A new report commissioned by the Southern Baptist Convention reveals a long history of sexual abuse coverups by the denomination’s own leaders. After multiple reports of abuse and assault, Southern Baptist Convention delegates made the decision last summer to appoint a third-party entity, Guidepost Solutions, to examine the conduct of organization leaders from the year 2000 to the present. This required the executive committee to relinquish 20 years’ worth of confidential documents to the investigation agency.
The official report of investigation findings, published in May, shows numerous instances of mishandled sexual abuse and assault allegations. The report also disclosed that a former president of the denomination was accused of sexual assault in 2010. The denomination’s current president, Ed Litton, stated in an interview that the findings were “far worse” than what he and fellow denomination leaders had anticipated at the time the investigation was commissioned.
It was clear from the report that top-level leaders in the Protestant organization protected the names of sexual abuse perpetrators for decades. The names found in the internal documents examined by the investigation agency included individuals convicted of criminal sexual assault, as well as those who were accused of or admitted to sexual offenses within their respective churches.
The Southern Baptist executive board at one time attempted to shield itself by claiming that the board was not responsible for actions committed at the individual church level. This led to a situation in which convicted abusers could easily transfer from church to church, even across state lines, and often with the knowledge of the executive committee.
Survivors of sexual assault may find some reassurance that their stories are finally being validated. Many of these survivors were forced to live with the consequences of abusers’ actions for decades, with little way to prevent these sex crimes from continuing. Survivor Christa Brown, who advocated more than 15 years ago for stronger accountability for Southern Baptist church leaders, said in an interview that exposure of the truth is a vital first step toward healing. “For survivors to heal, this kind of validation is an acknowledgment of the truth of the horror of what was done to us.”
While the report may be an important step toward healing, there is still much work to be done in organizations, like the Southern Baptist denomination, which have allowed abuse to go unchecked for decades. Civil law is an important tool in holding sex offenders accountable for their actions, and in preventing abusers from continuing to commit crimes without fear of penalty or repercussion.
Thomas Law Offices represents survivors of sexual abuse or assault nationwide. We make it our mission to stand up for individuals who were victimized by sex offenders and the organizations that hid their actions from the public. By filing civil lawsuits with our clients, we work to achieve justice and hold abusers accountable for the irreparable damage they cause. Through our actions, we aim toward a future in which no one lives in fear of the actions of sex crime perpetrators.
We know that deciding to take action against an abuser is an indescribably difficult first step. Our attorneys are compassionate and experienced in handling these types of cases. We have a deep knowledge of the law and a driving desire to make sure that our clients achieve the outcome they deserve. Through every step of the process, we will support, protect, listen to, and advocate for you. Reach out to our office to schedule a free and confidential case evaluation with a qualified sexual assault lawyer from Thomas Law Offices.