KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Leaders from the Southern Baptist Convention, known as the largest Protestant denomination, released a list of hundreds of pastors and others within who have been accused of sexual abuse. Some of the ones listed were from East Tennessee.
“Unless more light is brought on this pattern of denial, then nothing is going to change,” Senior Pastor Brent McDougal of First Baptist Knoxville said.
The Thursday night release comes after Guidepost Solutions, a firm contracted by the SBC’s Executive Committee, put out another document that states some of the information survivors and other concerned members shared across the country, including allegations that were dismissed for over two decades by Southern Baptist church leaders.
“I was especially saddened by the way that those who were coming forward to make claims of sexual abuse, were treated with just an incredible sense of dismissiveness,” McDougal said.
“What’s happened to date, is those who are bringing accusations have not been heard, they have not been supported,” he said. “We should have been showing care for those who are victims of abuse as opposed to protecting the organization.”
For McDougal, he said his church has written guidelines to help prevent sexual abuse against children or adults. They do things like background checks or assign two or more adults to be around a child.
Doing all of this and more in hopes of providing a safe environment.
“We need to be constantly looking at best practices and talking about how are we protecting kids because we want it to be a safe space for everybody,” he said.
McDougal suggests speaking with your children about sexual abuse as well. The Rainn organization, which is the nation’s larges anti-sexual violence group, advises teaching children about body parts that are private, telling them it’s okay to say no, and providing reassurance that they can talk to you.
For adults, the East Tennessee Sexual Assault Center hotline is available 24/7 and can be reached at 865-522-7273.