A Cultural Geography of Survivor Communities – Part 4: Investigations and Integrations

Part 4 – Investigations and Integrations

4 – Investigations and Integrations. For nearly eight months, I’ve been trying to figure out a concept framework that helps organize what I’ve been learning about what constitutes an “independent investigation” into a situation of abuse. This is a significant concern in survivor communities, because not every person or organization that says they’re for “independent” investigations really are. And the results for abuse survivors who end up in some kind of non-independent investigation often find themselves with buyers remorse later.

My resulting framework looks at five different system integration points for investigations. It profiles the purpose, mission, values, and vision that each integration point naturally produces. It also considers what differences in paradigms can mean in terms of constructive or destructive impact for abuse survivors.

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Humble and Helpful – or Hindrance and Harmful?

In the spring of 2018, a highly publicized situation came to the forefront in survivor communities, where an organization that had been protecting a reportedly abusive pastor now wanted to make nice and “reconcile” with his/its victims. It was Willow Creek Community Church – a megachurch that had stalwartly supported Bill Hybels through accusations of sexual abuse and misuse of power. But as more women gave credible, detailed testimony to their experiences, the atmosphere surrounding Willow Creek’s image shifted, and now they were reaching out to survivors instead of continuing to accuse them of lying.

In a new manifestation of the same old problem, the church took actions that showed they were bent on controlling the process. And control is always a tip-off that it’s more about image management and institutional protection than about truth-finding and relational reconciliation. They hired a “conciliator” – without first consulting any of the survivors – and then they invited victims to participate in the process the church had initiated, which could then lead to potential further investigation and mediation.

It did not turn out well for the church, in great part because the women who’d been victimized would not let the church’s elders and staff set the narrative. Nor would they agree to the ground rules of Willow Creek’s proposed process which would preclude the victims from keeping certain legal options open. Instead of caving in to conciliation, the survivors called for truth-finding, then reconciliation, such as in this post by Vonda Dyer.

The stark differences in these approaches is nothing new to many survivors and bloggers. It is typical to see yet another set of leaders from offending organizations seek to repair their image by engaging such processes as arbitration, conciliation, covenants, internal investigation, mediation, reconciliation. Each of these has technical meanings, and, often, negative legal consequences for victims. More about all of that in Part 6.

The purpose of this post is to offer a big-picture framework that helps us organize details on the different kinds of paradigms behind such processes, and better understand the different kinds of elements and institutions surrounding survivor communities. That lets us answer questions like these:

  • What are some of the ground rules for protecting those who are vulnerable and/or victims?
  • What is image management about for institutions, and how can that automatically bias any efforts at damage repair to benefit the organization more than the survivors?
  • How do these approaches inherently create different systems – some in favor of survivors, others ultimately opposed to them, even if they initially give the appearance of peace-making?
  • What are some key attitudes and actions that serve as indicators that a particular paradigm – either healthy or toxic – is in play?
  • What can survivor communities do to resist and counteract processes that silence victims and otherwise cause further damage to them?

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Introducing Key Points for Profiling Paradigm Systems

I’ve invested a huge amount of time in over the years in learning how to profile the paradigm system that an individual or an entity functions from. I find it an important tool for analyzing the abstract ideas and the concrete cultural contexts that drive a system, and evaluating the practical impact the resulting system has on people.

It’s not necessary to detail the entire set of concepts and questions I use to do this, just enough to capture key paradigm points that can help answer those questions I posed above. We’ll need to look at concepts about integration points, and four main aspects of a social or business organization: purpose, mission, values, and vision. There is some overlap among the concepts, but each looks at the whole from a different angle, so that helps in considering the biggest picture possible of the entity we’re profiling.

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Purpose, Mission, Values, and Vision

Paradigm Profile Elements

Here are the four elements that give us a snapshot of the driving motivations, core concepts, and key activities of individuals or entities related to survivor communities. There are some basic questions to help identify each component.

Purpose addresses questions like: Why are we here? What/who drives us to do what we do?

Mission: Who (what kinds of individuals or groups or other entities) do we want to make a difference for?

Values. End-State Values – Where are we going? What is the endpoint of our trajectory? What qualitative differences will find there? Instrumental Values – How will we get there? What methods/means will we use? Will we use any methods/means possible, or only those which are ethical and legal?

Vision What will the world look like when our purpose and mission are accomplished? What legacy could we leave?

Sidenote: If we’ve described these various elements well, that can lead more easily to our developing a set of qualitative and quantitative indicators for measuring how well we are doing in making a difference and having an impact. This is noteworthy because we need to “measure what matters” in our enterprises. But we can’t do this if we haven’t detailed what matters – whether to us as activators or to whomever will be recipients of our activities.

For background, see my tutorial on The Transformational Index, which is an organizational development tool for planning, implementing, evaluating, and course-correcting our enterprises. See also this post on 15 indicators for discerning between healthy or malignant leaders, and trustworthy or toxic enterprises.


Most businesses and organizations (e.g., churches, non-profits, social-benefit businesses) have some kind of “mission statement.” This is often a mish-mash of elements that can be more clearly described as their purpose, mission, vision, and values. I like this fourfold framework, because it does a good job in setting up a metaphor of journeying, that starts where we’re at and takes us to where we want to go, and describing the ways and means we intend to use along the way.

We can discern these elements and find what motivates individuals or organizations by reading their mission statements and resources they recommend, listening to those who are part of a group and especially their spokespeople, and observing members’ actions. This gives us a database of details to work from on both what they tell others is important to them, and what their actions show is actually important. Do the say/do match?

A research framework I’ve found particularly helpful deals with two different types of value structures: end-state and instrumental. Values are not merely our beliefs; they are what motivate us to act. We can reverse engineer what someone’s true beliefs are from examining their activities. They do what relates to what they care about. End-state values (also called terminal values) capture what we desire that the future should look like, and instrumental values tell us what methods we deem appropriate for achieving those ends.

Sociologist Milton Rokeach developed this values system in the 1960s and ’70s. He researched and tested various values, and created a system of 18 terminal and 18 instrumental values. He then applied this mostly to political ideologies and activities, showing how each major system (capitalism, communism, socialism, fascism) has a distinctive profile of ends and means. When you can sit with those profiles for a while, it becomes easier to understand some of the sources of conflict between political philosophies.

But I’ve found value profiling of goals and methods works for parsing other kinds of organizational forms, including emerging subcultures and social movements like #MeToo (see Part 2). I find it especially useful in evaluating the ethical nature of goals and methods – ends and means. When we say, “The means justify the ends,” we are basically saying that the methods we use declare righteous the goals, i.e., both are moral and ethical. But if we pursue the opposite, “The ends justify the means,” we state and act based on an amoral system whereby we will do whatever we want, and do whatever to whomever gets in the way of our goal.

In its core, #MeToo is about doing good plus doing no harm. This means it has moral and ethical elements, and you’ll hear its adherents characterize certain attitudes and actions as immoral, amoral, or downright evil. For instance, it exposes and opposes individuals, institutions, and ideologies that abuse people. It resists people and organizations that attempt to hijack a survivor community’s goals, trajectory, or methods. But this also means that differences between subgroups within the larger movement can lead to conflicts and possibly fragmentations. (I’ll share some additional thoughts on that in Part 8.)

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Integration Points

The integration point for a system is whatever thing brings the system together, and that the system then revolves around. It can be a person, concept, activity, social or political problem, organizational enterprise – just about anything that brings a system into being and motivates people to keep it going. Here are a few questions that show how to find that most essential thing:

  • Who or what constitutes my/our highest commitment, such that everything else gets evaluated and subordinated by that commitment?
  • What activities above all others drive the direction of our organization?
  • Who benefits most from our actions? Is it ethical/legal or unethical/illegal for these individuals or organizations to be the beneficiaries – or is it some hazy shade in between?

An system’s integration point may seem the same as purpose, but it has a different slant. A purpose can be an abstract concept or attitude – for example: to make a difference, to bring healing to people, to promote unconditional love. An integration point tends to be far more concrete than that. It is typically a key product, activity, audience, or enterprise around which everything else revolves. Integration points govern methodologies and activities. They help us determine what we must include in our organizational system, and how these elements fit together to accomplish what we want to achieve.

For instance, suppose that producing and maintaining a survivor resource website is the integration point for your main purpose, which is to support, inspire, and equip abuse survivors. Then you can organize all the people, processes, products, partnerships, etc., that are involved into a system that leads to website production and maintenance.

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Five “I” Integrators for Christian Abuse Survivor Communities

Some larger activities with very different integration points intersect with survivor communities. I believe these differences can either make for strong collaborations, or stark conflicts. See what you think, as you interpret what you observe going on between different players and layers who act as part of the Christian #MeToo movement.

The framework I developed to capture the most information uses alliteration with five “I” words. The kinds of integrators vary: Some are more about people and social entities, others about ideas and products.


Christian #MeToo groups that integrate around individuals focus on those who are abuse survivors, along with personal advocates, family, and friends in  their support networks. Survivors tend to value truth-finding, personal recovery/growth, social justice,  and prevention of abuse so others do not suffer from such trauma.


When the main focus revolves around an entity, it is typically one in which there are accusations of people being abused by malignant leaders and toxic systems. Such institutions value limiting its legal and financial liability, and preserving a positive image. For resources that expose the institution-promoting and critic-silencing techniques of institutional image “impression management,” see the tweets by Wade Mullen.


The integrator for a group can be a set of ideas – a theology or philosophy. Those driven by an ideology are consumed with perfecting it, promoting it, and protecting it from critique. When an ideological theology is opposed to survivors, its adherents often counter survivors by saying that going public with accusations of abuse harms the reputation of both the Church and Christ. Ideologues have a strong probability of treating others with contempt and condemnation, often using inflammatory rhetoric.


Here the main activities are research and interview processes to find information related to stories of victimization. They include investigating, analyzing, synthesizing, interpreting, reporting, illustrating, and presenting their findings. Just because a group is integrated around information, that does mean it is automatically objective or pro-survivors, but the values are on reporting information, not supporting those who informed. This helps explain the reluctance of some survivors to share their experiences with people in media.


Social advocates and social change activists are focused on transformation. Though their values seem similar to those integrated around Individuals, in this case the realms are primarily social-political-legal change. These kinds of advocates and activists are typically looking for impact by transforming social systems to have trauma-informed support, institutional intervention and prevention of abuse, just consequences for abusers, and a legal system that is more pro-survivors and is not falsely protective of abusers.

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Integrators and Natural Collaborations – or Inherent Conflicts

It may seem counter-intuitive, but different kinds of entities can have the same integration point. For example, here is a set of three organizations where each has some variation of an integration point on individuals – victims, survivors, the vulnerable.

The Wartburg Watch is a survivor blog that is governed by their “prime directive,” which is to always put survivors first: “All commenters must acknowledge the pain some people have experienced at the hand of pastors and churches which overemphasize a particular doctrine or which apply harsh and capricious discipline.” Commenters who fail or refuse to express compassion for abuse victims may find their comments rebuked or even deleted.

Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment (GRACE) is an independent investigative agency that also provides resources and training on abuse intervention and prevention. Their mission statement includes this: “As followers of Jesus, the GRACE team seeks to be faithful and obedient to His teaching and the teachings of the whole of Scripture, which we believe put great value in the compassionate care and advocacy for children and vulnerable people.”

The Courage Conference offers gatherings, trainings, and other resources to provide support for “abuse survivors, advocates, and those who love them.” Their mission statement begins thus: “The Courage Conference exists to be a refuge for survivors, a place to educate and empower advocates, and a catalyst to spark the conditions where this movement for change can become a Justice Generation that resists abuse everywhere.”

Such sets of players and layers with the same integrator probably make for great partnerships. That’s because their particular shared integration point typically means their purposes, missions, values, and visions overlap significantly – or are at least highly compatible.

But conflict can be inevitable when the integration point reveals a whole paradigm of differences. For instance, opposition is almost guaranteed when one group integrates around the well-being and healing of abuse survivors; and another integrates around protecting an institution accused of harboring abusers by seeking to control the narrative, maintain a positive image, and limit financial liability. As mentioned earlier, this is seen in the conflict at Willow Creek Community Church, where the incompatible individual/survivor values on independent investigation, truth-finding, and then reconciliation clashed with institutional values on “conciliation,” keeping details private, and preventing future legal actions. (More about variations on conciliation in Part 6.)

Differences in integration points and paradigms also shows up in conflicts over the types of investigations each promotes. Here are some initial thoughts on that:

  • Individuals (survivors and their advocates) want unbiased fact-finding for the purposes of recovery, justice, and prevention, but may not recognize systemic elements involved in their situation.
  • Institutions often want an investigation where they control the processes, findings, and reporting; this does not qualify as an “independent” investigation.
  • Ideologies will view any information through the grid of their philosophy or theology, making for an automatically biased exclusion of otherwise relevant data, and severely slanted interpretation of remaining data.
  • Information-based investigations may be relatively unbiased, but not necessarily holistic (seeing systemic elements involved). Being unbiased involves a degree of separation or aloofness from the subject, and so reporters may not offer emotional support for interviewees who provide accounts of their experiences to them.
  • Impact-oriented investigations are likely to emphasize systemic aspects of abuse, but may de-emphasize personal recovery elements in the process.

More about independent versus controlled investigations in Part 7.

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Final Thoughts on Paradigm Profiles

The best “elevator speeches” and website “About” pages rely on many of these points to summarize what a person, organization, or social movement is all about. We’ll use this section to prepare for later examinations of:

  • The layout of the “watchblog” community (Part 5).
  • Arbitration, conciliation, covenants, mediation, and reconciliation vs. truth-then-reconciliation (Part 6).
  • Independent and non-independent investigative agencies in the Church (Part 7).
  • Advocacy and activism elements in the Christian wings of #MeToo (Part 8).

All of these survivor communities segments involve some level of investigation. So, the impact of how each subdivision perceives their task and carries it out can dramatically affect us as individuals and as Christian streams in the #MeToo movement as a whole.

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One thought on “A Cultural Geography of Survivor Communities – Part 4: Investigations and Integrations

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