Child Protection Training and Children Past

“What good is that God-sized vision of yours if you have to get to it on the backs of broken and silenced children?”

This question to mission organizations comes from Tamara Rice, an MK of the Association of Baptists for World Evangelism (ABWE). She is a gifted writer and self-proclaimed lover of words, and her blog, Hope Fully Known, is a joy to read, even though the subject matter is anything but joyful.

Among other things, Tamara writes about spiritual and sexual abuse and their legacy of depression, anxiety and grief. A recent post is directed towards all those church and mission organizations that are joining what seems to be the growing trend of child protection training. It sounds like such a good thing, doesn’t it? And yet when I hear that the Child Safety Advocate for SIM has been to such a training, why don’t I get a warm and fuzzy feeling that now SIM will start attending to all of their abused MKs? The reason is because child protection training is not about protecting the (many) MKs who have been abused in the past. It is about limiting the liability of the mission going forward. MKs from the past are still on their own.

“If your child protection policies aren’t protecting children past as well as present they aren’t protecting any children at all.”

Thank you, Tamara, for putting my feelings so eloquently into words.

Read The Realist Speaks: Child Protection Best Practices at Tamara’s blog, Hope Fully Known.

 

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11 thoughts on “Child Protection Training and Children Past

  1. I don’t see how missions possibly could protect children of the past. Possibly you mean taking remedial action to heal past abuses? Once something is past I see no way to protect against it.
    DaveW

    • Thanks Dave for your comment. The reality of wounded MKs is that even though we are adults now, many of us are still “stuck” emotionally in a child stage due to effects of abuse, and many could still use protection. I would like to see SIM take action to help past victims, rather than just sitting back and waiting for the victims to limp over to them slowly one by one, if at all. This could include acknowledging that there are still victims out there, setting up a ministry for abused MKs, complete with funding, hearing their stories, affirming that specific events happened rather than just issuing a blanket apology, investigating cases where it is appropriate, paying for counseling for the many MKs who want and need it, perhaps reimbursing some for the money they have spent on their own to this end, and advertising widely that these services are available.

      • Liz
        There are a number of places where I want to comment on your reply. But first I’d like to know where you are going with this statement:
        “paying for counseling for the many MKs who want and need it, perhaps reimbursing some for the money they have spent on their own to this end, and advertising widely that these services are available.”

        I presume the point is to provide help for those of us who were abused and not to punish SIM??
        DaveW

      • Hi Dave,
        Paying for counseling (or therapy) would cost SIM money, and getting the word out that help is available would mean SIM has to acknowledge publicly that abused MKs are out there. I don’t see that as punishing SIM but as a necessary cost to the mission if they really want to help MKs. I suspect the reason nothing is being done now is because they are reluctant to spend money on us and they want to keep quiet the fact that there are even MKs who were abused. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

      • Hi Liz
        Thanks for your clarification. I have had contact with about 6 people I knew at Bingham or Gowans. All 6 have been damaged by their experience. I wonder how many children went through the SIM schools and what percentage have either gone for counseling or should have gone? During the late 70s and 80s I went for counseling and as well I paid for my brother to go. My guess would be that the cost was well more than $2000 in total. Even if there are only 500 of us in need of counseling that would come to a million dollars.
        As far as I know (AFAIK) only SIM USA has acknowledged any significant problems in how the MKs were treated. AFAIK SIM Canada in particular denies that there were any issues.
        Some churches refused to support any SIM staff who were not direct (ie real) missionaries, this included home staff, HQ staff, MK schools etc. IMHO these churches have a moral liability and also should bear a portion of the cost.
        At times I have felt a great deal of anger towards SIM Canada and have felt that it might be better if they ceased to exist. This was especially true in the years just prior to my brother’s suicide. My brother would always have struggled but IMO going to boarding school tipped him over the edge. IMHO SIM should never have allowed my parents to join the mission with a child like my brother who had physical, mental and emotional problems. He lost vision in one eye due to a tropical eye disease and could not see well enough to pursue his chosen career. He never was able to work after about the late 1970s and lived with my parents. Had the family not been able to look after him then I feel that SIM should have extended support monies.
        My net is that in cases where an AMK can not afford counseling or if it puts a great burden on them that SIM should help out. Also in the rare case where an AMK has been severely damaged then support funds should be available. In all cases there should be acknowledgement like that in the USofA for all the damage done.
        DaveW (one of the angry whiny ones)

      • I am so sorry about your brother, Dave – that just breaks my heart to hear. Some people, kids especially, are fragile and need special care, and it sounds like your brother was one of these. It is heart-wrenching to think of what the SIM boarding school system could do to a kid like that. I share your grief and your anger, which are perfectly legitimate feelings for you to have. (The ones who call it “whiny” are in serious denial, or are not bothering to really listen to other people’s stories.)

        Counseling for MKs would surely be expensive, but SIM sees fit to pour money into plenty of other ministries. They have a long list of “priority ministries”. When they decide that there is a need, they find the resources to get the job done. I think it’s more than just the money, as we know God’s resources are unlimited. It’s their reputation being on the line. They don’t want to acknowledge that anything bad happened on their watch. Well plenty of bad things happened and all the pain the MKs are carrying today is casting a huge shadow over their work. I think the quote by Tamara Rice says it all – “What good is that God-sized vision of yours if you have to get to it on the backs of broken and silenced children?”

        If SIM Canada won’t listen to your concerns I would bypass them and write to Liz Ebeling, who is the International Child Safety Coordinator. Her email is intl.childsafety@sim.org. Peace to you!

      • Thanks Liz. The brother of my closest friend from BA and Gowans also committed suicide. I wonder how many more there have been.
        I strongly agree that dealing with the child abuse issue has two facets. Preventing abuse to current children and healing the effects of past abuse. However, if dealing with only one aspect is all that people are willing to do then I would have to choose preventing more children from being abused.
        A year or two back I did write to Liz Ebeling and apparently she will not touch the case as I suspect that her authority covers only SIM USA and possibly the fields where SIM ministers but not other sending countries.
        DaveW

      • Hmmm, that is strange since Liz told me she is the one to contact with abuse issues. The SIM USA Child Safety Advocate is Mary Decker, as of a year or so ago. (http://daveandmarydecker.wordpress.com/2013/01/18/marys-new-role/).

        Back in spring of 2012 Malcolm McGregor, who was the International Director at that time, wrote a piece for Simroots about Child Safety. He wrote that “The leadership of SIM International takes very seriously all reports of abuse, neglect or endangerment of children in the SIM community whether current or in decades past, including but not limited to MKs who attended SIM-related boarding schools, and who submit reports of abuse suffered in those settings.” Then he names Liz Ebeling as the person to contact if you have questions about issues related to abuse. I guess if they don’t back up those words with actions it doesn’t mean very much. Of course now there is a new international director, Dr. Joshua Bogunjoko. I don’t know what his position is on this.

        I also would like to know how many MKs have committed suicide. I know of one from another mission. The fact that you can’t even get a response and acknowledgement is pretty sad. They can put on a facade that they care so much about MKs and they take abuse seriously, but it is the actions that speak the loudest.

        I also wrote to Liz Ebeling for an update on her position, so we will see if I get a reply.

      • Liz do you know what the role and function of SIM International is? When I was young it did not exist as far as I knew.
        DaveW

  2. Thank you for sharing the post and affirming the problem. Maybe together our voices can get stronger as we share this important concept that it’s not about liability and that the real test of child protection policies is how an institution handles cases of “historical” abuse. I have hope one day the institutions themselves will believe this too, but I think we have a long way to go before that day comes. I’m glad I’m not alone in this journey toward justice.

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