Long-Term Sexual Abuse Has Long-Term Effects On Victims: Why And How To Report Your Suspicions

Police arrested a pastor of a South Nashville congregation on allegations of molesting several children across two decades.

On September 24, 2017, the accused suddenly resigned, saying he wanted to spend more time with his family. The next day, on September 25, a church member shared allegations of sexual abuse with the church leadership.

Members of the congregation came to the police precinct with complaints that the pastor made requests to "engage in strange activities" with children. Adult members of the church said children told them that the pastor "had asked them to sit on his face and stomach, sometimes in their underwear," according to a police statement.

After allegations were first reported, the church leaders told the pastor, who lived in the parsonage next door for about a week after he resigned, that he was no longer allowed in the church. They also took his church phone and laptop and sealed his office.

On September 26, church leaders consulted an attorney who advised them to report the incidents to the police. The leaders filed a report on September 27 and turned over the pastor's phone and computer and gave police access to the church property.

After detectives interviewed several church and staff members for six months, they were able to identify several victims, most of whom were boys who were molested from 1998 to 2017.

The church, according to its spokesperson, felt "betrayed". Members of the congregation were informed about the incidents and were given updates on the investigation. Church leaders have encouraged other victims to come forward. Police are also urging anyone with information about the pastor to contact the department's Youth Services Division. Adam Tamburin and Holly Meyer "Nashville pastor molested at least 8 children during 20 years as church leader, police say" www.tennessean.com (Mar. 30, 2018).

Commentary and Checklist

According to experts, survivors of childhood sexual abuse often feel that they are at fault for being abused. They tend to exhibit self-destructive behaviors and are more prone to consider suicide compared to people who have not been abused. A study found that female survivors reported significantly more medical concerns than individuals who did not experience sexual abuse.

The longer a child is subjected to sexual abuse, the more damaging it is to the victim.

Safe adults are observant in the workplace, always being vigilant as to the behaviors of every other adult, no matter that person’s status within the organization. Any suspicious behavior must be interrupted and confronted.

The church leaders did not immediately report this pastor to law enforcement. Instead, they took his phone and laptop from him. This could have compromised critical evidence. When child sexual abuse is suspected, law enforcement must be contacted immediately. They are trained to properly gather and handle evidence.

What else should organizations know about reporting child abuse?

  • Report your suspicions. Having a reasonable concern about abuse does not mean you need proof of sexual abuse. Law enforcement and child protective services have the skill and training to investigate and determine if the crime has been committed.
  • Report these concerns first to the police, child protective services, or a child abuse hotline. After that, report to the head of your organization, unless the leader is the accused.
  • Be prepared with any information about the abuse, such as the victim names and ages, what type of abuse is involved, and the name of the suspected abuser.
  • Document your report in writing and include the date of your report, the name and identification number (if they have one) of the person you spoke with, and what was said.
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