- Group urges “sensitivity” in clergy case
- Victims want arrested minister’s flock to “show restraint”
- Openly rallying around accused abuser is hurtful, SNP says
- They urge Dollar backers to support him privately, not publicly
Holding signs and childhood photos at a sidewalk news conference, clergy sex abuse victims and their supporters will urge backers of a pastor who faces abuse charges to
--show “restraint and sensitivity,”
--support him privately, not publicly, and
--quietly ask other current and former church members and employees if they ever saw, suspected or suffered any misdeeds by him.
Thursday, June 14 at 1:00 p.m.
Outside Rev. Creflo Dollar’s church, World Changers Church International, 2500 Burdett Road (between Lantern Ln and Old National Hwy) in College Park
Three clergy sex abuse victims and supporters who belong to a support group called SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests), including a Chicago woman who is the organization’s founder and president
On Friday, a prominent Atlanta pastor and televangelist was charged with battery, family violence, and cruelty to children. He allegedly choked and punched and hit with a shoe, one of his teenaged daughters.
Rev. Creflo Dollar, pastor at the Atlanta megachurch “World Changers Church International,” was arrested after his 15-year-old daughter called 911 and told emergency dispatchers that she was being beaten and choked by her father. She also told the police that “this was not the first time it had happened.” Dollar has since denied the accusations.
Leaders of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, are concerned because, when charismatic pastors such as Rev. Dollar are accused of abuse, often some congregants, colleagues and friends will leap to defend the accused predator, thereby intimidating others with knowledge or suspicions of his misdeeds. SNAP believes that public demonstrations of support for alleged abusers often frightens other victims, witnesses and whistleblowers from coming forward, calling police, exposing wrongdoing, protecting other and starting to heal. Such actions can also interfere with the judicial process and make investigations by secular authorities tougher.
“There are appropriate ways to support your pastor when he’s been accused of abuse, such as calling, emailing, visiting and praying with him,” said SNAP Director David Clohessy of St. Louis. “But open demonstrations of support and vehement public claims of his innocence are hurtful and intimidating to victims.”
SNAP says that sensitivity in cases such as these is crucial.
“We want to avoid the kind of victim shaming that occurs in some close-knit communities,” said Clohessy, “and the best way to do that is to be sensitive to the needs of the victim and the needs of the accused.”
SNAP also wants others who attend the church, have attended in the past, or have family who attend the church to reach out to their peers and families and find out if any of them were ever hurt by Rev. Dollar, or may have been witnesses to alleged crimes. A supportive question from a friend will go a long way towards getting others who may have seen, suspected, or suffered crimes by Dollar or any other pastor to come forward and get help, SNAP says.
“The sooner people come forward, the sooner they can begin to heal and protect other children,” said Clohessy.
SNAP notes that similar actions were taken by backers of two other prominent Atlanta area Protestant clerics who were accused of sexual misconduct – Rev. Earl Paulk (now deceased) and Bishop Eddie Long.
The group expressed its sympathy for Rev. Dollar's family. "It takes courage and strength to call 911, especially if you're a scared teenager," Clohessy said. "We hope his family is getting help."