2-02 Independent vs. Internal Investigations


  • Overview of Key Issues Regarding Investigations into Abuse Accusations
  • GRACE: Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment
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Overview of Key Issues Regarding

Investigations into Abuse Accusations

Some institutions accused of harboring abusive employees, volunteers, and/or board members will respond by conducting their own “internal” investigation. Others will arrange for a “third party investigation.” In either case, the institution may or may not release the report — in full or in part — or even summarize the findings. There typically is the expectation that having done or hired out an investigation is sufficient to show sincerity in dealing with the accusations and consequences.

However, past experiences of such investigations in both society and church/ministry communities often raises issues about the legitimacy of investigators’ independence. Whether conducted by an internal individual/group or contracted with an outside individual/agency, these are typical issues that arise:

  • Whether the firm has an inherent bias in favor of the individuals or groups paying them.
  • Whether there are relational, financial, organizational, or other types of conflicts of interest between investigators and the individuals and institutions being investigated.
  • Whether there will be full transparency in releasing the report (with the exception of redacted names of victims, for instance), or at least key findings and recommendations will be released, or whether it will be kept secret.
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GRACE: Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment

At this time, GRACE is the only organization I know of to whole-heartedly recommend as trustworthy for doing independent, transparent investigations without the issues of bias and conflicts of interest. GRACE has become a trusted resource for abuse survivors, because it has lived up to its promise for “Conducting Independent, Thorough and Objective Abuse-Related Investigations.”

It is headed by former prosecuting lawyer Boz Tchividjian. According to his profile on the Board of Directors page, “He is a former assistant state attorney, who served as chief prosecutor in the Sexual Crimes Division, where he gained experience in cases involving sexual abuse, and later served as the attorney for the Child Advocacy Center in Daytona Beach, Florida.” Many of the other board members are also known in and trusted by abuse survivor communities.

For details and links to some public reports of GRACE investigations, see the Independent Investigation section on the GRACE site, in the How We Help tab.

The October 16, 2015, Religion News Service article by Boz Tchividjian — Are abuse survivors best served when institutions investigate themselves?includes an introduction and sections on control of: the investigator, the process, the findings, and the final report.

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