Dear pastors, counselors, professors, and teachers:
It is always ethical best practice to believe people who allege abuse. Training for each of these vocations dictates that, if someone confides in you that she or he was abused, you have the responsibility to believe that person. Especially in the area of sex crimes, which are vastly underreported and of which the vast majority of those alleged actually happened, it is extremely hurtful and damaging to put the probable victim on the defense by not trusting her / his story.
The opportunity for further truth to come out would be if there were an investigation of the case. It is not your responsibility to determine the truthfulness of the claims. You are always to serve as an advocate for those under your care. These crimes are notoriously hard to adjudicate. Of course there is the tiny chance (possibly as low as 2%) that a false allegation has been made. However, it is statistically more likely that an abuser will go free than that false allegations will result in a conviction against an innocent person (only 6 out of 1000 sex abusers are ever incarcerated).
As someone who has served in multiple of these vocations, I am aware that a false claim could be made against me. It would be hurtful and damaging. However, the hurt and damage to those who have been abused and have not been believed is comparably a far greater tragedy. Also, as a Christian, I have the example of Jesus who “opened not his mouth” to false accusations but allowed the truth to be made clear in light of his resurrection. People and organizations of faith have no business being defensive. We need to look no further than church sex abuse scandals to see what kind of cover-ups result from defensiveness.
If you find yourself being defensive every time allegations are made against someone else, I would encourage you to ask yourself why that is the case. Are there areas of hurt in your own life from which you need to find healing? Are there times that you have been abused and not believed? Alternatively, are there times that you know you have crossed a line in how you have treated or talked to someone else? Are there abuses you need to confess? If not, then why are you afraid of the rare possibility of being lied about? Are you confident enough in your own identity to say no to fear and lies and to entrust yourself into the hands of God?
For more information on sex abuse and sexual violence, check out: