the Hope of Survivors

Hope for the Hopeless by Andora (a pseudonym)

My story began like many others. I was a part of a broken home. Fighting, yelling and a longing for affection from both parents was a part of my daily life. I grew up in the church, and from a very young age I had an intimate relationship with God. There was no doubt in my mind that I belonged to God and I loved every moment of it. My heart longed for ministry and pleasing God with every fiber of my being.  

Hope
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During my teenage years life began to change. My longing for acceptance by my parents, siblings and others would overtake me and, even though I had a relationship with God, there was something that continued to leave me hurting and searching. I was sexually abused and raped twice during my high school years (which I did not even realize was abuse until I was much older). The pain that I experienced through continually compromising to be accepted by men and the judgment that women placed on me was almost too much to bear. I went into a deep depression in the later years of high school until one day a friend was in need of help.  

She wanted to go back to church but didn't want to go alone. I told her I would be glad to go with her and there began my journey into a world I never knew existed. This church was amazing, the Word was powerful, the people seemed loving and accepting and I knew that is where I was supposed to be. Finally there was something that seemed to be filling my void, a deeper and more applicable understanding of the Word was presented and it was exactly what I needed.  

At this point I was very trusting and much happier but my unresolved issues followed me and things began to change. The first time I met this pastor officially was during a time when my family issues were overwhelming. I was 16 and felt like the whole world was crashing in. He saw me as he was passing by. I was crying in the hallway and he asked me to come into his office to talk. I said okay and he began to comfort me with his words. From then on our conversations would become more frequent but it always stayed very spiritual-related. A while went by and the emails and conversations began to become more personal. He started sharing issues he was having and how lonely he felt. I now know this is what is referred to as "grooming" their victims. It began to get deeper and, at first, I was honored that he chose me to share his deepest thoughts and struggles with but, very quickly, I realized it was becoming twisted but I didn't know how to get out. I trusted a man who said he lived his life for Christ, so I mistook my intuition as immaturity and misunderstanding the situation.  

He began to tell me how, if anyone knew of his true thoughts, he would be devastated. I took this to mean that I should keep this to myself and so I took on that weight. Another year passed and the conversations started becoming more sexual than personal. He would ask me about the guys I was dating and how I felt about certain things. Finally, one day, it turned physical. At first I was stunned and he apologized. I believed that everyone was human and was eager to forgive because I couldn’t bear the thought of holding a small mistake over someone who truly loved God.  

After that it continued to progress until one day the virginity that I had guarded for so long was gone. After that the situation became very abusive. There were threats that if I told anyone, the whole church would come crashing down and that I would destroy everything he had worked for. This abuse continued for many years. He used what he called "spiritual insight" to manipulate situations and even began to attack the couple that had taken me under their wings to disciple me. They knew something was wrong but couldn’t identify it and I wouldn’t share it. He told me if I shared anything about what was going on that it would also destroy the couple’s place in the church (they were elders).  

The emotional, spiritual and sexual abuse continued. It was a nightmare that I did not know how to wake up from. There were times when I thought it was okay and that he really loved me, but deep down inside I knew that God was not pleased. After a while I found out that I was not the first person and there were many others, even at the same time. It was devastating, especially since for so long purity had been important to me and now it hadn’t even been given to someone who cared anything for me.  

He began to get paranoid and started threatening me. He said that if I ever told anyone, he would have to kill me. To save the church, to save his family and to save all that he had worked for. In spite of the threats, I began to share little bits and pieces to see if anyone would hear my cry for help. All that did was turn the people that knew against me. I was even confronted by a member who stated if I told anyone they would personally beat me up for it. I was even more devastated and confused. How could one man be so hurtful and how could God's people not see that I needed help? How could the Body of Christ protect one man, and leave all the other victims helpless? I cried out to God to help me but felt so overwhelmed in guilt and condemnation that I didn’t even expect Him to hear me.  

Finally, I decided to tell the elders that were discipling me. The husband had truly been a father to me. He was so angry with me for not telling him sooner. He immediately confronted the pastor and told him he needed to leave me alone or he did not want to know what would happen next. After that it was internal chaos. The pastor began to defame the elder’s character over the pulpit and purposely began sowing seeds to destroy any ties or relationship that anyone had with me or the elder and his wife. He even started telling people that the elder and I were in a relationship to distract others from looking at him. He even began to share with people how I was after his money all this time and that I was not as innocent as many believed, that my intention since the beginning was to destroy relationships.  

The church completely turned against me. For a whole year I stayed receiving counseling through the elders who were helping me. I went through a process of breaking the soul tie while sitting every Sunday watching him preach in the pulpit. This was so hard but I never heard God tell me to leave. One day I confronted the pastor and told him that I understood his purpose was to teach me what love was not. He was angry but I stood my ground. He kicked the elders and me out of the church by announcing that they had decided to start a church of their own and their service would be next Sunday.  

We continued to seek healing from it all. That was almost 10 years ago. He continued to pursue me and even sent people to find out what I was doing and where I was. The other women involved with him became angry with me because I was the only one that chose to be healed and change my situation. I was no longer his victim or under his control. I was proof that, even when a person gets into that situation, they can be healed and change and turn their life back around toward living a life pleasing to God.  

During the situation, I couldn’t see a way out, I didn't believe that I would ever survive it, but I continued to seek God and apply His Word and trust that He would see me through. It taught me so much about life and lessons and how much grace and love God has for us. I know many people who have faced this situation and turned completely away from God and the church and that is what the enemy wants. My relationship with God is not tied to a man so, even though man let me down, God never did. There is always a process to healing. Ten years later, I can say that I am healed, even though there are many layers yet to be identified and dealt with, I do claim and know that I am healed.  

Experiencing this is devastating but everything has a purpose. I didn't see it but now I understand it. For many men and women who have faced this, the purpose has yet to be revealed but God is good and His way is perfect we just have to trust that He will bring us through. I know He can, because he brought me through. There will be many tears, anger, sadness, disappointment and confusion but, after, if you are willing to be healed, there will be understanding, compassion for others and a heart to see others healed. I am no longer a victim! I am more than a conqueror through Christ Jesus and a true walking testimony that there is in fact hope for the hopeless!

[END OF STORY]

If you are a survivor of clergy 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