We read in the first Gospel:
At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me; but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it is better for him that a heavy millstone be hung around his neck, and that he be drowned in the depth of the sea.” (Matthew 18:1-6)
We write because those who would cause Christ’s little ones to stumble are in our midst. They are child sexual abusers, and they are active in our homes and in the ministries of our churches.
During the summer of 2017, Merin’s sister Sherin attended the Galilee Program. She told us that Merin had written an account of what happened to her and had published it on June 14, 2017, on the Come Awake blog. She titled it “From Brokenness to Healing.” In the few weeks since its posting, Merin had received 20 written responses from others—mostly women, but some men—who had also been abused as children. The perpetrators were most often family members or acquaintances. Some perpetrators were known to their families through their church and included elders and traveling evangelists. The two sisters knew most of those who wrote Merin.
By early 2019, the number of sexual assault survivors who responded to Merin’s blog article had risen to 40. These responders represent only a fraction of those in our churches who have been abused as children. How widespread is the problem? One elder told us that 20% of the adults in the church he shepherds were sexually abused as children. This number is consistent with surveys by the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
According to the National Sex Offender Public Website (a partnership between the U.S. Department of Justice and state governments):
1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys are sexually abused before the age of 18. Approximately 1.8 million adolescents in the United States have been the victims of sexual assault.
69% of the teen sexual assaults reported to law enforcement occurred in the residence of the victim, the offender, or another associate.
An estimated 60% of perpetrators of sexual abuse are known to the child, but are not family members (e.g., family friends, babysitters, child care providers, neighbors).
About 30% of perpetrators of child sexual abuse are family members.
Only 10% of perpetrators of child sexual abuse are strangers to the child.
Not all perpetrators are adults—an estimated 23% of reported cases of child sexual abuse are perpetrated by individuals under the age of 18.
In 85% of the cases of child sexual abuse, the perpetrator was someone the child knew.
In 3 out of 10 cases, the offender was a family member.
Non-sexual physical child abuse is also a worldwide problem. Each year, almost 100,000 children and adolescents under the age of 20 are murdered.
But we’re different, are we not? Bible-believing Christians who preach the gospel and exalt God’s name couldn’t have sexual abusers among them, could they? Jesus warned us of wolves in “sheep’s clothing” (Matthew 7:15), and some from among us have been charged and sentenced to lengthy prison terms. Among them is a former elder who is now serving a 10-year prison term. Many others should be in prison, but are not, because abused children are too afraid to tell their parents what happened, adults don’t believe children when they are told, parents keep the matter secret to avoid further trauma, or elders decide to deal with the matter in-house to avoid public scandal. This leads to additional children being abused by serial perpetrators.
Such has been the case in three Christian movements: independent fundamentalist Baptists, New Tribes Mission, and the Southern Baptist Convention. Consider the following three reports (two articles and one video clip):
- Report 1
Independent Baptist Churches
- . . . From Connecticut to California, the stories are tragically similar: A music minister molested a 15-year-old girl in North Carolina and moved to another church in Florida. . . . Another girl’s parents stood in front of their Connecticut congregation to acknowledge their daughter’s “sin” after she was abused by her youth pastor, beginning at 16. This year, four women accused a pastor in California of covering up sexual misconduct and shielding the abusers over almost 25 years. . . .
Read the full article at Christianity Today (December 12, 2018), “Hundreds Accuse Independent Baptist Pastors of Abuse.”
- Report 2
New Tribes Mission (now called Ethnos360)
- . . . [The children of missionaries] were placed in boarding schools, where dorm fathers were in charge. They would lead devotional readings each night then put the girls to bed. All say that is where the sexual abuse happened. . . .
View the full video report at NBC News (February 7, 2019) on child sexual abuse within New Tribes Mission.
- Report 3
Southern Baptist Convention
- . . . Of the 380 individuals who have faced or are facing allegations of sexual misconduct, about 220 have either been convicted or accepted plea deals in connection to their misconduct, and dozens of pending cases remain unresolved, according to the investigation. An unspecified number of those individuals still work in Southern Baptist churches, the newspapers reported, while nearly 100 are in prison, and others faced no time in jail. The offenses include rape, sexual assault and pornography, the paper reports. Some of the abuse took place in pastors' studies or in choral or Sunday school classrooms. . . .
ABC News (February 11, 2019), “380 Southern Baptist church officials and volunteers faced abuse allegations, explosive report states.”
Abuse strikes a devastating blow to a child’s heart, mind, and soul. The effects are far-reaching. A British study found that children who have been sexually abused are three times more likely to attempt suicide. Feeling betrayed by adults they had trusted, and even the Lord Himself, some children and adolescents turn away from God to a life of despair and drug addiction. Could anything be sadder?
Will you educate yourself in order to better safeguard your children from abuse? Will you rise up with us to work toward changes in our families and churches so that children might be protected? Will you take a stand with us against those who have abused children? Will you help get the message out by circulating this letter among parents and telling them about ProtectHisSheep.com?
If so, please review the next section titled “12 Questions That Every Parent Should Ask”, and study the resources provided below (and throughout this website) to equip parents to protect their children and the children of their churches and community. Finally, bring this matter regularly before the Throne of Grace, asking the Lord to remove child abuse in all its forms from our families and churches.
In Christ’s Service,
Directors of the Galilee Program