Australia has just received the report of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, after five years of hearings. It’s been necessary but terrible. There have been awful accounts of institutional power used to cover up abuse and protect abusers – including a number of churches or ministries. The police referrals from the royal commission number in the thousands.
As a Christian minister, and also with some junior sports involvement, I have wondered what to do to improve safety. There are a number of good and widely-known protective measures: comply with your state’s Working With Children Check (NSW here); complete safety training; have nominated safety contacts; arrange groups so children are not left alone with an adult.
But here’s an idea I’d like to suggest. It’s a message for any adult-trainer-teacher to communicate to every child and family under their care. I’d like each adult to say this:
Make sure that you tell people everything you learn here. There are no secrets!
I reckon this statement has a few good things going for it.
- Abuse loves secrecy.
So many accounts of those hurt include things like, “It’s our special secret”, “If you tell anyone I will …” Let’s make secrecy explicitly against our ways.
- It’s a great way to teach.
A child who can communicate the lesson has learnt the lesson. It might be a Sunday School message about how Jesus’ death brings forgiveness of sin, or a cycling tip about how to hold the handlebars.
- It can develop enthusiasm.
“Guess what I learnt this week!”
- It tells teachers and trainers that we expect kids to share all that happens.
- It tells parents and carers to expect communication about our program.
- It’s good promotion.
If you’re teaching Sunday School, surely you want more families to join in and hear the good news. Similarly for a sports team, music group, art class, … Happy participants who speak up are a walking invitation.
- It tells the whole church/club/group that we have a culture of openness.
- Biblically, there are no secrets.
God’s judgement is coming, and all secrets will be revealed. Christians especially should know and live by this. Jesus said, “For nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest, nor is anything secret that will not be known and come to light.” (Luke 8:17)
This is only a small tip. But I think I will begin to try it out. I certainly pray for better protection of children in all sorts of institutions across Australia.