My story begins when I was a young Christian, 22 years old, newly married with a new baby to boot. I sense my story is not unique among clergy sexual abuse (CSA) survivors, but I trust this will bring hope to other victims also. My testimony is nothing short of a miracle in healing and restoration.
The Hope of Survivors assisted me by simply being a resource for other CSA survivors, of whom I think I’ve moved to the category of “thriver or victor.” I trust my story will give hope to so many other victims of clergy sexual abuse.
I began attending an independent, evangelical church in Twentynine Palms, CA. My husband (now former husband) was stationed in the Marine Corps at the time. As a new Christian, I didn’t know about all the variety of churches to choose from, and simply chose one right out of the Yellow Pages. The town was sparsely populated and I picked a church that seemed to fit.
In October 1991, we attended our first service. Shortly after that, since our family lacked many household start-up possessions, the pastor collected used furniture items and brought them one day. He also personally saw to it to bring additional things like food baskets and baby layettes. I viewed this as the concern of a pastor toward his flock, and I felt instantly at home. I spent hours with my baby girl at the pastor’s home, which also served as the church’s fellowship hall (he only rented space for services at neighborhood churches).
This precursor set up a cycle of trust from one of the most malicious people to ever stand behind a pulpit. Over the next six months, this supplemental support continued. In April 1992, he even gave us the beloved car given to him by a well-known evangelist, a 1981 Cadillac El Dorado. My marriage started to show signs of wear-and-tear, and we started counseling with the pastor in June 1992. At first, the appointments were joint sessions; then I continued to go on my own, alone—BIG MISTAKE—I know (hindsight here).
This “counseling” continued for six months. During the course of our “sessions,” the pastor would ask me details of the “bed undefiled,” AKA, he wanted to know what I did in bed with my husband. When I hesitated, he would coax me with the words, “Oh, come on, you can trust me.” Eventually, with repeated coaxing, I’d give in and share the information he wanted to know.
Pastors who live near bases get base driving privileges as a professional courtesy of the chaplaincy. My pastor was no exception—minus the fact that it took him three years to get his. He used his “base pass” to stalk my whereabouts, which he excused as “watching out for my welfare.” I told him, as a former Marine myself, that he didn’t have to do that. I felt confident I could take care of myself. (Marine Corps boot camp gives you lots of confidence in yourself.)
My former spouse then got called to Somalia and left December 8. Prior to this, the pastor promised to “take good care of his family while he was gone.” Upon my husband’s departure, the pastor’s behavior skyrocketed out of control. I saw him watch me everywhere. He even gave me a jewelry set for Christmas in front of his wife, and told me “not to tell the congregation so they wouldn’t get jealous.”
The rest of the Christmas week passed without incident, namely because he was busy with his own kids. December 30, 1992, was our military payday Friday, and I went to the commissary (military grocery store). I saw the pastor coming out of our housing area, which meant he had already been to my house. He pulled up to my car, and asked if he could help with the groceries.
We got back to my housing unit, and I stayed outside while he unloaded the groceries. By this time, the stalking thing was out of control. It made me feel uncomfortable, and I decided to leave the church quietly. But the pastor talked me into attending the New Year’s Eve party at his house. “Come on, it’ll be fun; we’ll play some great games.” I wanted to see my friends one last time; reluctantly, I agreed to go.
During the party, while his wife was SIX FEET AWAY, he proposed sexual relations with me. Using the information he garnered during our “counseling sessions,” he specifically mentioned that he’d enjoyed those things also.
Shocked, I gathered my baby, and practically raced home, shaken. The next day, New Year’s Day 1993, I confronted him in front of his wife IN HIS OWN HOME. He denied it, and never repented. The next week, I confronted him in front of the church. He still didn’t repent. I then took it to his leaders who promptly took the church away, and removed his covering. I found another church, and got three years of free counseling; one of the conditions of the “gentlemen’s agreement” was that I play nice in the neighborhood (not tell the police of his actions). He was told to stay out of ministry for the rest of his life.
Let’s fast-forward 15 years. In a shocking way, I found out he entered the ministry again one day while surfing on the Internet. He covered up his entire TRUE ministerial history. I turned him in again, forcing me to re-live the entire thing, word-for-nasty-word. This time, I already had previous experience behind me and knew what to do.
I called his leaders and said, if they didn’t take immediate action, I WOULD turn him into the authorities this time. They pulled him from Central America and opened up an official investigation. This time, there was no turning back—I had to prove everything with witnesses and documentation, etc. Fortunately, I found every person, including the former leaders, who corroborated my entire story.
He lied on his application, exploited thousands of people, and stole $1.5 million dollars from his current organization. We even called the FBI for assistance—this time he was a criminal, not just a nasty preacher. He is now facing life imprisonment for fraud and misrepresentation. He was arrested by U.S. Marshals on June 6, 2008, in Phoenix, AZ.
Part of the reason, praise God, for my unusual success with my second go-round was the church leaders realized he was exploiting all of THEM also (minus the sexual commentary). That he lied repeatedly to all of THEM, exploited THEIR trust of him, and manipulated THEM, too.
So in a way, my “moral issue” simply became the impetus for a much larger issue. In covering up his true history, the district that credentialed him again, was open for a lawsuit by the churches from whom he received money. He worked his way up to being a missionary! They were open to the lawsuit because he withheld vital info from his
background; therefore, no real background check was performed.
I will also share that I had to play hardball with the leaders at times to get the results I got—I told them in no uncertain terms that I’d skip over the ministry and take the story to the media. I had to TELL them to call the FBI on this guy. Once we all realized how much money he had stolen, the investigation became a cover for what we really intended to do—set him up and have him arrested. I gave them a full character profile, etc.
If you ever get word regarding CSA that occurs within the Assemblies of God world, know that the entire organization, including headquarters, acted IMMEDIATELY to pull him from the field. And there are official records kept on nasty ministers. Any disciplined minister is pretty much “out” in the Assemblies of God organization.
I got the closure I desperately needed; I was BELIEVED wholeheartedly, had the support of my current church, and learned to trust again. I now am in a position of favor and respect of the organization that opened the investigation. I decided to get water baptized again on August 10, 2008, and attended a women’s retreat in September.
In spite of the world’s challenges going on, I’ll simply remember 2008 as my year of almost impossible miracles. God showed me He is who He says He is. Truly, “If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31)
When my incident occurred, there was no Internet, so I suffered false shame and silent tears for many years. Therefore, I became a prisoner to it. Even the post-counseling I received wasn’t long enough. My deep wound during my formative years as a Christian, in the issue of trust, haunted me for years. I closed off my heart.
I encourage women no matter how long ago it happened, to find a loving, safe place to share your pain. Get the healing your heart and life need. The Hope of Survivors is a refuge for all CSA survivors.
The Hope of Survivors has broken the mold, so to speak, of the silence. It has taken on the mission of the most difficult subjects to breach through in the Christian world. My prayer is for its continued success and outreach that will continue for many years to come.
[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
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.