Panel participants are Michael Buttrey, Carolyn Mackie and Kim Penner.
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Sexual violence is a pervasive problem in higher education, including at Protestant seminaries and undergraduate institutions, and allegations of current and historic sexual violence continue to surface. Research has identified institutional norms and practices that determine how seriously allegations are treated in churches, higher education, and the workplace. However, there is limited work on how these institutional norms intersect with theological stances to hinder survivors of sexual violence in Christian higher education.
Our panel argues that theological and institutional norms enable gaslighting, victim blaming, and other practices of evasion in Protestant post-secondary institutions. As case studies, we will consider three Protestant faith traditions: Anglican/Episcopal, evangelical/non-denominational, and Anabaptist/Mennonite. We will first compare the responses to sexual misconduct by three institutions in these Protestant traditions as a case study of norms and practices in action. We will then explore further how Anglican traditions of orthodoxy and hierarchy, evangelical concepts of persecution and exceptionalism, and Mennonite ideals of egalitarianism and forgiveness justify norms of submission, loyalty, and pacification. Finally, we will offer recommendations for how staff and students can challenge destructive norms in Protestant higher education and push for practices of accountability that better support survivors of sexual violence.