Twenty percent of the population has been sexually abused and that doesn't count the indirect victims such as siblings, parents, spouses, and children. That means at least twenty percent of your congregation are victims - maybe more as God often calls us in our deepest pain and despair. When survivors are struggling with the repercussions of their own childhood abuse they may turn to the church for help. Survivors may struggle with flashbacks, body memories, substance abuse, marital problems, physical health issues, or psychological issues including life threatening eating disorders, severe depression,or suicidal thoughts. Some may be diagnosed with serious mental illnesses and be needlessly placed on psychotropic drugs rather than addressing the trauma of child sexual abuse. So it is critical for care leaders to know how to recognize a survivor, assess their needs, and provide or refer them to the appropriate resources to keep them safe and provide the long-term care they need.
The church may also be the first place a parent turns when they find out their child was, or still is being abused. This is an emotionally charged time for everyone involved so it is important to have pre-established plans for how you will respond ensuring the safety of the child, abiding by the law, and helping provide for the short-term and potentially long-term physical, emotional, psychological, spiritual, and financial needs of everyone in the family. These plans are even more crucial if the abuser is a family member. Care leaders may include care ministry directors, lay ministers, recovery leaders, church therapists, chaplains, prayer team members, and all other team leaders or people who have care ministry responsibilities.
We encourage you to learn more about recognizing signs of sexual abuse in children and in adults and to take our free on-line advocacy classes on supporting adult survivors and parents whose children have been abused.