What about when people are lying and make false allegations? Shouldn’t the organization (church or school) sort that out before going to the police so that a good man’s reputation can be preserved?
Answer: Unfortunately, these fears have motivated many church leaders to conduct private “investigations” in order to be sure of the truthfulness of a claim. This approach was alleged to have been used in some of the stories of victimization in the BJU situation.
This is a quotation of what he said about concerns over the possibility of a false accusation:
“Although all child protection professionals need to be mindful of the possibility of false allegations, a number of studies conclude that false claims of sexual abuse are rare and that when children do lie, it is usually done to protect the perpetrator, not to get any one in trouble. Law enforcement officers and other child protection professionals have made great strides in the past 25 years, improving their skills in interviewing abused children and in collecting evidence—thus further reducing the risk of false allegations. Accordingly, it is unreasonable for any pastor to automatically assume that an allegation of abuse, even against a respected member of the church, is untrue.”
False claims, especially claims made by children, are not common. And as to the assumption that one who has a good reputation may have been falsely accused, it’s equally important to remember that those who prey upon children are often the nicest people, everybody’s friend, the most helpful, and the last person you might suspect.
In this same article, Vieth offers some shocking statistics:
“…the faith community needs to be cognizant that sex offenders are often religious and many of them attend church. In a study of 3,952 male sex offenders, 93% of these perpetrators described themselves as ‘religious.’ There is some evidence that ‘religious’ sex offenders may be the most dangerous category of offenders. One study found that sex offenders maintaining significant involvement with religious institutions ‘had more sexual offense convictions, more victims, and younger victims.’” This is sobering information indeed.
Therefore, it’s vital that only skilled forensic interviewers analyze the evidence to determine the potential validity of a claim of sexual abuse. No one other than those who are trained should take it upon themselves to try to make these determinations, because doing so can actually compromise a lawful investigation. In the state of South Carolina, Mandated Reporters are even warned never to do this. You can read the full training document from the SC Children’s Law Center here.