4 ways to protect children from sexual abuse

It sickens me to read the headlines of at least a thousand children sexually abused by “safe” adults within the Catholic church in Pennsylvania.

There are likely hundreds, even thousands more. Unfortunately, silence due to shame, fear, or lack of reporting prevent true numbers from being counted.

UNICEF estimates that anywhere between 500 million and 1.5 billion children are abused each year. [3]

We can’t undo the horror. However, we want to do something to prevent further and future abuse.

My friend Boz Tchividjian has vowed to become the voice for the voiceless as he defends children who have been, and continue to be, abused. He has also become a resounding advocate for vulnerable children, as they are the most susceptible to abuse. Predators look for the vulnerable and target them.

Here is how he advises churches and ministries to go beyond feeling sickened or sad and to actually DO something:

As Christians, we must embrace a different reality—a reality that propels action. Most people will ask, “What can we do?” However, asking questions that are not followed by actions is nothing more than indifference hiding behind a mask.

Asking questions that are not followed by actions is nothing more than indifference hiding behind a mask Click to Tweet

To move beyond silence and take actions that will make a difference:

  1. Treasure Children.

Late American evangelist, D.L. Moody, illustrates the vast treasure children hold. The story goes that D.L. Moody arrived home late one evening from preaching a revival service. As the tired Moody climbed into bed, his wife asked, “So how did it go tonight?”  Moody replied, “Pretty well, two and a half converts.” His wife smiled and said, “That’s sweet.  How old was the child?”  “No, no, no!” Moody answered.  “It was two children and one adult! The children have their whole lives in front of them. The adult’s life is already half-gone.” [1]

Too often, we view children as secondary to adults. This devaluing of children often leaves them exposed to indescribable harms that have physical, emotional, and spiritual consequences. Wess Stafford, former President of Compassion International, writes, “Small, weak, helpless, innocent, vulnerable, and trusting, they are waiting victims for our simple neglect and most evil abuse. No matter what goes wrong, the little ones pay the greatest price.”

Children will never be protected until we learn to value them as God does

Children will never be protected until we learn to value them as God does Click to Tweet

  1. Become Educated

If we want to protect children, we must become educated on the variety of issues related to child abuse. This doesn’t require you to become a child abuse expert. However, it does require that you invest time reviewing good resources on the subject. Many helpful articles and videos can be found at www.netgrace.org. Don’t just do some research, get in the game!

“God says He wants us to battle injustice, to look out for orphans and widows, to give sacrificially. God wants us to get some skin in the game and to help make a tangible difference. I can’t make a real need matter to me by listening to the story, visiting the website, collecting information, or wearing the bracelet about it. I need to pick the fight myself… Then, most important of all, I need to run barefoot toward it. But I want to go barefoot because it’s holy ground; I want to be running because time is short and none of us has as much runway as we think we do; and I want it to be a fight because that’s where we can make a difference. That’s what love does. Sure, it’s easier to pick an opinion than it is to pick a fight. It’s also easier to pick an organization or a jersey and identify with a fight than it is to actually go pick one, to commit to it, to call it out and take a swing. Picking a fight isn’t neat either. It’s messy, it’s time consuming, it’s painful, and it’s costly. It sounds an awful lot like the kind fight Jesus took on for us when He called out death for us and won.”
― Bob GoffLove Does: Discover a Secretly Incredible Life in an Ordinary World

  1. Speak Out

The more we learn about the prevalence of abuse, the more equipped we become to take steps to prevent and confront it. For example, find out if your church and any other ministry you support has a child protection and response policy and whether or not it is being followed. Ask to see the policy and have it reviewed by a child protection expert.

A bad policy is as destructive as a good policy that is not being followed.

A bad policy is as destructive as a good policy that is not being followed Click to Tweet

As we learn more about child sexual abuse, we will become better equipped to speak out when we observe questionable behaviors that need to be addressed and possibly reported. Whether it is the concerning behavior of an adult with a child or an older child with a younger child, we cannot hesitate to speak and remain vocal until proper action has been taken. Our insistent voice may be the one that saves a lifetime of trauma for a little one.

  1. Advocate for Change

Is there any reason Christians should not be leading the way in advocating for changes in the laws that promote the safety of children? Whether it’s imposing tougher penalties on sex offenders or providing abuse survivors greater access to the courts, we must work tirelessly to ensure that the God-ordained authorities are doing everything possible to protect children and help survivors. 

The Gospel is about an amazing God who refused to sit by silently when confronted with utter darkness. We worship a God who actually poured himself out to the point of death in order to bring light to darkness and hope to those drowning in it. That is the beautiful redemption story. This amazing and wondrous truth is the fuel that must propel each of us to follow Jesus into dark places as we pour our own lives out into actions that demonstrate astonishing love to His little ones around the world.  A love that will transform a world that all too often protects those who must be punished and punishes those who must be protected.

Every child is made in the image of God. Think about that—they all have the capacity for divine potential. That’s why Jesus was so forceful in how he talked about how we treat children. Whatever you do to a child, you’re in essence doing to God.

Every child is made in the image of God and has capacity for divine potential Click to Tweet

As a new grandpa, I’m sickened afresh by this new report of child abuse in the church. The damage done to these precious lives forces me to face a hard reality. I’m writing this because I believe the body of Christ was intended to stand up and protect these tiny image-bearers. To be their haven and a catalyst for change. To be the one that invites them to experience healing and wholeness in the person of their Creator.

Start your journey to becoming a protector and defender of the weak among us here:

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