[For other helpful resources for families, churches and communities go to http://www.stopitnow.org/]
TSWBAT: Identify child sexual abuse as an increasing concern throughout the South Pacific, not just Western countries.
TSWBAT: Explain how a child sexual abuser selects a child to sexually abuse and keeps the abused child silent.
TSWBAT: List how a child sexual abuser grooms the child and the gate keepers so there is a relationship of trust and time alone to sexually abuse the child.
TSWBAT: List 4 rules that will help make your ministry a safe place for children.
TSWBAT: List 4 guidelines for when a child reports abuse to you.
[Read Scenario] Meri is a 10 year old girl in your church’s Sunday School program and you are the Senior pastor. Meri has been attending church for 2 years, but does not seem to fit in with the other children in the program. Meri is the only one from her family who comes to church. Meri asks to speak to you privately and says Mr. Ratuva, who is the assistant Sunday School teacher, put his hands down her pants. You find this very difficult to believe because Mr. Ratuva has always been so nice and very helpful. All the children like him and Meri has always seemed a little strange to you. What should you say to Meri? What should you do? [write answers on white board, will review later]
Introduction: This class is about child sexual abuse. It is not a comfortable subject. It is a subject that many people consider taboo to talk about. But we are God’s hands and feet in this hurting world and we need to protect children from the destructive plans of the enemy. God created sexuality to be pure and holy within a Christian marriage. Satan tries to twist and pervert sexuality, which is God’s creation, into something that is evil and destructive. One of the most destructive perversions is child sexual abuse. Children learn about God from adults. When adults betray the trust of children and hurt them, it damages the child’s understanding of God and of God’s creation of holy sexuality.
The information presented in this lecture was taken from a course called Ministry Safe that the Nazarene Church is requiring its staff, volunteers, and missionaries to take. This lecture also includes information specific to the South Pacific that was taken from the Unicef Regional Report on Child Sexual Abuse in the Pacific and the Pacific Health Dialog Journal.
What is sexual abuse?
The legal definition of sexual abuse is any tricked, forced, manipulated, or coerced sexual activity for the pleasure of the abuser. It can be physical, verbal, or visual.
This definition is very broad. It does not need to involve touching. Sexual abuse can occur over the internet, on a phone, or by showing pictures.
How common is child sexual abuse? It is difficult to know the exact numbers because it is considered a taboo subject in many cultures, because it is a sin done in secrecy, and because the victim is full of shame about what happened to him or her. Some countries that have studied the problem of child sexual abuse have found these statistics:
1 out of 3 girls is sexually abused before 18
1 out of 5 boys is sexually abused before 18
Many people think that child sexual abuse occurs mostly by a stranger to the child, but actually 90% of the time, the child knows and trusts the abuser. It is true that we need to teach our children not to talk to strangers and not to go to unsafe places. But we also need to teach our children about what is okay touch and what is not okay. We need to help protect children from anybody who is trying to hurt them even if it is a family member or a respected church or community leader.
Throughout the South Pacific studies have found that the most common setting for child sexual abuse is in the home, village, or community and the most common abusers are members of the child’s family or household. In the Bible, Jesus says, “If anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.” Being drowned in the depths of the sea is better than going to Hell, but Hell is where child sexual abusers are going unless they find salvation and righteousness through Jesus Christ. Your church needs to be a place of healing for the victim of child sexual abuse and a place of salvation and transformation for abusers. If we ignore this problem, we are part of the problem and we share the guilt. Satan comes to kill, steal, and destroy, but Jesus comes to give us life. He is our hope for healing, forgiveness, and transformation and we are his ambassadors.
Check for Understanding:
In what percentage of child sexual abuse does the victim know the abuser? (90%)
Does child sexual abuse only involve physical touch? (no, sexual talk, pictures or exposure to nudity is also sexual abuse)
Throughout the South Pacific the majority of child sexual abuse is by what type of abuser? (someone in the family or household)
Impact on Children:
When a child is sexually abused there are many recognizable short term and long term consequences that can affect the child. By recognizing these patterns of behavior, you may be able to get help for a child that is being sexually abused.
Some short term consequences of child sexual abuse include:
-poor self esteem, shame and guilt, anxiety/nervousness/fear, loss of trust, disinterest in a situation or person that used to be enjoyed, nightmares, skipping school, running away, rebellion, anger, and self mutilation.
Some long term consequences of child sexual abuse include:
-depression, suicidal thoughts or acts, substance abuse, or sexually abusing other children. Abusing other children is especially common for boys that were abused who did not receive care, counseling, or validation abut the abuse. Other long term consequences include sexual promiscuity, venereal disease, pregnancy, excessive modesty, affection seeking behaviors, sexual response to normal interactions, or prostitution. 95% of prostitutes were sexually abused as children.
The lesson today will focus on how to prevent child sexual abuse within the church. We want to open the doors of our church to the children of our communities so we can share the love of Jesus with them. We also want to help develop leaders in the church who can work with our children, teaching Sunday School, leading youth camps or vacation Bible Schools. Sometimes it is difficult to find workers in the church. How can we make sure that the workers in our church are helpful and not harmful? How can we keep our church children safe?
You can help prevent and stop child sexual abuse by understanding the process that the abuser goes through in order to gain trust and then sexually abuse a child. You will learn:
How a child sexual abuser gains access to children.
How a child sexual abuser selects the child to sexually abuse.
How a child sexual abuser grooms the child and the gate keepers so there is a relationship of trust and time alone with the child.
How a child sexual abuser keeps the abused child silent.
How does a child sexual abuser gain access to children?
People who sexually abuse children have deviant sexual desires. Some prefer sexual interactions with children rather than a normal age appropriate sexual partner. They will spend great effort to seek out the specific age and sex of preference that they plan to abuse.
Child sexual abusers often volunteer to work with children or get career training in order to be trusted around children. They create the appearance of being very helpful, trustworthy, and kind. They may seem very skilled at meeting a child’s needs by giving special attention to children or providing shoes or food for a child. The church is an easy place for an abuser to invest time building trust, rapport, and relationships so they can volunteer to work with children or youth.
How does a sexual child abuser select the child to sexually abuse?
Children who are sexually abused are often needy, looking for someone to follow or trust. They often come from a broken family or single parent home. The abuser targets children who are on the fringe—the ones who play by themselves or don’t seem to fit in. Children or youth who are involved in alcohol or drugs are easy targets, because the abuser can use the alcohol or drugs to lure the child. Children or youth who are involved with pornography are already desensitized to nudity, privacy, and normal boundaries. When a male sexual abuser targets a male child, he uses male to female pornography because that is what the child is interested in.
How does a child sexual abuser groom the child and the gate keepers so there is a relationship of trust and a chance to abuse the child?
First the child sexual abuser grooms the gate keeper by gaining trust. The gatekeeper is the child’s caregiver such as a parent, foster parent, or ministry leader; the ones who are supposed to protect the children. Abusers spend extraordinary time and effort to win the trust of the gate keeper so they are thought of as helpful, trustworthy, and responsible good people. This is why the gatekeeper is so shocked when the truth comes out. The most common reaction to discovering sexual abuse is, “I can’t believe it. He seemed like such a nice guy!” Abusers are looking for “trusted time alone,” from the gate keeper.
Of course, not all helpful children’s workers are abusers. But as ministry leaders we must keep our eyes and ears open to warning signs and protect our children from unsupervised one-on-one time alone with an adult or older youth.
These are some other warning signs. Child sexual abusers will test the gatekeeper to see if the child is protected or vulnerable. They often will tickle a child or play roughhousing games with children as a screening strategy. Those adults who do not object to these activities are viewed by the abuser as being more likely to leave their children unprotected and vulnerable to abuse. Adults who do nothing about such activities also unintentionally communicate to children that they know about the abuse because the viewed activity was tolerated. The child was not defended from the attack.
Another warning sign is the way child sexual abusers tend to blur boundaries. They break rules in subtle ways and then justify their behavior. When they are challenged or confronted about their violations, they often become defensive or aggressive. Confrontation is sometimes enough to make a child abuser leave because he realizes that the child is being well protected by the gatekeeper.
As the child sexual abuser is grooming the gatekeeper, he is also grooming the child. He very intentionally selects a child and prepares that child for sexual interaction.
-A child abusers will often offer fun activities at his house to attract children such as games, video games, candy or food, music, movies, or a place to swim.
-The child abuser will touch the children in nonsexual ways to push back natural physical barriers that children have. He will also push back the barriers through playful but inappropriate touch such as wrestling, pulling shorts down, or giving wedgies.
-As he is spending time with many children he is learning which child is the easiest target and least protected. The abuser will give gifts to that child and start spending repeated time alone with the same child.
-The child abuser will break rules. When he is caught breaking your ministry rules, he will justify his behavior. For instance if there is a rule about not being alone with a child in secluded areas of the church he might say, “it is okay for me to be alone with this child, because he is having a difficult time at home and needed privacy for talking.”
-He may also offer alcohol, tobacco, or pornography to children to create an atmosphere of adventure and secrecy.
Further grooming of the child will involve nudity and sexual touch.
barrier testing and erosion (every child has a natural sense of personal space, or boundary of what they are comfortable with, the abuser will push that boundary by repeated touch)
Sexual discussions and joking
Playful touch and “accidental nudity.” For instance, an abuser may have some children at his home and go to take a shower. When he comes out in a towel. The towel may “accidentally” fall. This pushes back a child’s sensitivity to nudity.
Magazines and movies depicting nudity and sex desensitize a child to sexual topics.
Check for Understanding
How does a child sexual abuser select the child to sexually abuse? (He finds the one who is needy, on the fringe, from a broken home, involved in alcohol, drugs, or pornography)
How does a child sexual abuser groom the gatekeeper? (incredibly helpful, acts responsible, tests to see if child is protected when he pushes boundaries)
How does a child sexual abuser groom the child? (gift giving, playful touch, pushing back boundaries of personal space, rule breaking, playful sexual talk or pictures, “accidental nudity,” offering alcohol/drugs/pornography)
How does a child sexual abuser keep the abused child silent?
There are three main ways that the abuser keeps the child silent.
Secrecy--Secrecy is used even from the beginning:
-“I will give this to you, but I can’t give it to everybody, so don’t tell anybody.”
-“Don’t tell your mom I am giving you this candy, she wouldn’t like that.”
-This pulls the child away from the gatekeeper.
Shame and embarrassment--most victims feel like they were at fault for the abuse.
Threats—Threats can be direct or subtle.
-“If you tell, I will kill your pet.”
-“If you tell, it will ruin our youth group.”
-“If you tell, your mom couldn’t handle it.”
-“If you tell, no one will believe you.” This is the biggest reason people don’t tell.
-Often the abuse victim is not believed, because the gate keepers have been groomed to trust the abuser, and because the victim is often a child on the fringe who is less likely to be believed anyway.
Peer to Peer Abuse
Another type of child sexual abuse that is becoming more frequent is peer to peer abuse, or when one child abuses another child. Often the sexual abuser is a teenager; the average male sexual offender is age 13-14 when he begins victimizing children.
Sometimes the abuser is just an older or larger child that is more powerful than the abused child. The sexual abuser sometimes has been a victim of abuse by somebody else or has learned the abusive behavior from movies or the internet.
-Younger abusers do not have as much control as adult abusers do, so they do not try to groom a gatekeeper or the child or prepare the abusive environment. Younger abusers take whatever opportunity they can find to abuse. Places of risk for peer to peer abuse include anywhere clothes come off, such as swimming or bathing places and the highest risk place is the washroom. Any place that is less easily seen--such as behind a building, in the garden, in an unused room, or in a cook house--are areas of increased risk for abuse.
-To prevent peer to peer abuse, your church needs clear rules about where children are allowed to play, and there needs to be increased adult supervision. Don’t allow kids to hangout in the washroom. When children are playing outside, the adult supervisor should not just stand in one place and talk to another adult. He should walk around and make sure rules are being followed and that children are not playing in off limits areas.
Check for Understanding:
1. How does a child sexual abuser keep the abused child silent? (secrecy, shame, threats)
2. How is peer to peer abuse different from adult to child abuse? (they take whatever opportunity they can to abuse, do not try to groom gatekeeper)
What ministry rules will help make your church a safe place for children?
We open the doors of our church to the children of our communities so we can share the love of Jesus with them. We want to keep them safe from child sexual abusers. By creating rules for your church and ministry, we can help protect children from abuse and protect our church workers from false accusations.
1. Educate church staff and volunteers about common grooming behaviors to watch for.
2. When grooming behaviors or other warning signs are observed it should be reported to the supervisor. It may be innocent behavior, but then the supervisor has the information needed to assess the situation.
3. Decide what high risk areas around the church or in the church are off limits to children and enforce the rules.
4. Have an adequate ratio of supervisors to children so that high risk areas can be monitored.
5. Adult or youth helpers should not be alone one to one with a child.
6. Define what the appropriate boundaries for physical touch are and enforce them. For instance, children older than 5 should not sit on an adult or youth’s lap.
7. Do not tolerate inappropriate sexual talk, joking, or pictures by staff or other children.
7. Gifts should not be given from just one adult to just one child. You can say, “the church wanted you to have this coat,” or “Our Sunday School has a gift for everyone.”
8. Talk to the children in your ministry about appropriate touch and touch that is not okay. Good children are taught to obey their authorities. We must also teach children when they should say “no” to someone who is trying to hurt them.
9. Do not allow secrets.
What to do when a child reports abuse:
About 85% of children who are sexually abused never tell, or delay telling, about the abuse. Children who have been abused are ashamed, afraid, and think that they will not be believed. Research shows that it is very rare for a child to make up a story about being abused. These guidelines will help you to listen to what is being reported to you without judgment of the child or of the one being accused.
-First, listen and respond calmly. Extreme emotions do not help the child.
-Next, be sensitive to vague or partial disclosures. Commonly a child will test to see if you will get angry or believe him/her. You can say, “I will listen to you, I want to hear what you have to say.”
-No secrets. If a child says “I want to tell you something, but I don’t want you to tell anybody else.” You need to reply, “There are some things I can’t keep secret. If you or another child is being hurt, then I can’t keep it a secret.”
-It is important to not ask shaming questions, “What were you wearing?”, “Was it past your curfew?”, “Why were you there?” These questions imply that the victim was at fault and will further silence the victim. Tell the child that they are not responsible for what occurred.
-When a child reports abuse to you, you are not responsible to investigate. You can say, “Do you want to tell me anything else?”
-You are responsible to report the information to a supervisor and to the proper authorities.
Reporting Abuse to Authorities
Some countries have laws that abuse must be reported to authorities. Whether or not your country has that law, it is a requirement of the Church of the Nazarene. This statement was released by the Nazarene Global Ministries Center,
The Church should be a place of spiritual enrichment and safety for everyone. Unfortunately, as the news too-often reveals, churches have become a place of horror for children because of the misconduct of a few.
The Board of General Superintendents expressed its concern with the following statement: “The Church of the Nazarene has adopted a zero tolerance policy for sexual misconduct and inappropriate behavior with minors. All workers, leaders, and pastoral staff are to be above reproach in their conduct and to act in the best interest of others. This requires not only that they themselves refrain from engaging in any abusive or suspicious behavior involving minors; they will also be required to report without delay to the proper authorities anyone seen engaging in such behavior.”
Check for Understanding:
List 4 rules that will help make your ministry a safe place for children. (answers above)
List 4 guidelines for when a child reports abuse to you. (answers above)
Who requires that child sexual abuse be reported to the proper authorities? (the Nazarene Church, some governments)
Attention Getter Review:
[Look at the ideas listed on the board of what to say to Meri and what to do. Have the class change any incorrect answers and add correct answers.]
[Pretend that you are watching one of your Sunday School teachers interacting with children and that he is pushing some boundaries and showing some grooming behavior. Think aloud what your concerns would be and list them on the board. Tell yourself that you think you should report these concerns to the supervisor. Demonstrate reporting the concerns to a supervisor.]
Guided Practice: [One person plays the role of the Sunday School teacher interacting with children-- pushing some boundaries and showing some grooming behavior. To help your student think independently and not copy exactly what you just listed during the Modeling section, first give him time to review the section entitled “How does a child sexual abuser groom the child and the gate keepers so there is a relationship of trust and a chance to abuse the child?” Another person makes a list on the board of the concerns. A third person can act out reporting the concerns to a supervisor. A fourth person acts as the supervisor, listening to the concerns, and says “thank you for reporting this to me.”]
Most of you in this class are or will become pastors. You will be the supervisor. What will you do when one of your staff members or volunteers reports their concerns to you? Do you confront the possible abuser? Who are the proper authorities in your country? Are there resources available to help the abused child? How is the child kept safe? How can a child sexual abuser find the help that he needs? [Take 10-15 minutes for the class to discuss what a supervisor can do with concerns or reports of abuse.]
Independent Practice: Share the information from this class with your church pastoral staff and volunteers. Make a list of rules for your ministry setting, including off limit areas and areas that need extra supervision.
I will conclude with a statement from University of the South Pacific Senior lecturer, Roland Schultz, as documented in the Pacific Health Dialog, “A common misperception in the Pacific is that child-abuse is found only in Western industrialized countries … (but we are) not immune from this insidious and damaging problem. … Child abuse needs to be taken off the hidden list and placed firmly onto the public agenda…The Pacific needs to remember that our children are not our possessions; rather, they are our gift to the future to be nurtured, loved and valued today.”1
As church leaders we need to create a culture of communication within our church and communities. By watching for warning signs of how a child sexual abuser selects a child, grooms the child and the gatekeeper, and tries to push back boundaries, we can prevent child sexual abuse and rescue children. Encourage your church staff and volunteers to talk about any concerns, warning signs, or policy violations that they see. Enforce your rules by confronting rule breakers. Help protect children from abusive adults and abusive peers. Talk to the children in your ministry about saying "no" to abuse.
Ministry Safe. http://www.ministrysafe.com/
Schultz, Roland F. MA, Med, Pacific Health Dialog Vol. 2 No. 2 , pp 31-36.
Unicef Regional Report on Child Sexual Abuse in the Pacific http://www.unicef.org/pacificislands/CSEC.pdf
Copy permission of this page is granted for all Christian non-profit training.