As the father of four daughters, I have to say how stunned I am at the lack of empathy among teachers for the victims of sexual abuse in the cult—and this is from the very top of the “teacher” hierarchy. I have often commented to my wife about the lack of empathy in the Stanton COC. An underlying failing of the sect is a culture that is completely lacking in self-awareness; the inability to put oneself in another’s shoes, even for a brief moment. This relates to the topic of judging—in order to dismiss a victim of abuse, you must judge them as bringing it on themselves. But more on judging another time.
I’ve found empathy to be one of the most rewarding life-skills. Not that I’m great at it. But I do recognize that it’s one thing to sympathize—to feel sorry for someone in their distress. It is another thing entirely to empathize—to feel what they feel. This is what Scripture says about empathy:
“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” – Galatians 6:2
“Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep.” – Romans 12:15
“Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important.” – Galatians 6:2-3
“We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves.” – Romans 15:1
“Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose. Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.” – Philippians 2:2-4
“Try to do what is good for others, not just what is good for yourselves.” – 1 Corinthians 10:24
“Even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.” – 1 Corinthians 10:33
“This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other. If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad.” – 1 Corinthians 12:25-26
Indeed. All this takes empathy, which is several pay grades above sympathy.
So what is it with the victim-shaming at Stanton? By that, I am speaking of times when sexual abuse has happened, and instead of the perpetrator being called to account by teachers, the victim was blamed for not being spiritual enough. I don’t care what faults the victim might have, it doesn’t excuse the perpetrator from his or her actions.
I know something about this, since I had a foster daughter who was sexually assaulted after putting herself in a very unsafe situation. Yet what she needed to hear was empathy—whatever bad choices she made didn’t excuse the crime of the perpetrator. The perpetrator still was responsible for his actions. I hoped that she learned from the experience, but I also hoped that the perpetrator would be brought to justice.
How do I know anything about this, being a male? Because I love. When you love someone, you desperately seek their well-being, feel their pain, mentor them when you can, and rejoice in their victories. You don’t look down your nose at them. That’s not love.
That’s what is missing from Stanton’s power structure. Love and justice. Victims are shamed into a lifetime of guilt for actions that took place decades ago, either as innocent preteens, or as young teens when they were naive and vulnerable to the overtures of manipulative abusers.
But the power structure of Stanton COC continues to cover up the sexual abuse of members and children of members, for the sake of keeping the power structure in place. This is a gross abuse of authority, and must be stopped. If you have firsthand knowledge—and I emphasize the “firsthand” part—of sexual abuse covered up by the church, please email me confidentially.
Please don’t comment publicly, especially with names, unless it’s your story to tell; and even then, I ask for some caution. I can’t guarantee any specific course of action. I would just like to know how deep this goes, and figure out the wisest, most Christlike course of action based on what information comes to light. I have no doubt there are some people squirming right now. As they should be.