A Laestadian and child welfare advocate, Dr. Hurtig was involved in bringing the abuse issues to light. Her perspective is nuanced and in my experience, accurate. As someone who was molested as a child, I know there are many factors that lead to abuse in the church, including a strong emphasis on obedience (children are unable to develop personal boundaries), misognyny (females are responsible for male sexual acts, and female honor is secondary to male honor), and the practice of repentance, in which the victim is required to simply forgive, and the perpetrator is given a blank slate. But there are other factors, too.
When asked "Do you feel that there are characteristics in the movement that can lead to abuse?" this was Dr. Hurtig's response (read the entire interview here):
“I am only starting to ponder the reasons. The experiences of the victims bring out distortions of forgiveness, and the fatigue of large families. Children can sometimes find it hard to get enough attention from adults, and to become conscious of their rights when they grow up in a large group. Exhausted parents are not always capable of sensing their children’s needs and if they are feeling all right.”
“Also the position of women, restrictions linked with sexuality, and the strong community faith can have an effect. When the community itself is seen to be sacred, its structures and practices are not examined in a critical manner. It can hide extreme evil.”
“But matters in the culture, the community, and in the teaching do not cause these cases on their own. An overwhelming majority live healthy and responsible lives. There has to be some other factor, for instance, a distorted way of thinking which sexualizes children, and which is passed down from one generation to the next.”
What do you think? What reforms are needed to protect the vulnerable, some of whom -- as you read this -- are suffering? Is there a Dr. Hurtig among the American Laestadians who will dare speak for them?