Sexual assault is a contemptible crime. Children and adults—male and female alike—continue to be traumatized by it. One in four females is sexually abused by her 18th birthday. For boys, it is one in six.
Sexual assault is a rampant crime. We will never forget the shock of the Sandusky scandal nor the public outrage over the Brock Turner verdict. Countless sexual assaults—those exposed to the public and those that are silently hidden—occur over and over again.
Educational programs, law enforcement, background checks, prison sentences, psychological counseling and other concerted efforts exist to address this dark brutality. Yet, it continues to ravage innocent victims in our schools, churches, streets, community organizations and—disturbingly—in our homes behind closed doors.
Sexual assault is a preventable crime. Despite everything that has been done to impede and punish, it is obvious that there is much more to do. When I learned about the Brock Turner case, I felt as though efforts to seek justice for rape victims (and respect for women) had been set back to square one. But I quickly realized that this horrible circumstance has taught us that more action is required.
Samaritan Centers across the nation are taking action. Here, in our region, the Samaritan Counseling Center of Western PA and the Pittsburgh Pastoral Institute are partnering to offer their second annual training program to address child sexual abuse and the healing of adult survivors—the SafeChurch Project—which is set to begin on September 10, 2016.
SafeChurch empowers faith communities to become leaders in the prevention of child sexual abuse. The training includes the development of policy to protect children as well as education on recognizing the signs of abuse, inappropriate behaviors and intervention. These principles are applicable not only in a church setting, but also in the greater community. Additionally, SafeChurch teaches how to foster a culture within the church that promotes the healing and ongoing support of adult survivors.
"Safe church was such a blessing! It enabled us to talk through so many of the realities of childhood sexual abuse and gave us the framework to create a meaningful policy and approach to change our church's culture to an ongoing space of safety for children." - Lori Bass-Riley, Director of Children's Ministry at Cross Roads Presbyterian Church