Abuse harms the whole person
By Steven Scheid
Speaking from faith: abuse harms the ability to connect with God, the church, and others.
Children experience the pain of the abuse their entire lives. Even if the body shows no signs, the body memory is there. It remains in scents, touches, places, and feelings that take years to process. Trusted people become un-trustable. The vast majority of abused knew and trusted their abuser. It makes the challenge of trust as difficult as the first step over the edge of the cliff when repelling. Future relationships, including spiritual relationships, are damaged before they begin. Scars from abuse are inflexible and sensitive. This is true for scars on the spirit. The harm from abuse can find its way into almost all aspects of life.
Children who experience one adverse event are more likely to experience additional abuse. They go from looking like a possible victim to being one. Predators can sense this. They have a profile they seek. They then share the information. Some predators not only share ideas and methods but names of organizations and victims.
Religious and values-based organizations lend predators a false sense of goodness. This halo effect is profound. Who would not believe those engaged in with these commitments are good? They know the words, look the part, and seek to share time with us in meetings, activities, or worship. But when the truth is revealed, the damage stretches far beyond the victim or the immediate group. The damage scars the future.
I encourage the church to be more vigilant. Don’t settle. Count the cost of building the ministry. The cost must include the temporal and the eternal. Are we willing to sacrifice to protect the next generation? Someone invested in us and generations before. This is how the church was built. The risk was high then but worth doing it right. It is just as important today as ever before.
Steven Scheid, director of the Center for Scouting Ministry
General Commission on UM Men