In our strict fundamentalist church, suspicion was our manna. We were suspicious of "Government schools" and "Government agencies" and "Government officials." The Government was always out to get us.
But somehow, we were not suspicious enough of ourselves. As it turns out, the worst abuse never came from the Big, Bad, Scary Government. The worst abuse came from within. And because our religious system was particularly patriarchal, women and children were the primary victims.
Where can a child turn for help when a "dear brother" moves into her communal home and molests her when no-one is looking?
How do you say no to the nice Children's Bible Teacher who likes all the little girls to sit in his lap? Why do you have to hug the old man who gives you the creeps?
How do you tell your mother that a boy put his hands down your pants during the drive up to Bible camp?
Here's the thing: you don't. You don't say anything because you don't even understand what is happening. When I was growing up, we didn't even talk about sex, let alone sexual molestation.
And even if you did know you were being molested, you assumed it was your fault. At least, that's what you believed because ratting out a person in authority was sure to result in your own punishment. Plus, who would believe a child's word over a trusted, spiritually mature adult?
I was not sexually molested as a child. But other girls in my church were. People like to think that church nurseries, church schools and home-schools are safe–that sexual molestation doesn't happen there.
I think that's probably the worst assumption to make. Children are vulnerable precisely because they are children–and that doesn't change just because you're surrounded by Christians.
In fact, in a church setting, a parents' idealism and lofty "heavenly vision" can act as blinders. We don't want to be suspicious of those we trust. We especially don't want to be suspicious of our fellow Christians.
But for the sake of our children, we should never cease to be suspicious.
If I had it my way, every single Sunday school teacher, nursery worker and Bible camp counselor would be fully vetted with complete background checks, fingerprinting and personal references.
I think it's the least we can do for our children, don't you?