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Training Pastors To Deal With Child Sexual Abuse

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Beginning this semester, prospective pastors at the Dallas Theological Seminary will get training on sexual abuse prevention. The evangelical seminary says it’s the only one in the country that makes this sort of training mandatory.

MinistrySafe teaches church officials how to spot and prevent child abuse. Fort Worth lawyer Kimberlee Norris co-founded and developed the program.

…On why the Dallas Theological Seminary mandated this kind of training:

“I don’t think there was a trigger in terms of a specific case. I think they simply saw the need. Most pastors learn about this risk typically on the job, and that’s not the best time to be learning how to effectively protect children and how to address this in a ministry context.”

…On misconceptions about child sexual abuse:

“One of them is the concept of ‘stranger danger’ – the idea that the risk to children comes outside the fence. Statistically, 90 percent of the kids who sexually abused are abused by someone they know and trust – somebody inside the fence. Parents for instance, tend to believe that people that they know and have come to like and trust…are not a risk to their children. Statistically, that’s not commonly accurate.”

…On the “grooming process” abusers take on:

“We talk about the concept that molesters groom the gatekeepers. They don’t just groom kids, and therefore, when these situations hit the news, what you commonly hear is ‘I’m so shocked, that’s so hard to believe.’ The molester has so effectively groomed the people surrounding that circumstance that he or she is not assumed to be a risk.      

The number one reason kids don’t tell: ‘I didn’t tell because I didn’t think anyone would believe me’ and commonly, the molester has told the child, ‘if you tell, no one’s going to believe you.’

I don’t think kids are any more at risk in church contexts than they are outside in the world at large, but parents assume that they are.”

On measuring the success of MinistrySafe:

“We measure success by watching circumstances where we feel like quantifiable, measurable protocols are put in place where they didn’t exist before. We know from our experience over 20 years that when quantifiable, measurable protocols are put in place, kids are protected.”  

Kimberlee Norris is the co-founder of MinistrySafe. 

Former KERA staffer Krystina Martinez was an assistant producer. She produced local content for Morning Edition and KERANews.org. She also produced The Friday Conversation, a weekly series of conversations with North Texas newsmakers. Krystina was also the backup newscaster for the Texas Standard.
Rick Holter is KERA's vice president of news. He oversees news coverage on all of KERA's platforms – radio, digital and television. Under his leadership, KERA News has earned more than 200 local, regional and national awards, including the station's first two national Edward R. Murrow Awards. He and the KERA News staff were also part of NPR's Ebola-coverage team that won a George Foster Peabody Award, broadcasting's highest honor.