After receiving  a disclosure of sexual abuse  

A Guide for Pastors - protocols and Pastoral Care.

A Multidimensional Guide  to   equip Pastors to provide Trauma informed Pastoral care - after  receiving disclosures of sexual abuse ....  what comes next.


"Beware of wolves

in sheep's clothing"


 Matthew 7 v 15

Mandatory Reporting

In NSW, Australia,  Mandatory Reporting is a legal requirement.


protocols vary weather to report directly to the Police

or Denominational Professional Standards

 or Safe Church Office.


  When survivors disclose encourage them to make a statement direct to the Police whilst providing ongoing Pastoral Care.

Duty of Care

  • to protect the congregation
  • to have a safe church
  • Church discipline of an offender
  • support for survivors
  • support to survivors family and friends
  • ministry to a vicariously traumatised congregation.

The  role of the Pastor


   Please pause and  listen to the Hymn "Oh Jesus I have promised to serve Thee to the end..

                                                                       and give me the grace to follow my master and my friend.." 


  for the task is ardous.

  requiring strength and endurance over months and years.  

  I know, I've been through it. 

but God's faithfullness is great..

       He will provide all we need   ( excuse the add before the choir)

From my experience in responding to allegations of sexual abuse I learnt:

  •    It is important to not ask questions of a survivor or a disclosee,

     as the investigation is the role of the Police and one must not  risk contaminating evidence.


  •    I  would argue a Pastor can listen showing compassion

              and be reassuring   ensure a disclosee is believed

    whilst referring  survivors to  the Police

       then support services, trauma release therapy and sexual assault counseling.


  •  offer to pray for God's help.
  • be available
  • you might offer to go with the disclosee ( survivor) to the Police for support.
  • to talk with the parents of a minor    if requested.

see below for Pastoral Care

and Support Services.


 Christian Survivors often feel abandonded  when we  should have access to  Pastoral care

      and not handed over to  "the professionals"

      rather a multidisciplinary approach should be taken

   neither should a Pastor see ones role to defend the insititution but to provide Pastoral care.

      If one is in a role with a real or perceived  obligation to defend the institution

      or if one impulsively defends the institution

        then you ought to refer survivors to a Pastor with no real or potential or perveived conflict of interest.

    I suggest ethically and to avoid a real or perceived or potential conflict of interest

      one ought to provide Pastoral care to the victim OR the accused

     but not both.

         bring in or refer one party to a Collegue.

    I had a duty of care to my Congregation  so after confrunting the alleged abuser after my observations of him dancing around the line

      and after the Elders forbade him entering the property

        I relied on a Collegue to provide Pastoral Care to the accused and his wife.


   I had learnt in a previous parish that ministry to two parties in conflict doesn't work.

 unless one is a mediator but mediation is not our role here

 we have Pastoral and legal obligations


 the context of my recommendations is to  encourage you to provide trauma informed Pastoral care

   whilst leaving the investigation to the Police and being a member of an interdisciplinary team ( eg sexual assault counsellors and trauma release therapists)


I  have written  a site Processing Vicarious Trauma to assist Pastors care for members of the congregation vicariously traumatised by a disclosure or

     after an alleged offender has been charged or convicted

    and / or  after a disclosure or multiple disclosures have been made and risk management / Duty of Care is activated


 I have written  about  providing Pastoral Care for survivors  in multiple pages from different perspectives

     and am in the process of writing a site or page  Processing sexual trauma / Pastoral Care for survivors

        as in a Pastor's role in a multi disciplined structure.  

          let's call it a multi dimentional theistic neuro physological  model

         or trauma informed Pastoral Care

         or  Applied Redemptive Theology.




Who should be informed.

  • everyone - gossip will be spread anyway.  better to inform those affected yourself.
  • many will be vicariously traumatised -  better to publish a notification that provides support,

    than for people to be vicariously traumatised on hearing gossip  or media reports or social media

      because then a predictable response will be "Why wasn't I informed?"

   Basically there is or will be a wave of vicarious trauma , which will roll on until it breaks on a beach or runs out of energy.

as Pastors, let us pray for God's strength and compassion

   to fulfill our many duties.


  • The Congregation
  • The Youth Group and Young Adults
  • Parents of children in the church
  • other churches with links to your church
  • your local Pastors Association to brief your collegues and get support ( hopefully)
  •  at least one collegue  preferably three collegues outside the situation who is supportive.
  •  be briefed by a sexual assault support organisation.
  •  research for briefings

 The days of hushing up disclosures of sexual abuse are gone.

it didn't work. the delay only made it exponentially worse.

however to be comprehensive 

it is acknowledged that for some there are barriers to disclosing en mass

that there has been a disclosure

 or that  an alleged offender has been charged or convicted


 We can't predict how people will respond.

  • many will be supportive
  • some will  go into denial
  • some will be antagonistic
  • some members may leave the church.


  "Be strong and of good courage."

Caring for the Pastor

 As Pastors of a church and community who is vicariously traumatised

with many matters to attend to

  let us seek  God's help

     and to reaffirm our  decision  to follow Him


     as a survivor of child sexual abuse  I was retraumatised myself  I prayed for steps to recovery and got help.


I rang those I could confide in.

   I was in a position to go to other churches on Sunday  night


May the site

    Processing vicarious trauma be of assistance to you.


    Talking to Pastors outside your denomination ( to avoid potential conflicts of interest)

    and outside of your Parish, suburb, town  is recommended  as they are outside of the situation.


     I hope and pray that these pages are helpful briefings


May the power of God's love

cast out our fears. 

Link to "The Power of your love"  Hillsong

                                         1 John 4 verse 18


Interested parties to laise with

I have listed the groups needing to be notified below.

It's hard, preparing  oneself for the unpredictable reactions. 

      It is a time to trust the Lord with all our heart.   Proverbs 3 v 6

because each briefing, each communication vicariously traumatises - see Processing Vicarious trauma.

    as the wave of vicarious trauma rolls along.

may God give us strength, courage, comfort and His love which casts out fear.

The Police

  • Sexual assault
  • Sexual abuse
  • enablement
  • conceilment

are  crimes.


The Police do investigations

take care not to

contaminate a crime scene

or interfere with a Police  investigation.




Survivor support

I have listed support services below

ongoing Pastoral Care

should be trauma informed

without Pastoral Care some survivors may feel


mutual support within church groups.


avoid victim blaming


more to follow


After the initial Mandatory Reporting

to the denominational Safe Church Officer

 keep in touch

ask for support


The Church Insurer will need to be notified

by due process which should have been explained

or via the Safe Church Office.

A Pastor may find support from




Because there are so many legal processes

and procedures  my lived experience is

talking to Pastors outside ones denomination

for debriefing

for personal support

  was helpful.


in draft form

more to come

External seminars

Whilst churches provide Safe Church training

my lived experience is that I found external seminars

helpful, in particular other denominations

as the participants are not parties to the procedures

I found an objectivity

I also found secular seminars helpful.


much is being pioneered

and we have a long way to go

but the journey has commenced.



   I have done many internet searches as issues

and terms emerged

  more books are commng onto the market

although many libraries are light on

books are often located on line

I have found Christian bookshops light on.

The Congregation



Keep the congregation informed.

build a team who will stand with you

comfort the grieving


Sadly some may resist changes

   that are needed


sometimes there are enablers left in the congregation.

  others want to conceil the knowledge of sexual abuse

 or it's impacts.


Be strengthened in Christ


Receive from Him as you give out to others.


many will be vicariously traumatised


"When my heart is overwhelmed

lead me to the rock that is higher than I "

This is a 3 to 5 year project.

take your time

step by step

don't rush it


be open about it - gossip spreads

so best to tell the congregation

  and interested parties yourself.


 The legal processes are slow

and time consuming  but necessary.




Pastoral Care of survivors

  Sexual assault counselling

         is a specialised counselling

usually undertaken by psychologists or social workers

who have had training in sexual assault counselling


    Usually sexual assault units are located

in major hospitals or community health centres.

Survivor support

Blue Knott







Blue Knott

   1300 657 380



  ( General Support)

13 11 14

and others

Pastoral Care of survivors

 Whilst it is generally held that

survivors should be referred

"to the professionals"

 as a survivor my lived

experience is that I have

found trauma informed

Pastoral care


    elements include:

  • Prayer
  • Relevant Scripture
  • debriefs
  • compassion
  • support



responses of the congregation will vary




vicarious trauma

 Survivors in the congregation may be retraumatised


 abusers in non Bishop Protestant Churches are usually:

Presbyterian Elders

Baptist Deacons

Youth leaders

longstanding members

 and those who have accumulated trust and or power


 Whilst clergy abuse this guide is for non offending clergy faced with a massive task


  it goes everywhere


Non Cognative therapy.


  • Prayer
  • listening
  • Music as therapy

  which includes hymns  or Praise

  • Relevant scriptures
  • compassion

note: some survivors may

be so betrayed that

they only want secular



Other therapies:

  • EDMR
  • art as therapy
  • whilst many survivors do not want physical touch

  some find remedial massage  or physio helpful in releasing trauma from the body

  • tapping
  • shaking


  and references to follow

Explanation of abreviated Page titles

I have abreviated the page names  as they appear on the header to avoid them being a destraction

and  because the structure of the site flows

    with additional pages set up for explanations of particular issues or factors.


However, after going through the site,

    I have listed the abreviations for quick access  when reading over a particular page.


EG CSA  = examples of sexual abuse in institutions


WVT =  a wave of vicarious trauma.


TIPC  =  Trauma Informed Pastoral Care - a briefing.


SF =  When the system fails - as it sometimes does.   I know, it happened in Auburn.

CD = Church discipline  eg in the Presbyterian Church there is "A Book of Discipline"

                                             there is a process for the discipline of members.

FLP =  Maintaining the fellowship of believers.


ABT =  Abondonment.   experienced by survivors of sexual abuse

                                         exploring the antidotes to abondonment

 Barriers =   to   open disclosure     I nearly called this page "keeping the silence"

                     to recovering from vicarious trauma  


 1JN1 = a corporate apllication  of the text 1 John 1 verses 8 and 9





References  a list of references  used