To protect or to accept?
We have a situation that is near to us (family to family)….. In this family, it is known that a family member (male), acted inappropriately to some younger family members (female). I don’t know details, but I know it was enough that he got in trouble with the law and carries a sexual offender offense. The dad/grandpa believes the family member could have fought it and possibly have it removed since he was a juvenal at the time.
What I don’t personally understand is how this family can continue to allow this family member to be around, especially when the victims are around as well. Do they have no concern for all the other children who are a part of the family, or for the victims that are still there?
What do you believe is the right or a good way to handle this? Both offender and victims are family. Because the offender is family, should he be invited to come in and be a part of all the family events? Should he be allowed to stay under the same roof as the victims or other children? Because some are Christians, are they called to the love the offender at the expense of the victims or potential future victims? Where is the balance of being protectors and being accepting, both, acts of love? Are the ones, who don’t want him around or refuse to let their own kids be near him, being judgmental and “unChristlike”? Does repentance and proof of changed behavior make a difference (although there is no sign of this in this case)?
I welcome you to share what your thoughts are, whether you are in defense of the victims or the offender. I do know that we all sin and I absolutely believe in the saving and changing power of Jesus Christ, and I know redemption is real.
I also know that when it’s my own flesh and blood at stake, I am more protective…. yet, I also know that if it was my own son who was the offender, I would still love him and desire to take him into my fold…but I honestly don’t know how I would handle things if it was even closer to home than this is.
I have advocated for victims in the past in a religious setting, so I’ve given a lot of thought to this over the years. My words here are based on what I’ve learned through that advocacy.
First, if the offender has asked for forgiveness, it must be granted. However, sin does not come without consequences, and that’s where many Christians run into trouble on this. Forgiveness does not mean that person gets a free pass with which he has the chance to repeat the offense.
The consequences of sin in this type of case mean that this person cannot be trusted around minors. Period. Sexual abusers cannot be completely “cured” of whatever it was that caused them to do it. They might never commit the act again, but the potential will *always* be there. I am not a person who normally deals with absolutes, but my experience tells me that this is true. And I’ve spoken with both victims and offenders who agree with this. It’s very similar to alcoholics who have gone through the 12 steps and have been sober for years. They will always be “recovering alcoholics” because of whatever was in their nature to become an alcoholic in the first place. It’s sad, yes. But it’s reality.
As to whether this person is allowed around his victims, that should be up to them. And there should be no pressure to choose either way, or judgment if they choose to say yes or no. The choice should be freely theirs.
If they choose to have this person present, the other adults in the room need to be on the alert. Not just for actions, but for comments and body language. It’s very easy for a perpetrator to abuse his victim in the presence of others without the others’ knowledge.
Here’s a piece of information that many don’t realize. Offenders go out of their way to target Christians and churches because they know we are trusting and that many of us believe that forgiveness is a free pass. We all know about the abuse in the Catholic Church, but most of us don’t know that the numbers are just as high in the Protestant church. Victims are just now coming forward, after being told for so many years that they must forgive and forget. You’d be amazed at how many people won’t notify law enforcement because a predators asked for forgiveness . There are predators who have been allowed to work with children again because some pastors defend them under the umbrella of forgiveness. You can guess what happens next.
We can and should forgive, especially if repentance has been shown. But there is a concept of “forgiveness with caution,” and that’s what must be done in these cases.
In your case, dad/grandpa clearly is protecting the offender, and very likely doesn’t believe that what was done was all that wrong, since he’s stated that the offender should have fought the designation. I shudder to think what the victims must think of that. So in this case, you protect the victims and any other children around.
All i know is that i was the victim of extensive sexual abuse by my step-father and also have had sexual advances from other men as a minor (it’s a miracle i even like men..) and unless a person undergoes this themselves, you have no idea the devastation and lifetime consequences of ANY unwanted sexual advance/act toward a minor child. It scars you.
I also know that my family was divided when this came out. My mothers brother and his family (of all people) sided with my step father because they liked him and my Aunt said she would get the “truth” out of me. Here i am at 57…even though i have forgiven my step father (he’s long dead) and worked hard at my relationship with my dear husband, i still have the scars and have to overcome them nearly every time we have sex. And… i am a born again Christian.
Sorry but my advice would be not to expose minors to this person. Forgiveness is one thing, accountability and protection of children is quite another.
This is really an easy one from my perspective.
He is not allowed around kids, period, end of statement. Forgiveness is an individual thing, meaning that one member or members of the family don’t get to forgive for the group. Nor is it something to be left up to committee. Anyone who has a greviance against this person should be free to speak up in opposition to his attending any family function where kids are around, and if the grieved person is a child, then every single adult should be speaking up on their behalf.
The old Doug might have something even more direct and harsh to say about it. The new Doug would prefer to avoid threats and violence, but if it was my kids welfare at stake, if pressed, I wouldn’t hesitate. Ideally, the offender should be kept from the children, but if the patriarch allows hime to be present, then the appropriate answer is to remove the children from the situation.
We lived with this type of thing for years. We had a daughter to protect. Unfortunately, the offender was a close family member. 3 other moms and I stood by ourselves to protect our girls. Nobody was willing to confront the man. Beings this was almost 20 years ago, most of us were more ignorant than we are now, and the offender was protected, rather than the victim.
At family get functions, we took turns checking up on the children, as the man loved to hang with them. Only one or 2 people had the courage to tell him to go back to the adults. It was stressful times. Our daughter was a charmer and he honed in on her. As far as we know, nothing ever happened. She was never allowed to be alone with him, tho he sure tried. We ended up moving far away from that area.
When our daughter was 3, she would get grabbed and forced to sit on his lap. So, we went thro a lot. In later years, the man sort of admitted a few things. As near as we can tell, our vigilance paid off.
I’m all for protecting the child. I have not been sexually abused, but we have a family member who suffered thro it, most of her teens, and in those days, it was blamed on her. It nearly did her, and her marriage, in.
I’m also all for forgiveness, but in most cases in life, there is the law of sowing and reaping. If the offender needs to attend, those dear little ones need to be protected. If he is repentant, he will understand, or at least be willing. If not, well, the others need to really be on guard.
Because of this, our daughters learned some things that children shouldn’t have to learn so young, especially because it was a prominent family member.
No easy answer to your situation and questions.
Saul who became the Apostle Paul, had a difficult time being accepted by some. Zacchaeus sought to make amends. Peter wept. Judas ended his life. How about Cain? Jonah? etc.
When being set up by his adversaries, Jesus said in John 8:7 “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” But He also said to the woman, “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
Perhaps it isn’t a question of “either or”, but of “both and”.
Song of Angels, thank you for sharing your story. It’s incredibly brave to do so even in a forum such as this.
I was going to say this in my original post, but it was growing lengthy.
The difficulty that Christians have with sexual abuse is that we have these incredible histories of repentance and forgiveness in the Bible. Of course we forgive if we are aiming to be Christ-like. I know victims who have willingly extended forgiveness because of that.
However, what makes sexual abuse cases different from the Biblical examples is that Saul, Peter, etc. were not sex offenders. There’s something about the very nature of the crime that is different from others. The types of rehabilitation programs we have for sex abusers have been shown to be largely ineffective. They can go to jail, they can complete rehab, but it typically will not lower the risk of repeat offense.
So in these cases, we forgive if they have repented. But we do not allow them to work or spend much time with children. The risks outweigh the benefits.
And here’s something else to think about. I’ve met abusers who did not want to abuse. They were ashamed of it. The pain was so great I could feel it rolling off of them. Why would we put them in a situation where they are tempted to not only harm someone else, but to harm themselves? Is it not more loving to help them avoid the temptation?
I have some personal perspective on this: I have a family member who confessed and was convicted of improper acts with a minor or something like that, I forget the exact words. He confessed out of his shame and desire to pay the consequences and to remove himself from the temptation of doing it again, although without any Christian repentance.) He served his time and has been released. My daughter was not the victim, but I have no desire whatsoever for her to ever be in his presence, and (if he had not cut himself off from the family of his own volition because he’s a bitter, jaded, hateful sort of person in the first place) if he were at a family gathering, I would make sure either my daughter or he was in my sight every single second.
I have also been the child expected to forgive and forget (NON-sexual) wrong that had been done to me because it was too awful to think of ostracizing the offender. That situation sucks big time; absolutely come down in favor of the victims!
I have seen this scenario play out over 25 plus years. The young man was 23 just out of college with his teaching certificate and job. He showed some porn in a magazine to his young 14 year old niece. Nothing beyond that is reported to have occurred. The nice rightly spoke to her father, a pastor. The 23 year old brother was arrested, pleaded guilty and spent some years in prison and was put on the sexual offender list. The family shunned him and devolved with their shunning into anger and hatred of the brother/uncle and his actions along with any who would befriend him or act kindly towards him. The brothers life became a wreck with little to no work, living below the poverty line, no prospects and eventually bad health from poor decisions.
Forgiveness by the entire family is a must, that is not a choice, (Matt. 6:14-15). But, restoration to full relational privileges is not, (Gal. 6:7). That must be earned, and in some cases may never be restored. A man who offends in such a way should never be given the keys to the house because of his humility. Rules and regulations must guide and direct his behavior along with protecting everyone else from the horror of a relapse.
Humility on the part of the offender is seen in seeking professional help and abiding by the imposed family rules (i.e. visiting hours; a constant and present accountable person, etc.).
Shunning is not an option for God’s people.