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Missionary’s Abuse of Children Prompts ABWE to Make Changes

Former medical missionary Donn Ketcham served from 1961 to 1989 in Bangladesh with the Association of Baptists for World Evangelism (ABWE). Ketcham was accused of having at least four affairs and sexually abusing at least 18 girls under the guise of medical care. Ketcham lived with a number of missionary families on a compound where the abuse continued unchecked for years. A 280-page report from Professional Investigators International (Pii) confirmed the abuse allegations and prompted ABWE to issue apologies and to begin the process of paying for counseling for the many victims. ABWE has also improved its reporting procedures and abuse training for staff.

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Why this story matters for church leaders:

Poor reporting, follow up procedures, and training created a lax culture at ABWE that failed to take Ketcham’s abuses seriously.

  • It has to get worse first: The people who obstructed the investigation of Ketcham had to be removed in order to get to the truth. Confronting an organization’s failures is painful but necessary.
  • Training matters: ABWE has implemented new training and reporting procedures that ensure highly qualified people can deal with serious allegations and address them immediately.
  • Internal Measures Failed: ABWE had to turn to outside groups in order to deal with serious cases of rape and child abuse. Internal attempts to deal with Ketcham failed.

Which groups can you partner with in order to better protect children in your ministry?

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