Ministry is messy because it involves broken people. If you are in ministry for any amount of time you will encounter heartbreaking brokenness of abuse and neglect. Abuse and neglect are especially prevalent in the disability community and churches must be prepared when, not if, they encounter it. The United States Department of Justice reports […]
Ministry is messy because it involves broken people. If you are in ministry for any amount of time you will encounter heartbreaking brokenness of abuse and neglect. Abuse and neglect are especially prevalent in the disability community and churches must be prepared when, not if, they encounter it.
The United States Department of Justice reports that 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 5 boys will be sexually abused by the time they are 18 years old. Children with disabilities are abused at three times the rate of children without disabilities. And children with IDD (intellectual and developmental disabilities) are abused at five times the rate of their typical peers.i
Another study confirms that people with IDD are at the greatest risk of abuse compared to the general population. This study on violence and disability shows that risk is four to ten times greater.ii
People with IDD and the reality of abuse.iii
Tend to be abused more frequently
Are abused for longer periods
Are less likely to access the justice system
Are more likely to be abused by a caregiver or someone they know
Are more likely to remain in abusive situations
Why does this happen?
People with IDD are perceived as weak and less likely to report
People with IDD are often isolated
People with IDD often find it difficult to report abuse effectively
People with IDD fear they will not be believed if they report
Okay, what should do when you inevitably encounter abuse or neglect in ministry?
When should you report? Immediately! A conversation can save a life.
Who should report?
Everyone! 28 States and Guam currently include clergy as mandated reporters. 18 States and Puerto Rico include “anyone” who suspects child abuse or neglect as a mandated reporter.
How to report?
Treat the suspected or confirmed information that you have like a hot potato. You never want to be the last person holding that information because the responsibility lies on you if you do not report it.
Always report up. If you are a volunteer, report it to your team leader or staff direct report. If you are a staff member, share it with your direct report. This is not gossip that should be shared flippantly with all the other volunteers in the room.
Do not sit on the information. Suspected or confirmed cases of abuse or neglect are not something that you should just pray about and hope gets better. It is something that you are legally mandated to report. It should be reported immediately, but no less than 24 hours after being notified.
Document everything! Gather all the information you can from whoever has brought the suspected or confirmed abuse or neglect to your attention. The more information you have the better. Gather names, ages, family members’ names, phone numbers, and addresses for everyone involved. If your ministry does not keep good records the time to start is now! It is helpful to have a ministry incident report form that can be filled out with all the necessary information.
Call your local child and protective services for children. For adults, call your local board of developmental disabilities reporting hotline.
Keep a copy of all reported incidents in a locked file in the ministry leader’s office.
Every state is a little different. Below are two resources to bookmark.
• For suspected child abuse or neglect: Click here. • For suspected abuse or neglect involving a person with IDD: Click here.
Smith, N. and Harrell, S. March 2013. Sexual Abuse of Children with Disabilities: A National Snapshot. Center on Victimization
Sobsey, D., D. Wells, R. Lucardie, and S. Mansell. 1995. Violence and Disability: An Annotated Bibliography. Baltimore, MD. Brookes Publishing.
People with Disabilities Affected by Violence: Court Advocacy and Intervention Tips. I-CAN Accessibility Project, Virginia Commonwealth University School of Social Work & Partnership for People with Disabilities, Jackie Robinson, 2012. Retrieved from here.
It is Ryan's passion to equip and empower churches, organizations, and individuals to reach their disability communities for Jesus. Ryan comes to Ability Ministry with 15+ years of ministry experience. He previously worked at First Christian Church in Canton, Ohio as their full-time Disability Pastor. He also worked as a Church Consultant for Key Ministry. Micah 6:8 and Proverbs 31:8 best describe Ryan's commitment to life and ministry.