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Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS), one of the world's leading seminaries for training evangelical Christian leaders, will require all its students beginning this fall to receive an entry-level certification in the Sexual Abuse Awareness Training offered by MinistrySafe.
DTS officials said that, to the best of their knowledge, the school is the first seminary to make this kind of training a requirement.
"There are some issues that a seminary just can't prepare you for and that you have to learn on the job once you're out in ministry," said Dr. Mark Bailey, president of DTS. "With this issue, if you're learning on the job, something terrible has already happened. We don't want our students and the children who are served by their ministries to experience that. That's why we're pleased to partner with MinistrySafe to equip our students to protect those who are most vulnerable."
DTS has more than 2,200 students and 15,000 alumni. Even though they are no longer enrolled, the alumni will have free access to the training.
Fort Worth attorneys Gregory Love and Kimberlee Norris, who specialize in sexual-abuse cases, said that ministries tend to lag behind secular organizations in establishing safeguards against the sexual abuse of children.
They founded MinistrySafe in 1995 to provide state-of-the-art tools and training "to protect children and those who serve them." MinistrySafe has provided training and resources to more than 3,500 organizations and 450,000 staff members and volunteers on six continents in various languages.
The online training developed for DTS includes videos of a presentation by Love and Norris and a multiple-choice test and can be completed in less than two hours. The training provides key insights into the "grooming" procedures used by molesters.
"Sexual abusers will expend an extraordinary amount of effort to get others to think they are trustworthy and responsible," Norris said. "That's why when the identity of an abuser comes to light, people often have a hard time believing it."
The sexual abuse of children is a largely hidden problem. Love and Norris said there are 60 million survivors of sexual abuse in the U.S. — roughly one out of five Americans – and two-thirds of them won't talk about it until they are adults, if ever.
In addition, DTS and MinistrySafe will offer an in-depth course for credit, likely beginning with the spring semester in 2017, that will provide more than 40 hours of content, including preventative protocols for ministry settings. Both courses will be available to DTS students online.
DTS alumni represent 70-some denominations and 100-plus countries.
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