More on excuses made for child molesters

A few days ago I put up a post looking at the excuses some conservative Christian commenters on this post used to defend accused child molester Tom White. I summarized the excuses listed as follows:

  • Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.
  • Judge not lest you be judged.
  • We are all capable of anything.
  • We must pray for our “fallen brother.”

Since writing that post I’ve thought of a few more – both thanks to my commenters and thanks to further introspection on my part.

  • He/she must have been asking for it.

Danyel shared a story on Recovering Grace about the sexual abuse she suffered at the hands of one of her brothers while she was a child. Here is an excerpt that picks up when she finally, at age 11, told her oldest brother about what was going on:

The next day my oldest brother and his wife came over, and I got up the courage to tell them what was happening. Although I’d never had any long conversations with my parents, the few times my mom and I had discussed it she made comments like, “You must have liked it or encouraged it,” or “It couldn’t have happened more then that one time because you two were never alone,” so I knew they wouldn’t listen to me. Walking outside to tell my oldest brother felt like the longest walk of my life–like I was walking to my death. Would he believe me or brush me off too? I told them both the truth and that I wanted them to tell mom and dad because it had to stop. My brother looked very serious and didn’t say anything other than it would be taken care of. …

The next day I waited for my parents to say something about it, but they didn’t. About a week later, my mom and I were driving, and I finally asked if anything had been said to them. She didn’t say anything for what seemed like an eternity, then told me, yes, but that she didn’t see how it could have been going on for all this time if I was just now saying something. If it had really been happening, then I must have enjoyed it or encouraged it. She then told me that my birth mother had made up something like this for attention. I was speechless and felt so betrayed!

This one is sadly more common that you might think. The idea that an abused child somehow “asked for it” or “enjoyed it” is sometimes coupled in religious circles with the idea that the child may be especially predisposed to demonic influence. Regardless, blaming a child for his or her own abuse is an excellent way to get the abuser off the hook. And it’s utterly despicable.

  • We must forgive and forget.

Rebekah also shared her story on Recovering Grace. This time the abuse came from her father. This clip picks up when Rebekah, as an adult, finally reported the sexual abuse she had suffered for years:

He was furious when, years later, I finally told my story to the authorities. I didn’t want the cops to get involved at that time. I didn’t even want my family to get involved. You see, I was still buying into the idea that it was all my own fault. That I had somehow “asked” to be abused. It took me years following the initial contact with authorities to even begin to recognize the wrong done to me and that I wasn’t responsible. Yet my father accused me of trying to send him to jail and trying to destroy him. He played the reputation card and said he’d been forgiven and that now it was my issue of unforgiveness. He said that I was trying to force the rest of my siblings to grow up without their father.

Here is the repetition of the idea that she had somehow “asked” to be abused, along with her father’s insistence that he was forgiven and so the past must be forgotten. “Forgive and forget” is a constant theme among many Christians, and allows even the worst wrongdoer to get off the hook for what he or she did in the past. Because, after all, you can’t bring up what happened in the past because “God has forgiven it.”

I was taught that when God forgives a sin he casts it away, beyond some abyss, so that it is gone forever. God does not consider it anymore, and we should not either. In fact, if you keep bringing up or going back to that forgiven sin, you’re the one acting in error.

  • This should be handled privately.

There is only one passage in the New Testament that deals with what is now known as “church discipline,” although that passage is in the gospels before there even was a “church.” Here it is:

Matthew 18: 15-17

“If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

Notice that it nowhere says to report it to the authorities. Instead, you just deal with the matter internally. Take, for example, the case of Tina Anderson. Raped by a leader in her church when she was a young teen, Tina became pregnant. When the pastor was notified, he personally dealt with Tina’s rapist and then allowed him to continue serving as a leader in the church, and in the youth ministry, after he repented of “a sexual transgression” before the congregation. Tina meanwhile was privately sent to a family in a sister congregation out of church to carry her pregnancy to term and then give the child up for adoption. Throughout this whole process, the authorities were never notified.

Even among Christians who do see the need to notify the authorities, there is often an insistence on following the internal process first. I have heard of this being invoked in the case of spousal abuse, for example. Your husband beats you? First confront him with his wrongdoing, then go the the pastor or another religious authority, and then to the church. Only if all else fails should you go to the civil authorities. That kind of thing.

This is, to my understanding at least, what happened with the Catholic Church. It’s not that Catholic authorities didn’t know some priests were sexually abusing children. It’s just that when they knew they moved the priest to another parish or another area of work rather than reporting them to the authorities for the sexual molestation of children. For the church, it was a matter to be dealt with internally, not a matter for the civil authorities.


And so, here is the newly expanded list of excuses:

  • Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.
  • Judge not lest you be judged.
  • We are all capable of anything.
  • We must pray for our “fallen brother.”
  • She must have been asking for it.
  • We must forgive and forget.
  • This should be handled privately.

I want to finish by offering two excellent inputs from readers. First, Kagekiri pointed to this Bible passage:

I Corinthians 5:

1 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that even pagans do not tolerate: A man is sleeping with his father’s wife. 2 And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have gone into mourning and have put out of your fellowship the man who has been doing this?

4 So when you are assembled and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, 5 hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.

11 But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people.

12 What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? 13 God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked person from among you.”

How had I missed that? And really, that passage just illustrates that reader Jemand is spot on with this point:

And the thing is?  It’s NOT required by the religion!  The things Jesus taught, do NOT mean that believers must revere wolves in sheep’s clothing, say!  So many verses one could pick showing the focus and concern for children, those exist too…  The *choice* to pick certain verses as opposed to others?  And focus on an interpretation which further victimizes the powerless, further marginalized the silenced, and contributes to the power of the ones already in authority?  The CHOICE to err on the side that creates more abused little girls vs. err on the side of inadvertent damage to the reputations of powerful men?

Those are *choices,* not givens from the text of the Bible, and honestly?  I take them as direct evidence for what kind of person these [people who make these excuses] are.

Finally, a list of excuses offered by a reader. Some of the responses fit into the categories above, but some don’t and she listed them so beautifully I just had to share:

Common Excusing and Accusing Statements Said to a Person Who Exposes Sin in the Life of a Respected Christian Leader or Authority Figure (male or female) – By Robin Tulley:

“What right do you have to make such an accusation against someone who has done such great things for the Lord? You’re going to destroy everything he spent his life building.”

“I’ve known so-and-so for years and and can speak to her character and I know she would never do [..accusation..].”

“It’s all in the past – why are you bringing it up now?”

“Let it go – why destroy the reputation of someone just because of something they may have done years ago.”

“Maybe he did do this – but have you forgiven him? You’re sinning by carrying unforgiveness in your heart.”

“That is just your opinion and/or perspective.”

“God said, “Touch not my anointed.” It isn’t any of your business – If ‘so-and-so’ has sin in his life, it is between him and God.”

“I asked ‘so-and-so’ about your claims and she said that you —— [have an ax to grind] [have personal issues] [are emotionally unstable] [are a known liar] [misinterpreted the situation] [have hidden sin in your own life]”

“God said that we aren’t to judge others. Go remove the log from your own eye before you look for a splinter in the eye of ‘so-and-so.’”

“We’re all sinners.  Jesus said, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.” Are you saying you are without sin? ”

“It’s up to God to judge – you’re putting yourself in the place of God.”

“Let by-gones be by-gones and keep the past in the past.”

“We’ve all made mistakes.  I’m sure there are things in your own life you wouldn’t want to have made public or have held against you.”

“She says you’re the one who actually did [..accusation..] – and now you’re just trying to shift the blame.”

“This is just a case of ‘he said/she said’ – there isn’t any proof of what you’re claiming.”

“You’re the only person who has made this claim.  If ‘so-and-so’ had really done these things there would be other people coming forward.”

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About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.