the Hope of Survivors

The Day My Journey of Healing Began by Susan

I always considered myself strong enough to stand on my own two feet. I was raised in a strict, religious environment and developed my own convictions and spirituality. I live the way I live because I believe it for myself. I was married before I was 21 to my best friend and a good man. We had a marriage that was strong. It was the ‘perfect’ family...house, car, jobs, kids, church, church, and church. I was active in the church’s music program for over 15 years—serving as music director for the last four. Things fell apart with disagreements with the first ‘family’ of the church, and my husband and I saw no alternative but for our family to leave and find another place to worship. This was difficult since it was the church in which he was raised—it left our marriage very vulnerable because we were both hurting in different ways and had different needs for healing. I had been judged by a pastor as being “difficult and unable to get along with anyone in the church.” So we left and started our journey to find our ‘new home’. The first church we tried for three month continued to plague us with political issues relating to the first—so we finally settled on a church an hour from our home, attending church with my parents. The pastor, Rick [not his real name], had counseled us through our ordeal of leaving both churches and was helping us deal with the issues that followed. I trusted him more than I ever trusted anyone. He made my husband realize that I was important, should be most important to him, our family unit should be placed first and most important. After four months, we made his church our ‘home’. Little did I realize at that time, that my trust would be used to take me down the most confusing, hurtful, and unbelievable journey of my life.

Rick and I talked on the phone several times over the months he was counseling me. He always said call or text anytime. He could always calm me down, see things not as bad as I perceived them to be, and help me feel like everything was going to be okay. I loved him like my father. I had known him most of my life, but not as my pastor. I had such respect and admiration for his ministry, and I was honored to be a part of his church and have his support through the trying time of my life. He started making inappropriate comments—how he loved what I wore, my hair, on and on. I hugged him and his wife, and my mom and dad, before we left each weekend to return home. They were family to us. But, one evening when we were leaving, he hugged me and didn’t want to let go. His comments started becoming more and more direct and uncomfortable—but I trusted him, and I did not want to make him unhappy. I needed his approval and support. He was allowing me to help with the music program at his church—he needed my help.

Over the next month, our text messages began to become more frequent. Then the phone calls became longer, and at inappropriate hours—after midnight—when I would be up late working while everyone else in the house was asleep. A few weeks later, we were at the church alone when I was preparing music for the next day’s services—he told me he wasn’t sure how to tell me—but I had swept him off his feet, he was madly in love with me. He needed me he said. I was helping his stress level to be lower, and made him feel young again [he was 16 years older than I was]. I was so shocked, and I thought I “needed” him, but I needed him to be my spiritual leader. He knew everything about me, my fears, my hopes, my dreams. His reasoning made me start to wonder if I loved him too. He said he could come see me at work, which he did a couple days later. He was lying to his wife about where he was and what he was doing, and trying to become more and more physical with me. He planned out every visit, and was methodical about his ‘needs’ and ‘wants’ from me. I was scared, nervous, confused. I loved my husband but we were having a difficult time communicating. Rick understood me—he knew how to make all my problems go away.

His wife became suspicious of his behavior. She checked his phone online and found the excessive text messages with me. She started watching him closely, which made him more determined to somehow have a physical relationship with me. I was helping him; he needed me; I was helping the pastor. I was blessed that the situation was short term—only three weeks of extreme abuse. His wife, who suspected what he was doing since he had done this before, finally caught him with me. I was informed later that this was not his first time, but the church leaders kept it hidden and dealt with the situation privately.

The day the abuse ended, I was told by his wife to find another church. I wasn’t sure what to do—to go home or not. I even contemplated ending my life. But somehow God provided the strength and I went home and told my husband the truth about what had happened. I knew I was wrong, but didn’t understand my feelings or how I had even gotten in the situation. I am so thankful for friends and an unbelievable husband that has stood by me and helped me through this experience. The hardest part was dealing with the confusion in my own mind of my feelings. Did I really love him? Did he love me? Why would he do this when I trusted him so much?

I tried to find answers in counseling, but my first attempt at a counselor left me feeling so much worse about myself and what had happened. I was made to feel like I had an affair, I brought this on myself, and I was a horrible person. I doubted who I was, had no idea who I was supposed to be, and was very confused about how to figure it all out.

I remember clearly the day I found The Hope of Survivors (THOS) from an Internet search. Samantha returned my email and answered my questions. She knew exactly the confusion I faced and guided me with scriptures and prayer. It was the day my journey of healing began. A few weeks later, God gave me the strength that I needed to come forward and tell the complete truth to my husband and our church officials. It was a humiliating experience, but my husband and I could start moving forward and leave the past behind. I could not live with myself knowing that if I didn’t come forward, I was enabling him to do it again. He and his wife had no intention of ever telling the truth to the church he still ‘pastored’. He continued to act as if nothing had happened. God helped me to realize this situation was much more than just about me.

Thankfully, my life is progressing forward every day. It has been over 15 months now since my nightmare ended. I took the advice from THOS and started my journey forward. I am blessed to have my marriage, my family, and an amazing church family with a true pastor and wife that believe in me as well as love and respect me for just being me. God also blessed me with amazing friends that have supported and loved me unconditionally. I’ve learned a few things along the way. It has been a spiritual journey, and I’ve learned a lot about myself. I surrounded myself in positive and beautiful people and things, had to let get of things I couldn’t control or change, and focus on the wonderful life God has blessed me with. I realize that each day is a blessing and my purpose in life is to help others during their dark times by sharing the miracles in mine. One of my favorite quotes is “Too often we are so preoccupied with the destination, we forget the journey.” [Unknown] This experience was meant to destroy me. But I have found, through the journey of healing, it has made me stronger.

I am so thankful that I found The Hope of Survivors—even though I know I didn’t ‘find’ THOS, it was an answered prayer.

[END OF STORY]

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