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 being “uncaring, 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.