Child Sex Abuse in the Church of Christ

Let me state immediately that I have no statistics on rates of child sex abuse in the COC. I haven't been able to find any stats online and I suspect it's because each COC congregation is independent, and there's no single governing body to keep such records. If anyone can find such information from a reliable source, please pass it along because I would be very interested in reading it.

All I can tell you is that, of the four COC congregations I attended in my lifetime, half of them were plagued by adults who behaved inappropriately toward children. One of them hired a preacher who liked to date underage girls (see my previous post on how I was nearly a child bride), and another one had a full-blown pedophile ring operating in it, and my sister and I narrowly escaped being among their victims.

The church in question was the very first one I ever attended. My parents were married out of that church, and they brought me to church services starting a week after I was born. When I was about 6 or so and my sister was around 2 years old, we left that church for one closer to us. I also later learned that my dad had some personal disagreements with certain elders and deacons in the church and that was the real reason we left, but of course, they didn't tell us about that at the time.

About 15 years later, we learned that two of those same elders and one of the deacons were headed to prison after being convicted of child sex abuse. They had been molesting the kids in that congregation, including their own children and grandchildren, for decades. They set up a special Saturday afternoon Bible class, when it was just them and the kids and no other adults around, and that's when the abuse would occur. The only reason my sister and I were not among the victims is because we lived so far from the church that we couldn't attend that extra Saturday class.

In addition, my mom said that she always thought those guys were creeps, and she never would have let us be alone with them anyway. When we learned what had happened, my mom felt very guilty because she never said anything to anyone. I asked her whether she actually witnessed anything inappropriate or whether any of the abused kids had confided in her, and she answered no on both counts. All she knew was that those guys set off her alarm bells and that she had a gut feeling that they were up to no good. I told her that she couldn't possibly have gone to the police or even child protective services on the basis of nothing more than a gut feeling and that she didn't have any reason to feel guilty. But I was very grateful that she listened to her instincts and didn't let herself be bullied or guilt-tripped into letting those guys near us.

My guess is that that congregation is not an anomaly. I've said before that fundamentalist evangelical Christianity primes women to be victims of domestic abuse because it teaches them unquestioning obedience to the men in their lives. The same thing is true of children in those churches. They are taught to obey every authority figure without question, so is it any wonder that they submit to abuse without telling anyone? And even if they did tell someone, there is a very high probability that no one would believe them. I'm 100% certain that no one would have believed my mom if she had said something about those guys making her uncomfortable. In fact, if she had said anything, she would have been the one to get into trouble for slandering those "good" brothers working in the church. We see this pattern play out over and over and over again, where the women's concerns are dismissed and trivialized, and abusive men continue their reigns of terror with impunity.

I often wonder how the COC is dealing with the #MeToo and #ChurchToo movements. I'm sure the conservative noninstitutional churches aren't dealing with it at all. They like to sweep such problems under the rug and pretend that everything is fine, no matter how many women's and children's lives are ruined by the abusive men running the show.  Maybe I'm being too cynical. Maybe things have changed since I left...but I doubt it.


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