More on #ChurchToo — Our expanded Q&A with Jimmy Hinton on sexual abuse in churches
For Jimmy Hinton, there was no question: He had to…
For far too long, victims have been silenced.
Finally, they have an outlet to spotlight their painful ordeals.
That’s how Jimmy Hinton characterizes the social media movements — first #MeToo and now #ChurchToo — where sexual abuse survivors are recounting their real-life nightmares.
“Quite simply, millions of abuse survivors are fed up with the church protecting abusers while shaming the victims,” said Hinton, minister for the Somerset Church of Christ in Pennsylvania, who reported his own father to police when he learned the longtime preacher was a child molester.
Related: More on #ChurchToo — Our expanded Q&A with Jimmy Hinton on sexual abuse in churches
Hinton is a certification specialist with the advocacy organization GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment). He cites frequent private messages he receives “from survivors who were either not believed by their church leaders or, worse, were humiliated, shamed and blamed for the abuse.
“These survivors are desperate to know that not all church leaders protect abusers,” Hinton told The Christian Chronicle. “Because they know my story, I think they feel safe to share their stories. Many of them are left confused because of how the church responded to their abuse, and some have a distorted view of God. #ChurchToo has empowered survivors to stand up to the churches that keep attempting to silence them.”
A woman confided to Hinton in 2011 that his father, John Hinton — who spent 27 years as the Somerset church’s preacher — had sexually abused her when she was young.
Jimmy Hinton’s report to authorities prompted an investigation that resulted in the pedophile preacher, now 69, pleading guilty to sexually assaulting and taking nude photographs of four young girls, ages 4 to 7.
While his father serves a 30- to 60-year state prison sentence, Jimmy Hinton works to create awareness far beyond his hometown of 6,000, 75 miles east of Pittsburgh.
Related: Editorial: Sexual abuse is evil. Period.
“As a therapist, I did not need #ChurchToo to tell me sexual assault is rampant in our churches,” said Christine Parker, a member of the Grand Central Church of Christ in Vienna, W.Va., and a longtime friend of Jimmy Hinton’s. “I’ve heard story after countless story as the victims sit on my couch seeking hope for healing.
“Often, it’s been years, even decades, since the assaults,” Parker added. “If they told anyone at the time, they often weren’t believed. If they were believed, they likely were told to forgive at best. At worst, they were blamed and shamed.”
Parker praises Jimmy Hinton — who has offered predator recognition training at about 20 churches — for “speaking truth plainly and courageously while remaining steadfastly peaceful in the face of tremendous horror.
“His passion and kind care for the deeply wounded is unsurpassed,” she said.
Sam Pace, minister for the Northwest Church of Christ in Westminster, Colo., said Hinton “opened our eyes with startling awareness of our vulnerability to child predators.
“In short order, we implemented new practices aimed to train our children to be aware and report any inappropriate behavior or touching,” Pace said. “We followed Jimmy’s direction or securing our facility and properly arranging adult/child interactions for safety.”
In an interview with the Chronicle, Hinton discussed social media advocacy, the sexual abuse problem, the Larry Nassar case and steps churches can take to prevent abuse.
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