For those unaware, a new and remarkable Southern Baptist Abuse Report was released this week at the Southern Baptist Convention, showcasing the denomination’s handling of sexual abuse over the past two decades. Conducted by a third-party investigator, the new Southern Baptist Abuse Report features almost 300 pages of allegations, cover-ups of reported sexual abuse cases, and an internal list of 703 people suspected of abuse.
Here are four takeaways from the shocking Southern Baptist Convention showcasing child sex abuse and cover-up scandals that burst into the public consciousness this week.
1) Institutions can do more than they claim or admit.
For at least 15 years, Baptist officials repeatedly told victims, advocates and reformers: “We can’t compile a list of child molesting clergymen” and “We can’t take action to stop abuse as a national body because all our churches are independent.” Events of the last few days prove these claims of being impotent are just excuses. Within hours of the report being published, the SBC made two pledges that completely contradict the institution’s alleged inability to act.
First, the Southern Baptist Abuse Report revealed that the SBC was ALREADY keeping a list of Baptist predators. But they did so in complete secrecy. Now, the SBC says they’ll publish that list this week. Second, the SBC announced plans for a national church hotline for abuse reporting. That too contradicts the institution’s long-standing claim that it can’t create or ‘impose’ any nationwide abuse prevention or response steps because of its so-called ‘polity’ of ‘independence.’
2) Institutions can act fast when they want to.
When powerful entities finally, after years of enabling child predators, feel compelled to do something, they can move quickly. They will tell parents, parishioners, reformers, victims, advocates, and stakeholders, “We have to study this thoroughly and act deliberatively and get input from all parties,” making excuses to maintain their self-serving status quo.
But when push comes to shove, and forces coalesce to make some kind of change inevitable, institutions like the SBC and the Catholic church show that indeed. Again, on Sunday, the official position of the Southern Baptist Convention was “We can’t do a perpetrator database” and “We can’t have any kind of national policy or initiative on abuse.” By Wednesday, about 72 hours after the scathing report surfaced, the SBC did a complete turnaround.
3) Institutions respond to public pressure.
At first glance, it might seem that the impetus for this sudden flip-flop by Baptist officials was the new report. But that’s a misinterpretation.
First, it was pressure – constant, powerful pushing and prodding from the bottom up that CAUSED the report to happen in the first place. Second, the pressure, which is sudden, intense, and visible SINCE the report surfaced that, is driving the reform. Notice we deliberately use the phrase “public pressure.” Many are naive about institutional evil. Many assume that disclosure of wrongdoing stops wrongdoing.
We at Horowitz Law know that often this is just not the case. Often, public awareness soon leads to public complacency, as people begin to assume, “Well, now that the truth is out there and the bad guys and their bad behavior is well-known, surely things are changing.”
4) Change CAN happen.
We see it and hear it and say it – and feel it in our bones – over and over again, “We’re a deeply divided country. Our institutions and our governmental bodies are stymied. They’re deadlocked. They can’t get anything done.” This week, brave Baptist survivors and advocates have shown us this is wrong. Their courage – and their success – remind us that hopelessness is foolish. It’s self-defeating. It causes deep wounds to keep festering. It allows corrupt people in power to stay in power. It lets criminals keep perpetrating crimes.
And while we at Horowitz Law aren’t therapists or psychologists, we are certain that hopelessness can’t be healthy for any of us. So join us on the right side of history. Join us in shining a bright healing light on the secrecy that shrouds those who commit and conceal and ignore and enable devastating crimes against kids. Speak up! About abuse in EVERY denomination and institution and setting. Call for the removal of wrongdoers. Push for new and better laws that help police, prosecutors, and victims bring wrongdoers to justice. And DEFINITELY speak up if you’ve ever seen, suspected, or suffered child sex crimes or cover-ups.
Change is possible. If you want to see it, or help it happen, speaking up is the first step.
Horowitz Law is a law firm representing victims and survivors of sexual abuse in Florida and nationwide. If you or a loved one was sexually abused, raped, or sexually molested by a person in a position of trust or authority, contact our law firm at 888-283-9922 or send an e-mail to sexual abuse lawyer, Adam Horowitz, at [email protected] for a free consultation.