August 2, 2023

Campaign Seeks to Raise Awareness About Sexual Abuse

Experts especially rally against incidents perpetrated by church members and leaders.

Lake Union Herald, and Adventist Review
“Sarah” is portrayed by a professional actress (left). [Photo: Dave Sherwin]. Sarah’s diary (right). [Photo: Cheri Corder]

“Sexual abuse is always harmful,” Ann Hamel explains in the 2023 enditnow material, “but when it is perpetrated by someone claiming to follow Jesus, it is even more damaging. This is because there is now the automatic additional layer of spiritual abuse. When the abuse is by a Christian leader, the damage is obviously even greater.”

Enditnow is an initiative of the General Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church to address abuse. Every year, material on some aspect of abuse is sent to churches around the world, and churches are encouraged to present that material to their congregations on the fourth Sabbath of August. The Women’s Ministries leaders receive material that they can adapt for both a sermon and a workshop. This year, in addition to the written resources, there are videos of both the sermon and the workshop. They are geared for use on a Sabbath in a local church setting, but they may also be used at other times and in other contexts, such as faculty meetings in schools.

The material was co-authored by Ann Hamel, a psychologist with the International Service Employee Support Team of the General Conference, and Cheri Corder, who has been involved with Women’s Ministries for more than 35 years. Corder presents the sermon and Hamel presents the workshop.

The sermon is titled “Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing: When those who claim to be followers of Jesus harm others.” It provides an overview of sexual abuse when it is perpetrated by members and especially leaders in the church. The material includes seven true examples to help illustrate the concepts shared and looks at how abuse can happen, the impact of abuse, and how we can respond to it. There is a special message at the end for those who have been victims. 

“Sarah’s Diary: She thought it was love” is the workshop portion. Based on a case study of one of her former clients, Hamel shares the story of a 14-year-old girl who was seduced into a long-term sexual relationship with her church school principal. Fifteen of “Sarah’s” diary entries tell the story to show how it can happen, why she didn’t tell, and more. In the video, Hamel introduces the story, provides commentary on it, and gives the audience questions to consider and discuss. The story itself is told through an actress’s reading of the diary entries, accompanied by still photos of another actress depicting Sarah’s thoughts and reactions as the story develops. Discussion guidelines are also available.

“It’s a difficult topic, but one we must address,” Hamel and Corder said.

The original version of this story was posted on Lake Union Herald.