Basic Facts about Collusion
Author's Definition: the conscious or unconscious collaboration
of two or more individuals to protect those engaged in unethical practices.
(Note: When clergy sexual abuse, domestic violence, or incest within the
congregation is involved, persons often collude to protect other colluders!)
Persons who collude may do so actively (the fighting mode) or passively
(the flight mode).
Collusion is usually far more devastating to victims than the primary abuse.
The DEMONS are NOT the perpetrators. They aren't the colluders, and certainly
not the survivors. I've named the collective demons in an acronym--DIM
thinking--DENIAL, IGNORANCE, and MINIMIZATION.
Behind collusion one will always find some form of DIM Thinking*
(Denial, Ignorance, and Minimization). Ignorance here may refer to one
or all of the following: mis-information about the dynamics of abuse, resistence
to attempts to provide education, or a choice to ignore what one knows.
Colluders may be guilty of DIM Thinking about the abuse, about collusion
itself, or both.
Examples of passive collusion:
A member of the congregation decides that it is "none of my business" to
get involved when she overhears the girls in her youth group discussing
how uncomfortable they have felt in the past when alone in a counseling
session with the minister or youth leader.
Rev. Smith is approached by a member of his friend's church about concerns
that the member's pastor, one of Smith's close friends, has been seen several
times recently in restaurants at a table-for-two with a recently-widowed
member of the congregation. Rev. Smith chides the member, telling him:
"I know your pastor well. We fish together at least once a month. Why he
was even president of our Ministerial Alliance last year! I'm going to
pray that your spirit will be cleansed of this suspicious nature." Rev.
Smith refuses to speak to anyone else about the problem. He does not even
confront his friend. Biblically speaking he "walks by on the other side."
(See the story of the Good Samaritan for further insights.)
A pastor ignores the recommendations of his denomination, refusing to encourage
his congregation to adopt policies which would help insure safety and adequate
supervision of the children and youth during church-sponsored programs
Bishop Johnson puts a letter from a victim in his "low priority" stack.
In it, the young woman is voicing her weariness that she continues to be
left hanging as the adjudicatory committee of their denomination holds
meeting after meeting without taking any decisive action. She asks that
the bishop call her at his earliest convenience. Later, when confronted
by the victim's husband, he defends his passivity, saying: "I didn't see
anything in the letter that needed a response."
Examples of active collusion:
Upon hearing of the allegations being investigated against his pastor,
a church leader manages to find out the alleged victim's name, then calls
other church leaders and key people in the community to make certain they
know that the accuser is "crazy" and "has a history of immoral and untrustworthy
Mrs. Anderson, a wealthy congregant, certain that her denomination did
nothing wrong by ignoring the reports of "trouble-making" victims for almost
two years, contributes $500,000 to help denominational leaders find the
best attorney to defend itself against a civil suit.
Several members of a congregation tell their minister's wife that she is
no longer welcome in their services, but that her husband will continue
to occupy the pulpit, even though she has recently been forced to go to
a shelter for safety. They tell her that they are very disappointed that
she is not willing to forgive, move back in the parsonage, and quietly
try to once again make things work.
Denominational leaders tell victims that there is no money to help with
their therapy. Yet these same leaders take in millions of dollars every
year for missions or other causes to help oppressed people around the world.
In addition, they have no difficulty announcing that they have a fund set
up to help ministers who have been terminated for a variety of causes,
including sexual abuse of congregants.
COMMON GAMES OF COLLUSION
ROLE REVERSAL--thoughts or behaviors which treat victims as perpetrators
and perpetrators as victims.
SEE NO EVIL, HEAR NO EVIL, SPEAK NO EVIL--shaming of self or others for
even daring to think or speak or be in conversation with anyone who is
speaking about the abuse.
PASS THE BUCK--an endless game which allows persons at every level and
in every capacity of an organization to rationalize that the work of investigating
and then holding a perpetrator accountable belongs somewhere else. (Almost
invariably the buck repeatedly gets passed back to the victim, who must
either ignore the evidences of DIM thinking or search for the energy to
once again speak out.)
LET'S PRETEND--going about all of the usual activities of the church while
refusing to acknowledge the "elephant" issue of which most members are
already aware on some level--an issue which is managing to impact the church
in virtually everything it does. (might also be called "OUT OF SIGHT, OUT
OF MIND") This game assumes that it is the responsibility of victims and
advocates to initiate every conversation about the "elephant." If they
do, then the problem is obviously theirs. If they do not,
then there is no problem.
LET'S MAKE A DEAL--offering a victim or advocate something, either tangible
or intangible, to keep quiet. (Examples: "If you will just go quietly to
another congregation, we won't tell anyone that you had an affair with
the minister." OR actually paying "hush money" in exchange for the victim's
agreement not to take the perpetrator of denomination to court.)
This article, like all at www.takecourage.org is copyrighted by the author. Other writers, by copyright law, may use up to 300 words in other published works without asking permission, provided the author is given full credit. This includes "DIM Thinking" a term, coined by Miller. Others are encouraged to download and/or distribute copies of any of these articles, for educational purposes, PROVIDED any page distributed is done so without alteration. The copies must include this message and the contact information below:
www.takecourage.org by Dee Ann Miller, author of How Little We Knew: Collusion and Confusion with Sexual Misconduct and The Truth about Malarkey.