the Hope of Survivors

Rebuilding and Rekindling by Heather Huffman

Heather & Brad - 2008I am writing about a subject that put me through years of pain and torment, and almost caused me to end my life. Pastoral sexual abuse is a subject that is extremely serious and, unfortunately, happens more than any of us want to realize. It is very difficult to comprehend the thought that a ‘man of God’—someone we go to for protection, counsel and guidance—could be a predator. I am a victim of pastoral sexual abuse. I was manipulated and abused for three years in the Church of God. I have been through more pain and anguish than any individual should have to face. Thankfully, God has spared my life by giving me the strength and courage to reveal unimaginable evil and attempt, with His power and strength, to pick up the many broken pieces of my life that were destroyed by one man.

Unfortunately, this was not the first time I’ve suffered from abuse. I was sexually abused as a young child in another Church of God congregation. This past abuse, unfortunately, made me more susceptible to being a ‘repeat’ victim.

I moved to a new area for what I believed was ‘truth’ and to start a new life. I had no idea the pastor was already abusing women in the church before I got there. I had no idea I would become his next victim. Later, my abuser would tell me he “wanted me when he first saw me.” This confirms my belief that my abuse was premeditated. This evil man preyed on several of the women in the congregation, seeing who was weak and vulnerable, and who he would be able take advantage of. The women he was able to abuse were all abuse victims from childhood, and he knew this.

When I moved to this area, I fell in love with a man named Brad. The pastor did everything he could to tear our relationship apart and made it completely impossible for us to be together. Hours of yelling and name-calling in counseling sessions, and excessive and unnecessary monitoring of our communication with one another, caused both of us tremendous grief, stress, confusion and depression. Brad left the Church of God because he was no longer able to stand the pressure and impossible conditions the pastor had placed on him. During this time, I was under much grief and sorrow—which was the perfect opportunity for the pastor to make his move. He attempted to convince me Brad was an abusive person and I should be afraid for my safety. (Of course, none of these allegations were true.) He even convinced me to carry a small handgun in my car to protect myself. The pastor began the process of manipulation by ‘comforting’ me in my sorrow from being separated from Brad. He also began ‘protecting’ me. He said he felt the need to protect me from Brad because my father would not.

My abuse from the pastor did not happen overnight. It began with a long process of manipulation. My abuser talked of his dysfunctional marriage and his discontentedness in being a pastor. He stated he had no one to talk to and that being a pastor caused him to be unable to get ‘close’ to anyone. Throughout the abuse he would consistently degrade his wife and family, whom he planned on leaving after his retirement from the ministry. He told me countless disturbing stories of his fellow-ministers and their conduct (which very well could be lies), and consistently talked negatively about the members of his congregation and members abroad. He stated on various occasions that he questioned whether the Church of God was the source of ‘truth.’

The pastor destroyed my perception of the Church of God. His ungodly mind and heart, full of lust and distorted sexual cravings, destroyed much of my innocence and caused me unforgettable grief and heartache. His addictions caused him to regularly view pornography, visit the adult sex stores and use me (and others) to perform his disturbing sexual fantasies. He would beg of me to leave my family and friends and runaway with him to start a new life.

The whole process of the abuse began taking a tremendous toll on my mind, soul and body. I was no longer able to function as a ‘normal’ human being. I began losing weight, vomiting consistently, and spent countless hours alone and in tears. Attending church services and listening to his sermons three times a week was a grievous experience, and has left numbness in my soul that I must re-salvage. Ironically, many of his messages were focused on the subject of abuse.

I desperately wanted out of this abusive relationship, but felt no hope. For too long, I was concerned about the reputation of the church and how it might be damaged if I came forward with my story. I could have simply stopped attending church, but that would have caused negative repercussions on my family life. I was also concerned about the toll all this would take on the pastor’s family. Finally, all the reasons not to come forward with my story didn’t matter anymore. I could no longer function under the abuse.

Many times I would cry and yell at the pastor because he had hurt me so tremendously. He would get angry with me in my emotional distress and cuss at me, and hang the phone up on me. He even recently threatened to hurt me. He would tell me that I needed to ‘grow up’ and accept responsibility for what I had done. The truth of the matter is I had done nothing but get taken advantage of by an evil individual who sought to destroy any life that he could in order to appease his own selfish satisfaction.

I finally began contacting Brad again because I was so distraught and needed help. Brad already had suspicions of abuse in the congregation. He had confronted me with that, as well as my own abuse. I denied it all—to protect the abuser. I saw no hope for my future. My soul had been destroyed. I did not know where to turn. I felt lost and alone and I was suicidal, so I started searching the Internet. The Hope of Survivors is what saved my life. After reading through the web site, I finally realized and accepted the fact that I was being abused by my pastor.

On December 11, 2007, I told the pastor I was done. I was no longer going to be involved with him. He got angry—which was a blessing in disguise. He hung up on me and went on his way. I told Brad that night what had been happening to me. When the pastor was confronted with this, he simply laughed and showed no remorse. My family and the church members finally started finding out the truth about this pastor. Others began coming forward with stories of abuse, inappropriate conduct and conversation, manipulation and control.

Apparently, the pastor has since made a confession and has been ‘forgiven’ for his sins. That is between him and God. However, I have a very difficult time believing he will ever be saved and right in his mind. Even until his last days in this area, he was lying to the community, all under the name of God. He was stating that he was ‘retiring’ and moving elsewhere with his family. This could not be further from the truth. He was told not to return to his position as the pastor at the Church of God. He was told he must leave town immediately. In my opinion, he cannot be trusted. I know this man all too well. He has destroyed countless lives... the list is too lengthy to even begin. This man is a predator and most predators do not stop abusing. Authorities and communities in various locations do know about this man, his history and his affiliations.

I have begun rebuilding my life once more. My relationship with Brad has been rekindled and we are looking forward to a wonderful life together. We are both active in a new church and are very happy and moving forward with our lives, despite the hurtful past. God is continuing to prove Himself strong through this horrible ordeal. He is my strength from day to day. He has blessed me with a tremendous amount of support from Brad, The Hope of Survivors and others, despite those who have turned their backs on me. His love and care amazes me. I will recover in time, and each day, Lord willing, I will become more whole.

You may read my story and dismiss it, or perhaps you may disagree or even disbelieve. My hope is you will believe the truth I have told. My hope is you will be aware of the dangers that could come to any one of us. We must be careful and mindful of our friends, our families and ourselves. Whatever you choose to accept and believe, I can honestly say I have done what I can to protect you from the same devastation as I have suffered, and educate you on this painful subject.

Ecclesiastes 12:14, “For God will bring every work into judgment, Including every secret thing, Whether it be good or evil.”

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If you are a survivor of pastoral 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