QC clergy encouraged to “start by believing” during abuse cases

DAVENPORT -  The shocking grand jury report of priests sexually abusing children in the Pittsburgh Diocese pinpoints an ongoing need for churches to better handle abuse cases.

"The brokenness of humanity surrounds us in all kinds of ways," said Rev. Elaine Olson, on Thursday, August 16.

Retired Pastor Olson spent time counseling abuse victims at the University of Illinois.  These days, she says that the clergy face a special challenge with these difficult issues.

"How do we use that power for a sense of embodying grace rather than surrounding silence, protecting the wrong people and not protecting the vulnerable," she continued.

During a seminar with Quad City clergy at St. Paul Lutheran Church, she advises that they start by believing abuse victims.

"What does God say in the midst of this?" she asked.  "Situations where there are no answers, and there's great pain."

She encourages churches to gently rebuild trust with respect, truthfulness, openness and honesty.

"The hardest part usually is calling our office and saying, I have been sexually assaulted," said Ashley Velez, Family Resources.  "Something bad happened to me.  I need help."

Family Resources offers free and confidential help at http://www.famres.org/ It also operates a toll free, 24-hour crisis line for domestic violence, sexual assault and other violent crimes.  Call (866) 921-3354 for help.

Velez agrees it's better that horrors like Pittsburgh's situation come to light.  It can eventually help to break down longtime barriers for victims.

"When victims have an opportunity to feel safe talking about it, they see that they're not alone," she concluded.

For places of faith, a different call to believe.