Boz Tchividjian, grandson of the Rev. Billy Graham and an activist who speaks out against sexual abuse in churches, has opened up about some of the horror stories victims have shared with him.
“My focus is on the church because that’s where I grew up, that’s where I’ve seen some of the horrors. That’s where I’ve encountered survivors who, in tears, tell me that they can’t pray to God because the man who abused them was praying when he abused them, or reading Scripture while he was raping them,” Tchividjian told Vice.com in a recent interview.
Tchividjian leads the Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment organization, which investigates sexual abuse in Christian circles.
A common thread in much of his research is that many churches do not have policies to deal with accusations of abuse, and often times the abuser, and not the victim, gets protected.
He pointed to data from insurance providers that shows that sexual abuse goes on in Protestant churches just as much, if not more so, as in Roman Catholic ones.
A major problem, he said, is that too many pastors still don’t want to talk about and ignore issues related to abuse.
“We have to educate our church leaders about this issue so we can try and eliminate victim blaming when disclosures are made. Telling the victim it was their fault because of how they were dressed or were acting, or forcing them to forgive the offender, just compounds the shame they are already going through,” Tchividjian said.
He said that males get abused as well, but often times they are silent because of shame.
“I’ve had male survivors tell me they didn’t want anyone in the church to know because they thought that they would be labeled a future offender and everyone would keep their kids away, or they would be accused of being gay,” he revealed.
The GRACE founder noted that delving into the reality of sexual abuse sometimes presents very tough challenges for believers.
“When you grow up as an evangelical Christian you have this nice neat view of God and the world. And when you start doing this work, that all gets shattered. Because how do you answer when someone asks you, ‘Where was God when my dad was coming into my room every night and molesting me? Was he watching? Why didn’t he stop him?’ Those are questions I don’t have answers to. All I can do is grieve with them and maybe get a little angry,” he stated.
“But studying who Jesus was while He lived on this Earth has given me a greater appreciation for who He was in relation to this issue. There was no greater defender of children than Jesus.”
Tchividjian told The Christian Post in an interview back in 2015 that churches must do better in their response to sex abuse.
“[Churches] should be the place where children and survivors feel most safe and most loved,” Tchividjian told CP at the time.
“My prayer is that one day churches will be the place offenders feel the least safe knowing that the church is vigilantly watching over its children and won’t hesitate to report suspected abuse to the God-ordained authorities. I think Jesus requires nothing less of us.”