As the transgender bathroom issue gathers steam it’s worth considering this grim fact: Despite all those transgender bathroom laws GOP state legislatures keep passing, a child is far more likely to be molested at church.
In 2014 the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) came out with a report on sexual abuse in the Catholic church. It turns out that from 1950-2013, 17,259 victims made accusations and 6,427 clerics had been counted as “not implausibly” or “credibly” accused. This doesn’t even account for underreporting or include the unusually large number victims who came forward in 2003 in the wake of the Boston Globe’s eye-opening report on sexual abuse in the Catholic church by their Spotlight team.
Alas, a transgender bathroom law wouldn’t have helped a single one of these victims, many of whom have had to live in silence with their trauma and shame for decades.
Meanwhile, for all of their yammering about gay marriage and public restrooms, evangelical protestant churches also have a lot to answer for. In 2015, the exposure of 19 and Counting’s Josh Duggar’s sexual proclivities revealed not only that America’s favorite Christian family wasn’t as wholesome as they seem (and that their faith community helped enable him). In February, the Washingtonian broke a story revealing decades of sexual abuse against children in Sovereign Grace Ministries, a suburban megachurch network.
Why transgender bathroom laws won’t prevent sexual abuse against children.
The majority of perpetrators are someone the child or family knows. As many as 93% of victims under the age of 18 know the abuser.
The above goes a long way towards explaining why a child, pre-teen or adolescent is more likely to be molested in church than in a transgender bathroom. In fact, evangelical leaders have grown concerned enough about sexual abuse in their ranks that Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment (GRACE) was launched to train, educate and help faith communities prevent this from happening. Alas, the facts revealed in a Powerpoint slide presentation show they’ve got a long slog ahead of them.
- Child abuse accusations against US protestant churches average 70 per week. GRACE acknowledges that the number could be a lot higher due to under-reporting.
- One percent of churches surveyed reported abuse accusations annually.
- 42 percent were volunteers, 25 percent were paid staff, 25 percent were other children.
- The average child molester sexually assaults 50-150 children before being caught.
What’s even scarier is that sexual abuse and child molestation may even be more likely to occur in churches due to the toxic combination of the high level of trust placed in church leaders combined with the authoritarian upbringings of many of the children in their charge. It’s hard to defend yourself against abuse when you’ve been taught to obey adults without question all your life.
GRACE even has a name for this phenomenon that contributes to sexual abuse in churches: The Five Exploitations:
- Exploitation of “religious cover”: Child molesters’ apparent embrace of religious practices and doctrine gives them access to children while providing cover for their behavior.
- Exploitation of faith: “The victim’s own analysis of religious doctrine may result in confusion and silence.”
- Exploitation of power: Children are taught to submit to authority “from the earliest age.”
- Exploitation of needs: Churches are always in need of volunteers and don’t always have the resources to thoroughly vet everyone. On top of that, churchgoers often come in need of support and spiritual solace.
- Exploitation of trust: Churches foster a trusting environment, especially for families with children, and children are taught to trust in God and those whom they see as His representatives.
And what’s the data on child molesting by strangers in transgender bathrooms? ZERO, according to a report from Mic. Apparently, there are so few reports on children getting molested in public restrooms by transgender people that no one has bothered gathering any statistics.
Reprinted with permission from the author.
Elisabeth Parker is a writer, editor mom, news and politics junkie.
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