusted friend.


  • Let the properly trained  independent third party professionals, such as  law enforcement, determine the credibility of the parties.
  • Keeping the accused and accuser apart is a helpful beginning.
  • Have a written policy in place as to how to handle abuse claims, the abused, the abuser and those affected by abuse.

There are helpful sources  on our Links and Resources page

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