Each council including sessions and presbyteries must have its own sexual misconduct policy.
Teaching and ruling elders, deacons and certified Christian educators are mandated to report to civil and ecclesiastical authorities when there is reasonable suspicion of child abuse. (G-4.0302, Book of Order, Presbyterian Church (USA)
All responses to sexual misconduct will follow the procedures set out in the Book of Order, Rules of Discipline of the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and any employment policies of the local church.
Listening to someone reveal his or her own experience of abuse is never comfortable. The person has trusted you enough to share this secret: it is critical that in your reaction you affirm the person and be supportive.
The following suggestions can help you respond appropriately.
- Listen carefully and attentively.
- Avoid the temptation to assess the truthfulness of the disclosure; that is the job of trained professionals.
- Assure the person/child the alleged abuse was not his/her fault; he or she did not cause it, no matter what the abuser may have said or done.
- Reassure the person/child that he or she did the right thing in coming to you.
- Write down what was told to you so that you can pass accurate information on to those investigating the abuse.
Adapted from Preventing Child Abuse: A Guide for Churches, by Beth Swagman. Grand Rapids, MI: CRC Publications, 1997.