It can’t happen here, they said, we all know each other.It can’t happen here, they said, we’re all Christians. It can’t happen here, they said, we’re a small church. It can’t happen here, they said, we’re like family. It can’t happen here, they said, we’ve got a policy. It can’t happen here, they said, we’ve got a growing ministry. It can’t happen here, they said, we’ve got the best leaders around. It can’t happen here, they said, we’ve got wonderful Pastors. It can’t happen here, they said, that never happens in our neck of the woods. . . . It happened here. . . . Children and youth were abused in our church. . . . So they said…. Not our leaders! Not our youth! Not our children! I don’t believe it. I don’t believe you. And under the carpet it all got swept. . . . As I took a corner of the carpet and peeled it back… There were shrieks of horror, shrieks of disbelief, shrieks of shame, shrieks of sadness We wept We mourned We fought . . . We lost innocence We lost our way We lost family We lost children We lost youth We lost our identity We lost you . . . We are sorry . . . It is wrong . . . We finally peeled back the carpet . . . We saw scares We saw deep wounds We saw anger We saw hurt . . . We sought healing We sought help . . . We limped on . . . We are still healing . . . We share with you, it can happen here. Open your eyes Open your ears It can happen here It happens here . . . 1 in 3 females and 1 in 6 males in Canada experience some form of sexual abuse before the age of 18 . . . 1 in 3! 1 in 6! . . . Pull back the carpet. Our children and youth need our protection Our children and youth need our help Our children and youth need our voice Our children and youth need healing . . . Pull back the carpet. . . . All our voices are needed to say “NO” to abuse. . . . All our strength is needed to stop abuse . . . All our grace is needed to heal from abuse . . . God is with us Our Helper is on our side He is able He is with you Pull back the carpet
I write this out of my own experience. When I was a young, new Pastor, child abuse came to the church where I was serving. No one saw it coming. And yet it happened. There is no other word for it than devastating. The victims’ lives were forever changed. The victims were so hurt, confused, shameful and we, without knowing, had let it happened. We got them the best help we could. But they were changed. We were all changed. We would not be the same again. It was devastating to the church and to everyone involved. The ministry has never been the same. I have never been the same. Abuse has many victims. The victims are in our churches. The victims are in our camps. The victims are in our schools. The victims are in our neighbourhood.
Let’s pull back the carpet on abuse.
Because, on the flip side, I’ve also seen what can happen when neighbours, churches, camps and ministries take seriously their role to make things safer and their role to be advocates for children and youth. I’ve seen what can happen when people create caring, loving environments where kids and teens are valued. I’ve seen what can happen when children and youth are believed. I’ve seen how children and youth can come alive, even after abuse, with the love of caring adults. I’ve seen there is healing. I’ve seen there is a way to make things safer. I’ve seen we can pull back the carpet.
Lift the carpet, my friends.
Here is some help as you do: 1. Safer Churches at CABC video 2. Safer Churches at CABC website 3. Public legal information (NB) 4. Your local Social Development / Family & Children Services office. 5. A book I’d recommend for parents/leaders to read to their children is "God Made All of Me" By Justin Holcomb and Lindsey Holcomb 6. Talk to a professional counselor 7. Share this blog as a statement to say you will not hide abuse, you will stand with the vulnerable, you will pull back the carpet.
This is the very beginning of the conversation. So much more could be said. So much more practical help could be given. Start the conversation. Peel back the carpet. Talk about it. Make a plan on how to respond well. Trust your gut. Trust your instincts. Ask. Listen. Pull back the carpet.