Samaritan Safe Church – Allies in the Movement to End CSA

July 20th, 2017 by admin

Allies in the Movement to End CSA

Blog Post #11:  July 20, 2017
Linda Crockett 2015by Linda Crockett, Director of Samaritan Safe Church/Safe Places

In the world of social justice movements, being an “ally” to those who have suffered systemic and structural injustice can be challenging, and even contentious. Today’s activists are passionate and committed to their causes and issues, as activists have always been. What is new during the last few years is the multitude of criteria constructed to determine who is worthy of being called an ally. Constraints on not only who real allies are, but how they must act in relation to the group they claim to be allied to, and the ideology they must embrace, can give many aspiring allies considerable pause on whether or not to offer their solidarity to a marginalized group.

When I attended several workshops on “allyship” at a national conference, I heard numerous variations of a central theme. Allies are to step back, shut up, get themselves educated about the issue, and take their cues from the oppressed people they want to support. They are not to take breaks (because oppressed people can’t take breaks).

This stance, combined with the current political climate, which is even more polarizing under the Trump administration, results in the perhaps unintended consequence that some potentially amazing aspiring allies are quietly stepping out, instead of stepping up into social justice movements.

This is problematic, because while it is true that too many well-intended but naïve allies make big blunders, at times steal the spotlight, and hurt the very people they profess to support, it is equally true that no oppressed group can afford to alienate allies who can offer some level of support, however imperfect.

Liberation from any form of oppression requires a critical mass of people, including engagement from civic, religious and political institutions and people of privilege who can speak hard truth to their peers who hold power. In many cases, engaging such allies will mean we let go of our demand for them to meet our ideological or theological standards and accept people where they are. This is the approach to movement building we use in Safe Church.

Just as we work with congregations that have a range of theological understandings as well as significant disagreement on many social issues, we expect that our allies will have different life experiences, opinions, and political leanings. The common ground we seek is desire and commitment to end child sexual abuse. That is the field on which we meet and it includes and transcends any particular ideology or theology.

We define allies as those who accompany and support survivors in their healing, work for justice, offer volunteer time and/or financial contributions, and advocate to protect children from sexual harm. We open our hearts with gratitude for whatever time, energy and support they want to give.

Make no mistake. Child sexual abuse is a distinct form of oppression. Like any social injustice, ending it requires change not just in individual behavior but in the many conditions that contribute to a culture in which it flourishes. The pornification of social media, sexism, the patriarchal model of power still embedded in many religious institutions and families, lack of agency for children, a criminal justice system in which the testimony of dozens of survivors has less weight than the denial of a powerful perpetrator, statutes of limitations that prevent adult survivors who finally gather the courage to confront their perpetrators from filing charges, and a massive blanket of denial are just a few of the systemic issues that weave a culture in which one in four girls and one in six boys are sexually abused before age 18.

In this country, there are an estimated 42 million survivors of child sexual abuse, many of whom suffer psychological, economic, social, medical, relational and other adverse impacts throughout their lives. Despite their strength in numbers, survivors alone cannot catalyze the kind of critical mass needed to sustain a movement to end this form of pernicious and dehumanizing violence against children. To do that, we need allies.

Just as it is critical for men to be allies with women in working to change a rape culture that objectifies and commodifies our bodies, for white people to be in solidarity with people of color to end racism, for citizens to have the backs of refugees and immigrants – survivors of child sexual abuse need to have the support and solidarity of non-survivors willing to commit themselves to justice making, healing and prevention.

We need YOU.

We are willing to educate you about how to protect children, what the mandated reporting laws are all about, how to support survivors, and help you understand how child sexual offenders operate. In fact, we’ll be introducing a new training curriculum for allies this fall open to anyone who believes the time has come to end child sexual abuse, and wants to be part of making that happen.

And just to be clear: being an ally in this movement is not easy, trendy, or glamorous.

As a non-survivor, you have a choice. And that, of course, is one of the big differentiators. If you are living under conditions of marginalization, you don’t have the privilege of choice. You are in it until conditions change. Even survivors who manage to heal, often against all odds, bear the scars of the trauma they experienced and are more vulnerable to a host of emotional and physical disorders as they age, in part due to overly reactive stress responses.

We need people fortunate enough not to have experienced such trauma to be in our movement – to be culture shift workers along with us to change the social and political conditions that contribute to the sexual abuse of children. We need you on our teams, and as co-leaders.

This is a call to action. A call to become an ally, which means rolling up your sleeves and making whatever kind of contribution you are capable of. Need ideas? Here are just a few.

1) First – sign up for our newsletter and “ally” list so you stay in the loop on what’s happening! An ally needs to be “in the know.”
2) Be on call to write letters to legislators, editors, etc. when news breaks or important legislative changes are proposed. We’ll give you tips on what to write when you sign up for our “advocate” list.
3) Insist the leaders in all organizations you connect with go beyond a “check the box” mentality on child protection with a boilerplate policy and a few hours of mandated reporter training for staff/volunteers. What passes for child protection in many churches and other youth serving organizations is merely paying lip service.
4) If your congregation has not yet participated in the one year culture shifting Safe Church program – get your pastor or other leaders on board. See #3 above.
5) Get educated. Attend one of our workshops, or sign up for our new fall curriculum (more information is coming on this in August!).
6) Ask us to do a workshop at your church or other organization and invite the public. Show the community this is an important issue to you.
7) Join a Wisdom Circle for Allies.
8) Offer your financial support. Our donors are passionate about protecting children, supporting survivors, and investing in the social change we need to end child sexual abuse. Through their generous sharing, they make our work possible.

Finally, I want to acknowledge that some survivors are now defining themselves as allies, even as they carry the identity of survivors. These are women and men who have healed enough to step into service to support other survivors, and for the sake of the children.

They are veterans of a hidden war, and some of the most heroic people I know. Their wounds, and their great love for life itself, have made them strong.

These allies should inspire us all.

3 Responses to “Samaritan Safe Church – Allies in the Movement to End CSA”

  1. August 11, 2017 at 4:11 pm, Judith Kennedy said:

    Thank you Linda for such a clear call for support of survivors of sexual abuse and to rally those who have not been victims to have the courage to be there as best able.


  2. July 26, 2017 at 1:25 pm, Bonnie Nicholas said:

    Love this post! I agree that it’s important to accept the value of imperfect allies in the fight to end child sexual abuse. It’s in all of our best interest to work together, sometimes going a bit out of our way to meet people where they are, and assist as we can in moving all of us, together, toward a better future. Blessings on the work of Samaritan SafeChurch.


  3. July 21, 2017 at 2:32 pm, John H Emmert said:

    Linda, Thank you, yet again, for your compassion, thoughtfulness, and passion to seek justice for the abused (even for those of us who have survived), as we continue to seek healing, and to bring healing to those still weighed down by abuse. I look forward to hearing more about the fall offerings


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