the Hope of Survivors

My Story by Katrina

My story is difficult to tell and difficult for some to hear, but I have decided it is time for it to be shared.

I had a paradox of a childhood; my mother doted on me, her youngest child and only biological daughter, and I was raised in church without the influence of television or other “worldly” activities, such as theaters and roller skating rinks. My father became harsh and intimidating when I was very young, around two years of age, and our home was filled with his yelling, screaming, and insults. Before I began school at age 6, my grandmother and aunt (my father’s mother and sister) babysat me during the day while my parents worked. They were quite the pair. I remember being put into bed with my grandma after my mom dropped me off in the morning, lying stiffly between her and the loaded rifle she kept in bed with her, terrified it would go off and blow me to bits. She informed me grimly every day about how God’s judgement would fall upon me should I dare to wear pants, makeup, or trim my very long hair. Vivid dreams of me hurtling into the flames of hell were described with gloomy despair that I could ever achieve to obtain heaven, and I was also warned about how men would only rape, murder, and dismember my poor preschool-aged body. My aunt was a bit better, but quite unstable as well. She kept a cross made out of foil in her window to keep my grandma away, because she had a “sex demon” in her. By the time I entered first grade and the real world, I was a petrified little thing, convinced I was bound for hell with no hope of escape. As for men…well, my cousin and uncle had already done their part to reinforce grandma’s words about what they wanted to do to little girls.

During the teen years, I hated my father for the misery he put my mother and me through. I hated school because I was severely bullied. I hated myself because I was ugly, stupid, and couldn’t do anything right. I was depressed, hopeless, and suicidal. I dropped out in 9th grade and got my GED as soon as I was old enough to take the test. I scored one of the top scores in the state that year and won a scholarship; I believed I was never going to make it to adulthood, so I went to school for 6 months and then dropped out to “sow my wild oats” and get a job.

In my twenties I met a young aspiring minister and we began dating. It was my first relationship and I fell hard for this boy. He said God told him I was “the one”, and we were engaged. Suddenly, God changed his mind. I drove to the church with a loaded gun in my hand and a dear friend, who was a pastor there, took it from me. Through a series of small miracles that would take too long to list, I moved to Arizona to begin Bible College, where I lived in and managed group homes to put myself through school. I became close with a professor, Dr. C., and his family. He was the closest to a father I have ever known and is absolutely brilliant. I loved his entire family as my own—in fact, I had a key to their house and could come and go as I pleased. My job was extremely stressful and they knew I needed a place to just get away and crash sometimes. The second year of college, Dr. C. was suddenly let go, without warning or explanation. Everyone was upset, but no reason was given. He began working at an inner-city church and started counseling on the side as well. I became one of his clients. I called him “Dad”, he was 28 years older than me, and I never had a second thought about being left alone for hours with him in his house. My friend was one of his clients as well, and she told me he had been inappropriate with her a couple of times, but of course, he talked his way out of it. After graduation, I moved back to Arkansas and began working at Ozark Guidance Center in the residential treatment center for children and teens. It was also a very stressful job, and I was eventually diagnosed with PTSD and some health problems. I began losing weight, and Dr. C. was very interested in my weight loss as well as every (I mean EVERY) aspect of my life. I was so naïve that I took this as fatherly concern. When I went back to Arizona for a friend’s wedding in 2003, he “got permission” from his wife to go to lunch with me, and that’s when he kissed me and professed his love for me. I was stunned, but oh, that Dr. C., he’s a master at what he does. That began an 18-month relationship that ripped me up in many ways. He used everything he knew that he learned from our counseling sessions to use me and keep me trapped; I tried to break away, but that man had a reason and a Scripture to justify everything he said and did. He would make me talk to his wife and convinced me she was okay with our relationship. In 2004, I moved back to Arizona so he could mentor me (I know it’s crazy) and when I saw him behind the pulpit of the church he pastored, it was over for me. I told him, but when I told him he could not touch me again, his response was, “But what if I am teaching you something, and I just can’t help myself?” He went out of the country on a mission trip a few days later and his wife called me crying, saying she found evidence on his computer that he was having an affair with another former Bible College student/counseling client. That was it. The next day, I faced his wife, his son, and his daughter-in-law (who were also pastors) and told them everything. Talk about tough! Afterward, his wife hugged me and apologized. SHE apologized to ME. She said I wasn’t the first or only one. His son thanked me and said they’d suspected for many years, but no one had ever come forward. Dr. C. lost his church, his ministerial license, and his counseling credentials. Come to find out, he was a predator. He would “counsel” women, learn their past and use that to manipulate them into sexual relationships.

After the denomination’s investigation was over, I moved back home and was utterly lost. I reached out to a handful of people I trusted and was met with rejection and judgment. Thankfully through researching online, I found The Hope of Survivors. I connected with Samantha and learned that I was not alone; the support and encouragement I received was priceless as I fought through dark days of depression, loneliness, and despair. Dr. C. was my “dad”, professor, pastor, and counselor. To tell you the damage that abuse did to me is impossible. It took years to even start admitting it was abuse and not taking the full weight of blame upon myself. It shattered every ounce of belief I had that I could hear the voice of God or know His will, blinded my ability to trust my intuition, and damaged the way I perceive boundaries and relationships. I still struggle to step into a church and continue to wrestle with matters of faith. If I hadn’t found The Hope of Survivors, I am unsure if I would have the strength to even attempt to salvage my faith; seeing others who have come through similar situations with grace continues to give me hope. We are Survivors and this organization gives precious, life-giving Hope!

The relationship with Doc ended in October of 2004, and I became a foster parent in May 2005, which had been a lifelong dream of mine. I now have two sons through foster care adoption, and we are imperfectly perfect for each other. God brought me through sexual abuse, emotional/psychological abuse, depression/suicidal ideation, self-injury, clergy/therapist abuse to prepare me to be strong enough to fight for my children. All my journeys, all my experiences have led to them. I would never have the voice to speak for them, the confidence to go back to college, the ability to persevere through hell and high water, if it weren’t for the battles already won.

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If you are a survivor of clergy sexual abuse, we would love to hear your story and possibly make it available on this web site for others to read and renew their hope. You can use a pseudonym if you choose and rest assured that all personal information will be kept private and strictly confidential. Please contact us.

Please note: We do not necessarily agree with or endorse all the information contained in the survivor’s stories. We do, however, feel they have some valuable information that could be useful to you in your recovery. It helps to know you’re not alone, that others have shared your pain and have healed, by the grace of God, in their own time and way.

The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart...Psalms 34:18