Understanding the Problem
Child abuse is a pervasive issue, with 1 in 5 children experiencing sexual abuse. The average age of a victim is just 9 years old, and a staggering 85% of these victims are abused by family members or acquaintances. Contrary to popular belief, less than 10% of victims are abused by clergymen or teachers. Most abusers are white, heterosexual, married men who identify as "religious," and they typically have between 12 and 77 victims.
Background checks are woefully inadequate for identifying these perpetrators. A shocking 90% of active sex offenders have no criminal record that would appear in a background check. According to an FBI bulletin, only 1 to 10% of child molestation incidents are ever disclosed, and an Emory University study indicates that only 3% are detected (Emory University Study).
The Journal of Pastoral Care conducted a survey among 1,000 senior Baptist pastors and found that 14.1% admitted to engaging in "inappropriate sexual behavior," while 70.4% were aware of other ministers who had done so. Another Baptist study revealed that 35% of ministers engaged in sexually inappropriate behavior, and Protestant clergy were found to exploit their parishioners at twice the rate of secular therapists (Journal of Pastoral Care).
The problem extends beyond the Catholic Church. Penn State professor Philip Jenkens reported that between 2 to 3% of Protestant clergy are pedophiles, compared to less than 1.7% of Catholic priests. Insurance companies receive about 260 reports each year involving allegations of sexual abuse committed against minors by Protestant churches, a statistic the IFB doesn't even bother to record (Penn State Study).
Dee Miller, an author and former missionary, has been ministering to sex abuse survivors for the past 15 years. She reports that about 2500 clergy abuse survivors have contacted her during that time, and at least 300 of those were people abused by IFB Leadership.
The consequences of such abuse are devastating. A 2004 study in the journal of Child Abuse and Neglect reported that sexually abused adolescents were much more likely to have suicidal thoughts, make plans, and even attempt to take their own lives.
Despite these alarming statistics, IFB leaders continue to prioritize congregational autonomy over the safety of their members, using it as an excuse for inaction. State review boards, although lacking authority over churches, can at least bring these abuse cases into the light of day.
By ignoring this issue, IFB leaders are not just failing their congregations; they are perpetuating a cycle of abuse and suffering that has far-reaching consequences. It's high time for this to change.