When it comes to sexual assault and police reporting there seems to be a host of concerns, questions, and topics to be addressed. Few victims have a strong desire to report to police for a host of reasons, many of which are reasonable. Reporting is a topic that needs much gracious discussion. This post however is aimed at one very specific aspect of reporting: is it Christian?
My desire in this post is to equip Christians to be able to understand biblically why we should encourage (but never demand) all victims, religious or not, to report their abuse to the proper authorities.
Sadly in Christian circles there can be a hesitancy to involve “outside sources” in any sort of issue. Although there can be many reasons for this, I believe a primary one is the prideful attitude that “we are the most equipped people to handle this” and a complete lack of trust in outside sources.
Bible verses and principles are often used out of context such as “Vengeance is God’s” or “The Bible tells us not to go to court against each other” or “Think of the shame it would bring the name of God to make this abuse public”. None of these statements when they are used this way are true, biblical, or God honoring.
I do however want to balance that statement with this one: the authorities in our world are not perfect. They are fallen, sinful, imperfect human beings and systems that do not always execute justice rightly, do not always treat victims graciously, and do not always honor God.
However, none of that excuses Christians from their ethical and moral obligation to report the crimes done against them. Let us now turn to God’s Word.
- Government exists to punish evil
“ Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution,[whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good.– 1 Peter 2:13-14
Government is a good gift from God, albeit one that is often misused by sinful people. Yet Government exists to bring about the common grace of punishment for evildoers and praise of those who do good.
One of the God given roles of the government is to punish evildoers.
If a government ceases to bring justice to those who commit evil acts, they are no longer acting as a Godly government.
- Civil authorities are God’s gifts for our good
“For he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.” – Romans 13:4
We see several interesting things here. The first is that those who hold civil authority are for our good. It is good that we have police officers, detectives, criminal victim advocates, judges and those who will condemn and prosecute evildoers. These are good gifts from God to encourage good and discourage evil.
The second interesting thing we see is that these agents are seen as avengers who carry out God’s wrath. We are often told to not seek revenge or to leave the sins of others to God’s wrath and that is right and true.
One of the ways we leave evil to God’s wrath is to place it in the hands of the authorities God has set apart for that very purpose.
This verse tells us, when a serial rapist is convicted and goes to jail, he is not facing merely the laws of man, but is facing the wrath of God administered to him through the authorities God has put in place.
- We are called to submit to the authority God has placed in our lives
“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except form God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” – Romans 13:1
Again this has several practical implications for us today.
When it comes to mandatory reporting, there is ZERO biblical grounds for not reporting the abuse. If you are a mandatory reporter and come across the abuse of a minor our laws explicitly state that you must report to the proper authorities. Become educated in your community what it means to be a mandatory reporter and who you would report to.
Sadly many Christians have failed to do just this, preventing justice to victims and becoming complicit in the evil done against them. To not report when it is mandatory by law to do so, is to reject the authority of the government God has placed over you and to prevent God’s agents from carrying out his will.
To fail to report the abuse of minors is to stand with the enemies of God.
When it comes to adult reporting we must be very cautious. It is not right to demand a victim do exactly what you want them to do, especially when it comes to reporting. Their will has already been violated once, let us not do the same thing to them again.
However with a biblical understanding of the authorities God has placed in our lives we are able to encourage victims, at the right time, to consider reporting their abuse or assault.
This is an individual choice of each victim, some may want to, some may not. Some may want to report immediately, for others it may take years. That is okay. But we are able to patiently walk alongside them and gently remove any sort of belief that to report is “not-Christian” or not loving. In fact, to report the evil of another is the most loving thing you can do for them.
To do good in the face of evil is to hold people accountable to their actions by placing them in the hands of the authorities that God has set apart for this very purpose.
May we help victims muster the courage to face the evil done to them and offer to help them every step of the way, regardless of their choice to report.