Collusion--Just a Symptom
Years of studying family systems theories, coupled with years of experience
in psychiatric nursing, have led this author to suggest that collusion
is a symptom of a serious systemic thinking disorder. Therefore collusion
should not be considered, as some suggest, a normal occurrence.
During the Millers' time in Africa, Dee frequently did hemoglobins on
African women and children, as she attempted to intervene in diseases which
commonly were made much more serious because of anemia. It was rare to
find a patient who was not anemic! Imagine how mistaken a health
worker in Africa would be to conclude that anemia in African women and
children is normal--must be something in their genes--because it is so
common! The truth, of course, is that African women and children suffer
from anemia because of other health issues. Most of these conditions will
not be altered without massive changes in cultural, social, and economic
systems. Doing so will require that the rest of the world changes its thinking
about its responsibility to stop contributing to the problem.
COLLUSION IN CASES OF SEXUAL OR DOMESTIC VIOLENCE OR IN FAMILY INCEST
IS INCREDIBLY COMMON. YET IT IS NOT NORMAL.
COLLUSION, WHEREVER IT OCCURS, IS EVIDENCE OF A SPIRITUALLY SICK SYSTEM.
YES, COLLUSION IS A SYSTEMIC THINKING DISORDER WHICH HAS BEEN AROUND
SO LONG THAT SOME FOLKS JUSTIFY IT BY CALLING IT "NORMAL!"
As a nurse, this writer focuses on the etiology (causes), the symptoms,
and the treatment. Basic
Facts about Collusion offers insights into the DIM thinking and destructive
games which are highly visible in collusion. A
Two-fold Treatment Approach deals with treating the system. This section
of the web-site focuses only on etiology.
Reasons why individuals collude, either actively or passively, are partly
due to acculturation.. In many instances, they are also personal
Those with a vested interest in preserving the system or the profession
at any cost are much more prone to keep secrets which are deemed to be
more harmful to them personally than to be helpful for the larger community.
People who come from families with unresolved issues of incest,
alcoholism, drug abuse or other issues of extreme dysfunction are also
more prone to collude. (For more insights, see Striking Parallels and Contrasts.)
Not only are we dealing with DIM thinking issues from the wider culture,
we must also consider specific one's which tend to be even more prominent
in religious communities:
Closed-system thinking--"We don't need outside help. This church or denomination
can find its own answers within its own ranks, thank you."
Naivete'--When one's life revolves primarily around the activities of the
cloistered "protection" of the institutional church, it is much easier
to ignore the realities about both the outside the world and those of the
institution of which one is so much a part. The theology of many religious
communities encourages followers to see the outside world as "evil" and
those within its circle as "good." Not seeing what is real greatly increases
individual and collective vulnerability to victimization.
Narcissism--Members of religious communities like to see themselves as
"special" children of God. This sense of being exceptional makes it easy
to justify collusion for many people.
Patriarchal thinking--Patriarchy, according to Joan Chittister, O.S.B.,
is "elitism without merit." Not only does it enhance the god-image of religious
leaders, making them exempt from accountability in the warped world of
collusion. It also demonizes anyone who would call their behaviors into
question. Finally, it provides help from the larger culture in giving preferential
treatment to men, a problem which is even more magnified within religious
Competency Issues--There appears to be a sense of hopelessness and confusion
in this area. Does the religious community have the same responsibility
for setting universal standards for its professionals and volunteers? Should
there be a code of ethics? If so, how can it be effective with the divisions
and factions which exist within the community of faith? If not, who is
going to protect the public when churches are largely exempt from outside
regulations? The historic "honor system" has obviously resulted in a lot
of dishonor to all concerned. If competency does not become a greater concern,
how can we hope for the religious community to hold onto any respect at
all? These are difficult questions to raise. Yet we dare not avoid them.
The "Family of God" concept--If we think of the church as a family, we
are far more prone to give solace to deviants within the group. (For more
insights, see Striking Parallels and Contrasts.)
The author's life experience in conservative religious circles in the
South, coupled with the feedback she has gotten from her writing in the
past few years, has validated her previously-held suspicions that clergy
sexual abuse, clergy domestic violence, and incest (both in clergy and
non-clergy households) is considerably more common in conservative groups
than in mainline. There also seems to be a greater degree of physical violence
involved in offenses, and a greater likelihood that victims will be minors.
She dares make these suggestions, despite limited formal research in this
area, because she believes:
The degree of violence and the degree of collusion are closely correlated,
as acknowledged by many sociologists. Perpetrators are very shrewd in seeking
out systems and localities where they feel they can keep their secrets
from being exposed.
The degree of collusion in an institution will significantly increase in
direct proportion to the evidence of the above issues within its belief
system. Miller has lived in the worlds of both mainline and conservative
Christian denominations and finds the degree of the above factors to be
strikingly greater among the latter.
Clergy sexual and domestic violence within conservative circles is still
largely hidden in conservative and Southern regions of the United States
because of the greater degree of oppression of victims. The brand of collusion
in these circles, where the above characteristics are especially pronounced,
seems to this writer to be even stronger than in mainline circles.
Despite recent high-profile cases, such as those in Dallas, victims from
the conservative South are far less likely to report their abuses, to go
public, or even to connect with other survivors. The author has made this
observation from the feedback she has gotten to her writings, which have
largely been for conservative audiences. She believes that four other reasons
may be added to the above list:
Even large denominations, such as the Southern Baptist Convention, can
hide with a lot of safety behind the "autonomous church" defense. This
is because local churches in these systems are entirely responsible for
hiring, firing, and supervising their employees. Yet getting into the ranks
of clergy is much easier than in hierarchal systems.
There is far less exposure of clergy abuse in conservative circles than
in mainline, where increasingly clergy are being required to attend workshops
in order for the denomination to keep its insurance. Denominational publications
which are more commonly read by laity appear much less likely to expose
the issues in conservative circles.
It is commonly believed among many mental health professionals that familial
incest is more common in conservative homes, where the concept of father
being "the head of the house" is easily taken to this extreme. Why should
this not be true in the institutional church, as well?
Few conservative churches have policies and procedures for handling allegations.
If an institution has not been able to even consider the possibility of
a case by acknowledging and preparing for it in advance, victims are far
more likely to remain isolated, feeling that they are either the only victim
within a church or denomination or have found the only clergy offender
within its ranks.
(Please Note: The Roman Catholic Church, which has received, by far, the
most media exposure of clergy sexual abuse, is just as conservative in
its theology as Southern fundamentalists.)
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.