The Hope of Survivors was born one evening in December 2002, as Steve and Samantha Nelson were discussing ministry options and God impressed upon Steve to do something to reach others who had also experienced clergy sexual abuse. This led them to develop a website that would provide information and encouragement to anyone who may be searching for answers, since there was such a the lack of resources that were available to help them understand and heal at the time of their. Steve and Samantha felt if “just one person” could be helped by the website, then it would be well worth the effort and pain they had gone through. While Steve and Samantha’s vision was initially limited in thinking “just one,” the Lord knew how many hurting people there were—suffering all alone and living without hope. There are now thousands of “ones” out there who have been touched and blessed by the ministry of The Hope of Survivors.
About The Hope of Survivors
The Hope of Survivors is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to assisting victims of clergy sexual abuse and misconduct of all denominations and faith communities, as well as providing educational and informational materials and seminars to clergy members, church leaders and congregations worldwide.
The Hope of Survivors is a registered California nonprofit corporation and is registered and authorized to conduct business in the state of Wyoming, and in Ohio, New York and Texas as a foreign corporation under the same name. La Esperanza de los Sobrevivientes, the Latino Division of The Hope of Survivors, is registered in the state of Texas. The Hope of Survivors maintains International offices with volunteer staff in Queensland, Australia (registered NGO); Bistrița & Bucharest, Romania (registered NGO); Somerset West, South Africa; and Edenbridge, UK. The Hope of Survivors Canadian Division is presently in need of a replacement VP to continue operations there.
Professional memberships include: American Association of Christian Counselors; Outpost Centers International; Adventist Association of Family Life Professionals; and Adventist-laymen’s Services & Industries. The Hope of Survivors has been recognized as a Valued Partner by GuideStar Exchange and has received the Top-Rated Nonprofit Award for 2012-2015.
THOS’s Purpose and Mission
The Hope of Survivors takes a faith-based, scriptural approach to helping victims understand the devastation of clergy sexual abuse and how they can receive healing and wholeness by God’s grace. It is our mission and prayer that, through our website, educational seminars, one-to-one communication (phone, email and in person), media, printed resources and in-house programs, victims will find answers and the truth about what’s happening to them. The Hope of Survivors seeks to:
(a) Educate the victims, clergy, church body and the general public about clergy sexual abuse and misconduct, the frequency of occurrences, the moral and social implications involved and the devastating consequences through national media, by disseminating brochures and other related materials, conducting educational seminars, and by maintaining up-to-date websites;
(b) Conduct retreats and seminars specifically for the victims of clergy sexual abuse and provide one-on-one support for the purpose of facilitating their healing and recovery, and helping them to gain a greater understanding of what has happened to them, giving them hope and encouragement, and restoring their faith in their Creator;
(c) Work closely with churches that are dealing with the after-effects of an abuse situation for the purpose of helping them to understand the importance of providing a safe environment for all and for understanding the dynamics of clergy sexual abuse so that the church and the victim are not further damaged in the aftermath;
(d) Provide training seminars for clergy and church administrators for the purpose of disseminating prevention information and encouragement.
In short, the mission of The Hope of Survivors may be summed up in the motto:
Reaching the Hurting…Ministering to those who have suffered abuse at the hands of clergy.
Calling the Faithful…Providing resources and support to church leadership to help them remain true to their high calling.
Bridging the Gap…Leading the hurting to hope through a healing relationship with Christ.
About Steve and Samantha Nelson
Steve is an ordained pastor of a four-church district in Wyoming, employed by the Rocky Mountain Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. In addition to his pastoral ministry, he is the President of The Hope of Survivors and an international speaker on clergy sexual abuse, revival among God’s children, and many other topics. He has also developed a line of Bible studies in a bookmark format called StudyMarks. His degree is in Social and Behavioral Sciences and he is a Board Certified Biblical Counselor through the Board of Christian Professional and Pastoral Counselors, a member of the American Association of Christian Counselors, a Certified Belief Therapist through the Therapon Institute, and has worked on many evangelistic campaigns and outreach projects throughout the years. Steve is also a member of the Adventist Association of Family Life Professionals.
Samantha currently serves as Vice President and CEO of The Hope of Survivors and is also an international speaker on clergy sexual abuse. She has served as personal ministries and community services director within the Church, holds North American Division certification as an Adventist Community Services caseworker, received the 2004 Woman of Distinction Award from the Northern California Conference of Seventh-day Adventists and is a member of the American Association of Christian Counselors. She is a Board Certified Biblical Counselor through the Board of Christian Professional and Pastoral Counselors, has obtained her degree in Biblical Counseling, is a Certified Belief Therapist through the Therapon Institute, and is author of the book, Reaching the Hurting: A Biblical Guide for Helping Abuse Victims. Samantha is also a member of the Adventist Association of Family Life Professionals.
In addition to their education and ongoing training, Steve and Samantha are uniquely qualified due to their own past experience. Using this experience, the knowledge of God’s Word and other inspired sources, they have helped thousands of individuals begin to heal from the devastation of clergy sexual abuse and to renew their relationship with the Lord. They assist individuals from all denominations and faith communities in their search for truth and healing through correspondence and victim retreats/conferences, and they seek to show these hurting individuals God’s love for them. They also provide educational materials and seminars for pastors, churches and the general public.
Within just a couple months after launching the website in early 2003, The Hope of Survivors began receiving phone calls and emails from victims of clergy sexual abuse. Initially, Samantha provided all the emotional and spiritual support to victims via phone and email. She was the sole support person for all the victims (with Steve’s help at times) for the first 7-8 years of the organization. After that, God began to bring volunteers to help with victim support, since the organization was growing so much and there was too much work to be done for Samantha to do everything herself.
Today, nearly 14 years after the organization started, there are dozens of volunteers around the world who provide support to victims and raise awareness about clergy sexual abuse and The Hope of Survivors. The ministry has expanded far beyond anything Steve or Samantha ever could have imagined. The website is now available in 11 different languages at present, with more to come, while divisions (some are actually registered nonprofit organizations) are operating in 5 different countries, plus the US.
Statistics for 2015 show an average of two new victims each week who contact THOS directly for support (95 total in 2015, not including spouses who are secondary victims and who receive help, and not including Facebook contacts from victims). These victims represent 26 known states (some were undisclosed by victim) and 10 different countries (excluding the US), also representing 23 different denominations or faith communities.
Samantha points out that in reality the reach of The Hope of Survivors is far greater than these numbers show, as often emails are received which say, “I’ve been reading your website for years but just now had the courage to reach out and contact you.” Plus, there are many victims who interact with The Hope of Survivors’ volunteers at conventions, exhibits, conferences, etc. Between the organization’s website, print and media resources, exhibits, articles and advertising, there is no telling how many people are being reached each day around the world. On average, The Hope of Survivors website has received 10,000-15,000 visits per month.
In 2013, a former bed & breakfast inn was donated to The Hope of Survivors to use as a Renewal Center—a place where victims could come spend 3-5 days at an in-house program to get a boost in their healing journey. Maranatha Volunteers partnered with The Hope of Survivors to add a bathroom on the 2nd floor and created an apartment above the garage. Unfortunately, due to staffing issues and the overwhelming maintenance needs of the property, it was sold in 2015 when the Nelsons relocated to Wyoming. The Hope of Survivors continues to offer 3-5 day programs for victims in need, only now victims are responsible for booking their own accommodations, rather than paying a fee to stay at the Renewal Center. It is more cost effective for all in this manner.
Currently, The Hope of Survivors has nine board members and close to 30 volunteers serving victims around the world. On March 16 The Hope of Survivors hired a full-time victim support coordinator and executive assistant for Samantha.
THOS’s Philosophy and Foundation
1 Peter 5:8 says, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” This is never truer than in the case of clergy sexual abuse. Satan uses some professed men (and women) of God as His instruments to deceive, beguile and lead astray those who are hungering for Christ. Most often, victims of clergy sexual abuse were looking for a relationship with Christ, a deeper understanding of truth, a place to belong and enjoy fellowship with like-minded believers.
This battle is not against those who stand in the pulpit and then betray their sacred trust. No, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” (Eph. 6:12) Yet, when a sacred trust has been betrayed, God calls us to “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.” (Matt. 7:15) He also commands us, “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.” (Eph. 5:11) The Nelsons believe this means we should not be silent and allow abusers to continue to destroy the lives of those under their care who trusted them implicitly and who have been violated at the deepest spiritual and emotional levels possible, not to mention the physical/sexual levels.
Sadly, we are told that “…evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.” (2 Tim. 3:13) The Nelsons see this happening at alarming rates. Watch the headlines closely—you will see pastors or spiritual leaders betraying their sacred trust on a daily basis. The headlines are seldom accurate, as it is often referred to as an “affair” in the media when it involves an adult victim. However, Samantha and Steve state that it should always be correctly identified as clergy sexual abuse (or misconduct) due to the power imbalance that exists between a pastor and a parishioner.
For those who have been abused by a pastor, Bible worker, youth pastor, dean or anyone else in the role of spiritual authority, the Bible promises in Ps. 37:40 (KJV): “And the LORD shall help them, and deliver them: he shall deliver them from the wicked, and save them, because they trust in him.” For Steve and Samantha’s lives, they apply the verse found in Gen. 50:20 (NIV): “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”
Indeed, because Steve and Samantha allowed God to save them, heal them and restore, He then called them to save many lives through the work and ministry of The Hope of Survivors.
More Specific Information
- If you need help right now: Visit the website at http://www.thehopeofsurvivors.com; send an email at email@example.com; or call toll-free at 866.260.8958.
- If you are a pastor or teacher: You can contact your conference leaders and ask them to have The Hope of Survivors conduct a Faith & Fidelity seminar for the pastors and/or educators during regularly scheduled worker’s meetings. To help educate your congregation, you can invite The Hope of Survivors to conduct an abuse prevention Sabbath or schedule a Trust & Truth seminar. You may also want to read through the booklet, Understand Sexual Misconduct Among Spiritual Leaders, or visit the website at http://www.thehopeofsurvivors.com. More details on seminars can be found at http://www.thehopeofsurvivors.com/services.php.
- If you suspect abuse is happening in your church: Trust your instincts! Too often, abuse takes place or is allowed to take place because people ignore red flags. Talk to a trusted elder or church leader and share your concerns. It is not generally recommended to address the pastor or suspected offender directly at first, as that may cause them to be more diligent about covering up their actions or could even place a victim in jeopardy if the suspected abuser has violent tendencies. Contact The Hope of Survivors. Reach out to the local Conference office ministerial director. Tell someone and keep telling someone unless a proper investigation is conducted and either it is proven that the pastor or spiritual leader is innocent, or he/she is removed from their position if found guilty.
- If you want to support THOS: Your support is greatly needed to enable The Hope of Survivors to more effectively meet the ever-increasing needs of victims of clergy sexual abuse, as well as to raise awareness of this issue and to facilitate greater measures of prevention. If the Holy Spirit impresses you, don’t delay! Make your donations online at http://www.thehopeofsurvivors.com/donate.php or by mailing a check to: The Hope of Survivors, 843 Broadway, Sonoma, CA 95476.
For volunteer opportunities, please visit http://www.thehopeofsurvivors.com/volunteer_opportunities.php.
Latino Division (La Esperanza de los Sobrevivientes)
In April 2007, Shyleene Rosado became the VP for The Hope of Survivors Latino Division. She provides direct support to Spanish-speaking victims of clergy sexual abuse.
“Me siento triste por mi pastor. El dice que su esposa no lo entienden, él nunca deseo casarse con ella, ella no cuida de sus necesidades. El dice que lo único que lo hace sentir bien y aliviado es cuando está conmigo”
Si te identificas con esta frase, puede ser que estes en peligro.
llama hoy al 866.260.8958 o envíenos un email a firstname.lastname@example.org.
5 Tips for Preventing Abuse in a Counseling/Pastoral Relationship
- Never counsel behind completely closed doors (in a church setting, not a professional setting). Never let the door be locked. If there is a window in the door, make sure it is not covered up.
- There should be no private female-to-male (or vice versa) counseling in a church setting. Have the pastor’s wife, church secretary, your spouse or a trusted friend sit in with you during your sessions.
- Don’t keep secrets! If the pastor asks you to keep his words or actions a secret, this is a red flag. Abuse can only take place within secrecy, so you want to avoid having “special” secrets. (This is not to be confused with proper confidentiality of information shared during counseling.)
- Avoid touching—even “accidental” touching—this includes prolonged hugging, arms around shoulder, handholding, sexual touch, caressing, fondling, kissing, etc., in counseling. A quick handshake may be appropriate when first meeting.
- Don’t ignore the red flags! If you feel like something is wrong or not quite right, pay attention to those insights and remove yourself from the situation. Find another counselor or support person.
For the Pastor or Spiritual Leader
- Have an accountability partner and honestly share your vulnerabilities.
- Leave the office door open and the window in it uncovered.
- Keep your desk between you and your counselee at all times as a protective barrier.
- Avoid even casual physical contacts.
- Counsel only with couples or with members of the same sex.
- Never assume that you are invincible. Given the wrong circumstances, every pastor is vulnerable to temptation, and abuse of power.