Friday, January 12, 2007

Exodus' New Guidelines for Youth?

On June 26, 2006 I initially left voice messages for Alan Chambers of Exodus International and another national ex-gay leader about inappropriate incidents that affected youth at an Exodus member ministry. I will not go into the details at this time, but I shared three specific situations that happened within the previous year. The shocking details of the third situation compelled me to contact Alan and this other national leader. In my initial messages I said that I would rather discuss this privately, but if they did not wish to talk, then I would initiate a public discussion.

E-mails went back and forth including one in which the program director of the Exodus member ministry acknowledged the situation did occur, and since being alerted about it by Alan, shared some of the steps he took to address it. After multiple phone conversations with Alan's assistant and more e-mails, Alan finally agreed to speak with me on the phone. The other national leader declined to speak with me out of concern for possible legal liability issues.

On July 31st during a conference call with Alan and Exodus Youth Director, Scott Davis, I outlined in detail the situations that had been recounted to me by recent participants in the Exodus member ministry. Alan expressed his concern and assured me that Exodus cares about the safety and welfare of youth. He also informed me that Exodus was going to issue new guidelines for programs that work with youth.

We talked about some of the considerations when working with youth including ensuring that adult and youth participants do not attend sessions together or have any contact. I added that just like every major organization that works with youth, each Exodus youth worker should have a background check.

Alan said that the new requirements for Exodus member ministries will go into effect in at the beginning of 2007 and will be done in a public way. I pressed Alan to consider putting them into effect sooner, but he said that he had to meet with the board about it all first.

I agreed to send Alan a list of web links to other organizations who had very clear guidelines for working with youth including the Boys Scouts of America. I also agreed that I would not blog about the incidents or share the details publicly. I then waited for January 2007 to see these new guidelines.

On January 3rd I contacted Alan's assistant for a follow-up conversation about the guidelines. She e-mailed me back the next day,
After going over the schedule and speaking with Alan it looks like January will not work for the two of you to speak. If you can contact me back in February, I can see what can be scheduled at that time.
I called back on January 5th and told her that I only needed an answer about the guidelines and when they guidelines would go into effect. I expressed the concern that both Alan and I shared during our July 31st phone conversation and asked if she could get back to me by January 9th with some answer.

I since followed up with Alan and his assistant through an e-mail containing the draft of this blog entry. I have gotten no further response and as far as I know, and I have seen no evidence of new guidelines being published.

I publish this blog entry in hopes that Alan complete what he said he would do. I do not wish to go into the details of the situations that occurred at the Exodus member ministry; I imagine the ministry would prefer that as well. Even so, perhaps a public discussion is the only way to move things forward.


At 12:00 PM , Blogger Annis said...

Keep up the good work, P, and don't let themget to you. I admire your way of not giving up, if only there were more people like you ..

At 1:03 PM , Blogger Contemplative Activist said...

"each Exodus youth worker should have a background check."

They don't?! That absolutely astounds me! Keep going with this Peterson and don't give up.


At 1:19 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Exodus is a scandal waiting to happen; a time bomb that will eventually explode in one way or the other. Good luck in communicating with them.

At 1:43 PM , Blogger Jerry Maneker said...

Peterson: You have a good heart, and I have good reason to believe that it doesn't resonate with the hearts, interests, and financial gains of those like Alan Chambers who profit handsomely from the "ex-gay" industry. Although there are different ways of handling difficult situations as these seem to be, I don't get the impression that they appreciate subtlety or decorum, but are so wedded to their fantasies, that the more their industry is questioned, the more they dig in their heels, because, I believe, deep down, they know very well that becoming "ex gay" is a sham, because they know what's in their own hearts, despite their rhetoric to the contrary. When everything is out in the open and sees the light of day, increasing numbers of people will see the "ex-gay" industry for the sham that it is; its destruction of countless lives by "justifying" shame, self-loathing, and futher discrimination against God's LGBT children. They do too much harm to be treated with kid gloves! I would "out" them!

At 2:01 PM , Blogger Jonathan said...

I was pretty taken aback when I heard that Exodus had no real process for screening its youth workers. Understanding that Exodus is dragging its feet in establishing some guidelines is just weird. Why? What is Chambers afraid of?

You are doing the right thing I think by shining the sun light. This is an organization that, while trying to give the impression of transparency, is incredibly secretive about some of its goings on.


At 2:17 PM , Blogger Elliot Coale said...

They just know that what you're talking about is right, Peterson, and, like Jerry said, they probably DO know that what they're trying to provide for people is nothing but false hopes and lies. You're doing the right thing by following up with this. Don't back down. Like you always tell me, be strong.

At 3:52 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did you call the Police, Peterson?

At 4:49 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why are we discussing this instead of calling the police?

At 5:37 PM , Blogger Peterson Toscano said...

anonymous, I recognize and appreciate your concern. I will share more at a later date if necessary.

At 8:10 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you have any reasonable suspicion that kids are being abused, don't you have an ethical responsibility to inform the cops? right now? Is it fair to accuse them and not answer this question? I am not asking for the details, only whether or not you have notified the authorities.

I frankly don't understand your reluctance to answer this simple and important question: have you or have you not called the police to give them the details of the abuse you say is being committed?

At 9:10 PM , Blogger kurt_t said...

I think you're doing the right thing going public with this information, Peterson.

As far as reporting any incidents to the authorities, I imagine that's worth pursuing, but I don't think the police or Child Protective Services or whoever is going to take any action unless a victim comes forward.

At 11:35 AM , Blogger Steve Schalchlin said...

I blogged your story, Peterson, and contrasted it to the strict guidelines we have for Youth Guardian Services where the adults are not even allowed a list of the NAMES of the youth, much less personal, intimate contact. It's unbelievable that Exodus has no guidelines, but considering they have no guidelines or standards for any of their other "ministries" it shouldn't be surprising.

At 5:50 PM , Blogger Christine Bakke said...

I am surprised that people are surprised that there are not background checks for youth workers (in Exodus programs or in churches).

At almost all churches (except maybe the very biggest ones) there are no kind of checks for youth or children workers. I've never been to a church that did any in any way.

In addition, most people who work for ex-gay ministries do not have any kind of social work, psychology or ministerial licenses or degrees (some have ministerial licenses or Bible college backgrounds and think this is more than necessary for the job, but even that to me is so woefully lacking when it comes to "treating homosexuality" and tinkering with people's psyches).

Churches and ministries are generally not run at all like anything in the "real" or "business" world. They are just not.

I have known more abuse of people, youth, and Christian employees within Christian churches, ministries, and businesses than I've ever heard of elsewhere; and it's doubly worse because it's often in the name of God.

At 1:24 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Keep up the good work. Way to be watch dog of this organization.

At 4:49 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't know about other churches but the diocese of which the Episcopal church I attend and serve is a part (I'm Lutheran) requires the same papers that schools do plus a diocesan session on rights and responsibilities. I know of at least one other TEC diocese that has similar requirements. Perhaps our members are the lucky ones? I can't believe that other churches are so confident of their infallibility that they would risk a lawsuit.

At 12:14 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kurt said: "...but I don't think the police or Child Protective Services or whoever is going to take any action unless a victim comes forward."

Not true. A victim does not have to come forward, per se. You can (and should) call the police whenever there is a "reasonable suspicion" of abuse -- even if you dont have "proof" and even if the kid may be upset. Over the years, I have made such reports many times and the police have always repsonded.

A child telling you that an adult has abused them or attempted to sexually assault them is enough. You may be sued, but if you made the report "in good faith" based on a "reasonable suspicion" you are on pretty safe ground.

You can make an anonymous report. You can call child protective services to discuss a situation (without giving any names) and ask CPS if they believe the situation warrants a formal report. Remember that child abusers don't strike just once. While we are dicussing this, other children may be victimized. (POsted by Michael Bussee)

At 6:22 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

What in the FUCK are you helping Exodus for! You should take your info to the press . I guess your loyalty to christianity trumps your loyalty to the gay community!

At 12:36 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good Job! :)


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