Growing up in a Christian home, we attended church every Sunday. It was always a “safe place” with “good people.” It was a place where you didn’t think to hide your purse when leaving it in the car, and kids were usually free to run around more than they would be in a Walmart or “public” establishment because they were in a safe place, where everyone had their best interest in mind.
People in the church are more trust-worthy. They’re all-around “better” people.
At least—that’s what we want to believe.
In an essay called “How Predators Groom Our Children,” Joy Beth Smith sheds light on what’s actually going on within the walls of the church.
As parents of young kids, we often do what Joy calls our “due diligence.” We read an article online about the best way to talk to your kids about consent and protecting them from “bad people,” then have the conversation about who should and shouldn’t see their private parts. We ask if anyone has ever touched them in their “bathing suit areas,” and we do our due diligence to make sure that our kids never become victims.
But as Joy points out, with 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys being sexually abused before the age of 18, our “due diligence” is simply not enough.
The church is not immune to sexual predators. In fact, it’s a target.
According to a convicted child molester who was interviewed by Dr. Anna Salter, church people are “easy to fool” because they have a trust that comes from being Christian and believing in seeing the good in all people:
“I considered church people easy to fool… They have a trust that comes from being Christians. They tend to be better folks all around and seem to want to believe in the good that exists in people.”
Whether or not someone comes from the outside or is raised within, the fact of the matter is this—sexual predators are among us. They’re figures of authority to our children, and they’re people that we trust inside the walls of our “safe place.”
A Child Molestation Prevention study conducted by Gene Abel and Nora Harlow found that 93 percent of sex offenders identify themselves as “religious.”
So what does all of this mean for those of us reading this and contemplating every time we’ve ever been “overly trusting” with our kiddos at church? Joy says there is power in knowledge.