There are many reasons why SIM MKs are reluctant to come forward and tell their stories of past abuse at boarding schools. SIM gives lip service to wanting to reconcile with abused MKs and find the perpetrators, but they have created an environment that makes it difficult for victims to come forward. Here are some of the things that, in my opinion, contribute to this environment. For what its worth, I have told SIM about these concerns already. I passed this on to Dorothy Haile at SIM in October of 2010, while I was corresponding with her. I have never received any acknowledgment or feedback.
MKs are told to “forgive and forget.”
We are admonished, through many articles in Simroots and other conversations, that we should forgive and forget wrongs by other people. There is even an implication that it is sinful not to do this. Of course it would be very convenient for SIM if all MKs would forget the abuse they suffered, and then the Mission would never have to deal with it. When a victim is told they should forgive the perpetrator, and this is backed up with a few Bible verses on forgiveness, it shifts the blame and guilt over to the victim and puts the responsibility on them to “fix” the situation. Lets keep the blame and guilt where they belong, with the perpetrators and with the Mission that did not protect children under their care. Certainly forgiveness would be a long term goal, but a victim also deserves to have his or her case brought to justice. I hope you will read the page Thoughts on Forgiveness, for another perspective on this topic.
A policy of secrecy keeps victims isolated.
SIM keeps all records and results of investigations sealed up in a confidential file. That means if a Mission personnel is found guilty of abuse, no one is going to know about it. How do these abusers earn the right to such confidentiality? In the real world, child abusers names are publicized, for the safety of the community. SIM should make the names of people found to be guilty of abuse available to any MK who requests that information, and they should publicize the process involved in seeing this list. I have heard of several people who had a common perpetrator, but none of them knows the others’ story, so they think they are the only one. In reality, most perpetrators are going to have more than one victim.
According to the SIM’s Child Safety Policy an employee found guilty of child abuse will be dismissed. Therefore a check of the list of perpetrators should not show anyone who is still employed by SIM. With the results of investigations being kept a secret, there is no way to know if SIM actually follows up with dismissing these people or not.
Victim’s pain is trivialized.
It seems that for every article that an MK writes to Simroots telling of a painful experience at boarding school, there is someone ready to chime in and tell us that we should be grateful, count our blessings and not complain. That may be true of things like homesickness or just having a hard time adjusting to the constant moves. However for MKs that suffered serious physical, sexual, emotional and physical abuse, it is very unfair to trivialize their pain in this way and make them feel guilty for their feelings. You can read about some of the long range consequences of sexual abuse in The Impact of Sexual Abuse.
We do not know what to expect from an investigation.
If an MK comes forward with accusations, what will happen during the investigation? The Child Safety Policy is very vague about this, just stating that formal procedures will be followed. What exactly are those procedures for abuse that happened in the past?
SIM has not provided a forum for victims to report abuse.
If you remember being abused at an SIM boarding school and want to bring this to the attention of SIM, where do you start and who do you call? You won’t find any of that information on the SIM web site. I have seen that several other Missions and churches actually post an abuse hotline on their site for people to call. At a minimum SIM might give a name and email address for the person who handles abuse situations. The fact that they ignore this whole area drives home the point that they would rather we all just kept quiet and didn’t mention it.
The fact that they don’t have a specific person currently employed at SIM in charge of dealing with past abuse of adult MKs drives home the point that it is a low priority for them. As far as I can see it is delegated to the retired USA Director, who can only make suggestions to the Board and hasn’t been given the resources to really provide an outreach to abused MKs.
If you go to SIM’s web site you will find a list of priority ministries. Wouldn’t it be great if one of their priorities was investigating past abuse and ministering to the many MKs who are suffering the legacy of abuse at SIM boarding schools?
How should SIM be helping MKs with a history of past abuse? I welcome comments from MKs and from SIM.