Friday, June 14, 2019

Abuse Whistleblower Rachael Denhollander on Why Survivors Know How Extensive Abuse Is in Southern Baptist Churches

Rachael Denhollander was a courageous whistleblower in the case of Larry Nassar, who sexually assaulted her at age 15. When she came forward with her claims about Nassar, Immanuel Baptist, the church to which she and her husband Jacob Denhollander (a Southern Baptist seminary student)  belonged, refused to support her. They then left that church and joined another.

Rachael Denhollander spoke on a panel about abuse at the recent Southern Baptist Convention meeting. Judy Woodruff interviewed her this week on behalf of PBS. Here's Denhollander on why she and others have not been surprised as the extent of abuse covered up in Southern Baptist churches begins to be revealed:

The top Protestant insurance companies receive more claims of sexual abuse by clergy than even the Catholic insurance companies receive. And the number one reason that Protestant organizations have been held liable in federal court for more than a decade is with — is for the issue of sexual abuse. 
So this has not come as a surprise to survivors and advocates.

As Ruth Krall's excellent essay encouraging us to adopt a pan-denominational approach to understanding sex abuse of vulnerable people by religious leaders notes, such abuse is not confined to the Catholic church — though the problem in the Catholic church is horrendous and has rightly received significant media attention. The abuse of vulnerable people by religious leaders is far wider than the Catholic community, and abuse outside the confines of the Catholic church is now receiving well-deserved attention — though many Americans remain convinced that the problem is largely isolated within the Catholic church and seem unwilling to hear news of abuse within other Christian denominations, and it's worth asking ourselves why that's the case, isn't it?

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