After decades of litigating sexual abuse cases, Gregory Love and Kimberlee Norris founded MinistrySafe to help ministries meet legal standards of care and reduce the risk of sexual abuse by creating preventative measures tailored to fit the needs of churches and ministry programs. With over 50 years combined experience in sexual abuse litigation, consultation and crisis management, Love and Norris understand the risk of sexual abuse and how it unfolds in children’s programming.
The Baptist State Convention of North Carolina is partnering with MinistrySafe to conduct two church safety workshops for pastors and church leaders on Friday, Sept. 20 and Saturday, Sept. 21 at Pleasant Garden Baptist Church. The training will provide the tools to implement a safety system that protects children from sexual abuse in church and ministry environments.
Love, a recognized expert in legal standards of care related to child sexual abuse, recently took time to answer some questions about what he plans to share at the workshops. His responses are below.
What led you to start MinistrySafe?
My involvement in sexual abuse risk began in the representation of victims of sexual abuse in the mid-90s. Through this work, I learned a great deal about sexual abuse risk and how it unfolds in child-serving programs (litigation). That practice grew into the prevention side through the design and implementation of systems to prevent sexual abuse (prevention). Representative clients range from the very large (United States Olympic Committee) to the very small, secular and faith-based. Over the last 15 years my firm has been heavily relied upon by organizations to help respond to crises, conduct internal investigations, address reporting matters and more (related to) crisis Management. MinistrySafe and Abuse Prevention Systems were started as the consulting arm of my business on the prevention side.
Media coverage over the past year has raised awareness about issues related to sexual abuse in the church. What’s been your reaction to that coverage?
I’m pleased to see sexual abuse risk to finally get attention. I’m disappointed that it took this long. The key to understanding the risk of child sexual abuse is an understanding of the “grooming process.” The grooming process has not changed materially over the last 25 years, (and) children’s programming has not changed materially over the last 25 years. Awareness of the risk is finally changing. Sadly, the culture and the media are waking up in anger and frustration — and rightly so. In sum, I am glad but disappointed that the “wake-up call” to many is rude and angry. It would have been much easier to have addressed this risk when the culture was less hostile.
The media coverage and attention that’s been given to this issue suggests that no church is immune from the problem of sexual abuse. What’s your response to a church that may still be thinking, “This could never happen here”?
That church is simply wrong, which has been one of my messages for the last 20-plus years. You will meet me someday — hopefully in my capacity of a prevention expert and not as a crisis response expert.
What are some of the basic first steps a church should implement or have in place to guard against sexual abuse?
Understand the risk. Throw off common errors and misconceptions. Understand the grooming process — especially how grooming would unfold in that church’s particular programs. Implement the MinistrySafe five-part safety system with sexual abuse awareness training as the foundation.
We’re thankful that you will be joining us to conduct two MinistrySafe workshops here in North Carolina this September. What do you plan to address, and what do you hope attendees will take away from this training?
In sum, I want to cover the why, what and the how. I want attendees to understand information about sexual abuse and sexual abusers (the why). With a correct understanding of the risk, I can now help attendees understand what an effective safety system looks like (the what). Once ministry leaders understand the risk, the necessary steps to address the risk become clear. With a good understanding of the risk and an effective safety system, I will then show attendees how to get the tools and resources to implement an effective safety system (the how).