About the Independent Abuse Review Panel
Most children of missionaries value their experiences in distant lands. However, in the 1990s several found the courage to report to Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) that years earlier they had been sexually abused while attending boarding schools in Congo.
Many spoke of serious life-long consequences: self-hate, low self-esteem, a sense of powerlessness, struggles with depression, alcoholism/drug addiction, eating disorders or forming long-term relationships
One woman said, “I gave up my idea of God as a strong, loving deity who stayed by me in times of good and bad … I gave up my relationship with my parents and all adults as people who could be trusted … I gave up the joy of waking up to a new day full of promise and excitement.”
Committed to furthering the healing process, PC(USA), in 2002, appointed the Independent Committee of Inquiry (ICI) to investigate abuse that had occurred in the Congo. In 2004, after the ICI had completed its work and representatives of PC(USA) had responded personally to survivors, the church extended its inquiry beyond the Congo. It formed the Independent Abuse Review Panel (IARP).
Get the Final Report
This Final Report of the Independent Abuse Review Panel (IARP) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) summarizes fact-finding inquiries conducted since 2004 into reports of past physical and sexual abuse on Presbyterian mission fields.
The IARP offers this Final Report with deep respect for each person and entity touched by the difficult issues discussed here. The purpose of gathering and reporting this information at this time is to move each of us and all of us forward toward the fullness and richness of life given to us and promised for us by God.
The report is available in two formats: download or order
Witnesses to Truth, Witnesses to Healing: Investigating Child Abuse in Missionary Settings
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) thrugh its Independent Abuse Review Panel created this 90-minute DVD/VHS as an outreach to survivors of sexual and physical abuse, and their families and friends, in Presbyterian-related missionary communities. What you see in this program are five witnesses — a parent of survivors and four survivors — who participated in the ICI's Congo inquiry. They share their journey as witnesses to truth and as witnesses to healing.
James Evinger of Rochester, New York, was a member of the Independent Committee of Inquiry (ICI). A Presbyterian minister, he does clinical research at the University of Rochester Medical Center. He has consulted with presbyteries, congregations and individuals regarding cases of clergy sexual abuse and has written articles on the subject. For 20 years he taught classes for parents and foster parents on how to talk comfortably, competently and age-appropriately with children about sexuality. Jim is an avid hiker who particularly enjoys the Rocky Mountains.
Carolyn Whitfield is a Presbyterian layperson from Rochester, New York. She served on the ICI as staff and primary contact person for Congo survivors. She holds a Ph.D. in political science from the University of Rochester. Her research into how states determine child welfare policies complemented work as a consultant for social service agencies examining programs and policies related to child abuse and neglect. Her interest in child welfare polices grew out of her experience as a social worker in a child welfare agency. She has two cats and serves as a foster home for two others.
Judie Wiley of Williston, Vermont, is a Presbyterian and a social worker with 25 years of experience working as a psychotherapist with a specialty in child abuse, survivor and perpetrator treatment. She has worked with presbyteries to provide classes to both pastors and laity on sexual misconduct. She was the founding therapist of a Child Advocacy Center offering counseling to children, adolescents and their families at the time of disclosure. Currently she provides training to new state child welfare workers for the state of Pennsylvania and consults with a county social service agency. Judie’s newest passion is learning to paint watercolors.
These are the people who are committed to the IARP’s mandate, as expressed in the Charter, to “pursue truth, encourage healing, and promote justice” in the lives of survivors, those accused, their families and our faith community. They will serve on the Panel until the end of its Charter in December 2010.
The work of the IARP
The panel’s charge is to receive and respond to allegations of past physical or sexual abuse “where either 1) the accused was formerly under appointment by (Worldwide Ministries Division or one of its predecessor Presbyterian Church world mission bodies) and not currently under appointment; or 2) the abused individual (adult or child) was formerly in the mission field because of a WMD appointment.”
Proceeding fairly and impartially, the IARP
- pursues the truth by locating victims and others having knowledge of the scope of abuse;
- encourages healing by listening to victims and other witnesses; and
- promotes justice by encouraging the denomination’s accountability in relation to findings of abuse.
All communications to the IARP are kept confidential.
How you can help victims
If you or someone you care about was physically or sexually abused while parents served PC(USA) or one of its predecessor denominations as a missionary, contact:
P.O. Box 18241
Rochester, NY 14618
(800) 728-7228, x5207
If you or someone you care about is currently being physically or sexually abused while missionary parents serve PC(USA), contact:
(800) 728-7228, x5207
International abuse hotline:
Also see the Creating Safe Churches website for further information.