We are often asked what a healthy mission board/field for MKs would look like. While we don’t have all the answers, we definitely have some thoughts.
- In the initial hiring process of missionaries several things should happen:
- Thorough background checks of prospective missionaries
- Thorough sexual abuse prevention and response training
- Waivers signed stating that the mission knows of no allegations of abuse regarding any of the coworkers (nationals and missionaries) on the field where the missionary will serve and that they will be notified immediately in writing if any come to light at any point, even if no longer with the board. [NOTE: Addendum in light of some insights from a friend. Let's call this a "commitment" or "covenant" not a waiver, and let's include supporting churches in this covenant. That supporting churches will be notified immediately and with specificity of any breaches of morality clauses by any missionaries they support.]
- On the field several things should be considered:
- Discontinuing the forced “aunt” and “uncle” tradition, which creates a false sense of intimacy and trust before trust has been earned
- Don’t allow the team to make decisions for individual families. Families must maintain their autonomy as an independent unit, capable of making their own choices of what is best for their children in all matters: education, housing, friendships, etc.
- Consideration for the impact a male dominant culture can have on young girls, if the missionaries are stationed in such a culture. (For example on the Bangladesh field girl MKs lived very sheltered lives, while male MKs enjoyed a lot of relative freedom. A greater effort could have been made to ensure that while girls were safe, they were also not internalizing the unhealthy messages of the surrounding culture regarding their value, their voice compared to males.)
- [Addendum: A friend mentioned just now the importance of MKs being able to contact a third party on their own to tell, without fear and intimidation. A hotline via email if not phone. A way they can speak up safely. They should all know this contact info from heart or have it posted in their MK school. Amen!]
- At the home office several things should always be in place:
- Total transparency regarding allegations of abuse and investigations into abuse. (All churches must know, all missionaries must know.)
- A commitment to report all allegations in the US and abroad, if foreign soil issues exist.
- A commitment to never interview a child without parental supervision. [Addendum: Per an insightful comment below, when the accused IS the parent, other arrangements must be made. And the interviews should always be done by third-party professionals.]
- A commitment to never withhold information regarding a minor from a parent.
- A strict zero tolerance policy regarding their morality clause.
- A true third party to investigate all claims after they have been reported to legal authorities.
- Legal support for any missionary families who want to press charges against a fellow missionary for child abuse.
So that’s a starting place. Do you have any thoughts or anything to add, especially those of you who are missionaries or former MKs?