SIM Talks about Child Safety and Abuse in Latest Issue of Simroots

The latest issue of Simroots arrived in my email box this morning. I was pleasantly surprised to see an article titled SIM and Child Safety by Malcolm L. McGregor, SIM International Director. I have been involved in many a discussion about abuse at SIM schools, I have even written to Mr. McGregor personally (got no response), and this is the first time I’ve seen any of the SIM administration weigh in on the topic “on the record.”

Mr. McGregor is writing in response to concerns from some SIM Adult MKs about how SIM responds to child safety issues both past and present.” He also mentions that they have received reports from SIM missionaries of SIM beinguncaring, unresponsive and/or indifferent to the reports of child safety.” These impressions came from social media, Facebook of course, and web blogs.

The article starts out explaining how SIM has protocols in place to prevent child abuse today. The new full time International Child Safety Coordinator is Liz Ebeling. It is not clear whether she will also be handling reports of abuse that happened in the past, or coordinating any sort of care for past abuse victims.

Mr. McGregor issues a public statement concerning SIM’s stand on Child Safety. In that statement he mentions that SIM became aware of some cases of abuse in the 1990s. He says “We listened, investigated, and confirmed openly that these incidents had taken place. We moved quickly to offer care and recovery support for those who suffered abuse.” He also states “we have committed significant resources of personnel and finances to the education and care of missionary kids (MKs) for many years.”  

These two statements do not ring true with me, based on what I have learned in the past several years. I do know the AMK Task Force uncovered a few cases of severe abuse, but I don’t believe they were openly confirmed. When and where were they openly confirmed? Who were the perpetrators, and what were their consequences? Were any other MKs who were under the care of these people notified that this abuse had occurred? Many perpetrators have multiple victims. Was any effort made to contact others who may have been hurt?

What significant resources has SIM committed to help abused adult MKs? Where is the dedicated staff for this ministry? Where is the outreach? The AMK Task Force was run largely by MK volunteers, who donated their time and a good deal of other resources to help their fellow MKs. Then they somehow got the impression they had helped everyone who needed help. Or, perhaps what little funds they were working with dried up. Or, perhaps SIM decided it was best not to dig any deeper into issues that could turn into a huge liability for them. I think that all three of these reasons could have contributed to the disbanding of the Task Force over 10 years ago. An unmet need still exists.

The article concludes with this statement: We deeply regret and, indeed, grieve any occurrence of abuse, and we stand ready to respond if we learn of any current abuse or anyone else from the past for whom we could help bring a measure of justice and healing. We also protect the right of confidentiality for those who have made reports.”

Is SIM also protecting the confidentiality of the perpetrators? Are they imposing confidentiality on investigations to protect their reputation? How does SIM plan to help to bring justice and healing to abused adult MKs? I look forward to hearing more details about their plans.

This article by Mr. McGregor gives me hope that SIM is paying some attention now to the issue. I wonder what the response will be in the next Simroots and in the more immediate forum of the social media.

Read the latest issue of Simroots.  The article by Mr. McGregor is in Open Dialogue on page 3.

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4 thoughts on “SIM Talks about Child Safety and Abuse in Latest Issue of Simroots

  1. I also enjoyed reading the latest Simroots newsletter, I was moved to tears by the Editor’s efforts to include articles and stories which speak to not only the “happy memories”, but also attempt to invite those are deeply wounded, angry, and violated by their childhood on the mission field.

    I appreciated Malcolm’s letter, and while I agree that it may have been edited to address this recent year’s flurry of social media activity regarding SIM’s non-response to child abuse and AMK issues, the quotes above from Simroots are accurate. SIM has indeed invested significant personnel and financial resources to the education and care of MKs, but the article was very careful to specify MKs, and not Adult MKs, the latter of which this blog is seeking to represent.

    SIM deserves some credit for the changes they have implemented to improve the “system” (it still is a system) and reduce the possibility of child abuse on the field. There is still work to be done, however MKs have been brought to the forefront as a targeted focus within SIM over the past decade, and that is the key; ensuring that the current and future generations of children are protected from the pain and abuse so many Adult MKs suffered in years gone by.

    I feel that the Editor of Simroots (Karen Keegan) expressed it quite well in her opening letter in asking the following question, “How can I build into the future?”. Let’s start with that, focus on the current generation of MKs, ensure they are protected, nourished, and supported within their communities abroad or at home, at boarding school or in local schools and home schools.

    Absolutely, SIM still needs to deal with the numerous outstanding and unresolved cases of abuse with AMKs, but let’s not lose sight of the goal: protecting this generation of MKs, and leaving a legacy of truth, transparency, and trust.

    • I agree that taking care of the MKs today is important and SIM has a lot of programs in place now for them. That is certainly one goal, but I wouldn’t say it is THE goal, implying the only one. If SIM focuses all attention and resources on just the current generation of MKs they are ignoring a huge population. Mr. McGregor says SIM values all of the children in our missionary families as individuals created in the image of God”. Does he mean they only value the current children, or do they also value children of missionary families who served back in the 50s, 60s and 70s? These MKs who are now adults also deserve a future. When does SIM plan to extend truth, transparency and trust to these MKs?

      • Point taken, not the only goal, but definitely a major one. As for SIM extending the three T’s to adult MKs, that would be great, but step at a time. If they can get right with the current generation, that’s potentially one less generation of scarred and wounded MK’s to address down the road. Absolutely the prior generations of MKs are important, and of course we hope they do get the support and care deserved, but whether SIM will be officially part of that, well that remains to be seen.

      • I absolutely agree – they need to get it right with MKs who are on the field today. As far as addressing concerns of prior generations, I think its a liability issue for them. If you read through the “Issues to Consider” at the end of the AMK Task Force report, one of them is The Mission needs to decide to do right rather than to do what feels “safe.” SIM is still playing it safe in their dealings with abused MKs, which means hushing up stories and defusing situations as best they can, without really dealing with them. I’m not just speculating, I know of a case where this happened recently.

        It will be a great thing if SIM is officially part of supporting abused MKs. I bet if they don’t step forward and offer support voluntarily, they will one day find themselves involved in ways they don’t like, that are much more damaging.

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