Child Abus in the Church

Even with all the talk, rumors, lawsuits, open letters and bad feelings created by the Brandon Milburn situation, as far as I know, we still have abuse victims who will need help and financial support.

Unfortunately, many of the abuse victims and their families are not in a position to actively seek assistance.  They have limited resources and either very restricted or no insurance coverage.  For these families, it’s a financial hurdle to arrange an appointment to begin any kind of counseling.

First Christian Church of Florissant has offered to provide counseling to victims through Pastor Dennis Hounshell.  The offer is for a maximum of 12 visits to a counselor referred by Pastor Hounshell during the initial visit.  FCCF will use Agape Christian Counseling, and Pastor Hounshell will help victims determine which counselor would fit their needs.

According to the document created by FCCF, costs for counseling services are offered as follows:

Counseling for Victims of Sexual Abuse

The initial counseling session is with First Christian On-site Licensed Professional Counselor Dennis Hounshell.  Upon referral by Dennis, a secondary session will be performed by the recommended Outside Counselor.  Those seeking counsel should call the church office (314-837-2269) or the confidential voicemail of Dennis Hounshell (314-766-9939).

Counseling through First Christian

The First Christian On-site Licensed Professional Counselor, Dennis Hounshell, is available to see individuals and families affected by Brandon Milburn’s actions at no charge to families.

Outside Counseling

Agape Christian Counseling
Offices around St. Louis Area including Hazelwood and Olivette

Licensed Professional Counselors: Donna King, MA, LPC; Kristy Cobillas, Med, PLPC;  Zack Sander, MA, LPC, CADC and Paula Knoll, MSW, LCSW, RPT.

Fees:  Counselors take various types of insurance or work with families on a sliding fee scale. That scale ranges from $30-$150 depending on family income and number of family members in the household.  (i.e., a family of four with combined income of $60K would pay $70 per session. See attached Sliding Fee Scale).

Main Office Contact Information:  314-994-9344

Counseling Cost Reimbursement

Upon referral by the First Christian On-site Licensed Professional Counselor the church will cover costs incurred for the follow-up sessions for victims of sexual abuse related to Brandon Milburn and immediate family members.

The church will pay all out-of-pocket fees for the first six (6) one-hour sessions and one half of all out-of-pocket expenses for the following six (6) sessions for a total of twelve (12) one-hour sessions. This reimbursement will either include the counselor’s sliding fee scale or any co-pay for those using personal insurance.

(This is from a pdf document dated 6/2/15 on the fccf.org web site.)

Six sessions “mostly paid” and six sessions “half paid” are better than nothing.  It appears that the church is trying to limit their liability and costs concerning outside counselors.  Given the potential costs and the unknown number of victims, that is probably wise.

However, limiting the number of covered visits to 12 seems to be a leap in faith concerning the counselors’ effectiveness and the victims’ ability to respond and heal.

This information is from RAINN.org and provides a very brief background on child sexual abuse and its warning signs.

What are the warning signs
Child sexual abuse isn’t always easy to spot. The perpetrator could be someone you’ve known a long time or trust, which may make it even harder to notice. Consider the following warning signs:

Physical signs:

  • Difficulty walking or sitting
  • Bloody, torn, or stained underclothes
  • Bleeding, bruises, or swelling in genital area
  • Pain, itching, or burning in genital area
  • Frequent urinary or yeast infections

Behavioral signs

  • Shrinks away or seems threatened by physical contact
  • Exhibits signs of depression or post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Expresses suicidal thoughts, especially in adolescents
  • Self-harms
  • Develops phobias
  • Has trouble in school, such as absences or drops in grades
  • Changes in hygiene, such as refusing to bathe or bathing excessively
  • Returns to regressive behaviors, such as thumb sucking
  • Runs away from home or school
  • Overly protective and concerned for siblings, or assumes a caretaker role
  • Nightmares or bed-wetting
  • Inappropriate sexual knowledge or behaviors

To speak with someone who is trained to help, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.HOPE (4673) or chat online at online.rainn.org.

For more information see What Is Sexual Abuse on this web site.

 

In case you think this is an isolated incident, here are some additional facts from the Sexual Assault Center.

Facts About Sexual Assault

  • 1 out of every 4 women will be sexually assaulted in her life time.
  • 1 out of every 6 men is the victim of unwanted or abusive sexual activity in his lifetime.
  • Somewhere in America, someone is raped every 2 minutes.
  • Females between the ages of 16 and 24 are 4 times more likely to be sexually assaulted than any other age group (National Crime Victimization Survey, 2000)
  • 44% of rape victims are under the age of 18.
  • 80% of 8th – 11th graders report being sexually harassed at school.
  • 71% of teens have online profiles.
  • 64% post photos or videos of themselves online.
  • 42% report being bullied online.
  • 20% report being hit, slapped or pushed by a partner.
  • 23% of teen girls report being pressured into sexual activity.

Here’s the Real Issue

Victims who were traumatized by Milburn may view any connection with FCCF to be a hostile, untrustworthy environment.  The help being offered is asking the victims to re-visit the scenes and people associated with their abuse.  That makes NO sense!  Most victims want to be as far away from First Christian Church of Florissant as possible.  Why would they want to re-visit the hurt, pain and shame they have been trying to get beyond?

As members of First Christian and the Christian Community in general, we should be providing care that is neutral, nurturing and non-threatening.  That’s why the need for independent counselors is so great.  To convince young adults to seek help, they have to have a little faith in who they are talking to and what they are being asked to do.

The victims need your financial support to get help.  FCCF’s offer for counseling is a small start, but it will take more than a few sessions and will require independent counselors (not related to FCCF).  It’s commonly known that many times victims will numb their pain by resorting to unhealthy behaviors, such as drugs, alcohol, etc.  It is important that we reach them now with kind of care they need and will accept.

 

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You can help by donating to the GoFundMe account set up to provide victim assistance.  Except for the GoFundme fee, 100% of your money goes directly to help the victims.

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