Personal Safety and Sexual Abuse within the church

What is going on?

In times past, issues of abuse within families and intimate partner relationships were kept private and victims maintained their silence. For many the church has not been a safe place to talk about such things. A high view of marriage and family led many pastoral leaders to encourage victims to forgive and remain within abusive marriages. Children were to be seen and not heard, and therefore had no right to speak of their experiences of abuse. 

As society has changed its view on these issues and taken on a sense of public responsibility for what happens to vulnerable people within private places, so the church has learnt to listen better to victims of abuse, both physical, sexual, emotional and verbal. Sadly however, the church has often lagged behind in hearing the voices of victims, and many have been uncertain about how to respond  in the light of confusing messages about male headship and corporal punishment of children.

In seeking justice for the vulnerable and silenced amongst us, we seek to provide information and tools to consider what should be our Christlike response, and to create places of safety and listening.

As a church organisation, Personal Safety has 3 possible sides:

Personal Safety boundaries when it comes to working with people:

  • Policies and procedures for churches

  • Safety First training  - Children
    Baptist Children and Family Ministry offer a Safety First Training course. Contact Karen Warner on if you'd like to attend this training in your area.

Someone approached me with regards to a personal safety problem they are facing:

  • Domestic Violence

  • Sexual violence

  • Child abuse

As a staff member at my church organisation, I am experiencing personal safety issues:

  • SMART team from Baptist Union to support

What does is look like in New Zealand?


In New Zealand, 1 in 3 girls are sexually abused before they turn 16 years old, 70% will involve genital contact. We have one of the highest rates of child sexual abuse in the world.

Most of this abuse (90%) will be done by someone they know.

1 in 7 boys is sexually abused in some way before adulthood. And only 13% of cases recorded by the Police result in a conviction. It is estimated that only 4 to 8% of child sex abuse reports are fabricated, so listening to anything a child tells you is crucial for their safety.

Child sexual abuse is any sexual act between an adult and a minor or between two minors when one exerts power over the other.

Child sexual abuse is persuading, coercing, or forcing a child to engage in any type of sexual activity.

It also includes non-contact acts such as exhibitionism, exposure to pornography, voyeurism and communicating in a sexual manner by phone or internet.

Workshops all around New Zealand.


The Baptist Neighbourhood and Justice Initiative department has provided a number of workshops all around New Zealand addressing the following questions:

  • How to understand the dynamics around domestic violence and sexual abuse.

  • How to respond pastorally and think theologically.

  • Having policies and practices that provide safeguards for the vulnerable amongst us.

If you are interested in having a workshop in your area, please contact Fiona Maisey:

Email | Phone 09 526 7956

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