More than a Slogan
“Victims First” is a sort of catchphrase for an attitude the CCP wants to promote. It means we seek to give priority to abused persons in our work of education for prevention. We have a shared conviction that the stories of those who have been hurt can help us understand risk and protective factors, and provide the best motivation to decrease the former and increase the latter.
Repairing the Imbalance
Sexual abuse of minors is always also an abuse of power. Those who dare to abuse the trust of children, those who prey on the emotional vulnerability of teens, those who take advantage of the sick or handicapped–these persons believe they have a special status that allows them to behave as they want. Many of these persons also act in a way that makes them the center of attention and often win the sympathy of others. In contrast, many of the little ones who have been abused are silenced. Part of working for justice, part of the key to changing the enabling culture, is putting the concern and attention for the little ones above any worry about the perpetrator.
How it Translates into Action
What this means concretely is that we try to make the perspective of those persons who have been abused inform our own vision in dealing with this topic. It means teaching about how to recognize abused persons before teaching about how to recognize perpetrators; the latter is important, but only in service of safeguarding! It means inviting persons who have been abused in church places and by church people to speak first–before the church people themselves get a turn to speak. It means not taking a defensive attitude but humbly looking for the truth together.
Language is a Challenge
There is an open dispute, even among those persons who have experienced abuse, about which terms to use or avoid when talking about those persons who have, as minors, experienced the trauma of sexual abuse. The category “victim” is often used to underline the imbalance in the situation that clearly made one person truly vulnerable. “Victimized” describes the state of wounded persons before they are able to gain freedom from the negative effects of a harmful experience. In order to mark the passage between passive reactivity and proactively making decisions for growth, the word “survivor” is often embraced by those abused persons who have experienced some healing. There are those who also speak about the possibilities of Post-Traumatic Growth (PTG) and call themselves “Thrivers”. The catchphrase “Victims First” does not want to exclude any of these persons; rather, it seeks to recognize the justice owed to the sufferer–and there is no easy language for this.
The Purpose of the CCP
Our commitment to this approach has been outlined on the web page “Our Purpose” on our new website. We invite you to look at it and share what you think!