Reports of sexual abuse and arrests routinely make headlines as the #MeToo and #ChurchToo movements progress. Churches and organizations are usually stunned by what's happened, and their initial statements to the press can come across as insensitive, victim-blaming, and focused on forgiveness of the offender. Very rarely do these organizations demonstrate compassion toward the victim.
As I've talked with pastors, elders, and other leaders, I've learned that these responses aren't congruent with their hearts. What ends up in the media doesn't always appropriately reflect what they want to communicate.
Before making a statement to the media or communicating in any way, it's wise to seek out help from a survivor so that you can communicate with compassionately. If you are not already in touch with a professional counselor, psychologist, or others versed in trauma-informed responses, please reach out to a survivor advocate.
Communicating to the public isn't a way to escape responsibility or say something you don't genuinely mean. It's not a step to cover up wrongs or protect your image as an institution. It's about saying AND doing what's right.
I am a clergy abuse survivor and advocate, a published author, and I have over 15 years of experience working with news media on local, national, and international scales. I'm qualified and called to help your organization navigate this difficult step. There is no charge for this consultation, though due to my work at my "day job" in a hospital setting, I may not always be able to respond immediately. However, this is important work, and I'll make every effort I can or I will refer you to a trusted, independent third party if I'm unable to help.
Email me at anne -at- annemariemiller.com if you need someone to help you walk through this in a way that respects the victims, the families, and the community.
If you would like to develop a proactive response to how your organization can communicate a response to abuse before it happens, I'm available to help you too for a nominal fee which goes to a fund that will help provide a paperback copy of Healing Together to those who otherwise cannot afford it.