Resolution of Witness in Support of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse and Neglect

The Business Committee of the Thirty-first General Synod has recommended this proposed
resolution be sent to a Committee of the General Synod

Resolution of Witness in Support of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse and Neglect

A Resolution of Witness

Submitted by Central Atlantic Conference

WHEREAS, Jesus declared in Matthew 25:40, “Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done
96 it unto one of the least of these, ye have done it unto me”;
98 WHEREAS, Jesus asked in Matthew 7:9, “What man is there of you, whom if his son asks for
99 bread, will he give him a stone?”;
101 WHEREAS, Jesus says in Matthew 18: 6-7, “But who so shall offend one of these little ones
102 which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he
103 were drowned in the depth of the sea”;
105 WHEREAS, one in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually assaulted before they reach the
age of eighteen;1
108 WHEREAS, the incidence rate of child abuse and neglect is 10 times as high (40 children per
109 1,000 children per year) as the incidence rate for all forms of cancer (3.9 individuals per 1,000
individuals per year),2
112 WHEREAS, children in their first year have the highest rate of victimization (24.4 children per
1,000 children) among individuals in respect to any one-year span in the national population;3
WHEREAS, 80% of perpetrators are parents;4
117 WHEREAS, Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES), or the various forms of abuse and neglect
118 (e.g., psychological, physical, sexual) that children experience often as a result of household
119 dysfunction (e.g., domestic violence, substance abuse, mental illness), are the most preventable
120 causes of serious mental illness, drug and alcohol abuse in women, and high-risk behavior (e.g.,
121 IV drugs, promiscuity) for HIV, as well as significant contributors to the leading causes of death
in the general population (heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, and suicide);5
124 WHEREAS, ACES have a negative impact on child development, as manifested in adverse
125 neurobiological effects (e.g., brain abnormalities, stress hormone dysregulation), deleterious
126 psychosocial consequences (e.g., poor attachment, poor socialization, poor self-efficacy), and
significant health-risk behaviors (e.g., smoking, obesity, substance abuse, promiscuity);6
129 WHEREAS, ACES also have significant long-term consequences, including the occurrence and
130 recurrence of various diseases, dysfunctional coping and disabilities (e.g., major depression,
131 suicide, PTSD, drug and alcohol abuse, heart disease, cancer, chronic lung disease, sexually
132 transmitted diseases, intergenerational transmission of abuse), and assorted social problems (e.g.,
133 homelessness, prostitution, criminal behavior, dysfunctional parenting, inordinate utilization of
health and social services), often resulting in shortened lifespans;7
136 WHEREAS, the estimated total lifetime financial costs associated with all confirmed cases of
137 child maltreatment (physical abuse, sexual abuse, and psychological abuse and neglect) is
approximately $124 billion for every year of maltreatment;
140 WHEREAS, arbitrary statutes of limitations deny most adult survivors of child abuse and neglect
141 some means of just recompense for the crimes committed against them as children, as it is very
142 common for survivors to struggle for decades (and long after the expiry of such statutes) before
143 properly making the connection between childhood abuse and the struggles they often
144 experience;
146 WHEREAS, eliminating such statutes of limitations will provide many such survivors the
147 opportunity to gain just recompense from their perpetrators and/or the organizations that failed to
protect them (e.g., schools, daycare centers, religious associations, sports clubs, activity clubs);
150 WHEREAS, many survivors of child abuse and neglect often experience spiritual struggles in the
151 course of healing, trying to come closer to God as they question how God could allow such
abuse and neglect to happen in the first place.10 152 Indeed, trauma can shake people’s faith in a
153 natural or divine order and cast them into a state of existential crisis whereby they begin to lose
154 trust in an all-powerful and good God, assume that their world is anything but safe and wellordered,
and believe that they themselves are wicked and deserving of bad outcomes;11 155
157 Whereas, for some survivors, the loss of positive religious beliefs (e.g., in the goodness of others,
158 in spiritual and faith traditions, in a beneficent God) or the learning of negative religious beliefs
159 (e.g., that bad things happen because of divine sanction or retribution for individual sin or sins)
160 that often accompanies traumatization can be debilitating. Indeed, such loss or learning can fuel
161 the shame, guilt, despair, and hopelessness that undergird suicidality and harmful risk taking, as
well as adversely impact the ability and desire to show love to others.12 162
164 WHEREAS, insofar as the retention or acquirement of authentic religious beliefs and a
165 salubrious spirituality protects some survivors against suicide or contributes more generally to
166 their process of healing, the traumatized may also come to a point in their recovery when they
167 benefit by giving service back to others, both within and outside their religious community.
168 Finding ways that survivors can serve others or contribute to a higher cause can help them find
169 meaning and purpose in what they have experienced and in their lives. Often the survivors’
170 religious community can facilitate this kind of service, helping them to take down the walls they
have put up to protect themselves. 13 171
173 WHEREAS, abused children normally do not tell anyone about their abuse; and even when they
174 become adults, they either never tell anyone or wait for years/decades before disclosing their
abuse because of the fear of negative responses from others;14 175
177 WHEREAS, in United States history, not one President or member of Congress has ever put the
178 plight of adult survivors of child abuse on the national agenda;
180 WHEREAS, the media has been complicit in the fact that there has never been a national
181 discussion about the plight of adult survivors of child abuse and neglect; and
183 WHEREAS, there is no national database to report accurately on the number of adult survivors
184 of child abuse and neglect in the United States, thus negatively impacting the capacity to provide
adequate services for survivors;15 185
187 THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the Thirty-First General Synod of the United Church of
188 Christ not only reaffirms and supports past General Synod resolutions advocating for the welfare
189 of children but also now calls upon the various settings of the UCC to address publicly the
190 healing needs of adult survivors of child abuse and neglect by reinforcing the truth that survivors
191 are not to blame for their victimization and that the United Church of Christ welcomes them in
192 experiencing God’s love and compassion within its community of radical inclusivity;
194 BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, the Thirty-First General Synod of the United Church of Christ
195 encourages each Association and congregation of the United Church of Christ to educate its
196 members that adult survivors are, for the most part, invisible because of the compulsion they
197 have felt since childhood not to self-disclose, as well as to train its members to respond
198 positively to those who are ready to self-disclose (probably for the first time) through words and
199 deeds that are accepting, validating, non-judgmental, and non-pressuring;
201 BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Thirty-First General Synod of the United Church of
202 Christ asks the UCC’s national setting to assist in such educating and training by creating and
203 disseminating a study guide that can be used by churches as they seek to minister
204 compassionately and effectively to adult survivors of child abuse and neglect; and
206 BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Thirty-First General Synod of the United Church of
207 Christ calls upon the various settings of the UCC to work with state and federal representatives
208 to strengthen the Americans with Disabilities Act so that mental disabilities are accommodated
209 just as much as physical disabilities in the workplace; to encourage state and federal lawmakers
210 to develop a standardized method of reporting child mental, emotional, physical, and sexual
211 abuse and/or child neglect by clinicians, criminal justice organizations, social service providers,
212 healthcare organizations, insurance companies, researchers, and public policy makers; to
213 encourage state and federal lawmakers to eliminate statutes of limitations for child abuse and
214 neglect, as such statutes infringe upon the procedural due process rights of adult survivors of
215 child abuse and neglect by denying them access to the courts and thereby to legal justice; and to
216 work with the media and state and federal legislators to focus strongly on the need to support
217 adult survivors of child abuse and neglect.
219 Funding:
221 The funding for the implementation of the Resolution will be made in accordance with the
222 overall mandates of the affected agencies and the funds available.
224 Implementation:
226 The Collegium of Officers, in consultation with appropriate ministries or other entities within the
227 United Church of Christ, will determine the implementing body

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