If you've been sexually abused or victimized or are trying to overcome the burden of clergy or church related sexual abuse, call I Am My Brother's Keeper Christian Advocacy Council (IMBKCAC) at (800)827-7279 or email us at Imbkcac@gmail.com for a confidential assessment of your situation and prayer. We know that there is a Balm in Gilead.
Surprising as it may seem, advocating on behalf of victims of sexual abuse can be a challenging task. Educating the public that there is a problem and that sexual abuse has a significant and ongoing consequence is more than half the battle. Why? It is because victims of sexual abuse appear to be and function like everyone else. They are Doctors, Lawyers, Dentists, Pastors, Teachers, Professors, Bus Drivers, Deacons, Politicians, Business Owners and almost anything else you can name in society. They are religious, non-religious and even atheists. They are gay, they are straight, they are even celibate. They are the highly educated, they are self-driven, they are the educationally illiterate and the most slothful. they are children and in many cases grown folk who have trusted individuals even to their own hurt. There are no distinguishing marks, characteristics or boundaries by which their experience can be known, distinguished or determined. They are those who don't fit the "mold" whatever that "mold" is or might be.
Distinguishing who they are or who has been abused is one thing. Assessing the damages associated with the abuse is another. For example, recently, I had a conversation with an attorney who has a substantial practice dealing with recovery from auto accidents and product negligence. When I explained a certain situation relating to victims needs as a result of sexual abuse, the first thing they asked was what were the damages? When I explained the mental and emotional trauma and the unwanted sexual advances and the crime in general, the attorney was still hard pressed to see the "damages" that would result in an award. You see, even though this person was trained in legal issues, in their mind, in order for their to be a recovery, there had to be an ongoing physical or visible damage in order to make the claim that one has been harmed.
Fact: "Less than 30% of sex crimes are reported"
Unless one knew their stories, one would hardly associate any of these people with sexual abuse of any kind because they are the "beautiful people" as the world accounts it. They are popular, successful, rich and famous. Certainly they have no problems, or at least not common problems right? Yet all of them have experienced abuse or some form of sexual crime perpetrated against them. All of them have felt at the end of their lives at a certain point in their life, prayed, and asked why this horrible crime of sexual abuse was done to them. All of them have dealt with feelings, inclinations, and emotions that they didn't ask for, and had to work their way through. Some of them, turned to promiscuity, some turned to homosexuality, some became religious, spiritual, and even highly versed in secular matters. Many others handle this sort of abuse in many different ways. Thank God, that all of these people survived, but stop and ask yourself for a minute, how many didn't make it? Yes, these have all survived, and become highly successful, but what they went through was nothing to envy by anyone not having their experience. To suggest that they hadn't been "damaged" by the actions of their aggressor would be an insult to any intelligent human being and especially to any Christian in touch with Christian moral values in view and in light of the fact that rape is a crime.
A stigma is defined as being a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person..There is a stigma associated with sex crimes and sexual victimization and these stigmas directly affect what one does and how one feels about themselves when they have been victimized. Here are just a few perceptions that lead to negative stigmas against those who have been victimized by sexual abuse.
Many of these perceptions begin like this:
"It was your fault that happened to you because" ... They end like this:
"You shouldn't have dressed like that"
"You should have known better"
"Your clothes were too tight anyway"
"You were always up in somebody's face"
"You shouldn't have been alone"
"You knew what they were like that anyway"
No wonder that less than 30% of sex crimes and sexual victimization is reported to authorities. The victim, in coming forth to deliver and free themselves of the weight of this crime, is often vilified and told that what they experienced, no matter what age, was somehow their fault. Therefore the victim is victimized a second time by the incredulity of those around them.
Then there is additional baggage which leads to further remorse, guilt and reluctance to tell the story and get free. According to the Colorado Bureau of Investigations, 80 to 95 % of sex offenders assault someone they already know. Further, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics nearly half of all individuals who are age 6 or under when they were victimized, were victimized by family members and relatives. This means that the victim is sometimes placed in the devastating mental and emotional position of having to break the unwritten code of silence to not tell on known perpetrators of sexual crimes within the context of their family, family friends and even associates. In some cases this nearly destroys what's left that resembles a family in the process and often the victim is told that they are to blame for the discord.
Then there is simple fear. Some individuals rationalize their abuse in this manner because they are afraid of what will happen if the truth ever really comes forward. Psychologically, many resign or conceal the memory of the events to another part of their mind or being. As a survival tool, the brain will work in conjunction with the spirit of the individual to sometimes block memories, thoughts, feelings and emotions associated with the abuse. Many stories of abuse go untold because the fear and resultant shame of even bringing up such events may often creates an emotional upheaval.
Well my friend, that is the point of the article. Much of if not all of this exists within the church as it pertains to church related sexual abuse and sexual crimes. From making the victim feel guilty to covering for the perpetrator of the crime. Not speaking up, addressing the issue, calling for actions to end, and producing policy that addresses the needs of the victim against the criminal is what I call a "culture of silence". This type of culture values the association and well speaking of individuals above the well being of those who have been victimized. Then there are those who not only sit silently, but go the step further subjecting the victim to ultra suspicion and gossip. In short this can be called perpetuating a "culture of abuse". Both of these cultures are alive and well in the modern church unfortunately.
For example. Take the case of bishop Charles Brown, CURRENT COGIC bishop. We have featured a more complete story regarding this in our article "Fear To Victory, Overcoming COGIC Clergy Sexual Abuse & Silence". From all accounts (at least those hailed publicly among associates) Bishop Brown is a nice man. A good speaker having done some good things. In fact, according to COGIC Abuse Watch.com and from pictures taken at the 2012 Holy Convocation, bishop Brown is very "free", even on stage right along with all the other church officials and leaders having a "good time" even in spite of the very serious allegations against his person.
However underneath the surface, bishop Brown has allegedly, by the mouth of 3 or MORE witnesses as the bible affirms that establishes truth to bring accusation, has been the perpetrator of sexual crimes which included the molestation and even rape of his very own family members, at the time young children who were under the age of consent. What makes matters worse is that the bishop allegedly performed these acts while holding and yielding the Holy Yoke of ministerial office.
Yet, in this, and according to all known information regarding this issue, COGIG officials, did not and have not seriously taken bishop Brown to task over these issues simply because the case was not prosecuted due to the statute of limitations issue. In fact, what the church did (and I suppose in "good faith" according to someone's thinking) was offer and provide money to some of the victims in exchange for their silence on the issues. What they did was throw money at the problem, offering a gag order and a financial settlement. (which yet boggles my mind) In essence they have perpetuated the "Culture of Silence" by not holding an official inquiry into the historical dealings of Brown. Neither has the church allowed the victims to confront their abuser in an open tribunal, nor have they encouraged repentance and restoration in any manner. So in essence, they have not addressed either of his victims in any spiritual manner at all as "becometh" Saints. That is a stark and clear example of the continued "Culture Of Abuse" at work. A strong argument can be made that failure to act, is a decision to perpetuate abuse.
Unfortunately, the church, in this case, has taken upon itself to act in a manner beneath the standards of many institutions within the world regarding the issue. To their commendation, Penn State University cleaned house after a report was delivered to them, no matter and regardless of what any court said or spoke. however, the continued silence and perpetuation of what amounts to allegations of clergy crimes, within the Grand Ole Church is a sad tragedy.
Education Of Leadership
One thing that I have found out in my talks and dealing with many of my fellow pastors and ministers is that the need for education in this area is at an all time high. Leaders must be educated as to the fallout associated with sexual abuse and the egregious nature of the sin of sexual abuse, crimes and immorality. They must know that although all things can be forgiven, there are yet some sins that a person simply cannot pick themselves up from and move on. Sexual abuse, and particularly predatory or manipulative sexual abuse is one of those sins.
Yes, the perpetrator of the crime needs to be restored, however the victims deserves and has earned the first, primary and preeminent focus and attention of all when victimization such as this has occurred. the educational process begins by teaching leaders that when one has committed the sin of sexual abuse, there are vast repercussions not often visible on the surface. Studies have shown that those who sexually abuse normally don't abuse just once. In fact, on average, abusers abuse in excess of 100 times. Many abusers were themselves abused. This leads to devastating consequences of ongoing and normative predatory behavior and abuse sometimes for whole generations of people and entire families.
Then there is the consequence of sexual confusion and inordinate and unwanted sexual desires. how many individuals have been led into lives and lifestyles of sexual immorality and promiscuity because of the abuse that they have sustained? Some have been led into homosexuality, bisexuality and even pedophilia because of the stunting of their sexual growth and development and unhealthy environment and circumstance in which sexual feelings and inclinations were developed.
Look at it like this, it makes it easy for a rapper to call a woman a "female dog" and otherwise display a misogynistic attitude towards women when his sexual development has been damaged causing him to be and become blind to the value of the opposite sex. For a woman it becomes easy to either hate men and misuse them for material gain when the idea is that they (men in general) are responsible for all bad feelings and bad relationships and are abusers themselves. Some have been deceived by the enemy to even revert to homosexuality and lesbianism in response to the abuse they have suffered. Now, they,, the sames ones who have suffered abuse, are sitting in the church, watching a display that someone promised that will help them in some way. Yet the promise is lost, broken, covered up by status quo, allegations that THEY are the ones wrong and that the criminals who have abused them are "children of God" too. What are they to think and how will they be healed?
Will they be healed by the "freaky deacon" who only likes to look at their legs and silhouette of their shape? Will they be healed by the charismatic pastor, who loves private council, private meetings and private dinners, and frequent travel away from his family? Will they be healed by the willing missionary, who wants extra time with certain aspiring students on her own? can these people, simply just pick up and move on, while those whom they victimize go down in frustration and confusion?
IMAGE IS NOTHING!!!!
When it comes to doing right by those who are victims of sexual abuse, image means nothing. A multi-million dollar mansion on fire is nothing more than a burned up house. it may look good and the fire may rage, but all it is, is a house burning.
The minister or church leader gets no pass, or private passage away from those whom he or she has abused. "Covering" sin does not mean disregarding sin or overlooking it. Repentance can only occur when sin has been acknowledged and confessed. Restoration of those who have been abused is in order, even if that means that an individual cannot embrace public ministry ever again. Yes, that may sound harsh, but think of it this way...if a person has abused children, then how many children should he have an opportunity to preach and minister to especially when he was preaching to them and ministering to them when he abused them?
Some say that this is unloving. To them I ask where is the LOVE for those who have been victimized? How is that displayed?
To My Fellow COGIC Brethren
To my fellow COGIC pastors and leaders who read this blog and chatter amongst themselves....One of the lies reverberated by those who are either perpetrators of sexual crimes or lovers of those who do perpetuate crimes is that I, Pastor Burnett and this blog is "attacking" the Grand Ole Church. In fact this was the "word" in response to the press conference that I held on the issue. For all of them, I would like to first ask, do you think that there is still anything called sine and isn't it, or wouldn't it be a sin, to NOT stand for those who are hurt and damaged by anyone, including those who you may feel are "good" people? (whatever that means) Sentiments that I am "attacking" this church are based on unsupportable speculation by the utmost IGNORANT and uninformed regarding the issue or its impact on Christianity in general, and COGIC ministry to the world and community. As such, it is obvious that such sentiments are born out of the highest form of ignorance, arrogance, and lack of compassion for the hurting. Sentiments as such are birthed out of the desire for self preservation and desire for continued association with ungodliness. Statements as such are utmost unfeeling and highly un-Christian, and those are some of the more nice things that can be said about those who hold and perpetuate such lies.
My efforts to address this issue will and shall continue in every venue and at every opportunity until this church changes it's position towards those who have been victimized and begins to act like a real Christian community that values the lives and pain of even the smallest amongst us. When that happens and happens with some REALNESS, then I will shut up...about THAT issue! When we adopt a resolution, and place it in action to address our culture, educate our people, and a REAL victim's advocacy plan to minister to our hurting...then I'll shut up, about THAT issue. Until then, call me what you wish, just don't DARE call me to preach if you don't love, cherish, desire and want the TRUTH! If you are one that victimizes, REPENT, do your first works over before the candlestick is removed forever. To thine own self be true!
It is possible for a person to live a full life having experienced sexual abuse. It is possible for a person to find real purpose, marry, have children, be productive and do some great things living with the scars of sexual abuse. However Jesus has come that we might have LIFE and have it more ABUNDANTLY. His desire is that we thrive, live and be all the best of who we can be IN Christ and unto HIS glory.
He has come to heal and to save. In the case of sexual abuse, the victim must be given the priority and all involved must be healed. We can save and rescue and even possibly change a generation with our actions. We can also damage and destroy a generation through and with our continued inaction.
A particular person considering engaging in this battle expressed that they were worried about being 'blacklisted" by other pastors and churches. They were worried that pastors wouldn't call them to preach or think well of them, when it was found that they were associated with me and this ministry. To persons as such, I simply say, YOU'RE NOT READY FOR MINISTRY NOR THE YOKE OF MINISTRY! The calling is too great and the people are too valuable for those who only seek to preserve themselves in this battle.
I'd like to know will a REAL SOLDIER stand up, take a stand, make a stand and make a difference? If so, the HARVEST is ripe, even if the laborers are few.