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Are we doing enough? Major story outlining abuse with the Southern Baptists

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The church has made many changes to policies to protect children in the last few years. The two deep policy is a welcome change. The option for parents to be in youth interviews was needed. I quibble with youth being assigned to a ministering partnership. It’s not an exception, I feel, that protects youth from predators. 

There is no longer any reason to naively believe we can identify a predator before they cause harm. 

The Houston Chronicle has a major investigative story into the Southern Baptist Church. They have no “central database” to screen pastors and volunteers.

"It's a perfect profession for a con artist, because all he has to do is talk a good talk and convince people that he's been called by God, and bingo, he gets to be a Southern Baptist minister," said Brown, who lives in Colorado. "Then he can infiltrate the entirety of the SBC, move from church to church, from state to state, go to bigger churches and more prominent churches where he has more influence and power, and it all starts in some small church.

https://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/investigations/article/Southern-Baptist-sexual-abuse-spreads-as-leaders-13588038.php

So, as a church, are we doing enough? Is there anything else we should be doing to protect kids?

Edited by bsjkki

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It is naive foolishness to believe policies that any organization puts in place are always going to protect kids.  Predators are smart, and they will find a way around things.  

The best things you can do are to build good communication bridges with your kids and teach them appropriate boundaries.  And hope that when something happens that communication bridge is strong that kids and parents can talk about things.   

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2 hours ago, bsjkki said:

.......................................

The Houston Chronicle has a major investigative story into the Southern Baptist Church. They have no “central database” to screen pastors and volunteers.

"It's a perfect profession for a con artist, because all he has to do is talk a good talk and convince people that he's been called by God, and bingo, he gets to be a Southern Baptist minister," said Brown, who lives in Colorado. "Then he can infiltrate the entirety of the SBC, move from church to church, from state to state, go to bigger churches and more prominent churches where he has more influence and power, and it all starts in some small church.

.........................................

So, as a church, are we doing enough? Is there anything else we should be doing to protect kids?

Unlike the Southern Baptist Convention, the LDS Church has a central HQ and is very concerned with this problem. The Brethren don't like paying out millions of dollars in judgments for not doing due diligence.  That's tithing  money.

However, Judaism has no central HQ and cannot be dictated to.  Therefore, the Jews have established Jewish Community Watch to keep track of Jewish predators:   http://www.jewishcommunitywatch.org/ .

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I thought the vast majority of incidences of child sexual abuse occurred within the family. How do we monitor that more closely?

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13 minutes ago, Storm Rider said:

I thought the vast majority of incidences of child sexual abuse occurred within the family. How do we monitor that more closely?

That is actually not quite correct.

Research shows that the greatest risk of sexual crimes against a child often comes at the hands of someone they know, and not typically a stranger. In fact, studies show that 93 percent of victims know their abusers, 34 percent are abused by family members and 59 percent are abused by someone their family trusts.”

2 hours ago, Jane_Doe said:

It is naive foolishness to believe policies that any organization puts in place are always going to protect kids.  Predators are smart, and they will find a way around things.  

The best things you can do are to build good communication bridges with your kids and teach them appropriate boundaries.  And hope that when something happens that communication bridge is strong that kids and parents can talk about things.   

This is what the studies show. Maybe this would be a good fifth Sunday topic. I think parents don’t know enough and we can be trusting and naive. 

“Communicate Often and Early is the Key to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse:

  • It's never too early to begin a conversation with children on this important subject. 
  • Encourage children to share their feelings, concerns and problems.
  • Explain to children that no one has the right to touch them in a way that makes them uncomfortable, including adults whom they know and trust.
  • Teach children that it’s a parent or caregiver’s job to protect them, and that they can only protect them if they tell them when something is wrong.
  • Explain that people who hurt children may tell the child to keep it a secret and threaten to hurt the child or their parents if the child shares the secret. Teach children that adults who say that are wrong, and that a child can share anything with a parent.
  • Make sure children understand that if someone does make them feel uncomfortable or confused, no one will blame them.
  • Reassure children that sexual abuse is never their fault.”

https://www.first5la.org/parenting/articles/communication-is-key-in-preventing-child-sexual-abuse/

Edited by bsjkki
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Vigilance and publicity seem to work.

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7 minutes ago, MustardSeed said:

While we can’t prevent everything, it’s responsible to do what we can.  Sometimes our practices seem harmless but in actuality it’s naiivite that leaves kids sitting ducks.  Church is especially ripe for abuse ***imo, no stats to prove***because trust is granted, good will is granted, forgiveness is godly, and it’s really hard to wrap brains around a church family member doing such things.  So it’s an easy place to prey. 

Education in the home and resilience for kids. Conversations like these to remind us that just because they are church members doesn’t mean there aren’t secrets.  Two deep.  Call the authorities, not the bishop first with offenses.  Background checks for adults working with kids would be ideal .  We assume that “if every calling is from god, surely god wouldn’t put a pedo in a calling in primary or youth or camp or scouts” is, in my ***opinion***, a subconscious common framework. Education for bishops. 

A few years ago I reported a pedophile to authorities.  The bishop called and was upset with me because it was his understanding that it had “only happened once in a minor way so many years ago”.   Needless to say, I think bishops are undereducated to do the work they do. 

Let me get this straight, you reported a individual to the police because you heard that he may engaged once in a "minor" (whatever the heck that means) episode many years in the past?  Yup, that is what we need, to train a group of hyper-active individuals to report on all of the bad acts of their fellow members.  Yeah, we will be a beacon to the community there.  Do we just report on sexual abuse or any other sin?

Being an individual that has never been tempted to engage in any form of pedophilia, this type of thing scares the crap right out of me. It is good intentions turned into a monstrosity of evil and sanctimonious actions. 

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21 minutes ago, MustardSeed said:

While we can’t prevent everything, it’s responsible to do what we can.  Sometimes our practices seem harmless but in actuality it’s naiivite that leaves kids sitting ducks.  Church is especially ripe for abuse ***imo, no stats to prove***because trust is granted, good will is granted, forgiveness is godly, and it’s really hard to wrap brains around a church family member doing such things.  So it’s an easy place to prey. 

Education in the home and resilience for kids. Conversations like these to remind us that just because they are church members doesn’t mean there aren’t secrets.  Two deep.  Call the authorities, not the bishop first with offenses.  Background checks for adults working with kids would be ideal .  We assume that “if every calling is from god, surely god wouldn’t put a pedo in a calling in primary or youth or camp or scouts” is, in my ***opinion***, a subconscious common framework. Education for bishops. 

A few years ago I reported a pedophile to authorities.  The bishop called and was upset with me because it was his understanding that it had “only happened once in a minor way so many years ago”.   Needless to say, I think bishops are undereducated to do the work they do. 

Great post.

Too many times the leaders protect the alleged abuser and are more worried about protecting their privacy and not embarrassing them or the church instead of always putting the protection of the victim first.  I've posted some of my experiences here where the leaders simply called in the accused abuser who then came in, cried, confessed and promised to never "do it again" and the leaders still allowed them to be with children and the abuse continued.   That simply should never happen.

We need to always error on the side of protecting the victim and then do what we can as leaders to help the perpetrator with their repentance.

The church is making progress with this, but the leaders definitely need more training....I agree!

Edited by ALarson
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10 minutes ago, Storm Rider said:

Let me get this straight, you reported a individual to the police because you heard that he may engaged once in a "minor" (whatever the heck that means) episode many years in the past?  Yup, that is what we need, to train a group of hyper-active individuals to report on all of the bad acts of their fellow members.  Yeah, we will be a beacon to the community there.  Do we just report on sexual abuse or any other sin?

Being an individual that has never been tempted to engage in any form of pedophilia, this type of thing scares the crap right out of me. It is good intentions turned into a monstrosity of evil and sanctimonious actions. 

I understand the frustration.

But, what would you do to stop/limit what you seem to be against (over-reporting)?

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32 minutes ago, MustardSeed said:

While we can’t prevent everything, it’s responsible to do what we can.  Sometimes our practices seem harmless but in actuality it’s naiivite that leaves kids sitting ducks.  Church is especially ripe for abuse ***imo, no stats to prove***because trust is granted, good will is granted, forgiveness is godly, and it’s really hard to wrap brains around a church family member doing such things.  So it’s an easy place to prey. 

Education in the home and resilience for kids. Conversations like these to remind us that just because they are church members doesn’t mean there aren’t secrets.  Two deep.  Call the authorities, not the bishop first with offenses.  Background checks for adults working with kids would be ideal .  We assume that “if every calling is from god, surely god wouldn’t put a pedo in a calling in primary or youth or camp or scouts” is, in my ***opinion***, a subconscious common framework. Education for bishops. 

A few years ago I reported a pedophile to authorities.  The bishop called and was upset with me because it was his understanding that it had “only happened once in a minor way so many years ago”.   Needless to say, I think bishops are undereducated to do the work they do. 

The recent news is a case in point of the church not doing enough. First, the perpetrator was allowed to work at BYU immediately following the abuse of a 13 year old, as is noted in the recording. Also in the recording is the bishop or maybe he was a stake president, Harold C. Brown, who oversaw his disfellowship, was over the church's LDS social services at the time and he apparently never even thought to offer the victim counseling for what he'd gone through. Sad! https://kutv.com/news/local/lds-temple-videos-director-sundance-co-founder-admits-to-child-molestation-says-website

ETA: Harold's church callings: https://www.lds.org/ensign/1996/04/news-of-the-church/new-welfare-services-director-named?lang=eng

Edited by Tacenda

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This can be a difficult topic, and one that is close to my heart.

I understand the importance of allowing and supporting  those who have committed offenses the blessings of the atonement. On the one hand, we are instructed to forgive all (D&C 64:10). On the other hand, Christ seems to hold a very special place in his heart for children and desires to protect them (at all costs?) (Mark 9:42).

Arguments can be passionate for the defense of children.  Favoring the future of the adult as (opposed to the child) just feels wrong to most. I submit it feels wrong because the traumatic event of abuse will affect the more malleable mind and future development of the child more than the lack of absolution that the abuser receives.

After such difficult experiences, sometimes there are no favorable outcomes for all - no matter how genuinely repentant an abuser might be.

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27 minutes ago, Tacenda said:

The recent news is a case in point of the church not doing enough. First, the perpetrator was allowed to work at BYU immediately following the abuse of a 13 year old, as is noted in the recording. Also in the recording is the bishop or maybe he was a stake president, Harold C. Brown, who oversaw his disfellowship, was over the church's LDS social services at the time and he apparently never even thought to offer the victim counseling for what he'd gone through. Sad! https://kutv.com/news/local/lds-temple-videos-director-sundance-co-founder-admits-to-child-molestation-says-website

ETA: Harold's church callings: https://www.lds.org/ensign/1996/04/news-of-the-church/new-welfare-services-director-named?lang=eng

I had not heard this story. Very sad...for the victim. 

"

The way it was put to my parents was that it was appropriate to let the Church handle it," said "David," who also indicated Van Wagenen underwent a disciplinary council for the alleged abuse. 

"David" said with the current climate around sexual abuse and religious organizations, what happened to him is still a "hangup" in his life.

"It just keeps resurfacing for me. I never got any kind of counseling or therapy or anything of the sort from the Church, I never got to talk to any Church leaders about this. I don't know what he told the [Church council],'" he said. 

His main question right now is if there are any other victims of Mr. Van Wagenen. 

He said he wished his parents had pressed charges at the time. He also said he wished the Church would have involved him in its investigation. 

"Looking back I wish that there would have been some kind of -- I wish the Church would have corrobrated the story [with me]," he told ABC4 News. "I'd like the church to do their due diligence to make sure they're getting the whole story from victims."

"I want to make it safe. If there's anybody else who's had similar or worse done to them, I want to make sure they feel safe to come forward."

"My only hope is that if there are other victims out there, I hope I can give them courage...," he said.

The audio of David's interview with Van Wagenen can be found in the link above. https://www.abc4.com/news/local-news/-i-hopepublicity-helps-the-victim-heal-says-sundance-co-founder-lds-filmmaker-on-abuse-claim/1754512274

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6 minutes ago, SouthernMo said:

 

Arguments can be passionate for the defense of children.  Favoring the future of the adult as (opposed to the child) just feels wrong to most. I submit it feels wrong because the traumatic event of abuse will affect the more malleable mind and future development of the child more than the lack of absolution that the abuser receives.

 

It's tough.  The Bishops job is to help bring people to Christ - so the sinner needs the atonement.  Bishop wants to believe the sinner can be redeemed.  It is, after all, what the church is all about.

However, a pedophile is a pedophile for life.  We know this doesn't change.  (If people need documents for that I'll go find them but I'm not inclined to take time for what is common understanding in the field.). Behaviors can be curbed but proclivities remain the same.  Forgiveness is available to all, but kids still need protecting and perps must pay society for their crimes.

14 minutes ago, bsjkki said:

That is a good idea. The offender should have to be in another ward, period. The victim should not be in the same congregation as a perpetrator.

Even in the case of abuse within families.  The perp should be attended to by an outside bishop, the victim by his or her own.  ***IMO***

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1 hour ago, Tacenda said:

The recent news is a case in point of the church not doing enough. First, the perpetrator was allowed to work at BYU immediately following the abuse of a 13 year old, as is noted in the recording. Also in the recording is the bishop or maybe he was a stake president, Harold C. Brown, who oversaw his disfellowship, was over the church's LDS social services at the time and he apparently never even thought to offer the victim counseling for what he'd gone through. Sad! 

You have no way of being sure therapy wasn’t offered. The father shut down the police, he could very well have shut down the bishop about therapy. 

And if David is relaying what he was told his parents were told, he may have misunderstood. 

It is clear the bishop’s/stake pres' approach was not to let the Church authorities handle it on their own since the perpetrator was encouraged to confess to police, which he did. If David was misinformed about this, he could have been misinformed about other things. 

Edited by Calm
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1 minute ago, bsjkki said:

I had not heard this story. Very sad...for the victim. 

"

The way it was put to my parents was that it was appropriate to let the Church handle it," said "David," who also indicated Van Wagenen underwent a disciplinary council for the alleged abuse. 

"David" said with the current climate around sexual abuse and religious organizations, what happened to him is still a "hangup" in his life.

"It just keeps resurfacing for me. I never got any kind of counseling or therapy or anything of the sort from the Church, I never got to talk to any Church leaders about this. I don't know what he told the [Church council],'" he said. 

His main question right now is if there are any other victims of Mr. Van Wagenen. 

He said he wished his parents had pressed charges at the time. He also said he wished the Church would have involved him in its investigation. 

"Looking back I wish that there would have been some kind of -- I wish the Church would have corrobrated the story [with me]," he told ABC4 News. "I'd like the church to do their due diligence to make sure they're getting the whole story from victims."

"I want to make it safe. If there's anybody else who's had similar or worse done to them, I want to make sure they feel safe to come forward."

"My only hope is that if there are other victims out there, I hope I can give them courage...," he said.

The audio of David's interview with Van Wagenen can be found in the link above. https://www.abc4.com/news/local-news/-i-hopepublicity-helps-the-victim-heal-says-sundance-co-founder-lds-filmmaker-on-abuse-claim/1754512274

SPECULATION WARNING:

I wonder if this has anything to do with the temple no longer using his films?  If the first presidency were inspired to quit using his films before they knew of this - it’s pretty remarkable.

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4 minutes ago, Calm said:

You have no way of being sure therapy wasn’t offered. The father shut down the police, he could very well have shut down the bishop about therapy. 

I agree. In the news reports, the victim did not know his parents had talked to the police. The police report makes it clear the police did talk to his parents. He may be unaware of other conversations with church leaders or other services that may have been offered. The parents could have felt they could handle it themselves and wanted to avoid further trauma for their son. 

Edited by bsjkki
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I just read that article.  Super sad.

I am aware that this happened 25 years ago, and much has improved since then.  But it is **MY OPINION** that the culture still fosters too much of an independence and closed (I know calm, we've discussed this ad nauseam) way of operating.   I'm so glad we are challenging this way of thinking: 

"David" said the abuse was handled internally by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Police reports indicate his parents chose not to press charges. "The families are supportive of Mr. Van Wagenen in working out this problem," a police report from July 26, 1993 indicates. 

 

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7 minutes ago, MustardSeed said:

.  (If people need documents for that I'll go find them but I'm not inclined to take time for what is common understanding in the field.).

I think you do need to post the documents to be clear on what you mean. If you mean those who are sexually attracted to children do not lose this attraction, this is likely true. If you mean such people are likely to become predators, I would like to see stats on that.

Also I would like to see stats on the rate of recidivism for all forms (for example juveniles who sexually abuse children have a different rate than a family member who has a different rate than the rarer predator we usually think of who has assaulted many victims).

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15 minutes ago, SouthernMo said:

SPECULATION WARNING:

I wonder if this has anything to do with the temple no longer using his films?  If the first presidency were inspired to quit using his films before they knew of this - it’s pretty remarkable.

This was known at the time of the abuse, this is not a new issue. 

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17 minutes ago, Calm said:

You have no way of being sure therapy wasn’t offered. The father shut down the police, he could very well have shut down the bishop about therapy. 

And if David is relaying what he was told his parents were told, he may have misunderstood. 

It is clear the bishop’s approach was not to let the Church authorities handle it on their own since the perpetrator was encouraged to confess to police, which he did. If David was misinformed about this, he could have been misinformed about other things. 

I am so glad that the church told him to go to the authorities, but no, you're wrong about David getting help with some counseling, he says it over and over in the tape that none was offered. I'm glad that people are now getting a clue to the damage caused by sexual abuse. David's may seem minor to some, but his statements prove that is not the case. 

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Just now, Tacenda said:

I am so glad that the church told him to go to the authorities, but no, you're wrong about David getting help with some counseling, he says it over and over in the tape that none was offered. I'm glad that people are now getting a clue to the damage caused by sexual abuse. David's may seem minor to some, but his statements prove that is not the case. 

We don't know if David's parents turned down counseling for their son. They did not tell David they talked to the police. We don't know what the parents did here. He may not know the whole story. 

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