Victims’ advocates: Sexual abuse not just a ‘Catholic problem’

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Christa Brown of Tennessee has for years called on Baptist churches to set up an independent panel to evaluate allegations of sexual abuse by clergy — such as the youth minister who sexually assaulted her as a teenager — and to keep predators from striking again at another church.

Pastor Jimmy Hinton — a Somerset Church of Christ pastor who confronted his own pastor-father about the sexual abuse that landed the latter in prison — has worked to educate churches on the ways child molesters manipulate fellow believers into trusting them with their children.

Melanie Jula Sakoda has made it her own mission to hold Orthodox Christian churches accountable for sexual abuse by their priests and others.

All of them agree on this: A future Pennsylvania grand jury could find as much evidence of sexual abuse and cover-up among other religious groups and youth-serving organizations as a current statewide grand jury is expected to find among Roman Catholic dioceses.

That grand jury is expected to release a mammoth report if it clears ongoing legal challenges by individuals identified in its report.

“Some people assume this is a Catholic problem,” Hinton said.

“It’s not, not at all. There are plenty of Protestant and nondenominational churches that cover up abuse and knowingly pass abusers from church to church, or quietly dismiss a known abuser and don’t bother to check up on the abuser and don’t know where they settled.”

Too many Protestant leaders deny the seriousness of the crisis, are too quick to forgive and restore a predator who speaks the lingo of repentance, and try to contain scandal, he said.

And so they allow pastors or other offenders to reinvent themselves in a new church somewhere else.

A grand jury investigation would find plenty of evidence that it’s every religion’s problem, he said.

“One of the things I see is, through investigations, eventually you’ll get people who are honest — whether that’s accidentally or whether somebody is just fed up with the way leadership handled cases of abuse,” said Hinton.

And youth-serving organizations, beyond religious ones, are also implicated.

In April, the director of the Allentown-based Cadets drum and bugle corps resigned after nine women accused him of sexual harassment and assault over decades, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

“The practice of covering up for predators is not limited to the Catholic Church, or even to religious groups,” said Sakoda, of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. The cases of Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky and USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar, both serial pedophiles convicted on numerous charges of sexual abuse of children, “are examples of institutional cover-ups outside of faith communities.” Continue reading

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