In the wake of the Penn State scandal I wrote this post about some of the reasons we fail to report abuse. My wife reminded me of one more that I think we have to consider. Beyond our denial, beyond our fear of begin exposed, beyond our desire to protect beloved institutions, beyond our gullibility when winsome abusers confess to little crimes in order to assuage our concerns…there is another reason: guilt.
What guilt, you ask? The guilt in being “the cause” of destroying someone’s career. We know that founded sexual abuse will (should) end someone’s people-helping career. In this regard, sexual abuse is a capital crime. A person might not hang for it but if they now are a convicted sex offender, they probably won’t be able to find employment as a pastor, teacher, counselor, etc.
Notice I put the cause in the previous paragraph in quotes. If we are in the position of reporting a sex offense, we have done nothing to destroy that person’s career. If the offense has been committed, the offender has destroyed their own career and family.
And yet, when we report someone we know, we feel guilty. We may feel as if we are the cause of their loss of their reputation and career. We worry about what will become of their family. How will they ever be able to support their loved ones? What will become of their children? Sometimes the guilt is enough to cause us to waffle. Maybe we can just move them along to a new venue. Maybe starting over will help them put this awful chapter behind them. Maybe they have repented and won’t do it again. Maybe they will make better choices and avoid prior temptations.
In addition, many of us have heard of those who were falsely accused. We have seen or heard of the devastating impact of a lie. And we wonder, what if we are wrong? What if there is another explanation?
So we hesitate. And once we let some time pass, we rarely activate to do the right thing.
4 responses to “Another reason why we don’t report abuse”
I have been both a victim of childhood sexual abuse (by father, neighbors, counselor) and in situations as an adult where a male (Pastor) was inappropriate with me, one of my children was molested by a trusted friend, and another a family member…plus I had to report and confront a co-worker who was inappropriate w/his client. In each of these situations the most difficult thing that I dealt with was an underlying but powerful sense that I WAS BETRAYING THEM! Most of these situations involved an aspect of relationship. The Lord spoke to me in one of these situations and said, “you are not the one doing the betraying”. So often when an abuse is reported it is turned around on the reported and/or victim. Even when there is an eye-witness account it is a “he said, she said” scenario. Abusers are MASTERS at manipulating, twisting and covering! They make everyone else doubt their own reality! The victim gets caught in a “I should have kept my mouth shut” trap because of the fall-out of the revelation. The destruction is somehow turned back on to them.
It is most difficult when you recognize red flags and see obvious signs of abuse but face a hail storm of accusation and attack when you begin to call attention to these red flags!
By the way I have enjoyed your Rwanda/Africa musings!
I’m sorry….I feel there is something incredibly dysfunctional in a person if they indeed consider their own guilt or complicity in the ruination of the reputation or the ending of the career of such an animal…when it comes to reporting such heinous activity.
If an individual actually “waffles” in the face of this horrible ethical and moral situation….actually considering ANYTHING BUT the apprehension of and the full application of justice upon…..the PREDATOR…not to mention the plight of the victim…A CHILD…than they need to seriously examine their own heart and conscience before the LORD. Such an equivocation should be very troubling…
Tim, I would agree that something is off. I’m not sure we ought to think that we wouldn’t suffer some of the same deceptions.
In my ramblings I am not sure I made myself clear. I was speaking from the realization of having been a victim trying to confront an abuser and the internal conflict that arises (when you have been a victim or are seeking to protect one) when you try to confront the abuser. Not only the internal conflict such as the cognitive distortion/lie that so powerfully tried to twist things back on me i.e. “that I was the one doing the betraying” but the insurmountable resistance that comes from those who are in places of authority and do not want to hear or see what I was telling them. I am not trying to justify anyone not protecting the child. Just the opposite. But to bring awareness to how difficult it is due to the power, mastery of the perpetrator and the STRONG denial of those who do not want to hear. If you ever try to report suspected abuse you will see what I mean. I work as a MH clinician with children and found that red flags and even my own eye witness account of inappropriate conduct was repeatedly dismissed b/c I did not have enough proof. The only thing that seems to hold up in a court of law is the victim having already been abused being able to stand up against the power of the abuser and the system. We need to be able to protect our children based on the red flags not after the abuse occurs.