Concerning Corroboration of Accusations of Sexual Misconduct in Christian Environments

November 18, 2018
Samuel Logan

Corroboration of Accusations of Sexual Misconduct

The Challenge

The World Reformed Fellowship (WRF) has been working to provide assistance to its members with respect to the prevention of sexual misconduct in Christian churches and organizations and the handling of accusations of such misconduct.  You may see the progress we have made here - http://wrfnet.org/articles/2018/08/suggestions-regarding-interpersonal-relationships-christian-churches-and#.W7ptMntKgdU

Recently in the United States, there has been a great deal of discussion about accusations of sexual assault against a nominee for this country’s Supreme Court.  The primary accusations were related to events that occurred many years earlier.  The discussion surrounding these accusations has led us to realize that the material we have posted needs improvement.  

Many of those who continued to support the nominee for the Supreme Court argued that the accusations made against him (for actions committed thirty years earlier) could not be corroborated or proved and, therefore, should not be considered by those making the decision regarding his nomination.  It is likely that these arguments prevailed because his nomination was approved and this individual has now been sworn in as a Supreme Court Justice.

The above process led us to realize that the material on our website would be much more useful to Christian churches and organizations if we provided guidance with respect to these two questions:

1) How might Christian churches and organization create an internal atmosphere which encourages victims of any form of sexual misconduct to communicate with appropriate people about their experience in a timely manner?

2) Other than the obvious forms of corroboration (eyewitness testimony by a third party or actual video or audio recording of the event), what should “count” as corroboration?  In the document on our website, we describe the process by which accusations of misconduct will be adjudicated (Item 3. B.).  But in light of the recent events described above, we believe that our material would be much stronger and more helpful if we were able to provide some guidelines with respect to the matters mentioned in Items 3. B. v. c., d., e., and f.  In other words, for what corroboration might those charged with making a final judgment look?

The second question listed above could prove especially helpful to those who have been or might be the victims of sexual misconduct.  It would provide guidance to them with respect to the steps they should take in the immediate aftermath of any such experience.   

We wrote to all WRF members to ask these two questions.  We then posted the questions of Facebook and requested those who are "friends" (but not necessarily members) of the WRF to respond.  Below are the responses we received.

 

Responses from WRF Members

Outside the USA


1.  From my limited pastoral experience, it appears to me that girls who were assaulted before age 15 frequently have symptoms of PTSD, often in the form of panic attacks. If the person never has panic attacks, I would want outside evidence to think the claim is credible.


2.  Thank you for the sterling work regards sexual conduct guidelines for the church. The document reflects the depth of deliberation and thought that went into its present form and formulation. It is also commendable that you are taking the present emotive process that preceded the appointment of the US Supreme Court into account.

 The news reports we have available to us in our country were obviously inadequate to fully appreciate the process the US senate and the public engaged in. For these reasons I am hesitant to make any comments beyond the tentative. So,  just some thoughts, not answers in particular.

 A.  It seems to me that the woman who brought charges against the nominee was probably encouraged to do so by opposing parties to the nomination. She lived with what happened for decades and suddenly raised the matter. In other words the accusations probably resulted as result of coercion. Not that that minimizes the accusation but the reason for breaking her silence was motivated by other factors (political?) than the unseemly behaviour of a man towards her many years back. Although the nomination was confirmed, there is a stigma that will accompany both the accuser and accused for many years.

B   This brings me to the issue at hand. Truth, for a variety of reasons, is at a low ebb. In SA trumped up charges are sometimes brought against persons in court and at times, it is said, that heavier/lighter sentences are sometimes passed than what would otherwise have been the case. I would therefore suggest that charges of a sexual nature within the church context be dealt with sensitively for both the accuser and the accused based on firm charges/denials supported by evidence.

C.   I think that whether a sexual accusation can be proved or not, at the end of the day, it has to be accepted that something untoward happened. This is the one truth that is undeniable, something did take place. Unless of course the accusation is false. While the full brunt of church discipline and civil discipline may not be brought to bear some form of Christian discipline ought to be considered based on the fact that something did happen. But at the same time if the accusation is false, or serves as currency for a different purpose eg. political gain which obscures/minimizes/exaggerates the sexual charges then, in the light of that, the Church must also consider those matters in its deliberations.


3.  I'm afraid I flat out busy at the moment and the subject is an important one. I think you would find the Safe Church Code of Conduct of the Presbyterian Church of Victoria (https://static1.squarespace.com/static/53d06ab6e4b0e5e00554f726/t/54179ee4e4b0d2ecae1ecc3d/1410834148281/Safe+Church+Code+of+Conduct.pdf ) and the Breaking the Silence document of the Presbyterian Church of Australia in the State of New South Wales (http://jerichoroad.org.au/breaking-the-silence/) useful as Scriptural guidelines likely to promote an environment where abuse does not occur. The Victoria Code of Conduct is identical to the NSW one except it omits domestic violence which I understand is covered by other church rules.

So far as procedures are concerned, laws vary in different jurisdictions. But records should be kept far longer than 10 years. You really have to think in terms of 50 years. These include employee records, given that increasingly statute of limitations provisions are being repealed and even the onus of proof being reversed.

You need a mechanism at Session level for annual declaration that no officebearer is aware of any issue, similarly at presbytery level. You need mandatory reporting to Police, even if not required in law, of any alleged criminal act, and you need proper provisions for interviewing children and vulnerable adults. But investigation should not be done by the church until the police have investigated.  Pastoral care of offenders is also an issue to be addressed. Much of this seems to be covered in the draft.

In the nature of the case independent witnesses are rarely available thus the credibility of the parties comes into play. The biblical requirement of two or three witnesses is sometimes considered met if there is more than one report by unrelated individuals. I think in Scotland this is called the Moorov doctrine. Sometimes the accused party admits, and has occurred in my experience but if is not admitted then....

A difficult area indeed.

 

4.  Thanks for your welcome email. Civil law is changing rapidly in Australia in relation to child sexual assault and people working in this field within the Presbyterian Church of Australia and its component state churches are working diligently to respond in God-honouring ways. We are seeking to convene these people on November 1 & 2 to advance our work and I believe that it would be helpful for us to respond to your questions with one voice after our conference.

Might I observe that child safety procedures are closely intertwined with disciplinary practices and  this point of interaction has been extensively considered within our church on an ongoing basis for all of this year. When I communicate again, I would hope to be able to share our learning in this area for the consideration - and, hopefully, the blessing - of all WRF members.

 

5.  Provided the integrity of samples can be assured, DNA tests can be invaluable in identifying the person accused of sexual assault or rape, but are of little help in establishing whether sexual activity was consensual or not. Establishing that crucial point is notoriously difficult, and short of camera or third party eyewitness evidence it is the word of the accuser against the accused. The task of the court is not helped by long delays in reporting, though in the UK, DNA evidence has solved rape cases from as far back as the 1980s.

As a parent I would like to think (perhaps naively) that our children would have shared, either with me or their mother, or both of us, any assault or violation. But as it may well have involved them in activity of which they knew we would disapprove it is highly possible that they would not have told us. If we were starting all over again, in the current febrile climate, I think it would be good to work out with our children some wise third party in whom they could confide (and who would make a written record) if they felt they could not tell us. If they were later to tell us, we would, with their permission, have access to that record.

As an aside, more confusion has been caused today by President Trump's assertion that Justice Kavanaugh has been 'proven innocent' of assaulting Dr Ford. In the eyes of the law, Justice Kavanaugh IS innocent until proven guilty, and his innocence does not have to be proved 'beyond reasonable doubt' as does his guilt. The most unfortunate affect of the MeToo movement has been its tendency to subvert the rule of law and undermine the presumption of innocence. Justice cannot be built on moving testimony, no matter how sincere, only the rule of law applied to the facts of the case can do that.

Maybe the world can now begin to see the wisdom of the third verdict open to a Scottish Court. As well as the verdicts of guilty and not guilty, there is also a verdict of 'not proven', upon which the accused is acquitted and continues to be innocent in the eyes of the law. That is taken to mean that the judge and/or the jury thought it likely the accused was guilty, but did not have sufficient legally admissible evidence to convict. Unlike a verdict 'not guilty', 'not proven' doesn't acquit without a stain on the character, so on the street it is taken to mean 'guilty but you mustn't do it again or else!'

 

6.  My remarks on the documents are that it is written merely from a Western guilt / forgiveness perspective and the non-Western shame culture and fear culture perspectives are not reckoned with.

To explain, here is an example:

Gulzel trusted in Jesus as a university student. The message through which she accepted Christ was fairly standard: “Your transgressions separate you from God; therefore you deserve punishment. Jesus died for your sin. Believe in him, and your sins will be forgiven.” Her faith was genuine and real. Her sins were forgiven and she enjoyed new life in Christ. But as a Central Asian, Gulzel faced unique situations that forgiveness could not fully address.

One Sunday evening, Gulzel was returning to the city from her mom’s house in the village. The taxi she entered had a male driver and three male passengers. After a short while the men began inviting Gulzel to their homes for tea and propositioning her. As a young girl she felt uncomfortable and tried to downplay the situation. Halfway through the ride, the men stopped for a round of vodka shots along the road. Being intoxicated, the men became physically aggressive. At just that moment, Gulzel noticed her uncle in an oncoming car, heading in her direction. But instead of jumping into the road and flagging her uncle down, Gulzel hid. She did not want her uncle to see her. Gulzel’s primary concern in that moment was avoiding shame and maintaining family honor. A few years later, Gulzel’s brother died. Her family mourned the tragedy, especially since he played a unique role as the family’s oldest son. A few weeks after his death, Gulzel began having regular dreams of her brother. While she was asleep, spirits in the likeness of her brother tormented her. When Gulzel mentioned the dark dreams to her family, she was told to eat dirt from the brother’s gravesite to appease the spirits. Gulzel desired power over the spiritual realm to escape torment and find peace. Though truly forgiven of her sins, Gulzel needed to experience God’s salvation from shame and fear, as well as guilt. Gulzel, as with most Christians in the majority world, requires a three-dimensional gospel of God’s forgiveness, honor, and power.   [Georges, Jayson. The 3D Gospel: Ministry in Guilt, Shame, and Fear Cultures (Kindle Locations 116-124).  Kindle Edition. (This book is very helpful to understand that the Christian Gospel is like a diamond with several facets of which guilt/forgiveness is only one.)

In shame cultures it is extremely difficult for ladies to expose sexual abusers. In such cultures church leaders have such a high and mighty hierarchical position it is almost impossible to apply biblical principles of church discipline.

In Africa where a fear culture and witchcraft are often dominant under the surface even among Christians, sexual abuse of ladies by church leaders is rampant. In a lecture on this issue, Conrad Mbewe from Zambia once explained that in some African communities pastors are easily seen as witch doctors.

 

Inside the USA

1.  It is a difficult question. Almost all sexual predator situations cannot be corroborated, and yet they might have (many if not most times) happened. I am not sure of the answer but I know I am grateful for Dr. Ford seeking to put the truth out there - even if it isn't corroborated and if she bears the weight of her story. We can only do what we can do, but I appreciate when one has the courage to step forward.


2.  I am going to take the a position on this that will be on one of the two far ends of thisdiscussion, which comes from my experience on Sessions whose decisions have done damage to the offended party, in most cases a woman, but not always, who we have not served well by allowing church leaders who have committed violence or egregious sin of any kind to continue in office.

In short, the recidivism rate should be zero, by way of discipline.

I believe that sexual or physical violence, against anybody, is intolerable In the leadership of the church.

Certainly, strict standards of truth must be observed in considering each case.

I won't go into specific cases at this point, but this will give you a feel for where I'm coming from.

And I have seen cases in which sin has been forgiven and redemption modeled. But, we have to face the fact that there are too many times when we err in favor of the sinner whose sin damages the sheep in our care.

 

3.  In my mind, a key part of the answer to both questions asked is greater general awareness about the dynamics and impacts of sexual abuse. Understanding the power dynamic and the deep, deep impacts will give us greater compassion toward those who have been hurt. It may help keep us from the all-too-common "victim blaming", which works to silence those who have experienced abuse. Understanding more about how trauma affects the brain can help us better form loving relationships with those who have suffered abuse. In addition, knowing familiar patterns in abusive relationships will help us recognize abuse, prevent it, and hold accountable those who perpetrate it. Even without corroborating eye-witnesses, these common patterns can be seen and acknowledged for what they are, giving insight into our discernment. For example, so much can be learned simply by the way someone who is confronted with an allegation responds, but only when you know these common patterns and what to look for. Education to build greater awareness is critical.

What I would point to as a potentially helpful resource is this: Responding to Abuse: A Toolkit for Churches  - https://network.crcna.org/safe-church/responding-abuse-toolkit-churches   (this is a first edition, we are in the process of getting feedback and hope to see improvements in a future addition). Though it is designed to be a small, accessible resource, it links to other articles and resources for those who want to learn more.

We also have a section on the Safe Church website (https://www.crcna.org/SafeChurch ) devoted to church leader misconduct which has additional resources (https://network.crcna.org/safe-church/abuse-clergy-or-ministry-leaders-awareness-articles-books-and-other-resources ).

 

4.  Victims of sexual misconduct and other misdeeds should always be believed, as this can be an important part of their healing.  At the same time, innocent parties should be vindicated when they are falsely accused, especially if they are accused of sexual misconduct.  Very unfortunately, we cannot know who is truly a victim or who has been falsely accused without some investigation.  And even then, we may not know for certain who is telling the truth.

The limitations of our knowledge make it crucially important for a church or other Christian organization to establish a clear standard for evidence.  In the United States, some organizations use a “preponderance of the evidence” standard, in which even slightly more evidence on one side than the other is sufficient to establish a claim.  This standard of evidence makes it easier for a victim’s allegation to be established, and also opens a wider door to false accusations.

For a trial court, the standard of evidence is “beyond a reasonable doubt.”  This is a much higher burden of proof that strongly protects the accused from false accusations, but also makes it harder for a true victim to get a just verdict.

The standard or evidence for a grand jury indictment is somewhere in between “preponderance of evidence” and “beyond a reasonable doubt.”  Here the standard is “clear and convincing evidence.”

Each of these standards of proof may be appropriate in different circumstances or for different organizations.  What is perhaps most important is for any process of adjudication to make the standard clear.

Depending on the standard for proof, there may well be situations where the adjudicators are inclined to believe a victim, and yet determine that there is insufficient evidence to reach a verdict against the accused.  Knowing the standard of evidence may also help a victim decide whether to bring an accusation.

A.iii  says “presumed innocent until proven guilty.”  This is a very high standard of proof—one that many victims of sexual misconduct will not be able to meet.  It should be recognized that the language of “proven” is a judgment call.

A.i   says that churches and organizations “must make certain” that no false witness is borne; this is not a standard that most people can meet.  It might be better to say “must strive to ensure,” or something a little less declaratory.

Outside investigation by experts may be helpful in a process of adjudication.  However, the authority of any independent investigation is derivative, and in the end the govenring body of a church or other Christian organization has to take responsibility for its decisions.  The “Suggestions” speak of “recommendations” from outside investigators.  This seems appropriate.  However, B.v.g says “the necessary action,” which seems to imply that the recommendation of the independent investigators is mandatory.  It might be better to say “The officers shall then take whatever action they believe is warranted, etc.” or words to that effect.

Considered as a whole, the “Suggestions” document could more clearly articulate principles of restorative justice, including the possibility of reconciliation between victims and perpetrators.

With respect to what counts as corroboration, inevitably this will always be a judgment call.  The fact that a victim has shared his or her story with a friend or counselor prior to coming forward—whether recently or in the distant past—does not provide much in the way of corroboration.  The most that the friend or counselor can say is that the purported victim said that he or she was victimized.  Which brings the adjudicator back to the same place: the purported victim claims to have been harmed.

 

Responses from non- WRF Members

 

Inside the USA

1.  I know this is very serious business and hits many hearts but there are some who are innocents who are getting hurt from all these TV discussions. I am sure many people are having flash backs from hearing all these things being brought out. Who helps us get back to a comfortable place once all the old stories come back to haunt you.

First, if Dr. Ford's statements we have heard on TV are true I would want to hear from others if this really happened. That said, I would hope I knew my daughter enough to realize she was telling the truth. If she was attending these types of parties without my knowledge I would not totally believe her word. We would have to have discussions on why she didn't let me know she was going and why did she keep on going.  I was always told my parents if I didn't like a situation I was in keep money handy and call a cab to get out of there.But most importantly, get out of there if it was unsafe. I took them very seriously. My only example from high school was a cast party I attended people drank and were getting very drunk. I wasn't sure what would happen.  It was late but I got to a pay phone and called my parents.

I believe something very bad happened to Dr. Ford but I was not totally convinced it was Brett K. At parties like this people do observe and know what is going on. With all her work with a Psychiatrist things would have come clearer for her to remember something like w here it happened at least. I remember the house and the back yard where I was watching my crowd get drunk, Bonfire burning and feeling very afraid of the way they were acting.

I had been in an abusive marriage and got out. The abuse was more emotional and psychological than physical I was 22 when it happened. I was traumatized by this and yet afraid to let anyone know of horror going on at home. Trauma is trauma. We were very involved in church, youth leaders. I tried to talk to parents, pastors etc... They tried to understand but they couldn't believe what was happening to me at home. He hid things very well. Years after I got out of this horror, I went for help because I was getting flash backs and having a difficult time committing to another relationship. Reliving the horror with my therapist was rough but telling people about it is just as horrible every time I must tell it. So now I tell no one. If they ask I tell them  when I repeat the story to most people they are horrified and do not find it a good to hear. It also makes me tremble inside and get quite upset for days after even now. I would not think Dr. Ford enjoyed telling her story but she didn't seem to remember a lot which might be good for her. I pray to God for help with this everyday when I have bad days, which seeing this on TV for so many weeks bring back all my bad times and relive them. I am not sure this is the answer you are looking for but I know these are serious charges she brought up against him and if they were true someone would have know something about BK and these parties and what he had done to corroborate her story especially with young people.  Dr. Logan, I think corroboration of some sort is needed. I couldn't prove my story I had no bruises but mentally and to my soul they were there. God is healing me but it is very hard to forget.

 

2.  I was pawed and groped by three different men in high school when they each drove me home after babysitting.  I never said anything to my parents. There would have been no corroboration.  Just refused baby sitting jobs from them in the future. I am sure that was the common response.

 

3.  I would want her to tell me. The other details about the party wouldn’t matter. What my daughter said happened is all I need to hear. Women know when they are being assaulted and sadly it is never forgotten from their memory. Maybe suppressed for a while but it’s always in their body.

 

4.  Unfortunately, those who I know who were youthful victims did exactly as Dr. Ford. They did not report the incident and did not tell their parents.  Corroboration? Only the perp could have provided that. I don't claim expertise or personal knowledge, but it seems to me that the path chosen by Dr. Ford is not uncommon. I certainly think most men will have a hard time relating. I found her credible and found a lot of out and out lies on Judge Kavanaugh's testimony. So the scales tipped one way for me.

 

5.  Part of the corroboration occurred when people spoke of Kavanaugh's character and drinking behavior at that time, but people chose to ignore or not to listen. The investigation of all the facts was also very weak. Many others could have been interviewed, especially about the facts surrounding the case (e.g. if, when, and where did the party happen). There is more to corroboration than the act itself, in my opinion.

 

6.  I too was molested over a period of years by the same man. When I told my mom, she said not to make up stories about the neighbors. When someone else accused him...correctly..... my Dad stood up for this monster. You think I would tell anyone else? I told my children that they could tell me......and my daughter told me and the dad of one of her friends. This dad found out the guy had a reputation. He was reported to the police. We didn't see him around much after that.

 

7.  [I would suggest] FETI (Forensic Experiential Trauma Interview), an interview technique for dealing with trauma victims, since their perception of the event is not that normally dealt with by Law Enforcement officers:  https://www.bwjp.org/resource-center/resource-results/shifting-the-paradigm-for-investigating-trauma-victimization.html

Quoting from the linked page:

Currently, most criminal investigations focus on two major categories of evidence – physical evidence and testimonial evidence. This evidence is found by processing crime scenes, collecting DNA and other valuable physical evidence, and collecting testimonial evidence through interviews and interrogations. Often overlooked and underappreciated, however, is a class of evidence called forensic physiological evidence. This evidence is based on documented psychological and physical reactions to a crime experienced or witnessed by an individual. These reactions can include nausea, flashbacks, muscle rigidity, trembling, terror, memory gaps, sights, sounds, smells, or other psychological or physical responses to the experience.

Sexual assault investigations may produce little or no physical evidence due to the nature of the crime, especially if only “constructive force” (non-violent physical force) is used by the offender. Traditional testimonial evidence can be altered both by poor cognitive memories and impact of stress and trauma on those memories.

Wider use of these techniques (with their greater understanding of neuroscience) might change what is regarded as "evidence", especially for "no witness" crimes.

 

8.  I work in the prisons here in Rhode Island. Group and Individual work. I use the ACE study and the International ACE. Most of my clients confirm 6 out of 10 on the ACE. I find the International fits for not only my Immigrant clients but many of those questions also reflect inner city experiences as well. I visited El Salvador during their war and have usually chosen to live and raise my children in the inner city where those concerns are often almost next door.  [ACE is a measure of “Adverse Childhood Experiences” which have lifelong effects or strong correlation with negative outcomes.  See https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/acestudy/index.html  and https://russellstrand.com/ ]

 

9.  Defensiveness and indignation need to be explored. You should take a wider and deeper look at someone who claims perfection that goes against what other people are stating they observed during that time in question. The issue is not that he or she were bad people with bad behaviors. The issue is not whether a survivor is or isn’t telling the truth or misremembering. The issue is about being honest about youthful indiscretions that were harmful to self and others; owning it with integrity, honesty, and compassion toward those who were possibly unintentionally harmed.

 

10. There are a few points that are missing here. One, most teens survivors do not report due to the culture especially the culture at that time, and second law enforcement at that time did not do a great job of following up if there was no rape kit.

The notion that people would lie about something happening is concerning, most women and men who are sexually abused were not at the time emotionally unbalanced until after the incident.

Something happened, with that note, the people who causes these offenses do not see them as offenses only as moments of time and just what happens when you are young. The contextual nature of this discussion in current times does not match the moment. Children today as early as four know what to do when touched in a negative way.  I can say more... as a male of #metoo it took until my forties to manage the issues. I work with a therapist as well as joined support groups...I was 11 and was abused until 13 by the good kid on the block that everyone trusted.  It is usually someone you know and it is usually someone your family likes... I am not saying the judge did it I am saying something happened and instead of say she was wrong how about he does not remember. Most harm is on the minds of those who are harmed not on the minds of those who kept going with their lives not even knowing they did harm. My abuser by the way died of cancer years ago... we never spoke about and he would wave at me as an adult if he saw me.  I wish him no ill will. I had to go forward. So may point is unless you have the experiences or the dialogue with those of us who have been through this this thought exercise is a form of harm done to a populations that is still healing ... some topics are not general, they bring back up those moments.  It takes courage ...my daughter has always told me when she felt unsafe or was harassed...but she is also studied martial arts and can defend her self...sorry if I am rambling but I wanted you to know... I find your views helpful and balancing that is why I decided to tell you. Have a good day. 

 

11.  I find this to be a difficult topic and had and continue to have many issues with how the confirmation issue was viewed and handled.  Maybe my difficulty with the issue stems from being both a mom of boys as well as a wife of a pastor.  To think that they could be condemned based on the testimony of one person…. But, even apart from that, coming from a legal background, I felt that too great an emphasis was on the emotion and not on facts and logic and the rule of law.  At work, I have had many discussions with other attorneys as we represented both accusers as well as those accused of assault and harassment claims.  One of the problems is that some “corroborating evidence” can be manufactured if one is so inclined to do so, although I would hope that people of faith would not be so cruel or unjust….  Also, especially for cases that are “he said/she said”, if all that is left to base a determination is on the credibility of the accuser/accused, there is too much room for great injustice.  One problem is that credibility hinges on what the testifying person believes to be true, not what in fact is true.  Another problem is that credibility can be affected by the witness’ characteristics wholly separate from truthfulness of the matter.  To make determinations based on credibility alone is too scary and too prone to unjust results.  No wonder the Bible requires two or more witnesses…

 That said, my thoughts as to corroborating evidence are as follows:

Other witnesses – these may not necessarily be witnesses who saw the alleged misconduct, but witnesses who are well familiar with the accuser/accused and can provide information about the relationship between accuser/accused or about different aspects of the alleged misconduct.  Assuming that both the accuser and accused have taken care to follow the protocols and procedures of not creating situations where such assault/ misconduct can take place, there should be others who are familiar with the misconduct in question.  For instance, a witness may not have seen the misconduct and thus cannot confirm/deny that the alleged misconduct occurred, but can confirm/deny that the accuser and accused were together or had the opportunity for the misconduct to occur.   A witness may have seen the accused after the event and can provide information as to the how the accused appeared (distraught, distracted …)  

Also, even if the misconduct is not a singular traumatic event, but rather long term “grooming” or sinful relationship, others should be able to provide evidence as to conversations or interactions between the accuser/accused.  This type of corroborating evidence may be difficult to obtain while trying to maintain the confidential nature of the investigation. 

Contemporaneous notes made by accuser/accused – notes made at or near the time of the events recorded tend to be given greater weight.  So, from the perspective of the accuser, instead of just telling someone about what has happened, put the facts (who, what, where, when, etc.) on paper, even if it is a personal journal.  While it certainly is understandable that the accuser may not be in the frame of mind to write it out, written record of what occurred would be considered “corroborating” evidence.

Email communications/texts between accuser/accused or about accuser/accused – written correspondence between the accuser/accused would be highly relevant to any accusation.  While I would think communications between accuser and accused after the occurrence should be discouraged, especially to protect the accuser, written correspondence post-occurrence should also be analyzed.

There has to be a balance between believing the accuser while at the same time withholding judgment until accusation has been established (whether to a beyond a reasonable doubt standard or more likely than not standard).  While we should bemoan the way sexual assault and victims have been treated in the past, we cannot right the past injustice by allowing the pendulum to swing in the other direction to allow for injustice against the accused.  Injustice is injustice no matter the subject of the injustice.

I hope this is helpful and greatly appreciate all that you are doing to address this issue.

Tags: 
sexual assault #MeToo church discipline corroboration accusations