June 5, 2018

Is Your Faith Community Safe from Predators?

I am so excited to have David Pittman, CEO and Founder of Together We Heal, on this month as a guest blogger. David and I are long time friends and colleagues, and I love how he is always willing to ask some of the tough questions. I know you will gain so much from this series!


From the time I was 12 until I was 15, the youth minister of the church I grew up in sexually molested and raped me. And I wasn’t the only one.

When I finally had the courage to speak up and told the church there was a man using this place as a hunting ground for children, this was their response:

"We’re sorry, there’s nothing we can do. But we’d like to pray for you."

Needless to say, this didn’t go over well with me.

Tragically my story is not unique. It’s much too common. The most recent research tells us that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused by the time they are 18. And far too many of those occur within the confines of what is supposed to be one of the safest places on earth.

It’s not just a Catholic problem. It’s not just a Baptist problem. It’s a pervasive, human problem that disgustingly finds protection within the walls of churches, mosques and synagogues everywhere.

Our faith communities draw sexual predators to them because people of faith want to believe in the good in others and because faith typically has to do with redemption, no matter what the sin.

Sexual predators use this as a weakness they exploit for their own evil desires. And instead of protecting the children under their care, faith communities find themselves most often hindering prosecution, victim blaming and doing more harm than good.

Which leads me to ask you this question:

Are you a person of faith or fraud?

Are you really doing all you can to protect the children within your faith community?

Many who are victimized by a member of the clergy or someone associated to it, have a hard time reconciling their faith with what has happened to them. I was one of those people.

I struggled for years with the questions: Did God mean for this to happen? Did God cause this to happen? Does God even love me?

Is there a God?

It wasn’t until many years later did my childlike mind still stuck in that time, realize that my God had nothing to do with it. It was 1 person and a multitude of enablers who have allowed this man to continue to harm countless little boys at numerous churches. And as far as we know, still does to this very day.

The biggest enabler is the church itself.

Thankfully, I have had the good fortune to establish relationships with some amazing coaches, counselors and therapists. People like Rachel Grant, who have helped me piece my life back together.

And as I did, I began to wonder how, when or IF things would ever change in "The Church". It was around this time in my healing journey that I was approached by a man who would help restore my faith.

They were already involved in investigating sexual abuse within faith-based organizations like Bob Jones University and they wanted to do more. They wanted to start at the heart of the issue.

He spoke of wanting to teach and train churches how to better protect children, how to better identify predatory behavior and how to properly respond to those who have been sexually abused. To instruct them how to establish of Child Safeguarding Policy and ACTUALLY live by it.

One that did not have any other concern, except to help those in need. One that did not care about institutions, appearances or clergy reputations. One that valued the life and soul of the child FIRST, not the perpetrator or those that protect them.

This was EXACTLY what I had been running over in my mind! This was the very thing that I had wanted to see created and implemented in each and every church. To give every victim a voice and each child the true understanding that if something happened to them, they would be believed, not silenced.

It turns out there IS such an organization and for the last 3 years I have had the privilege of working with them to help create this Child Safeguarding Policy Certification, and to begin implementing it in churches of all denominations across the country.

GRACE – Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment. www.netgrace.org

Let me ask you some more questions.

Does your church/synagogue/mosque have a child safeguarding policy?

If so, do you know what your policy says?

If not, why?

Don’t try to put it on the leadership. We are the adults in the room. We are the parents and grandparents in the pews. We must be the ones to initiate such a policy and not wait for "someone else" to handle it. If your clergy won’t lead in this way, then why would you want to stay there or keep them as your leader? 

Aren’t your children worth it?

Are you a person of faith or fraud?

It’s a question only you can answer. And it will only be answered with your actions. On paper its easy to say you’d do anything to protect a child. I sure wish an adult would’ve done something to protect us. 

What are you prepared to do?

Read Part 2: Can You Recognize Predatory Behavior?

David is the Executive Director of Together We Heal. Its purpose is to provide guidance for those who suffer from the trauma of childhood sexual abuse. It works to educate through public speaking, collaborates with other groups to raise awareness and expose sexual predators and their methods.

In 2015, David was asked by Boz Tchividjian, founder of GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment) to become part of their Child Safeguarding Certification team. The mission of GRACE is to empower the Christian community through education and training to recognize, prevent, and respond to child abuse.

David represents TWH & GRACE all across the country as a public speaker and instructor, teaching churches, schools and families how to talk with their kids about sexual abuse, how to better identify predatory behavior and sexual predators grooming methods.


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