During the past year I have known several MKs who have told stories of abuse they experienced at SIM boarding schools. What kind of response from the Mission can an SIM MK expect if they decide to come forward and accuse their abuser? In September of 2010 I wrote to Dorothy Haile, the International Personnel Director for SIM, to ask her about the Mission policy. Here are some of the responses she gave me over the course of our correspondence.
Question: What is SIM’s official policy on dealing with abuse issues? Is there a written policy that I could reference? Dorothy referred me to the SIM Child Safety Policy, which you can find on another page of this blog.
Reading the Child Safety Policy led me to send Dorothy the following question: The Child Safety Policy seems written for the current mission field, but the situations I am talking about are with people who are done with decades of SIM service and retired. Some are even deceased. Do you feel this would affect the thoroughness of the investigation? Dorothy responded that “The Child Safety Policy was written primarily to deal with current issues and especially to make as sure as we can that we deal properly with screening, have guidelines in place for behaviour, and can investigate well. You are right in that observation, but it does not mean that past issues will not be taken seriously and investigated carefully.”
What this does mean is that SIM has no written and official policy for investigating abuses that occurred in the past. Their Child Safey Policy is for current abuse situations, presumably involving children. If an adult comes forward with accusations from the past, is the investigation run differently depending on the case, and the identity of victim and perpetrator?
Question: If a victim approaches SIM to report abuse that occurred while they were on the mission field, what treatment could they expect? What steps would be taken? Dorothy’s response: “An adult MK who approaches SIM to report abuse will be taken seriously and with deep sympathy. Exactly what steps would be taken will depend on the situation, but the report will certainly not be ignored or taken lightly. A report of current abuse will be reported to me (as de facto Child Safety Coordinator) and our policies will then be followed.”
This is further clarification that they have no formal policy in place to investigate past abuse for adult MKs.
Question: How are allegations of abuse investigated? Is it one person’s word against another, or are there any guidelines in place for a formal investigation? Dorothy responded: “We have a formal investigation procedure, and as part of the Child Safety Network we can also call upon trained investigators from other mission agencies.”
The answer to the last question indicates the procedure depends on the situation, and this answer states there is a formal procedure. What is the formal procedure? Is it written down where an MK could access it and know the process?
Question: Does SIM have any policy in place regarding the consequences for an abuser if an investigation finds that they were guilty of abuse? Dorothy’s response: “A proven abuser who is still a member of SIM would be dismissed and (again as part of the Child Safety Network) we are committed to providing information to any other member agency as to the reason for the dismissal. We are also committed to reporting to the secular authorities in criminal cases.”
Does this also apply to proven abusers when the abuse took place 30 years ago, or are those rules different? Does anyone have any knowledge of an abuser being dismissed from SIM, or being reported to secular authorities? If you do, please share it with us. With the confidentiality that SIM gives to these investigations, sealing up the records, it is impossible to know whether abusers are actually dismissed, or just rerouted into a “safer” job with the Mission, or allowed to spend their retirement years in quiet anonymity.