RICHMOND, Va. – The International Mission Board created a hotline to help victims of sexual misconduct on the mission field either in the past or present.
The toll-free number will help people report inappropriate relationships or incidents of abuse to current IMB staff members.
"We very rarely receive reports of such problems, but we don't want that to be because a victim feels he or she has nowhere to turn for help," said Mark Whitworth, a member care consultant for the board and former missionary to Japan. "This phone line will make it easier for people to call for help, which in turn will allow us to gather the information we need to respond in an appropriate and timely manner."
The addition of the phone number grew out of recent communications with people who experienced sexual abuse as children on the mission field in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
"It's sad that things like this happen, especially to children and especially on the mission field," said Sharron Hawk, another member care consultant at the board who served as a missionary in Nigeria. "We know we are not immune to problems like this, and we want people to know that we care and that we are committed to reaching out to victims and dealing decisively with abusers."
The International Mission Board has strict written policies that address sexual misconduct and outline procedures for handling known violations. Grounds for termination include sexual assault or harassment, pedophilia and sexual misconduct involving a minor. The board maintains an ongoing review of sexual misconduct policies and provides continuous training of personnel to promote awareness and prevent sexual misconduct.
Information about the toll-free number is being provided directly to current and former missionaries and their children.