Former gymnast Rachael Denhollander—whose testimony against USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar drew widespread media attention—told Christianity Today that “church is one of the least safe places to acknowledge abuse” because victims often receive damaging advice from church staff who know little about the topic.
The #ChurchToo movement (accompanying the #MeToo movement) reveals that churches are as susceptible to issues of sexual misconduct and abuses of power as secular institutions. Often, one or more individuals are to blame for abuses, but calls for reform are directed at churchesand their leadership.
Denhollander’s quote about acknowledging abuse is directed at institutional practices and mindsets that often make reporting and responding to abuse a fraught prospect for victims. And, while churches should not preemptively admit culpability before accusations are investigated, they often find themselves apologizing to victims and communities for inadequate and insensitive responses that create burdens and barriers for victims.