How bias makes leaders ignore allegations (Day 4)

Excuses leaders make when declining to investigate abuse or respond to victims and advocates

  1. So-and-so isn’t under our authority, so it’s not our place to commission an investigation.
  2. We talked to so-and-so and he said it was a mutual, one-time thing. He was very remorseful, so there is no need to take things further.
  3. So-and-so has already left our organization, so there’s nothing further for us to do.
  4. So-and-so says that’s not what happened; it’s a he-said-she-said, so we can’t do anything.
  5. Okay, but that’s not a crime so there’s nothing for us to do.
  6. This problem really isn’t the mission of our organization, dealing with it would be a distraction.
  7. The victim is a disturbed individual, so it’s best to just ignore her until she goes away.
  8. The people complaining are hypersensitive and unreasonable so it’s best to just ignore them until they go away.
  9. The advocates went to social media instead of keeping it private with us, so we shouldn’t talk to them.
  10. No one trained us in how to deal with this kind of thing, so we’re just doing our best.
  11. Maybe we could have communicated better, but we did the right thing.
  12. You don’t have all the information we have, so you have to trust us that we made the right call.
  13. We didn’t join leadership to deal with this kind of thing, so we’re going to focus on the stuff we want to do instead.

If you’ve been a victim or advocate in church abuse, you’ve almost certainly been on the receiving end of one or more of these. It sounds like a playbook, but it isn’t. It’s just human nature. And you know what that means?

It’s in you, too. It’s in me, too. When something comes up that affects your inner circle, you will be tempted to do the exact same thing. Except this time, it will sound very different. To you, the victim really is crazy and oversensitive, so you’re justified in ignoring her. To you, the perpetrator really is sorry so no further consequences are needed. To you, this really is a distraction from the mission.

But that isn’t consistent. Because Willow Creek, or Harvest, or whatever church said those things to you? They, too, really did think you were wrong, unreasonable, or even disturbed. They really thought they did their best and did the right thing under the circumstances. Even so, it wasn’t right for them to freeze you out.

What is the right thing, then? Conflict resolution is hard. It’s painful. It takes so long. There are some conflicts that can’t be resolved—we have to accept that. And if you can’t go there, if you need to take a mental health break, then do it. Take care of yourself.

But—it is hard to reach out and be ignored. If it’s happened to you, you know how hard it is. If you can respond… surely you could try? Are not Christians supposed to be the peacemakers? Should it not be possible through open dialogue to look back and see where misunderstandings and mistaken beliefs took hold and steered you wrong?

If we want churches to do it, we should model it.

Questions? Comments? Drop me a line on Twitter.