RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–In response to recent concerns expressed by victims who were sexually abused on the mission field 30 years ago, the International Mission Board has created a hotline to help any victims of similar situations report their abusers and get help for their trauma.
The toll-free number will help people report incidents of abuse or inappropriate relationships — either past or present — to IMB staff members who can respond to the concern, said Mark Whitworth, a member care consultant for the board and former missionary to Japan.
“We very rarely receive reports of such problems, but we don’t want that to be because a victim feels he or she has nowhere to turn for help,” Whitworth said. “This phone line will make it easier for people to call for help, which in turn will allow us to gather the information we need to respond in an appropriate and timely manner.”
The addition of the phone number grew out of recent communications with people who experienced sexual abuse as children on the mission field in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
“It’s sad that things like this happen, especially to children and especially on the mission field,” said Sharron Hawk, another member care consultant at the board who served as a missionary in Nigeria. “We know we are not immune to problems like this, and we want people to know that we care and that we are committed to reaching out to victims and dealing decisively with abusers.”
The International Mission Board has strict written policies that address sexual misconduct and outline procedures for handling known violations. Grounds for termination include sexual assault or harassment, pedophilia and sexual misconduct involving a minor. The board maintains an ongoing review of sexual misconduct policies and provides continuous training of personnel to promote awareness and prevent sexual misconduct.
Like the IMB, other Christian missions agencies also have responded to the concern by reviewing their policies and procedures regarding sexual misconduct.
Information about the toll-free number is being provided directly to current and former missionaries and their children.