I’m blogging a bit these days about the restoration process for dealing with Christian leaders that fall into serious sin. In particular I’ve been interacting with the book Restoring the Fallen written by the Wilsons, Friesens, and Paulsons (IVP). But I take a break from the issues of the fallen leader to talk about the very important issue: the restoration of the victims.
A few days ago, I received a private letter in response to my initial blog entries on the topic. With permission, I’ve copied a couple of this victim’s thoughts on feeling lost in the restoration process,
As you can imagine, I have read with great interest your recent entries on “Restoring the Fallen.” I am in ABSOLUTE agreement with the fact that a team needs to be formed to walk through the restoration process for a fallen pastor, counselor, leader, etc. And, I am in ABSOLUTE agreement with you when you suggest that every leader ought to have a team like this surrounding him and holding him accountable to PREVENT him from falling. I couldn’t agree with you more on that point, and believe that we would see alot less leaders “falling” if they were surrounded by such a team. What was so difficult for me, as a victim of a fallen Christian leader, is that when a leader falls, an incredible amount of attention often is given to him and his restoration process. In my situation there was a team committed to seeing him restored – making huge commitments of their time, energy, and more. And the victim? Where’s her team?Just because I’m not a leader doesn’t mean that I don’t need to be restored emotionally and spiritually…I wish that there would be such books [similar to Restoring the Fallen] that are as well written and give such good guidance and counsel when it comes to restoring the victim and understanding the wounds and pain for the victim and family.
There are many victims of fallen leaders. The leader’s family (consider the agony they have to go through when the infidelities of their spouse/parent/child is made known to the public), the larger community (it often shakes the faith of many), and specifically the victims of the abuse of power. These are those who might have been vulnerable parishioners lulled by sweet words or threats into sexual activity. Maybe some believe that a leader/parishioner sexual act is mutual, but I do not. The leader’s power, gift with wordsmithing, ability to create a mood, and authority means that it is never mutual.
So, what becomes of the victim once the abuse has been discovered? The book that I am reviewing certainly does spend some time on the issue of what to tell the family, the spouse, the children, and the larger community. The authors recognize that victims are often branded as co-conspirators (p. 85). Rather than keep the situation secret, they believe that the truth should come out and “victims should be comforted, affirmed, and encouraged by all who know them and understand what has happened” (ibid). These authors are inclined to have the truth told so as to avoid further damage to the victim by embellishments, rumors, half-truths, etc.
The victim should also have his or her own spiritual care team to help them in the path of understanding, comfort, spiritual healing, forgiveness, self-evaluation (there are times that victims have made choices that put them in a place of danger; choices that come from a place of prior brokenness. This evaluation should not be misconstrued as blaming the victim but using the pain and suffering to do exploratory work that every Christian must do. It would be my opinion that while this work is necessary, it ought not happen first. Rescue and stabilization come before surgery). The authors suggest that the spiritual care team for the family of the fallen leader (and I would include the victim as well) should provide tangible security (a place to talk freely about the pain and confusion), stability (a calm reply to the inevitable anxiety and panic experienced), support (someone to stand up for them, challenge poor thought patterns in the victim), and spiritual challenge (to look for God’s handiwork in the midst of suffering).
While care and healing for fallen leaders (and prevention in the first place) are important works that I am burdened about, let us not forget the victims (both the abused and the families of the offender) and let us make sure we give them seats of honor and a double portion of our mercy and kindness. Let us never forget that justice is an essential ingredient of the Gospel (Micah 6:8).