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#ChurchToo: Evangelical Leaders' Warning About the Widespread Problem of Sex Abuse

09-20-2018
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Two Catholics filed a class-action lawsuit this week against eight dioceses in Pennsylvania. 

The suit, filed by abuse victim Ryan O'Connor and church member Kristin Hancock, demands the names of priests accused of abuse and the release of internal documents. 

It's just another example of how the fallout from a grand jury investigation of sexual abuse within a Pennsylvania diocese is spreading. 

While state legislators are calling for US Attorney General Jeff Sessions to launch a full investigation, former victims are demanding an amendment to the statute of limitations.

"Changing the law and allowing a retroactive window to allow people like me the opportunity to file a civil suit will allow the community to understand who in their community abuses children and how to better protect their kids," said Shaun Daugherty, a former victim and abuse advocate. 

The current statute of limitations in Pennsylvania is rigid; accusers can file criminal lawsuits until the age of 50 and civil lawsuits until the age of 30.

All of this comes after the grand jury's report revealed thousands of victims suffered abuse from more than 300 priests. 

And it's not just a problem in the US. The Vatican is grappling with ways to eliminate this predatory behavior worldwide. 

"Pope Francis is calling a major meeting of bishops from all over the world for next February to discuss this crisis and how to put in place effective measures to bring about child protection across the church globally," said Christopher Lamb, a reporter for The Tablet. 

While many of the sex abuse headlines are centered on the Catholic Church, experts say the problem is widespread.

"No child is immune. Thirty to 40 percent of sexual abuse and exploitation happens by a family member; about 50 percent by somebody that the family knows and trusts," Sex abuse expert Donna Rice-Hughes tells CBN News. 

Hughes, the CEO of Enough is Enough, says that while predators come in different forms, they share one simple goal – manipulation.

"Often times the abuser, in a sense, emotionally blackmails them into silence, telling them that they've been a bad girl or a bad boy and that they'll tell their parents or hurt their parents if they say anything," explained Rice-Hughes.  

Sometimes predators gain the trust of the parents first and prey on the innocence of the child. She says look no further than USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar. 

** Rice- Hughes shares valuable tips for parents looking to keep their children safe from predators online. **  

And Protestants aren't exempt – just search the Twitter #churchtoo and you'll find countless testimonies of sexual abuse at the hands of church leaders.

"Protestants can't look at Catholics and say, 'I can't believe you're having those problems.' We have those problems, too," Dr. Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, tells CBN News. 

Moore says leaders across denominations must not be complacent. 

"In virtually every corner of global life we're seeing this ugly, horrific, satanic reality of sexual abuse," he said. 

The Baptist leader says it starts by addressing the issue head-on and taking action. 

"We need to be honest; we need to be just as diligent as the secular authorities and cooperating with the secular authorities in order to root this out," said Moore. 

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