According to the Cambridge English Dictionary, research is a detailed study of a subject, especially in order to discover (new) information or reach a (new) understanding.
According to the Cambridge English Dictionary, research is a detailed study of a subject, especially in order to discover (new) information or reach a (new) understanding.
As image bearers we reflect, assimilate and are shaped by the forces that surround us. Therapists are profoundly impacted by the suffering and evil with which they sit. We become like that which we habitually reflect. This paper explores the potentially negative impact of therapeutic work and the call of the Scriptures in the life of the Christian therapist to reflect the image of Christ in this world and in our work. Five disciplines are considered as aids in shaping the therapist to reflect the image of Christ: worship, truth, study, prayer and obedience. As these disciplines are pursued, the life of Christ becomes the primary shaping force in the life and work of the therapist thereby bringing his redemptive power to bear in the work of therapy …
Read the full article published in the Journal of Psychology and Christianity from this link.
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Several years ago, I was in Brazil speaking at two conferences on sexual abuse. It was one of those experiences that is life altering. I will not look at the world, the church, myself or my faith in quite the same way ever again. I gleaned many things from my time there and was richly blessed by the people of Brazil.
I believe God often uses life experiences as parables for us. He did so when He was here in the flesh and He often continues to teach us in that fashion. He turned my experience with a translator into a parable for me.My first translator was a young Brazilian man. We were different genders, cultures, professions, and life histories. He was my way into the culture and the people. I needed his heart, his mind, and his mouth. He needed mine. I could not reach the people without him. He could not reach the people with what I had to give without me. I came to the people of Brazil through my translator.
Being translated is grueling work—for both parties. I had to present my thoughts in fragments. Lessons were given bit by bit. Periodically we would encounter a word for which there was no Portuguese equivalent. I would then have to find a way to describe and explain so the concept could be grasped. One of those words was “flashback.” No one had heard of such a thing. I struggled to find a way to explain what a flashback was like and finally used a definition one of my clients had come up with years ago. A flashback is like having a nightmare while you are awake. As soon as they heard the description my audience knew what I meant. Many of them had experienced abuse themselves and had lived with flashbacks, not understanding what they were or how to respond to them. I had helped them understand themselves. Or, as a former client used to say, “You have explained me to myself.”
Is all of this not a taste of the incarnation? Christ came in flesh. It was His way into the culture, the people, and our lives. It still is. He needs our hearts, our minds, and our mouths in order to reach the people. We need His in order to teach them truth. John 1 tells us that Jesus came “to explain the Father to us.” He also came to explain us to ourselves. It is through Christ and His Word that we know who we are and why we act the way we do. He has put accurate names to our experience of life and ourselves in this world.
The experience of being translated requires a great deal of trust. The translator must listen accurately and speak truly. He must know two languages. He must know how to communicate both the words and heart of the one he represents. The speaker must relinquish a measure of control, and trust that the translator will take what is presented and accurately deliver it, so the speaker is not misrepresented. The reputation of the speaker is in the hands of the translator.The translator also profoundly impacts the relationship the speaker has with the individuals in the audience.
Is this not something like our lives as Christians? Are we not the representatives, the translators of God in this world? We must listen accurately and speak truly to the world. We must know the language of heaven and the language of men. Our lives and mouths are to communicate the words of God and the heart of God to the world. We represent Him and He has entrusted us with His reputation in this world. Others know Him and experience Him through our lives and our words.
I heard some funny stories about translators who purposely misrepresented speakers who were offensive or did not speak truth. However, it would not be funny for a translator to take the truth from a speaker and falsely represent what was said because he did not like what he heard, or it went against his preferences or biases. Do we not, however, often do that to God? He says things that ruffle feathers and make us squirm. We alter them, soften them or neglect them. We make His thoughts adapt to ours rather than bowing to His words in our own lives and then representing Him accurately.
I was keenly aware that I had put myself in the hands (mouth) of another. I longed for the translator to know me, to understand my topic, and to grasp my love for the people. I wanted my listeners to receive my compassion for those who have been abused. I wanted them to sense my love. I wanted them to hear my strong belief that there is hope for healing in Jesus Christ. I wanted them to hear the truth about abuse and its effects. I wanted them to get an accurate set of facts. Their lives and the lives of many others would be impacted by what the translator gave them. Is this not a glimmer into the heart of our God? He has given us His heart and His words. Does He not long for us as His “translators” to represent His truths and His heart well?
Spend a moment with this image of translator. Consider how you represent His heart.
“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” John 1:14
Langberg, Diane. In Our Lives First: Meditations for Counselors, Week 4, Day 26
There has been much discussion about what a church should do when confronted with an abuser in its midst. Such a question cannot begin to be adequately or wisely answered unless we first grasp the truth of what it means to be an abuser of the vulnerable. To see abuse as simply a wrong action that needs to be stopped (though it certainly does) is to minimize and externalize what is a cancer of the soul and does great damage to the abused. We often seem to think that when we understand the outside of things we are fully aware. We are not. Our God looks on the inward condition that gave birth to the outward actions. God does not classify evil by a catalogue of deeds done. He always goes to the internal root of the matter (Genesis 6:5). To abuse a vulnerable child (or adult) is to alter the course of their life. The shape of their life and their sense of self has significantly changed. Those heinous actions are spillage from the heart of the abuser and exposure of the cancer deep within. When the church shows “grace” in response to a few approved words and some tears, we have done added damage to the victim, risked the safety of other sheep and left the abuser with a disease that will rot his/her soul.
Sexual abuse is a cancer; a practiced sin with an underlying, often hidden infrastructure. The abuse is the fruit of that substructure. Roots go down deep into practiced deception which becomes metastasized sin. Abuse is the external exposure of that internal, life strangling system. A response of mere words and emotions is hardly sufficient. Evidence of change. Such an infrastructure requires a surgical operation over a long time. The church has failed victims horrifically. She has hidden abuse and been complicit in its soul damaging outcomes. She has actually allowed sin God said is worthy of a millstone to continue unchecked in her midst! She has also failed the one who is cancer ridden and walks in darkness.
When churches have asked what I recommend when dealing with someone whose has sexually abused children my response is – do not allow him/her to attend church. There is always pushback. The word grace is tossed about. But you see, someone with such an infrastructure of deceit, feeding off the vulnerable and looking for ways to do it again has been committing spiritual suicide, and because of that deadness, they cannot be trusted. It is foolish to think otherwise. God says we do not even know our own deceitful hearts! Do we really think that if we permit an abuser of children into the sanctuary that we can guarantee the safety of the vulnerable? And do we not understand that even if nothing overt occurs, that deceptive heart and mind is feeding off the little ones sitting in the pews, strengthening his/her own sin patterns while looking good? The images, fantasies and the feeding only continue even while Scripture is read and songs are sung. This is someone with no understanding of the practice required for a godly custody of his/her eyes and thoughts. We have not only failed the vulnerable. We have also failed victims of abuse by another who now feel vigilant and fearful in God’s sanctuary. And we have failed the abuser, for we have left him/her in their prison, practicing that which is strangling their soul. There is no grace in leaving another in the prison of practiced sin, justified by deceptions. We become complicit in their spiritual suicide.
So Diane, what are we to do? Do we leave the abuser in their sin and keep them away from the church? No, to the first question. Yes, to the second. Bring the church to the abuser. I have worked with churches who have done this. A group of committed and mature adults meet once a week with the abuser and listen to the sermon, discuss it, check in, not only about actions and choices but also about thoughts and impulses. They sing and they pray. There are to be no children in the house – ever. The group is to have permission to stay in regular touch with both a therapist for updates and with the parole officer dealing with the case. They read Anna Salter’s book Predators and watch her documentary on sex offenders. https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLFhKns6iHFzbu5-WRGg0L__H5i4I0wG9A
Know also that this group will need care, respite, encouragement and shepherding as they enter into the sewer of abuse. The work is hard, slow, discouraging and contagious. The church must not abandon them.
This is incarnational work. It is a following of Christ who entered into our lives and our garbage so that we might be one with him in his beauty. Many refused his invitation. They loved their darkness more than his light. So it will be here. For you see, it is only when someone begins to abstain from practiced sin – not just behaviorally, but in thoughts and impulses, that they will come to recognize the strength of the habitual sin, its soul deadening nature and the lure of deception used to ease the pain. Few will do such work, but the gift of an invitation to the Light Himself will have been given.
Some years ago a church made this choice and a small group faithfully met with the abuser for almost two years. They were weary and wondered about stopping. Surely, he would not abuse again. One day he did not show up for the weekly meeting. He had never missed. Maybe he was sick. They called, they went to his place and could not find him. Neither could his PO. Weeks later they learned he had somehow managed to get out of the country and gone to Thailand where he was pursuing little girls. They were heartbroken. They were angry. They felt like they had failed. But no, they had not. First, the vulnerable in their sanctuary found a true refuge because they were protected. Second, they had, like their Lord, called this man out of darkness and into Light. As many did to Jesus, he rejected their invitation. Now they understood, in a small way, a bit of the grief of our God when any one of us refuses his invitation into truth and light (Genesis 6:6 – God was grieved in his heart). It was a taste of the fellowship of his sufferings and a call to look to themselves lest they also refuse the light.
Our failure to see and do these things is in part an exposure of our very limited grasp of the nature of sin and its tentacles in our own lives. We would not be complicit with abuse wherever we find it if this were not so. Repentance is hard. It means a complete change of our thought processes, our impulses and choices, little by little – over and over yet again. It is not simply stopping a behavior. It is not words and tears. It is a slow undoing of deceptions – deceptions that allow us to feel okay about ourselves. It is however the path that follows Christ, whose central focus and motive was to always please the Father – no matter the cost. He invites us to come.
Given the writings of Paul, it seems clear that the church of Jesus Christ has had divisions, angry dialogue and exclusions since its inception. With global access to information and instant responses, there seems to be a multiplication of judgments, hatred, divisions and demeaning words. To see such things increasing in those who say they love Christ is very sad indeed.
It is a foundational truth in the Word of our God that all human beings since the beginning of time, have been created in the image of God, knit together by the Father’s hands in their mother’s womb. You will never meet an exception to this. Whether they are male or female or of another race, healthy or sick, citizen or immigrant, rich or poor, brilliant or limited – everyone, no matter their birthplace or capacity or unlikeness to you is an image bearer. No matter how we choose to treat another or what language we use to describe them this fact cannot be undone.
One of the (many) current and volatile dialogues today concerns the immigrants at our borders. It is without question a critical topic. However, some of our dialogue about this topic has frankly, been vile and grieves our God. Although we may not easily find a consensus regarding immigration, we can alter the way we dialogue – a change that might even spill over and bear fruit in other discussions.
Here are some thoughts:
- This is a very complex problem that needs attention both now and long term. It will require bright minds with knowledge, expertise and experience to come up with responses both short term and long term. I am certainly not one of those experts and neither, I suspect, are most of us. We can however, call on the government to find such people and have them think, suggest and inform those who have the power to develop wise policies and procedures both for now and for the future. The old ways are clearly not sufficient. Proverbs 11:14 says, “Where there is no wise guidance the people fall, but in the multitude of counselors there is safety.”
- We might consider laying aside our reactivity. For example, expressing concern for immigrants is often construed as wanting open borders with no rules. It is, however, possible to be concerned about humans who are suffering and yet not think that porous borders is a wise solution. That is why wisdom and experience are necessary to think through these matters. How do we have compassion for immigrants and maintain the stability of our country at the same time. Choosing one without the other is neither wise nor good.
- A second reactive response seems to be that concern for the immigrants means you are naïve and ignorant of the fact that there are some bad folks mixed in with those truly suffering. We have predators, abusers and deceivers in our families, churches, schools and institutions. Of course there are some among the vulnerable and desperate ones seeking sanctuary! Such places are where predators often hide. And this fact alone should not lead to neglect of the vulnerable. In fact, it increases the urgency.
- While we are not government and not experts, we are the church, the body of our Lord. It is in fact, to be our primary identity. The collective/prophetic voice of the church is needed today on many fronts. And our voice is, above all else, to sound like the voice of Christ – not government, politics, personal preferences or anything else. The detention centers at our borders are full of image bearers – both immigrants and border agents alike. Both groups are being traumatized. I suspect many of the immigrants were traumatized before they came. Sadly, that trauma continues here. Agents are overwhelmed and without resources. They too are traumatized and either grieving or hardening their hearts so they can endure. On all fronts damage is being done to precious people made in the image of God.
- The immigrants lack clean water, food, clothing and a place to lay down and sleep. Those are familiar deprivations. “I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was naked and you clothed me…what you have done for the least of these, you have done for me”. We are the body of our Lord here on earth. We are the present day Word made flesh. He has been exceedingly clear about what that looks like for his people. You and I cannot literally go to the borders and do these things. We can, however, use our collective/prophetic voice to call on government to insure this happens, to ask them to allow groups like World Relief, World Vision and many others who know how to care for the thirsty, the hungry and the naked, to go in and provide services. It will bring relief to the immigrants and also to the agents. 1 Government has a huge job to do. So do we. The voice that you and I are called to heed; the voice that is to overrule all others such as the voices of tribe, race, nation, politics, or fear, is the voice of our Lord saying this: “Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all the unfortunate. Open your mouth, judge righteously, and defend the rights of the afflicted and needy (Proverbs 31: 8, 9). The Lord can also guide the Government into making the immigration process easier so that people who are thinking about moving to the country has a better chance at starting a new life. It has already been made relatively easy by providing people with form i-864 which enables them to have financial stability through someone who is already a resident in the States. This is already a great opportunity for them but we have a long way to go until it can be made easier.
- Our voices need to be used respectfully and kindly to one another. Our reactivity and rancor do not sound like our Lord. We also need to raise our collective/prophetic voice in obedience to our God who came, oh so graciously, to the least of these – you and me. Perhaps such unity on our part might bestow on the immigrants – whether they stay or leave – and on the beleaguered border agents, a brief whiff of the fragrance of our God who created and loves them all. That aroma will be the sweet fragrance of Christ inviting them to seek him no matter where they live. We know for sure that that aroma will please our Lord (II Corinthians 2:15).
Divorce. It is an ugly word… a sad word. It is about something breaking or fracturing and can involve neglect, bruising or a break in the wall of unity. It is a violation of someone or something that was once whole. We in the Christian world have primarily used the word for the end of […]
Like any other institution churches are susceptible to the twin plagues of the abuse of power and sexual misconduct. How should a church respond when such things are alleged or exposed?
- We need to acknowledge to ourselves and publicly that the problems of abuse (child sexual abuse, rape, physical abuse and clergy sexual abuse) are not just out there; they are also in here with us.
- We need to approach this work carefully and with great humility. Churches often have little to no education about these matters. Most seminaries never speak about abuse. We have not invited victims to tell us their stories and learned from them. We have not been taught about offenders and how they work. We have not developed policies and safeguards for the children under our care. We teach about God, marriage, sex and parenting but we do not usually include the topics of sexual abuse, rape or domestic violence.
- We often assume that when sin occurs in a relationship it is always a 50-50 proposition. We have assumed that with rape, domestic violence, verbal abuse and with clergy or counselor sexual abuse. We look for an external cause for sin. “I hit her because she…”
The Bible does not support the assumption of an external cause. Jesus said that it is out of our hearts that evil proceeds. Abuse is an exposure of the abuser’s heart, not the victims.
- One of the things both research and experience make very clear about those who offend is that they deceive themselves about their actions, their motives, about the victim and about the impact of their behavior. They have habituated deceit. That means that the words and tears of the offender are never sufficient indicators of the reality of what is going on inside his/her mind and heart. Such deception is very entrenched and slow to change. An abusive person can eventually lose the capacity to discern truth from lies. Because of that, we must not just be concerned with protecting the vulnerable from the offender but also with protecting the offender from himself. Proverbs 1:18, 19 says, “They ambush their own lives…violence takes away the life of the possessor.” When we do not understand the level of deceit we make it is easy for the offender to continue in deception and sadly, often call it “grace”. If it lacks truth then it is not grace. If we love the abuser we will know that one of the most powerful weapons of deception for a pastor or church goer to use is the use of spiritual language. We will not be deceived.
- When abuse is alleged or exposed you are working with a devastated victim and most likely a family, as well. Abuse of any kind is shattering to the victim and to those who care for her/him. Victims need safe people to walk with them for an extended time, not to instruct, but to be with them in their confusion, fears and suffering. We cannot “instruct” victims out of the damage of abuse. We can patiently accompany then on a difficult journey.
- The church is called by God to tend his lambs. We are not called to protect our institutions nor do we protect the name of the God of truth by covering up sin and/or a crime. To do so is to “protect” the cancer – and cancer kills. We honor God by caring for the wounded and by dragging sin to the light and calling it by its right name.
- Keep in mind that to be a predator is to be a deceiver. That means there are some in our midst who do not look like what they are and because we are unaware of any known cases does not mean we are safe. Protecting our children and all vulnerable ones should be part of the DNA of the church since we are called, like our Lord, to protect His lambs. “Let the little ones come and forbid them not…” should be part of all that we do. To fail to be watchful on their behalf – be they children or adults – is to fail to be like Him.
- Both humility and wisdom ask for help when facing a new and complex situation.
- If a child discloses any form of neglect or abuse (sexual, verbal or emotional) the first and immediate response is to call the civil authorities. A failure to report abuse is a crime and subject to fines and/or jail time depending on the state.
- The investigation of a report of any kind of abuse requires an experienced and independent investigator or organization (e.g., www.netgrace.org ). Independent means not from the circles in which the abuse occurred. Choose someone who has no investment in hiding whatever truth is found or in getting a particular outcome other than what is true.
- When considering an investigator(s) or organization ask questions about previous work – with whom, outcomes, and the response of victims.
- Those chosen to investigate must be known to have credibility with victims. They must be known for protecting people over institutions. The investigative body is not there to protect the institution but to deal with abuse disclosures and protect the vulnerable.
- The experts should have documented history in abuse/rape investigations or as prosecutors in abuse trials. An investigative organization should be comprised of individuals from multiple disciplines e.g., law enforcement, professional counselors and lawyers. It is also best to hire those who understand the dynamics of a faith-based institution or church.
- If possible speak with or hear from victims (anonymously if needed) about their experience with the investigator. Victims are by definition vulnerable and require protection. Safety is often at risk for children and for those in violent relationships. If they do not trust the investigator, find another one or your investigation will have no credibility.
- Inquire about the investigators’ training in the nature and impact of abuse, the patterns of abusers and also how they work with those who have experienced abuse.
- Ask the investigators if they have the experience and expertise to help implement the recommendations they make to the church or organization as a result of the independent investigation. Ask to see examples of previous recommendations and how they were implemented.
- The investigators should also have expertise and experience in when and how they confront alleged perpetrators as well as how to inform a congregation or organization without doing further damage, releasing confidential information or doing further damage to the victim.
- Caregivers for the victim (and the victim’s family) need to have knowledge of abuse and its effects and how to walk alongside during and long after the process. It is advisable to have people in the church (both men and women) who have read about abuse and perhaps gotten some training from professionals.
- It is also recommended that pastoral staff – prior to a crisis – look into local professionals with training and experience in abuse and trauma. Meeting with them and asking about their training is a wise way for a shepherd to care for his sheep prior to an emergency. The church plays a vital and necessary role. So do professionals. The work of healing from the damage of abuse is difficult and often protracted. Trained and licensed counselors with experience in this area are needed so as not to create further damage. Their role is critical.
- Finally, abuse of any kind is deeply damaging to victims as well as for many others in their world. The people of God are called by him to name things in truth, to sorrow with the sorrowing, to help free the oppressed and to comfort the grieving. Sadly, we often fail to follow him in these ways. I pray that we as his people learn how to demonstrate in the flesh before a watching world that our God loves truth and is a true and certain refuge for his sheep.
Divisions, Deceptions and Disease
John Baillie, in his book A Diary of Private Prayer, wrote this: “Grant that my part in this world’s life today might not be to obscure the splendor of your presence but rather to make it more plainly visible in the eyes of men.” I fear that we as the body of Christ today are doing much to obscure the splendor of the presence of God in our midst. I have been reading Paul’s letters to the Corinthians and been struck by their relevance to the present day church.
Corinth was a great city in the Roman Empire. It was wealthy and lustful. It was known for the clever arguments of its resident philosophers. The delivery of such arguments was of the highest form and it was the center of all things intellectual. The city was also rotten at its core, corrupt and lewd. The body of Christians in that city were meant to be characterized by righteousness, sanctity and the fruits of redemption. Instead they had taken God’s name while departing from him and his ways, gathering around their own views and ideas. They were centered on the philosophies of the hour and created within the church schisms based on opinions. They were focused on the material, having lost their understanding of the spiritual. There was moral failure in the church, as wrong thinking easily leads to wrong doing. The sin in their midst was ignored, covered up and they failed to deal with it by bringing it to the light and grieving over it. Sound uncomfortably familiar?
We have caused divisions and arguments by adamantly using labels to define the place of women in the home and the church. We identify ourselves by those words; “I am this or I am that”. We have divisions over issues of justice. Justice is what the church is called to, or justice is not the church’s call – evangelism is the only call. We have been and continue to be divided over race. We say, “they”, which means not “us”. We treat “them” with disdain, disrespect and distance. We tolerate bullying, rage, arrogance and sexual sin in our leaders. We have ignored and covered up sin, saying we are protecting “the work of God”. And now that such evil is being exposed, we somehow think a rule will prevent it – as in never letting men and women work or dialogue together. If rules could prevent humans from sin God would have delivered the Ten Commandments to Moses and sat down. And frankly, if we follow that rule we will build more chasms between male and female in the body of Christ. Not to mention there are those in power who also abuse boys and young men. We have divisions over politics – in the church of Jesus Christ! It has infected the church with a warfare of words. We are focused on the material and are losing our understanding of the spiritual. Our Lord said, “My kingdom is not of this world”. It is not in human governments or human groups or human ideas. Jesus’ kingdom is formed by leaving all and following – not ideas – but Him.
Paul calls the church in Corinth to God’s wisdom which is always displayed in righteousness, sanctification and the fruit of redemption. By righteousness he means conformity to Christ. That means we look like him; we bear his fragrance. I fear he looks little like us and we have indeed obscured his splendor before the watching world. By sanctification Paul means progress in the character of Christ. That means I should be growing in love, kindness, self-control, truth and justice for these are characteristics of my Lord. I am to be increasingly demonstrating the fruit of redemption until the day comes when we fully escape from the bondage of sin.
We have been deceived. We have believed that size and fame and numbers are proof of the presence of God. In doing so we have protected institutions instead of sheep and fostered arrogance rather than humility. Paul showed deep concern over the church that was covering up sin and the influence of that cover-up on God’s people. We have believed that controlling human government is more important than obedience to the government of God over our lives. We scream hateful words, both literally and via social media, at those who do not agree with our stance as if the “right” human government determines what our God can do. We think that rigid adherence to stringent rules separating men and women in the name of propriety will control human hearts. Yet our God clearly says our wrongdoing comes from our hearts, not from those around us. We have thought our race, our community, our nation, our way of thinking is superior, rather than seeking desperately to develop the mind of Christ about all things. Anything that deflects the mind from the centrality of Jesus Christ and his cross is of the flesh. He, and he alone, is made unto us wisdom. Then and only then will the diseases infecting the people of God be cured.
You want to be a safe and holy shepherd who feeds his sheep? Then feed on him only – not the position, the applause, the growth or fame. Feed on him so you can teach his sheep to do the same as they go out to minister in his name (character).You want women and men, girls and boys to be safe with those who have power? An immoral woman of the “wrong” race was utterly safe with Jesus – who broke all the rules in sitting alone with her. She was safe because he sought to do only the will of his father. No one in his world was a “them” unless they chose to be so. And it is very sobering to see that those who did that all the way to the cross were religious leaders. They treated him as a “them”. They excommunicated the Lord of glory. The man Christ Jesus served neither Rome nor Israel. He bowed to no government or human institution – secular or religious. He called both to truth and light.
The call to the church of Jesus Christ today is to fall on our faces, seeking him and asking him to search our hearts and lives. You and I are all ministers to the world in Jesus’ name. The word for minister in the New Testament means under-rower. Yes, a galley slave on a warship who does not obey wind or weather or waves but rows ever and always according to the instructions of the captain. When each under-rower lives fully under the authority of that captain then that ship can survive battles, storms and weariness as they row together under the command of one.
Oswald Chambers has taught me many things. He says, “We count as service what we do in the way of Christian work; Jesus Christ calls service what we are to Him. Discipleship is based on devotion to Jesus Christ.” We have substituted ideas and opinions, institutions and groups, for allegiance to the Person of Jesus Christ and His Word. His first obedience was always to the will of the Father no matter the cost. May we, the body of Christ today, be known for our devotion, our love and obedience to Christ – under-rowers whose service is never dictated by current ideas, or groups, or causes – but within those spheres we are first and foremost devoted to the Crucified Christ. It is then and only then that we will make “the splendor of his presence more plainly visible in the eyes of men”.
A Response to a Twitter Question
I was recently asked the following question on twitter:
“Can you address the complexities of mandated reporting related to the fact that adults typically have power of consent, other than elders and those with disabilities? With battered women or those abused as children it is possible to violate confidentiality and expose people to physical and emotional pain if they do not consent to a police report. Can you address this as a part of empowering adult survivors, balanced with cutting off access by predators?”
Mandated reporting laws are state laws. Therefore, I cannot advise you about what is required in your state. The first thing you need to do is find out what the laws are. For example, in about 18 states any person who suspects child abuse or neglect is required to report it. There are also mandated reporting rules for those working with the elderly or those who have disabilities. Anyone in the health or mental health professions is required to take mandatory reporting training. It would be wise for every church to learn from those in their midst who have taken the training in their state. The church should be known for its protection and care of the vulnerable. Child abuse of any kind should always be reported to those who are trained to investigate.
Another law that needs to be considered is the Tarasoff rule which requires psychotherapists to warn if a client threatens someone’s life. Due to a case in California, therapists need to also be concerned when a family member gives information of a reliable threat by a patient regarding someone else. Please educate yourselves on your state laws and professional requirements so you are clear about what is required. Consult with both the law and with your respective professional organizations. Churches should get training from an independent organization such as GRACE www.netgrace.org so they learn how to protect the children and vulnerable in their community.
There are however, many situations where an adult is being abused in some way and the law does not mandate a report of any kind. The issues become quite complex when you are working with adults dealing with domestic abuse, drug/alcohol addictions, rape, those being prostituted or those seemingly trapped in abusive systems (families, churches). There is usually no mandated reporting. If the victim is in a counseling relationship confidentiality standards apply. In the arenas of both health and psychological care, reporting of domestic violence related injuries or threats interfere with the confidential nature of patient/provider relationships and can quickly undermine the victim’s trust in those who are the caregivers. It is very difficult as a therapist to work with someone who is going to leave your office and return to an unsafe environment. It is downright frightening. In a domestic abuse situation this is exacerbated when the victim is part of a church that teaches her that tolerating abuse is godly. She is confused. She loves her husband and wants it to get better. She listens to her church and yet, she feels like she cannot think straight. She knows what he is doing is wrong.
Number one, if there are children in the home who are being hurt by abuse or physically threatened or neglected due to addictions, it falls under mandated reporting. When there are no children we long to simply take charge and get the victim out regardless of what he/she wants. If we do that we break confidentiality, we make choices for them and silence their voice – which happens to be what the perpetrator does. One of the cardinal guidelines for working with victims of trauma (which I repeat to new therapists ad nauseam) is that what we do in the counseling office should be the reverse of what the abuser did. The abuser silenced voice, broke trust and took away any sense of power. We need to give back her voice, remain trustworthy (which includes confidentiality) and invite him/her to exercise power over their own choices. These “muscles” are often very weak. In order to build those muscles up we have to work little by little to affirm the fears (which are justified), the desire to get out, the small choices made along the way and the truth, as it is seeded, grows. Those who have been relentlessly abused and used come to believe the lies taught to them. It is hard work overtime that eventually replaces those lies with truth.
Another factor to consider is the increased danger when trying to leave their circumstances. In domestic violence homicides about 75% occur when the woman tries to leave. People are also in danger when attempting to separate from drug dealers and pimps who do not want to lose a source of money. If your life is endangered or any number of things consent is not possible because it is not safe to say no. We do not want to be the next person who does not allow them to say no. Outside the parameters of mandated reporting, building up the capacity of an adult to think things through and say no is critical. Most will start doing so when they say no to you – which from your perspective is neither safe nor wise.
It is very tempting when we work with an adult who is suffering abuse to forget that their consent to any action taken is vital to their healing. It can take a long time and much suffering before someone who has never had a voice learns that he or she can say no, leave, and protect themselves. It is hard to wait and watch the suffering. It is painful to see the confused thinking. It is angering when a church supports that confused thinking for then the victim has two systems to respond to. However, to wait, to invite, to walk with, to strengthen and to speak truth – though a painful and often costly road – will often result in an utterly transformed human being who has acquired some discernment, come to see that they are worthy of protection and can use their own voice to speak truth. But consider: we follow the Lord Jesus Christ who walks with us, arms extended, calling us to truth and safety. Yet we refuse choices that would feed our souls and instead choose those things that are destructive to us and others. He speaks truth, He invites again and again and little by little our eyes and hearts are opened and like the prodigal we run back to the Father. Our slow seeing, choosing and running develop muscles in us we would not have otherwise.
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