WINGS is conscious of the enormous disruption occurring within the fellowship as light is shined on the serious issues of Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) cases that have occurred and been mismanaged in the past.
Many are asking “what can we do?”
For more than a decade, WINGS has been advocating for implementation of changes to prevent harm to children. Pockets of improvement have occurred. However, there are still many changes to be implemented.
Historic attitudes and practices have allowed children to be harmed and further harm to survivors who were not believed or supported. Openness and transparency, victims being believed, and support of survivors on their healing journey is critical.
Although fellowship members may not consider they are part of an organisation, people act within the group with a degree of organisation and levels of responsibility. The benefits of being an international group where people freely move between areas, connect with others with the same beliefs and instinctively trust creates risk. Work already done for other organisations can easily be applied across the fellowship to protect children.
This statement is focused on child safety for young people in the fellowship.
Action must be taken now to protect children within the fellowship. We call upon all within the fellowship to advocate in your area for change.
WINGS calls for the following steps to be taken to keep children safe:
- Groups must be set up to develop and govern child safety to ensure that there is consistent good practice across the worldwide fellowship.
- Involve workers (including sister workers), elders, friends, young people and professionals. Heed external advice. Wisdom and knowledge doesn’t reside solely in overseers.
- Policies and processes for child safety must be documented, shared with all members and regularly reviewed.
- Codes of conduct for workers must be in place, attested to and monitored for compliance.
- Training and education must occur for workers and elders, with compliance monitored and recorded regularly.
- Complaint management processes must be transparent and adhered to.
- Families and all attendees must be openly informed and regularly communicated with and involved in decisions impacting on children.
- Ensure that all regions globally implement these new practices.
- Voluntarily examine history and be open about past CSA cases that were not disclosed or were handled inadequately e.g. workers who quietly left and married; or were just shifted to another area; victims who were shame silenced.
- Learn from one another globally and share information openly.
- Recognise that this is a new normal that must continue forever.
- Acknowledge that adult abuse (physical, sexual, emotional) is different to CSA but is also unacceptable.
Simply ask your overseer:
- What is our policy to keep children safe?
- Can I see the policy and workers code of conduct?
- Have all workers had training and police checks and is it being kept up to date?
- How do you manage allegations and complaints about abuse?
- Are there current attendees in my meeting with CSA allegations?
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you require support or access to further information.
The below information may be useful for those wanting to understand what others do to address these matters in volunteer groups across the world.
Keeping Children Safe is an international group that is focused on child safeguarding. Its International Child Safeguarding Standards (ICS Standards) have general principles that are relevant to the friends and workers fellowship:
- All children have equal rights to protection from harm
- Everybody has a responsibility to support the protection of children
- Organisations have a duty of care to children with whom they work, are in contact with, or who are affected by their work and operations
- All actions on child safeguarding are taken in the best interests of the child, which are paramount.
They call for 4 key actions:
- Policy (written document specific to the group) that describes how it is committed to preventing and responding appropriately to harm to children, i.e. a documented approach to keeping children safe.
- People – clear responsibilities and expectations are placed on people (i.e. workers code of conduct). Supports them to understand and act in line with these.
- Procedures are in place to keep children safe.
- Accountability – Measures in place are monitored and enforced.
Another useful resource is https://www.stopitnow.org/ohc-content/safety-planning-within-faith-based-communities
This is a very helpful letter. It should be sent to every worker and attendee in the world.
Does any area have a working complaint recording system? If, yes, we need info on how it is structured.
Rebekah, I’m thinking maybe you’re pointing out the need for a list of the confirmed accused/ removed CSA/SA offenders so that where they are can be tracked, and we don’t unwittingly allow them back into elder/ work/ meetings etc in new areas. I’ve been thinking we need a globally coordinated blacklist essentially b/c in the past offenders have just moved from one area to the next repeatedly over the years. People in the new areas essentially would not know what issues happened in other states or countries without doing some serious digging for dirt…which we wouldn’t do typically to my knowledge. Also thinking we need overseers/ workers to practice reaching back to previous overseers/ workers in an area to understand a person’s history before accepting people in the work or as elder/ in meeting in a new country or state. In my state alone I suspect we’ve seen all of the following issues over the past 4 decades:
1. former overseer didn’t relay serious behavior red flags to new overseer. First overseer might have had enough information to remove the brother from the work(not sure).
2. a different former and deceased overseer mishandled a serious issue possibly b/c he himself was guilty if a similar crime.
3. A perpetrator from here got caught, eventually quit (or was removed I don’t know) the work, moved states and married, offended again moved states again and was made elder again in that 3rd state…probably unwittingly in the 3rd state.
4. A man in the work who I suspect is actively looking for consensual adult relationships left (or was removed here UNK to me) the work offering for the work in a foreign country (he was put on the list as resting there recently, but still telling people in the states he’s only considered resting here in the US). He is now applying to work in a 3rd country where the same behavior will likely continue.
For these reasons and more, I think we need global collaboration on what amounts to a blacklist. I am not aware of such a list existing in any local region, but any of several overseers could likely shed light on the answer to that question…maybe even the two overseers for the U.S.?
Of course, reporting people to law enforcement helps too with getting offenders onto the offender registry in places where that is practiced. That said, names aren’t there to my limited knowledge, so we would just have an idea of where an offender resides generally rather than who it is in some places…i.e. I wouldn’t know if some such person was in my gospel meeting for example.
Thank you for the ideas. I am noting the different scenarios you mentioned.
Yes! Such a list has been needed for decades!
How are survivors being supported?
What compensation programs is The truth/2x2s funding?
What governance is the group setting up – registered, auditable organizations which pay tax & have employee + volunteer agreements?
Where are donations recorded? Where are the policies & procedures about convicted & accused abusers attending events/church ?
What language is used to describe survivors, what policies are in place to ensure they’re not undermined, dismissed & further harmed when sharing their experiences?
In addition to Wings, advocatesforTHEtruth.com (THE is highlighted b/c w/o it you get unrelated content) has shown exceptional leadership in practicing compassion for survivors in several ways that I’ll guess at b/c I don’t have first- hand knowledge (listening, professionally investigating, maintaining confidentiality, law enforcement reporting, and also reporting to overseers, etc to ensure these removals get accomplished as they should). Furthermore advocatesforTHEtruth.com has a donations page that several of us have been contributing to. The website is very new, and the content relatively small at this time, but as traffic and awareness of this site increases, the fundraising should accelerate too. If the rumors of large accounts available to some overseers is true (I have no personal knowledge to confirm); then, significant portions of those funds should be directed to helping survivors pay for therapy also. Obviously we as a group should be practicing compassion to survivors as well.
I’ve already ventured out of my depth, and will a little more here….I am not a professional, I am a parent.
It has also been recommended by at least one professional on this site that one of the signs of repentance for offenders is for them to pay for therapy for their victim survivors. If memory serves, some of the early letters from the investigating team in Oregon made a point that if we are to become aware of survivors that we protect their privacy by not discussing their case with them or others. Also per ministry safe training we are encouraged to report suspicions to professional investigators promptly and be careful to avoid trying to investigate ourselves wrt CSA cases especially.
My experience has been that Sunday meeting elders receive notifications like the ones posted on this site when people in their areas have been affected, and they in turn are asked to inform those in their meetings. This is an imperfect system obviously. Many of us young to old are aware of Wings, Advocates, FB, etc and are discussing this tragedy regularly among ourselves and trying to find ways to help.
I know a team of professionals is working with the overseer in my state on policies as I’ve previously written in response to the Tomlinson’s letter asking for ideas.
Sorry I can’t answer all your questions, but hope this helps a little.
Has anyone heard anything from/about Barry Barkley and Ray Hoffman? The buck stops with them and they are 100% responsible for the decades of abuse that they pretty much sanctioned by working hard at ensuring the secrecy thrived.
I’ve been asking that question for weeks! They have no problem sending out the convention prep list, visiting worker list even special meeting list for 2023 Winter meetings BUT nothing about Hodgie Holgersen to us in parts of Virginia. Like I keep saying if it wasn’t for this sight I would know hardly anything about the huge COVERUP!