in The United Church of Canada
WHAT IS SEXUAL ABUSE?
Acts of power, including harassment, exploitation or misconduct that demean
and/or exploit another person through jokes, inappropriate/unwanted
touching, or forced sexual activities.
Subtle sexual suggestions, coercive sexual demands and inappropriate
physical contact that is one-sided, unwanted or unwelcome and yet
persistent. (e.g. hugging, tickling, kissing, or unusual gift-giving).
Taking advantage of the vulnerability and powerlessness of a person (in a
pastoral relationship) for one's own pleasure/gain.
Behaviour and conduct by a person in a position of authority or power in
which another person is made more powerless and vulnerable through any of
the above activities, regardless of who initiates the behaviour.
Misuse of power physically, verbally, emotionally, or sexually by someone
in a position of authority over a child (under age 16). Must be reported to
EVERYONE HAS BOUNDARIES
Yours have been crossed if:
* You feel confused or uncomfortable with what's happening in the
* You are being touched in ways that are confusing or upsetting for you.
* You are receiving inappropriate personal gifts from the minister or
any other person in authority.
* You are invited by the minister or any other person in authority for
inappropriate intimate social activities.
* You are given theological reasons for questionable sexual conduct and
* You hear a lot about the minister's or counsellor's own problems in
counselling sessions, rather than talking about your own.
What to do if you believe you are a victim:
* Believe and trust yourself and your feelings.
* Confusion is common. Find someone with knowledge and understanding of
abuse that you can trust and with whom you can share your feelings and
* Remember that you are not to blame for your victimization. The abuser
is responsible and needs to be held accountable.
* Contact one of the named persons in the Church who have been trained
to listen to you and to respond appropriately. This person can offer
you guidance and support.
* Know that a policy and process is in place for dealing with complaints
and instances of sexual abuse/harassment/exploitation in the church.
* Remember that you may not be the only victim of your abuser. Most
abusers have multiple victims who may or may not be known to each
What happens if I make a complaint?
* A trained Consultant will be assigned to explain all the options open
to you for your consideration and to work with you in decision-making.
* You will be provided with information about the Church's policy and
* You will remain in control of any decisions about proceeding further,
up to the point where a Formal Hearing is called. (Except in a case
involving a child under the age of 16.)
* Your complaint will be treated with utmost care and confidence within
the guidelines of the Church's policies and procedures.
* You will be treated with care and respect by the Consultants and
others assigned to follow through on your complaint within the Church.
* Your Consultant will share with you the implications (as much as
possible) of the various options and decisions open to you at each
step in the process to enable you to make informed choices.
What about Child Abuse?
B.C. laws require that anyone who SUSPECTS or receives a DISCLOSURE of
abuse of a child must report to the Ministry of Social Services or the
R.C.M.P. There is a 24 hour service operated by the Ministry of Social
Services - dial zero and ask for ZENITH 1234.
Note that clergy, therapists and doctors are not exempt from this mandate
The report is confidential and you may phone the Zenith 1234 line to ask
for advice as well.
For further information please contact the BC Conference Office
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