TX--Churches tout abuse prevention program; Victims respond
For immediate release: Friday, Sept. 23, 2016
Some Dallas churches are patting themselves on the back for a purported child abuse prevention program in which they’re involved. Such self-congratulations is self-serving and dangerous.
We endorse virtually any effort to increase public awareness and understanding of abuse and prevention. But we worry that many church officials engage in programs like this for their public relations value. And we worry that these programs can inadvertently add to an already pervasive and unhealthy sense of complacency in churches.
And we must remember that it’s rarely a lack of information that’s problematic in these cases. It’s a lack of courage and compassion. Church officials usually know the right thing to do about suspicions or knowledge of child sex crimes. But all too often, they’re too timid to call 911, fearing controversy, decreased membership and declining donations.
So while education can be and usually is beneficial, it’s not a panacea. Secular authorities must aggressively investigate, prosecute and punish church officials who know of or suspect child sex crimes and cover ups.
No matter what religious figures do or don’t do, we urge every single person who saw, suspected or suffered child sex crimes and cover ups in churches or institutions to protect kids by calling police, get help by calling therapists, expose wrongdoers by calling law enforcement, get justice by calling attorneys, and be comforted by calling support groups like ours. This is how kids will be safer, adults will recover, criminals will be prosecuted, cover ups will be deterred and the truth will surface.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. SNAP was founded in 1988 and has more than 20,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)
Collin Co. program aims at fighting child abuse in churches
Hannah Davis, WFAA, 12 hours ago
Right now, nine churches in North Texas have completed the Partners in Protection program: A series of classes and educational opportunities put on by Children's Advocacy Center of Collin County.
Katy Seitzler helps run the program and says it's designed to detect and prevent abuse inside and outside the church.
"Religious organizations have a special opportunity to be there for young children," Seitzler said.
The program comes as many religious organizations have been in the news for abuse from clergy or staff in positions of power. Teaching Pastor Jarrett Stephens with Prestonwood Baptist church has gone through the training, like most people who work at the Plano house of worship.
"Historically, churches have been behind the eight ball on this topic and we want to change that through example," Stephens said.
Stephens knows the impact abuse can have on children. He says he was victimized by a childhood coach from the ages of eight to 12.
"If you look at the numbers you see it's an epidemic,” Stephens said. “It's happening in our own backyard.”
Whether abuse is happening in the church, at school or at home, Stephens says church staff should be trained to look for signs and know what to do if they think something is going on.
"As a church, we can't be naive," he said.
He encourages other faith communities in Collin County to participate in the Partners in Protection program. If you'd like information on how your church can join, go here.
Copyright 2016 WFAA