In the late 1990s and early 200s, like many denominations, the Baptists did not publish detailed protocols online. This meant that any victim had to initiate contact with the denomination directly in order to find out what his or her rights were. Additionally, the Baptist Union is state-administered, so each state had its own protocol. However, the following information was found on the respective state websites of the Union, and has been left here for historical reference. Subsequently, the Baptist Union Vic published a Code of Ethics and a Safe Places policy but, as with other denominations, different states have different policies.
Sexual abuse continues within Christian homes, despite the teaching within the Old Testament, Christ’s demonstration of his love for and acceptance, of women and Children and St Paul’s admonitions. The authors of this article know of cases of rape, incest, paedophilia and homosexual exploitation as well as psychological, physical and economic abuse, in which the abuser has been a ‘Practising Christian’ and in some cases an ordained minister or a person with a position of responsibility in the church. Children can be so damaged that they believe the horrible misconception that their God is a violent, rejecting or conditionally loving father.
Church leaders and members generally prefer to suppress the facts of sexual abuse but it is essential to acknowledge the problem exists. Hopefully this will lead to acceptance of the victim and psychological and spiritual counselling for all parties involved.
One can choose to be an abuser, but has no choice as a victim. Practically all abusers are mate almost victims are female. Current research in Australia suggests that as many as one in four girls and one in eight boys is exposed to some form of sexual abuse by the age of 18. Most of the abusers are known by the victims – parent, extended family, neighbour or trusted acquaintance.
Similar offences will continue until everyone adopts Christ’s sense of justice for all and his attitude of respect for women and children. Unless Christian men truly respond to the apostle’s pleadings in Ephesians 5 v 25; 6 v 4 and 1 Peter 3 v 7 many will continue their domination and exploitation of women and children. Men are predominantly responsible for sexual abuse, and this is based upon the belief of many males in their right to have control over females. Unless such attitudes are addressed openly there will be no change.
The churches need a policy to deal with the problem. The following are presented for guidelines for the churches in dealing with sexual abuse.
The care, protection and on-going safety and privacy of the victim are essential
Telling anybody about your experience of sexual assault is always difficult. A person’s faltering incomplete revelations must be treated with utmost sensitivity. The person receiving the confidence should:
Sexual Assault is a criminal offence and must be treated as such
Victims should be informed of their legal rights and supported through, any legal processes. These can be particularly traumatic for victims. Laws which exist to protect men, women and children from sexual assault cannot be ignored to protect abusers from exposure, or the church from shame. A perpetrator who takes full responsibility under the law for his crime has a much better chance of repenting and realising the enormity of the offence. Only trained, experienced persons should counsel victims or abusers.
Christian fellowships can be split asunder by the revelation of sexual abuse
It is usually essential that the abuser ceases to worship in the same church as the victim. As the victim needs support, acceptance and prayer, so does the abuser, to help lead them to repentance and acceptance into a church fellowship and to re-establish a meaningful relationship with God. The new church must, however, be informed of the history of abuse so that both the abuser and those in the new fellowship are protected against any recurrence.
Relevant Christian and Theological training
All Christian and theological training should include education about human relationships with the emphasis on Christian ethics which denounces exploitation and abuse in any form. Training should include information about the legal responsibility of counsellor's and pastors to victim and abuser.
Known abusers should be withdrawn from all future ministry with women and children
Persons not well known to a fellowship should be thoroughly screened and references checked before they are permitted to work with children and single women. The community has the right to expect the utmost thoroughness in the care of the church. We also have a civil and legal liability to provide safety for women.
The Baptist Churches agreed to adopt the use of the screening process put forward by the Sexual Abuse Complaints Committee in relation to all those who work in church affiliated ministries with children and young people.
(reprinted in full from http://baptistnsw.asn.au/about/WhereWeStand/#SexualAbuse)
The Baptist Union of Victoria appears to have more complete policies available, though still hard to find online. The following provide some information, as well as reference to further publications:
Code of Ethics and
"Our Church is a Safe Place"
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