One of the toughest questions in advocacy work is this: When is it worthwhile to talk to powerful people within the institutions in which you’re trying to enact change, and when is it not? There are no easy answers to that question. Sometimes it’s almost impossible to get access to people with that kind of power, and so when we get the chance, we feel like we need to take it.
Furthermore, many church leaders downplay their own power. So it can be tempting to believe that all it takes to enact change is a heartfelt conversation or two with the right person.
If there were only one piece of counsel that we could offer to people advocating for survivors of sexual violence (and this applies to many types of violence and oppression) in church settings, we think it would be this: When you’re addressing a specific case of abuse, be cautious of any invitation to speak with a church or church-affiliated official who wants to explain to you “what really happened,” or to have a “heart-to-heart” or any sort of one-on-one conversation. Be cautious even if you think that the official is one of the good ones, someone you believe can be reasoned with.
If you get an invitation like that, there are a few guidelines you can follow to ensure that you don’t end up either feeling re-victimized or being an unintentional participant in minimizing and enabling sexual abuse. Continue reading