“Sarah” is portrayed by a professional actress [photography by Dave Sherwin] and "Sarah's Diary" [ photographed by Cheri Corder].

July 25, 2023

New Campaign Seeks to Raise Awareness of Sexual Abuse

“Sexual abuse is always harmful,” explains Ann Hamel, PhD, in the 2023 enditnow® material, “but when it is perpetrated by someone claiming to follow Jesus, it is even more damaging. This is because there is now the automatic additional layer of spiritual abuse. When the abuse is by a Christian leader, the damage is obviously even greater.”

Enditnow® is the General Conference’s initiative addressing abuse. Every year, material on some aspect of abuse is sent to churches around the world and churches are encouraged to present that material to their congregations on the fourth Sabbath of August. The Women’s Ministries leaders receive material which they can adapt for both a sermon and a workshop. This year, in addition to the written resources, there are videos of both the sermon and the workshop. They are geared to being used on a Sabbath in a local church setting, but they may also be used at other times and in other contexts such as faculty meetings in schools. 

While Ann Hamel and Cheri Corder co-authored the material for both sessions, Corder presents the sermon and Hamel presents the workshop. 

The sermon is titled “Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing, When those who claim to be followers of Jesus harm others.” It provides an overview of sexual abuse when it is perpetrated by members and especially leaders in the church. The material includes seven true examples to help illustrate the concepts shared and looks at how abuse can happen, the impact of abuse, and how we can respond to it. There is a special message at the end for those who have been victims. 

“Sarah’s Diary: She thought it was love” is the workshop portion. Based on a case study of one of her former clients, Hamel shares the story of a 14-year-old girl who was seduced into a long-term sexual relationship with her church school principal. Fifteen of “Sarah’s” diary entries tell the story to show how it can happen, why she didn’t tell, and more. In the video, Hamel introduces the story, provides commentary on it, and gives the audience questions to consider and discuss. The story itself is told through an actress’s reading of the diary entries, accompanied by still photos of another actress depicting Sarah’s thoughts and reactions as the story develops. Discussion guidelines are also available. 

It's a difficult topic, but one we must address. Check with your church’s Women’s Ministries leader to see when these presentations will be offered in your church. To access the resources directly, go to enditnow.org or women.adventist.org

Ann Hamel, PhD, is a psychologist with the International Service Employee Support Team of the General Conference. She specializes in traumatology and is a board-certified expert in traumatic stress.  

Cheri Corder is the former director of women's, family and health ministries, along with Adventist Community Services, for the Oregon Conference, and the retired missionary care coordinator for Adventist Frontier Missions.