I work for an arts program in a mental health organization, and since I sometimes work with kids, I am a mandated reporter. Last Monday, a social worker from our local children’s services gave a presentation on mandated reporting. I’m not going to lie – I thought it was going to be boring, but to my surprise, I actually learned quite a bit. It helped that the presenter coupled the information with interesting local stories.
Several thoughts came up as I sat and listened to the presentation.
First, I found the definitions and descriptions of the different kinds of abuse very helpful. I honestly didn’t know what constitutes emotional abuse. We were given a booklet on abuse and reporting and here’s how it defines emotional abuse:
“Repeated threats or insults to scare or embarrass a child, or to crush a child’s self-esteem. It can also include withholding affection and attention from a child.”
Second thought – is indoctrination considered emotional abuse? You got to admit, some of that definition touches on aspects of indoctrination.
Third thought (which didn’t surprise me) – clergy is also mandated reporters in my state, but the presenter said that they are the worst group for compliance. Not only do they not report suspected abuse, they often blame the children. She even gave us plenty of local examples. Even some of my coworkers chimed in and gave examples. I was shocked because they acted like abuse in local churches is common knowledge among parishioners, but no one is doing anything about it.
Apparently, if you are a mandated reporter in my state and don’t report abuse, you can be given a six-month jail sentence. If they know the clergy isn’t complying, I’m wondering if they are following through with justice.
Here’s the really bizarre part – after telling us all this about local clergy and churches, the presenter invited us to a “faith-based celebration luncheon” to recruit foster and adoptive families.
What?? I really feel they’re looking in the wrong place.
I really don’t know how to help in this situation. I was born and raised in this area. I know what it’s like here, and yet when I heard about local clergy and churches along with a faith-based foster and adoption recruitment event, my gut just sank.
Surprisingly, I don’t have many questions in this post. I just wanted to share my story so you could join in my disgust. Can anyone relate? Do you have a similar story? Is indoctrination really abuse? What can be done about all this?
There is no question that almost everyone at that meeting would agree that indoctrination is abuse if it were indoctrination to any non-Christian belief system. In other words, I think that they don’t realize they are hypocrites.
I think for the indoctrination bit, it’s better to pretend to politely ignore that it’s indoctrination. If what you see fits as emotional abuse focus on only that and make that case. If you call it indoctrination you can get sucked into an argument about where you draw the line between teaching your kids and indoctrinating them. And that sounds like it would turn into a messy slog that wouldn’t go anywhere and wouldn’t help the child. If you focus on the signs of emotional abuse, when they try to claim they’re just teaching their kid I think you’re on much firmer ground to expain why the ways they’re teaching their kid are bad.
For the rest, I don’t really know what to say. I think people just get used to certain things being in their lives. If you came from a religious background, maybe you remember when you first made the choice to be an atheist. Shortly afterward there were probably things that you were surprised to realize you didn’t need in your life anymore because their main point had to do with religion or a religious group. That faith-based celebration luncheon is probably a lot like that.
I’m not really sure how believers can trust their churches after the rolling priestly sex scandal of the last decades. I still feel mildly blown away whenever I think about people still giving their churches money when they’ve done nothing concrete to address the issue. I’m sure there are some priests who would do the right thing and report evidence of sexual abuse to the authorities. But they’re effectively whistleblowers. You can’t think of them any other way. To me it looks like the higher ups would rather have a dozen new victims than one guilty priest behind bars. The sickos think the optics are better that way. Which seems bizarre to me as even I know how to spin that into good PR for the church. Basically you turn over the evidence you have, let the abuser do their time and publicly try to rehabilitate him while he’s in prison. Have extra church events that talk about community and coming together for healing and stuff. Really easy things to do. But they’re not doing that and all the possible reasons I can imagine for why they’d make this choice are very disturbing.