Clara Hinton
Grief Speaker, Author, and Workshop Leader

Protecting Our Children From Sexual Predators in Church

7/28/2013 (Protection from Child Predators)

I'm so happy to introduce our guest writer today, Alison Lucabaugh.  Alison has written an article for us today that is full of valuable information on how to protect our children from sexual predators in church.  While this idea of predators in church might be foreign to some, it is a reality to many.  Unfortunately, child predators have invaded our churches so much so that the church is called the "playground for pedophiles." 


Read this article and be empowered!  Thank you, Alison!


PART I of this article: 


"Protecting Our Children From Sexual Predators in Church"


A child sexual predator is any person who preys upon a child in order to sexually gratify himself/herself. A predator can be an adult of any age, a teen, an older child, even a peer. A predator can be male or female. Statistics suggest there are more male sexual predators of children, but women are also predators. One misconception that needs to be clarified: Homosexual persons are not more likely to sexually abuse children than heterosexual persons. Because a predator can be male or female, I will use the pronouns ‘he’ and ‘she’ interchangeably in this article.


 Because the church is welcoming, trusting, and often in need of help and volunteers, children in the church are uniquely vulnerable to sexual predators. “There is no universal definition of child sexual abuse. However, a central characteristic of any abuse is the dominant position of an adult that allows him or her to force or coerce a child into sexual activity” (APA). Child sexual abuse may include fondling a child’s genitals, oral-genital contact, digital penetration, and vaginal and anal intercourse. A more complete definition and discussion of ramifications can be found on the APA website.


Child sexual predators engage in a process called grooming.


The predator’s motivation is to gain a child’s trust by using his role within the church, his personal charm, and the inequality of power between himself and the child in order to engage in sexual behavior with that child. A child predator may or may not be sexually active with an adult. A predator will portray herself positively to the child’s mother, father, or caregiver. Single parents are especially targeted, as well as any family that is uniquely vulnerable.


 A predator is often engaging and popular with fellow adults in the church. A predator will appear helpful, considerate and concerned for the child’s well-being. A predator will regularly compliment the child, give the child attention, and create the feeling of ‘you are special’ toward the child she is targeting. A predator will pretend to share similar interests with the child and will learn that child’s likes, dislikes, and habits. Gift-giving, isolating the child/youth in caregiving and mentoring contexts, and going on special trips with that child all enable the sexual offense and create the secrecy and entanglement which sustain the abuse.


 We adults in the church strive to know our children and youth in order to nurture, mentor, and prepare future generations. What we cannot take for granted, however, is a healthy motivation of every prson in our church who interacts with children.  If you see or hear a person in church acting or speaking toward a child that makes you uncomfortable, that moment is the time to speak.  For example, you might say:  "I heard you say, 'I love you' to my young child and I saw you rub her back.  Only close family expresses this affection and intimacy with my child.  Please stop.  It makes me uncomfortable."  Be prepared for a negative reaction from the person, but don't let that stop you!


A predator wants you to believe you have over reacted when you approach him or her.


NEXT WEEK PART II of this article will be posted. 


Submitted by Alison Lucabaugh to her church’s September 2013 Newsletter. Alison has worked with children and families in settings such as chaplaincy, permanency &adoption, and structural family therapy.

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