1-09 Emerging Legal and Social Issues for Survivors, Perpetrators, and Enablers

SECTIONS ON THIS PAGE

  • Statutes of Limitation (SOL)
  • Formal or Hidden Means of Silencing of Victims
  • Ethics for Public Officials
  • Mandatory Reporting, Child Safeguarding
  • Legal, Social, and Media Consequences for “Enablers” of Abuse, Violence, Harassment

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This page notes topics that are emerging as discussions related to abuse perpetrators, those who enable and protect them, those who are survivors of abuse/violence, and the general public. Many of these topics are relevant to a series of actions required to dismantle political, financial, and other institutional means used to perpetuate systemic abuse.

The issues or topics are not necessarily new. But, in the “post-Weinstein era,” new events and news reports may bring into the public spotlight different nuances or renewed efforts to find solutions for unresolved problems. While I may develop more research sources on these issues, at this time the main point is to list them, along with key features. Listing here does not mean I have considered all relevant legal information — this is just to get a chain of source materials started.

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Statutes of Limitation (SOL)

Removing Statutes of Limitation laws on child sexual abuse/assault, because it often takes those victimized at a young age many years to understand what happened to them and then to seek justice. By this time, the SOL may have expired. Not only is this traumatizing for survivors and their support network, it may mean loss of time, funds, and energy invested into legal actions to achieve justice.

Achieving national consistency in Statutes of Limitation for laws on other forms of sexual assault, violence, etc.

EXAMPLE SITUATIONS

THE COSBY CASE AND SOLS IN CALIFORNIA, COLORADO, AND NEVADA. After Cosby, California Changes Its Rape Laws, by Matt Ford, The Atlantic, September 29, 2016. The article subtitle reads: “Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill eliminating the state’s statute of limitations for sex-related crimes on Wednesday.” The change was due to take effect January 1, 2017, but did not apply retroactively. The opening paragraphs:

California has eliminated its statute of limitations for rape and other sexual-assault charges—in a major change to its criminal code.

The measure, proposed by State Senator Connie Leyva, a Democrat from Chino, eliminated the state’s 10-year window on prosecuting a broad set of sex-related crimes. Governor Jerry Brown signed the measure into law Wednesday alongside dozens of other bills.

For a few additional details on how the Cosby case led to changes in Colorado and Nevada SOL laws, see California Passes Law Inspired by Bill Cosby Scandal, by Associated Press and THR Staff, The Hollywood Reporter, September 28, 2016.

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Formal or Hidden Means of Silencing of Victims

Challenging/outlawing required mandatory arbitration when there is reportedly sexual harassment in a business or other institution. The main arguments against mandatory arbitration are that it is required of employees, which removes options for other actions; and it is conducted privately and generally requires a non-disclosure agreement. This means that abusive people and a hostile workplace environment are potentially hidden from public knowledge in general, and other employees specifically, and this allows abuse people and situations to continue harming additional victims.

Challenging/outlawing/penalizing non-disclosure agreements, when used as a means to cover up known or probable criminal actions and thus allow perpetrators to continue those behaviors. This includes instances of so-called “catch and kill” tactics by media entities when used on behalf of alleged perpetrators. This is when reported victims of someone’s illegal or otherwise socially sanctioned behaviors have their account purchased by a media outlet, and there is a non-disclosure agreement as part of the payment contract, but then the story is never published. This means the person with the story cannot sell their account to another media outlet, or talk publicly about the incidents involved.

EXAMPLE SITUATIONS

HARVEY WEINSTEIN. The case of reported serial sexual harassment and assaults by Harvey Weinstein has opened the way for legal and social change, more than any other in recent years. This situation has brought into the public consciousness a better understanding of what credible accusations are, how sexual predators show distinct patterns of grooming behaviors to lure victims in and punishment and silencing to shut them up, and how other individuals and institutions knowingly participate in tactics that sustain a predator’s patterns. Here are some of the key articles that exposed the evil interconnections of his “complicity machine” and the depths of personal and professional damages done in the lives of his/their victims.

Harvey Weinstein Paid Off Sexual Harassment Accusers for Decades, by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, The New York Times, October 5, 2017.

How New York Times Reporters Broke Hollywood’s Biggest Sexual Harassment Story, by Brent Lang, Variety, December 2017. An interview with Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor, the investigative resporters who broke the story on Harvey Weinstein.

Weinstein’s Complicity Machine, by Megan Twohey, Jodi Kantor, Susan Dominus, Jim Rutenberg, and Steve Eder. The New York Times, December 5, 2017. “The producer Harvey Weinstein relied on powerful relationships across industries to provide him with cover as accusations of sexual misconduct piled up for decades.”

DONALD TRUMP AND THE NATIONAL ENQUIRER. This article defines “catch and kill,” and demonstrates how it worked in this situation. Donald Trump, a Playboy Model, and a System for Concealing Infidelity, by Ronan Farrow, The New Yorker, February 16, 2018. The subtitle reads: “One woman’s account of clandestine meetings, financial transactions, and legal pacts designed to hide an extramarital affair.”

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Ethics for Public Officials

Making it illegal to use taxpayer funds to pay for settlement of cases/disputes against elected or employed public officials. Penalizing or censuring failure to disclose the public source of funds for any such previous payments.

EXAMPLE SITUATIONS

US CONGRESS LINE-ITEM “HUSH FUND” TO PAY ABUSE/HARASSMENT VICTIMS. A “slush fund” is a secret, off-the-books account to avoid financial tracking and transparency, but the term is often used for even open financial arrangements for what seem to be questionable or outright unethical uses. After the Harvey Weinstein story broke in late 2017, it came out that a number of US congress people had their own situations of reported sexual assault or harassment, and that — in some cases — the victims had been paid off through either an on-the-books line-item fund using taxpayer money or through campaign donations. With the pay-out to settle the case, the victim would typically be under a non-disclosure agreement. In addition to a number of national and state politicians called out, this situation sparked more focused discussions of ethics and potential changes in the law.

U.S. Rep. Farenthold of Texas to retire amid sexual harassment scandal, by Abby Livingston, The Texas Tribune, December 14, 2017.

Should taxpayer funds be used for congressional slush funds to pay off sexual harassment accusers?, by Jesse Rifkin, GovTrack Insider, December 14, 2017. This article gives background on the 1995 Congressional Accountability Act, plus analysis of the currently proposed H.R. 4494 Congressional Accountability and Hush Fund Elimination Act.

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Mandatory Reporting, Child Safeguarding

Making all members of the general public mandatory reporters of known or suspected child abuse/neglect, child sexual abuse, and sexual assault.

Requiring training and certification on child safeguarding, as well as prevention of abuse, assault, and harassment, for business, non-profit, and public office leaders and staff.

EXAMPLE SITUATIONS

SOCIAL INSTITUTIONS. This decade has been marked by high-profile child sexual abuse scandals of situations with large-scale reach, in terms of the number of institutions involved or branches affected. These have perhaps prepared the public to understand better how investigating organizational complicity and cover-up is as crucial to dismantling systemic abuse as criminal investigations are to dealing with personal damages done through the original offenses. Here are some of those situations, with the year they broke in parentheses at the end.

The Penn State sexual abuse scandal involves conviction of Jerry Sandusky for serial sexual predation, an extensive investigation, and the arraignments of four high-level university administrators for related cover-up, and jail sentences being served by three officials. (2011)

Boy Scouts of America had to open its files about known pedophiles. (2012)

The British Broadcasting Company faced a growing child sexual abuse complicity/cover-up scandal that started with pedophila allegations against BBC presenter Jimmy Savile. (2012)

The 2015 movie Spotlight dealt with investigative reports released starting in January 2002 by The Boston Globe’s investigate team. The movie shared the story of their breaking through the systemic cover-up by Boston’s Catholic Diocese of serial sexual abuse by pedophile priests. The original reports are on The Boston Globe’s Spotlight page. The background story of the team’s process appears in Betrayal: The Crisis in the Catholic Church, by the investigative staff of The Boston Globe. (Be sure to get the 2015 edition, which includes a Preface from the movie’s director Tom McCarthy and screenwriter Josh Singer; and an Afterward by The Boston Globe staff.) In 2016, the movie won numerous awards, including the Academy Awards for Best Motion Picture and for Best Writing, Original Screenplay. (2015)

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CHURCH-RELATED: SOVEREIGN GRACE MINISTRIES (SGM)/SOVEREIGN GRACE CHURCHES (SGC). This church situation involving child sexual abuse and reported cover-up has long been known among “survivor bloggers.” It has taken on a higher profile in both secular and Christian news reporting and social media because Larry Nassar accuser Rachael Denhollander mentioned SGM as a reason why she and her husband lost their former home church. SGM has been connected with several cases of convicted pedophiles, and Grant Layman, one of their association’s pastors, stated under oath that he failed to report known child sexual abuse to the authorities. It is a complicated case, with accusations of various forms of misconduct and cover-up against past and present leaders.(The Denhollanders did not attend an SGM/SGC church, but another church that was supportive of some SGC figures, and so would not be a conducive place for the Denhollanders to bring sexual abuse and assault survivors.)

Here is a series of sources I posted on a Twitter thread, February 14, 2018. It was in response to a February 13 statement posted by current SGC leadership to counter a February 6 statement by Ms. Denhollander. I have edited the material slightly, since I’d condensed it to fit Twitter’s format. I’ve also added in some other links that I’d originally planned to put in that thread but removed them before I posted the series of tweets.

On February 13, 2018, Sovereign Grace Churches posted a lengthy response to Rachael Denhollander and questions they continue to face regarding past and present actions/inactions of their leaders and network. I have a few thoughts about this situation. I doubt SGC, et al, will ever gain the public trust needed for any statement they make to be accepted at face value after decades of what comes across as deflection and disinformation. The only way out seems to be an independent investigation with a full, transparent, public report. And the commendation of friends [e.g., Kevin DeYoung, Ray Ortlund, Justin Taylor – all of whom have received some significant pushback] cannot lend more than temporary trust and presumed credibility, in the face of continued statements that offer more words but still lack full transparency or accountability.

I also spent some time thinking about posts on background and specifics on why there are problems with SGC’s statement. Here’s what I came up with.

BACKGROUND NEWS REPORTS. The most comprehensive news and analysis of the overall situation comes from these two secular sources. The Washingtonian, The Sex-Abuse Scandal That Devastated a Suburban Megachurch: Inside the rise and fall of Sovereign Grace Ministries, by Tiffany Stanley (February 14, 2016). Time, Inside the Investigation into Child Sexual Abuse at Sovereign Grace Ministries, by Elizabeth Dias (February 16, 2016), in which she interviews Tiffany Stanley about the process of researching and writing her news story.

COUNTERPOINTS TO SGC’S STATEMENT. Some responses I saw came from Wendy Alsup, Brent Detwiler, and Warren Throckmorton. Others likely will appear throughout social media.

Then, RESEARCH/SURVIVOR BLOGS give extensive narratives, facts, and analysis on controversies intertwining SGM/SGC-related individual and institutions: C.J. Mahaney, The Gospel Coalition, Together 4 the Gospel conference, the Southern Baptist Convention, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, etc. Here are some of the ones that have multiple posts over many years.

SGM Survivors since 2007.

The Wartburg Watch since 2009.

Brent Detwiler since 2011.

ThouArtTheMan since 2012.

Spiritual Sounding Board since 2013.

Warren Throckmorton since 2013.

Even me on my Futuristguy blog since 2013.

Many others have posted or reported. But just read EVERY post from the above in their categories/tags on Sovereign Grace Ministries, Sovereign Grace Churches, C.J. Mahaney. These alone represent 100s of posts with 1000s of comments and multi-100k words from over 10 years of blogging.

Yet, we’re to believe that a mere 2,876 words from current SGC leadership is sufficient to cover the myriad of allegations and documentation from survivors and their families? From others directly and indirectly affected by SGM individuals and networks? From lawyers, researchers, and spiritual abuse bloggers?

Messrs. DeYoung, Ortland, and Taylor believe the SGC leaderships’ statement to be careful and helpful, to be worthy of commendation and respect, and to show integrity and forthright humility. I wonder: Can they respond to Ms. Denhollander’s points with countering facts and sources, sans SGC input?

As a final thought on the subject, critical questions about the situations of SGM/SGC and C.J. Mahaney have been ongoing for a quarter of a century. With the current renewal of interest in them, the long list of credible accusations about past and present behaviors by related individuals and institutions undoubtedly will bring deeper investigations. So, SGM/SGC may yet prove to be one of the systemic cases with key impact on any movement to clean up mandatory reporting laws and child safeguarding policies in Church and society. For sources that link to information on various protest campaigns and other resistance efforts against SGM/SGC and related individuals and institutional partners, see my April 12, 2016, post: An Open Letter to “Together for the Gospel”: Don’t Tether Your Future to C.J. Mahaney’s Past.

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Legal, Social, and Media Consequences

for “Enablers” of Abuse, Violence, Harassment

Exploring relevant forms of legal (criminal, civil) consequences to impose accountability upon individuals and institutions found to have “enabled” criminal and/or actions. For example:

  • Failed to report known/suspected abuse.
  • Hired/protected known child abuse perpetrators and gave them access to minors.
  • Hired/protected those known to have enabled/perpetuated abuse.
  • Discouraged victims (or their parents or legal guardians) from reporting sexual abuse or other illegal actions.
  • Failed to conduct background checks on all individuals having contact with minors, and as a result, a registered offender was employed or allowed to be a volunteer.

Instituting ther kinds of consequences — likely more social and media than civil/legal — could apply when the actions may not be criminal, but are still socially sanctioned (or should be). For example:

  • Bullied victims and their advocates on social media.
  • Posted falsehoods or other forms of disinformation online about specific abuse situations.
  • Gave non-credible apology for abusive actions.
  • Restored a known perpetrator of abuse, assault, or harassment to a position of public influence after he/she had been removed for illegal or otherwise inappropriate actions.

Often, these kinds of actions/inactions maintain an undeserved positive public image for the institutions involved. They also result in direct or indirect benefits to individuals involved — financial, power, prestige, opportunities, publicity, etc. Identifying the specific benefits may help find consequences appropriate to the offense. For instance:

  • Financial/Put pressure on outside entities to cancel book contracts and speaking engagements.
  • Power/Fire the individuals from their position of influence or authority.
  • Prestige/Publicly disavow the individuals and publish remediation plans as part of taking responsibility to repair the damage done.

EXAMPLE SITUATIONS

SOCIAL INSTITUTIONS: USA GYMNASTS. An ongoing situation in society involves Larry Nassar — convicted of child sexual abuse and having child pornography — plus the organizations that hired him or supposedly oversaw his work with gymnasts. This includes employees and board members from Michigan State University, USA Gymnastics, and the US Olympic Committee. Various of these institutions are conducting investigations, but some survivors are refusing to cooperate with them, citing the organizations’ failures to deal with the situation when earlier reports of abuse were lodged.

The public Facebook page of Rachael Denhollander provides one of the best sources for its first-hand accounts of victimization by Mr. Nassar, and links to related institutional issues that are unfolding. Ms. Denhollander was the first survivor to go public with the account of her experiences, and was noted for her key statement at the sentencing phase of Mr. Nassar’s criminal trial for sexual abuse of minors.

Why aren’t Nassar’s enablers going to prison, too? A culture of denial allowed girls to be abused, by Mike Wise, The Undefeated, February 21, 2018. This article considers the larger, systemic picture of how sexual abuse was perpetuated, and explores what kinds of consequences would be appropriate for those complicit in maintain this toxic system.

CHURCH-RELATED: ANDY SAVAGE AND HIGHPOINT CHURCH. An ongoing situation in the Church involves Jules Woodson, who reportedly was sexually assaulted by youth pastor Andy Savage in 1998 — plus ministers, churches, and networks that failed to report the assault and/or take actions against Mr. Savage which would have protected other potential victims. At the time of the reported assault, she was 17; he was 22 and the youth pastor at her home church in Texas. Church leaders who were informed about the assault did not report it to the authorities when it happened. Mr. Savage did not step away from ministry as a vocation, and he was soon involved with church leadership again in another state.

Ms. Woodson recently reported the incident to the authorities herself, although the Texas statute of limitation for that crime has expired. But, this put the incident on the record, which may make a difference if Mr. Savage happened to victimize others and they come forward. Her account of her experiences was posted by two blogs — The Wartburg Watch and Watch Keep — along with follow-up posts when related news broke, or with analysis of implications for a system of complicity that allowed Mr. Savage to remain in positions of influence. (For both blogs, see their post archive list starting in January 2018.) Some subsequent events include:

Mr. Savage confessed publicly to Highpoint Church — his current congregation — about what happened, apologized, and received a standing ovation from them. A few days later, he was interviewed by Texas radio host Ben Ferguson. In these and other times when Mr. Savage or other church leaders have talked about the situation, his version is that Ms. Woodson consented and so he was not (as) culpable.

Mr. Savage’s forthcoming book was canceled by Bethany Publishers, and a conference on marriage where he was due to be the main speaker was canceled. Mr. Savage was put on leave, and the situation is being investigated by MinistrySafe — although there are questions about the neutrality of this organization which is conducting the investigation because of connections the husband/wife team there may have with those under investigation.

Questions of complicity are being raised about (1) other churches that hired Mr. Savage between his time in Texas and at Highpoint Church, (2) what Highpoint Lead Pastor Chris Conlee knew and when, and why he apparently failed to report or repair the situation years earlier, and (3) potential culpability of other formal and informal networks that Highpoint is/was reported associated with, such as the Southern Baptist Convention and The Gospel Coalition.

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