Bethel College Mennonite Church
Abuse Prevention and Response Policy
Approved by the Bethel College Mennonite Church congregation on November 21, 2021.
Bethel College Mennonite Church (BCMC) seeks to provide a healthy and protective environment for all in our midst. We seek to care and support persons who have experienced abuse and sexual violence. We acknowledge that churches are places where abuse occurs. We also acknowledge that we do not know people’s prior experiences and traumas. Statistics tell us that 1 in 3 women and 1 in 6 men experience some form of sexual violence in their lifetime. Statistics also say that between 20-25% of people sitting in pews on Sunday morning are survivors.
BCMC commits to work toward the prevention of abuse. When abuse occurs, we commit to address it in a way that centers around the needs of survivors. We commit to allowing each adult survivor to guide the process. More than a policy is needed to confront sexual violence in our church. This policy is not an end in itself, it is a framework to use as a guide when responding to the unique needs of each survivor and situation. Upholding the needs of survivors is less about policy and more about actions and attitudes toward compassion and care for survivors.
This policy has been developed to:
- Reduce the risk of incidents of abuse
- Cultivate a safe place for reporting
- Create a clear direction for a trauma-informed response to abuse reports
- Offer a safe place for healing
- Develop a supportive community
- Educate BCMC regarding abuse, trauma, power dynamics, etc.
The Abuse Prevention and Response Committee (APRC) is responsible for monitoring and implementing this policy and is accountable to the Church Board.
Institutional Practices and Accountability
- Representatives from the APRC will initiate individual or group meetings to address program concerns or individual needs as they arise.
- The APRC will make sure prevention guidelines are being followed.
- This policy will be posted on the church website. Hard copies will be located in the church office and library.
- The APRC will review this policy annually and update it as needed.
- Community reporting information and resources will be posted in all bathrooms.
Terms Used in this Policy
Accountability Partners: Made up of Congregants assigned by the APRC. Two (or more if applicable) Accountability Partners will be assigned to offenders. Accountability Partner roles will be to communicate and respond to questions from the offender, be present with the offender while on church property, and offer spiritual support to the offender.
Approved Adult: Any adult (including Employees) who works with minors or vulnerable adults. Must have a Volunteer/Employee Registration Form on file, yearly signed Abuse Prevention Covenant, up to date background check (for youth sponsors, mentors, and Employees), and yearly training on the Abuse Prevention and Response Policy.
Care Team: Made up of Congregants assigned by the APRC. One (or more if applicable) Care Team members will be assigned to a survivor(s). In the event a collective trauma is taking place within our congregation that is triggering to survivors, a care team can also be formed for survivors as a group or individually. The Care Team member roles will be to provide spiritual and emotional support, communicate with and respond to questions, requests and other needs as they arise. The APRC may assign additional Care Team members to respond to the spiritual and emotional support of other congregants impacted.
Congregant: In this policy, any individual claiming BCMC as their church, whether a full member, a wider-fellowship member, or a non-member that participates in the life of BCMC.
Leadership Roles: In this policy, any individual (paid or voluntary), that sits on any committees or commissions, or works with children and youth.
Offender: In this policy “offender” refers to any individual who has a current or historical record of substantiated abuse from a legal, third party, or church investigation (asked to sign a limited access agreement at another congregation or organization) or for whom a report of abuse had been filed.
Survivor: In this policy “survivor”refers to the person who has disclosed abuse or the person someone suspects has suffered abuse.
Vulnerable Adult: In this policy “vulnerable adult” refers to a person over the age of 18 who is unable to independently care for themselves or protect themselves against significant harm or exploitation.
Developing a Supportive Community: Guiding Principles
Awareness of Power Dynamics: Like many social structures, our church contains power dynamics. These dynamics create the capacity to influence another person’s actions, beliefs, or behavior. Examples of situations that create power dynamics include age, leadership status, economic status, privilege, family connections, and length of attendance at BCMC. We commit together to not use our power to harm others, whether intentionally or unintentionally.
Awareness of Triggers: When new abuse reports are made, sexually violent scripture is shared in worship, etc., we commit to issuing trigger warnings to the whole congregation listening, and informing known survivors in our congregation prior to these being shared in corporate settings.
Healthy Boundaries: We commit to maintaining appropriate physical, emotional, spiritual, and sexual boundaries, and to take action when boundaries are threatened or violated.
Practicing Consent: Consent refers to the permission each individual gives to others for something to happen. Because we do not know the depth of everyone’s stories and past experiences, we will practice respect and consent with touch and participation. Consent must be freely given, reversible at any moment, enthusiastic and not coerced, regarding something specific in the moment, and informed by the person giving consent (i.e. children or a person under the influence of alcohol/drugs can’t consent to everything).
Trauma-Informed Practices: Individuals who have experienced abuse are our family members, our friends, our co-workers, members of our congregations, and others we know and love, and we understand they will carry the trauma of abuse for the rest of their lives. Unexpectedly reliving painful memories without mental preparedness, or consent to do so, can further harm a survivor. Knowing this, we commit to our continued growth of being a trauma-informed congregation.
Transparency and Truth-telling: Acourage to pursue and honor the truth, no matter how uncomfortable. Statistics say that every 68 seconds someone is sexually assaulted and only 310 out of every 1000 sexual assaults are ever reported. We must believe victims when they share events that have happened to them, no matter how hard or uncomfortable it may make us. We must honor the courage a victim has in coming forward.
Victim Blaming: Holds the victim accountable for the crime that was committed against them. This happens anytime someone questions what a victim could have done to prevent the crime that happened to them. The crime would not have happened, however, if there was not a perpetrator.