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Our church has been working on updating our Safe Space document since summer. We switched insurers, and they wanted to see a safe space document. We looked at what we had on file. It would not do. The last time we had created one, we addressed things like standing on ladders.
How the world has changed! Actually, to be more accurate, the world hasn't changed, but we've become more aware of the dangers and tried to talk about them more.
I worked on the Safe Space document this summer (for more on that process, see this post)--not exactly how I envisioned using my writing skills, but still, I'm glad to be of use. We sent it to our denomination's specialist in these matters and tweaked it a bit.
Last night was the Council meeting where we needed to approve the document. I expected that it might be harder than it was. But in the face of the grim national news about the predatory coach in Pennsylvania, who can argue that we're overreacting?
We like to think that we'd report anything that we see that's off or wrong. But history reminds us again and again that we won't. Most of us won't. David Brooks wrote about that issue eloquently here, explaining all the reasons why we might not report crimes that we witness. He says, "In centuries past, people built moral systems that acknowledged this weakness. These systems emphasized our sinfulness. They reminded people of the evil within themselves. Life was seen as an inner struggle against the selfish forces inside. These vocabularies made people aware of how their weaknesses manifested themselves and how to exercise discipline over them. These systems gave people categories with which to process savagery and scripts to follow when they confronted it. They helped people make moral judgments and hold people responsible amidst our frailties."
Will a safe space document change the tendency of humans not to intervene? We hope so. The stakes are very high.
I thought of this blog post, which reminds us "What was really telling was the information that pedophile networks (you know there are such things, where they advise each other how to find and groom victims) are advising one another to go to church. Not to find Jesus. To find little boys and girls."
Should anything inappropriate ever happen to a child at our church, we will not keep the investigation in-house. No. We will call the police, who, after all, have been trained in this work.
We all worry about false accusations. But the police and social workers are trained to investigate and determine the truth. As a church, our focus must be on keeping children safe
How I wish we lived in a world where people didn't prey on little children. How I hope that documents like the one we approved make that world closer to reality. I know that churches of my childhood never considered that abuse could occur, and that left a lot of us vulnerable. I'm lucky in that I never experienced abuse at church--but I can't close my eyes to all the people who did.