The ABWE Abuse Investigation One Year Later

A year after firing GRACE, the abuse investigation at the Association of Baptists for World Evangelism drags on at a snails pace. What is happening behind the scenes of this slow and silent process?

The perpetrator in this case is Dr. Donn Ketcham, who sexually abused MKs in Bangladesh.  You can read on a survivor’s blog about the shocking way ABWE handled the case on the mission field. It took decades for the victims to get ABWE to address this case, and finally after a lot of exposure in social media, the mission hired GRACE to investigate the matter. This was back in May of 2011.

Almost two years went by, interviews were conducted, and GRACE was only weeks away from writing a final report, when suddenly ABWE pulled the plug and fired GRACE, essentially wiping out the entire investigation.

This was a devastating turn of events for the survivors who had come forward to tell their stories (not an easy process) and felt like their ordeal was finally coming to an end. The mission laid out their reasons for the termination, and GRACE responded. You can read the details on this blog and at the Bangladesh MKs blog at the link above. ABWE then announced they would hire Professional Investigators International (Pii) to redo the investigation. It was back to square one, but this time with an organization that the survivors did not trust, and with none of the assurances in place for how the final report would be handled.

Almost a year went by with no contact between Pii and the abused MKs. Finally they began to contact some victims to set up interviews. However when an MK asked Pii some questions beforehand, including basic things such as who would be present during the interview, Pii refused to give that information. (This intimidation tactic was also used recently by SIM when they were getting ready to interview an abused MK.)

The result of the ABWE victims being uncomfortable with the process is that they don’t show up for the interviews, they lose their voice and the investigators are missing that vital information about the case.

In the meantime, a strangely similar situation arose with Bob Jones University. They hired GRACE to investigate how the University was handling reports of abuse. In January, a few weeks before the report was due to be released, they fired GRACE. This time the news was picked up by major media outlets like Washington Post and NBC. You can find links to some of the stories at the BJU News blog. It was only a few short weeks before BJU met with GRACE and agreed to renew the investigation under the terms of the original contract.

Since nothing was changed in the contract between BJU and GRACE we can assume that it was the public outcry that caused them to change their minds and rehire GRACE. Wouldn’t it have been wonderful if the same had occurred for the Bangladesh MKs? Missions like ABWE, New Tribes and SIM should not be allowed to ignore and cover up abuse reports and drag out investigations for years. They should be held accountable by the laws and by public opinion.

 

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6 thoughts on “The ABWE Abuse Investigation One Year Later

  1. I’m just now seeing this, Liz. Thank you for writing this and posting it. As one of the ABWE MKs, I really appreciate that there are people who still care. I have heard of several others churches (like Speaking Truth in Love said above) who are dropping support of ABWE, and they all say the same thing: ABWE doesn’t even respond to their communication about it.

    I can’t imagine why they wouldn’t be fighting to regain trust, doing everything they can to keep support intact and maintain good lines of communication. But they truly aren’t even trying. Personally, I’ve been waiting for a response from ABWE’s official contact for this matter for almost 60 days now. What’s awful is that in the email I sent to him (February 14), I explained to him that ignoring emails from victims does a lot of harm–he had waited almost two weeks to get back to me the last time. I explained that it’s very triggering to feel ignored. So I hoped if I explained, he would try to do better. But, no. THAT’s the email he decides to completley ignore.

    Yup … no words. I cannot imagine what the leaders at ABWE are thinking. Do they really think if they stick their heads in the sand we will all go away? Thank you for still caring about this, Liz.

    • Dear Tamara…yes, I think they are hoping and expecting that we will just fade away. They have never had to worry about MKs in the past and have been able to easily cover up anything that would reflect badly on the mission. That is changing now with the word getting out through social media, and it has to be having an effect. Missions ARE going to reach a point where they are losing money, support and missionaries and can’t ignore their history of abuse any longer. The sad thing is so much of the damage is fixable if they would only stop denying the past. Meanwhile, don’t give up hope. We are all in it together. Your blog is a big inspiration. Keep reaching for the thing with feathers.

  2. Most evangelical churches that support ABWE aren’t interested helping victims. When abuse occurs in their ranks, they can’t throw the victims under the bus fast enough. ABWE will only do the right thing when the scandal hurts the bottom line!!!

  3. The typical response to child abuse, of denial and obfuscation practiced by many large charitable organizations is entirely understandable. If they wait long enough their victims tend to die off and no longer raise the issue. Such charities need certain scarce resources namely finances and personnel to operate their organization. The only way to strike back at such charities is to limit their resources by making the truth known in the hopes that individuals and organizations will stop supporting them.

    The problem I have with such denial and obfuscation is moral in that it seems less than Christian to me.
    DaveW
    ps sarcasm

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