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A Church Addresses Sexual Abuse: Aftercare

September 30, 2013

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On the weekend of May 18-19 The Summit Church (Durham, NC) addressed the subject of sexual abuse in all of our weekend services. This series is a reflection of those services, the preparation that went into them, and the aftercare that was provided.

We do not propose to have done this weekend perfectly, although we worked diligently to conduct each aspect with excellence. Our hope is that the resources produced will allow other churches to address this needed subject and improve upon our efforts. This is a subject that addresses 20% of our church, community, and world (1 in 4 women; 1 in 6 men). The church cannot be silent.

“If you preach the gospel in all aspects with the exception of the issues that deal specifically with your time, you are not preaching the gospel at all.” Martin Luther

For the purposes of this blog series “aftercare” will denote everything after the call for people to respond to the sermon and conversations with the after-service care team. There is no way to address the subject of sexual abuse without uncovering many care needs within the congregation.

JD’S VIDEO

Aftercare began before the service ended. We knew that not everyone who has been affected by sexual abuse would come forward (nor did they necessarily need to). So we prepared a closing video from our pastor (above)  to address all of our campuses at the close of the service.

Our main objectives with this video were to (a) connect everyone present with excellent resources if they wanted to study sexual abuse recovery further, and (b) let everyone know of trusted counseling options available to them.

NO SIGN IN

One important decision is whether we would do formal follow up with those who came forward to receive prayer. This would require getting their name and contact information. We decided it was best to allow individuals to remain in control of what follow up options they pursued.

Having individuals complete a form that would indicate they chose to talk about their experience of sexual abuse did not seem to honor the choice many would be making to talk about this experience for the first time. Having to wonder who would see that form or list would have created undue stress.

The only notation that was taken was the mandated reporting forms. If an after service care team member had a reporting concern, they were instructed to take this concern to either the LCSW or LPC on site. If reporting was needed, the LCSW or LPC would explain (a) who was being called, (b) what could be expected to happen next, and (c) what would happen next.

For those cases not requiring mandated reporting, we provided a resource card with several options of how to pursue follow up care. Each person was told that these options were available whenever he/she was ready to pursue.

RESOURCE PAGE AND HANDOUT

We created two media resources. For those who responded to the service we created a postcard size flyer with resources for aftercare. On one side of this card were church-based or recommended resources. On the other side of this card was a list of the emergency hotline numbers in each county in which our church has a presence.

We also created a page on the church’s website (www.summitrdu.com/abuse) with a collection of everything the church put together for this weekend and some additional resources (i.e., blogs and articles) we believed would serve our church members well.

SOCIAL MEDIA FOLLOW UP

The www.summitrdu.com/abuse link allowed us to make everything related to these services available to our people in the week following via social media. We did not want our people to feel like there was only one opportunity to respond.

The reminder of multiple church / pastoral / member tweets and anonymity of being able to click a link to access the sermon, pastor JD’S follow up video, seminar, articles, and counseling resources was our second, third, etc… call.

CHURCH COUNSELING TEAM

Our church has a multi-layered counseling ministry (www.summitrdu.com/counseling). In preparation for these services we had our graduate counseling interns and Bridgehaven counseling staff (www.bridgehavencounseling.org) study through Diane Langerg’s book On the Threshold of Hope together to refine their awareness and skills in sexual abuse counseling.

We invited our pastoral staff to attend these meetings to increase the preparation of our pastoral team to minister effectively on this subject. We also invited several LCSW to be a part of these meetings to add their expertise and experience to these discussions.

AREA COUNSELING LIST

Even with these rather extensive preparations for aftercare, we knew there would be some cases that we were not prepared to counsel. For one example, we do not have anyone on staff at the church or Bridgehaven trained to work with children who have been sexually abused.

We also wanted to be prepared to offer options for those who for various reasons might prefer to seek counseling that was not affiliated with their church.

We made an effort to add to the list of counselors and agencies who work with abuse and trauma cases across all ages. This list is available upon request through the Summit counseling ministry or Bridgehaven. We decided not to post this list publicly to avoid inviting solicitation or debate about who should / shouldn’t be on the list.