How Should Churches Handle Sexual Abuse Allegations?

by | Feb 22, 2019 | Abuse, Uncategorized | 74 comments

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Churches and sexual abuse are in the news all too frequently today.

First it was the Catholic Church. Then other denominations started to be looked at–most recently in a huge expose of the Southern Baptist Convention (700 victims in 200 churches; read the Houston Chronicle’s report).

I do believe that churches are rife for sexual abuse simply because pedophiles will naturally gravitate to places where they can get access to children, and churches are one of those places. It’s the price we pay for being in community. But that’s all the more reason that churches must be vigilant about enforcing child protection policies, and in reporting any suspected abuse to the proper authorities. Unfortunately, as these exposes have shown, (and as I’ve written before, especially about the Southern Baptist Convention), that hasn’t been done. That needs to change.

So I thought I’d share a reader’s story today, and then make this post a bit of a collaborative effort, asking you all to share your input or to share resources where people can get help.

A reader writes:

Reader Question

Within the last 2 years we discovered our young daughter was being sexually abused by a family member. Walking through this process has been isolating and painful, at best, and has left me with a lot of questions. In our journey we have dealt with the abuser not being confronted (by family or church) the family AND the church isolating us and supporting the abuser, the abuser still being allowed to serve in the church etc.  We were going to a separate church at the time and our pastor was supposed to sit down with the abuser’s pastor and discuss how some of this was mishandled but, as far as we know, that conversation never took place. We are currently attending yet a different church and haven’t been around long enough to see if it’s any different.  It seems there is very little accountability for pastors to address abusers and very little support for the victims.

I corresponded with her a bit more, and it turns out that they did report the abuse to the police. The case was mishandled, and charges weren’t filed. The pastor is thus saying that the abuser has been cleared, which is not the case. It’s only that charges couldn’t be filed.

So what should the church do in this situation, and what should the parents do? Let’s look at some general principles about how churches should handle sexual abuse first, and then we’ll look at her specific situation.

How should churches handle sexual abuse allegations?

Every church should have a child protection policy in place

Every church should have a child protection policy that is enforced, which should include never allowing a child to be alone with one adult or with two adults of the same family (so if you’re driving kids, you can’t drive with your spouse, you have to split up into different cars); every person looking after children must pass a thorough police check which must be repeated at regular intervals (say, every year); every person working with kids must attend child protection training once a year.

Remember, too, that background checks, while important, are relatively useless at discovering abusers, in my opinion, since most abusers are never reported or caught. Just because a church does a background check does not mean that your children are safe. The church must have policies that are followed about adults not being alone with children.

I ran a youth group for years, and this really was rather cumbersome. We used to take the kids out of town on several retreats, and the parents always had to split up into different cars, so that we never had two related adults with the kids. We often needed extra volunteers, and that was sometimes hard to find. But you just have to do this stuff. Kids’ safety matters first.

In Canada, I believe that insurance companies are now requiring churches to have a Plan to Protect policy in place (that’s one such program; there are others). All our local churches, in all the different denominations, have this type of policy and this type of training. And you can’t get insurance coverage without it.

If sexual abuse is ever disclosed, it must be reported immediately to the police

I have seen churches send out letters to parents saying, “we found out that a basketball coach had been abusing kids. If your child has been hurt by him, please contact us.” WRONG.

If your child has been hurt, contact the police. You may also tell the church, of course, but the first course of action should be to go to the police.

Even if you only suspect that something is off, it’s worth calling the police. They’re trained to investigate this stuff. You can report anonymously, and you don’t have to be 100% sure. But sometimes police are watching someone, and they don’t have anything concrete to go on. The more people call in, the easier it is for the police to make a case. If you feel something is off, do something about it.

In many jurisdictions, too, clergy are mandatory reporters. If they suspect abuse, they must report. A lot of people believe that they have to be 100% sure to report, so if they only suspect, they’re off the hook. Nope. That’s not how it works. If your pastor heard that someone was abusing a child, and your pastor did not report, that, in and of itself, may be a crime, and can be reported.

ANY sexual contact between clergy and parishioners is considered sexual abuse, regardless of age or willingness

Remember that sexual abuse encompasses any sexual contact between clergy, including youth pastors, and church members. There’s a power differential, and that means that it’s automatically abuse, similar to how psychiatrists can’t get involved with patients. In many jurisdictions, this is also specifically against the law, and should be reported. (In Canada, it appears to be encompassed in Section 273(1) of the Criminal Code, which notes power differentials that negate consent). If there is a power differential, then a person can’t technically consent, even if they seem willing. We’re often quick to blame someone for seducing the pastor, but legally, it’s always the other way around.

If sexual abuse is ever discovered, it must be reported immediately to any families who had children who may have come into contact with the abuser

Too often churches have been quick to worry about their reputation, rather than reporting the abuse to parents. Currently, two megachurches are in trouble for doing just that. (Just Google Paxton Singer and Harvest Bible Chapel coverup or The Village Church and Matt Tonne). They dismiss someone, but they don’t fully reveal to parents why they did so, and parents only find out after charges were filed.

But what if sexual abuse is only suspected?

This is where things get tricky. I know a situation where a youth pastor groomed and was sexually active with a child in his youth group, but that child was above the age of consent. It was thus considered “an affair”, even though he was her youth pastor (very similar, actually, to the Andy Savage situation at Highpoint). Charges weren’t filed for various reasons, and the pastor was fired, and did confess to the church a big sin in his life. But that sin was not revealed to parents.

This former youth pastor has no criminal record. He would pass a background check. And because parents weren’t made aware of the situation (largely to protect the victim’s reputation), no one knows what really happened. He could go on to another church and do the same thing.

What I have heard is that insurance companies are telling churches that they cannot disclose suspected abuse, when no charges were laid, or else the former pastors can sue for ruining their reputation and making them unemployable. Many churches are afraid of being sued by former pastors, and they’re just firing them and letting them go away, without warning others, to protect their insurance coverage. That’s wrong.

Also, to not tell parents means that you’re believing the abuser’s side of the story–that there was only one victim. You can never assume this. If someone grooms and abuses one young person, it’s very likely they have groomed and abused another. The church needs to tell parents so that parents can talk to their kids.

It protects a church’s reputation more to be up front than to cover it up

I know that abuse happens anywhere. What I want to see in a church, then, is not a church with no abuse accusations, but instead a church that is absolutely up front with anything that happens.

My best friend received a letter from the summer camp that her son had attended. The letter stated that they had discovered that a camp counsellor had been texting one of the boys inappropriately. He had been reported to the police, and was arrested. The camp had done a thorough background check and nothing had come up; and the camp had endeavoured to make sure that he had never been alone with any camper. But now the camp was notifying parents, to let them know of the issue so they could talk to their sons. And the camp said that they would update parents on the case.

And they did.

And my friend sent her son to that same camp the next year because she knew that the camp took abuse seriously. That didn’t ruin the camp’s reputation to her; it enhanced it, because she knew if the camp ever thought anything was off with any staff, they would deal with it appropriately.

So, with all of that said, what should this family do?

This family knows that someone sexually abused their child. That man is currently volunteering in a church. No charges could be filed, but when someone abuses one child, it’s almost guaranteed that they have abused others.

They have talked to pastors, and the man’s pastor is saying nothing can be done. Their former pastor did nothing to help. So what now?

Here are just a few of my thoughts, and I invite you to add some thoughts in the comments:

  • You are under no obligation to be quiet about this. You filed a police report. It is fine to tell others, “You are aware that a man who is volunteering in your church has had a police report filed about sexually abusing a 3-year-old, right?” That is not slander. That is truth.
  • Many churches are required to publish minutes of elder’s meetings. So I would write a letter to the elders and ask for it to be read at the elder’s meeting, so it could be entered into the record.
  • If a church is allowing someone who has been suspected of sexual abuse to serve, then they may be in violation of Plan to Protect (or whatever program they receive child protection accreditation from). Talk to the the Plan to Protect coordinator at the church and ask if they are aware of this situation.
  • If that individual does not help, then remember that not following Plan to Protect guidelines can cause a church to lose their insurance. So I would find out who their insurance company is and I would contact them.
  • If there is a local ministerial association (in my town, for instance, all the evangelical churches join together for certain events, and there is a steering committee for that), you can also contact that larger group and tell them
  • If the church belongs to a denomination, you can contact the district that encompasses that church and report it

UPDATE: Rebecca and I were just talking, and she suggested adding this point:

  • Write a Google review of the church and a Facebook review of the church mentioning that you reported that one of their volunteers had sexually abused a child, and the church did nothing. Don’t name the person, but it’s okay to say that. Then ask for your friends and family to vote that review as helpful so that it shows up near the top of the list.

Forgiveness is not the issue with sexual abuse of children

Our reader also said this:

I am also shocked at how common it has been for people to tell us we need to forgive, we need to pursue reconciliation, we are awful for not allowing them into our children’s lives (it was a relative), we have disrupted family unity etc. To me it’s not a matter of forgive, forget and move on hoping for the best. I have a very traumatized little girl who I am accountable to protect and I can’t get behind the idea of forgiveness that results in “reconciliation” and false unity at the expense of their safety.

I completely agree with her. Too often when someone does something wrong, we want the problem to go away. And in Christianity we seem to have a really nice way of making sure it does: we tell everyone they should forgive! Then, when someone says, “Um, that’s not the issue,” we use Scripture in an abusive way, saying, “Jesus forgave you, and you are to forgive like Jesus. You are in sin.” Suddenly the victim has become the perpetrator! And it’s wrong.

Safety of children comes first. You are never called to reconcile with someone who is a danger to you or your children. You are not in sin if you warn others about this person and if you refuse to see him or let him near your children. You are caring for your kids, and that matters to God.

Luke 17:1-2

Jesus said to his disciples: “Things that cause people to stumble are bound to come, but woe to anyone through whom they come. It would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck than to cause one of these little ones to stumble.
Let me know: Have you ever dealt with a sexual abuse issue in church? Was it handled well? What do you think this woman should do? Let’s talk in the comments!
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Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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74 Comments

  1. Emily

    At one church we attended there was a man who was very open about having done jail time for child abuse. He said he was falsely accused – given the circumstances, it’s possible – but he had been found guilty and sent to prison.
    This didn’t bother us too much – we made sure he was never alone with our kids.
    HOWEVER, when that church decided to put him in charge of children’s ministries? We were out of there. Nope, nope, nope. There’s forgiveness, and restitution, and there’s just plain dumb; You don’t put someone with that kind of criminal record in that kind of role!

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, my word. Are you serious? That’s terrible. Were the police ever notified? If someone has done jail time for child abuse, they’re often registered as a sex offender, and then shouldn’t be near children. The church may be in violation of the law for willingly allowing this to happen.

      And again, in many jurisdictions this may invalidate the church’s insurance. I still think insurance companies may be the key to a lot of this!

      Reply
      • Emily

        I don’t know if the police were notified. That was nearly 10 years ago. I have no idea how it all played out. I know we weren’t the only family to leave.

        In retrospect, there are certainly things I should/could have done better. At the time, I had 4 kids under 10, and no mental energy for the “big picture” – we just got our own kids out.

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          I’ve written before about how I should have called the police and I didn’t on some things a few years ago (it’s about homeschooling). I do feel badly about that. All I can say is that I know better now, and I’m spreading the word. But I think we all have regrets. We just didn’t know as much then. And also, when you’re younger, I think there’s a tendency to assume that these more “mature” Christians must be doing it right, even when they’re not.

          Reply
    • Phil

      AMEN SISTER

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Hi Phil! Totally agree.

        Reply
      • Diana

        If the church won’t listen to you after going through all the proper steps, another thing you can do if the particular church is harboring pedophiles, is to call your local news. I like the Google reviews of the church too, but a news anchor will not keep it quiet. The church will be forced to deal with the situation and not sweep it under the rug.

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Yes, it has been the secular press that has often brought out the truth in many churches lately!

          Reply
    • Megan

      I thought I would post a more heartening story about how my church dealt with a grooming situation.

      With so much mishandling of cases like the one you’ve mentioned, Sheila, it can be discouraging. Fortunately, there are churches such as my own who take these things seriously and handles them with integrity.

      When the youth pastor in my church had been suspected of inappropriate contact with a minor, the lead pastor was immediately reported to CAS and placed on leave. Within 48 hours of this, the elders looked over the issue and found that there was in fact, violations, the pastor was promptly asked to resign (because of by-laws, he had to resign as it has to either be a resignation or go to a full church vote, the board/elders can’t terminate a pastor independently).

      The church protected the victims after the fact but also ensured that this pastor was out of ministry. They also put forward more strict policies for incoming pastors/volunteers.

      The thing was though, that this pastor had a shady past at several different churches but not of these churches blew the whistle before our church hired him, the references he had given, recommended him. Our church was finally the one that didn’t “give the benefit of doubt” and got him out of there.

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        YAY!!! Thank you for sharing that. And, yes, a lot of churches are finally getting this right. I’m so sorry that those other churches didn’t tell your church about this guy. How awful! But I’m glad they all did the right thing.

        Reply
      • Amanda

        That’s great! Our situation was unfortunately a poor example. A man that had abused my minor cousin for 7 years was convicted and sent to prison then completed rehabilitation therapy. The pastor stood by him and his family and he was allowed back to the church where there is a possibility that he tried grooming another young man. This man bounced around to several churches in the area and only after the victim’s parents called these churches were they aware of his background. He was allowed to be involved in children’s activities in some places. It has been over 10 years since he was convicted and he started attending my church which made us very uncomfortable. We took our concerns to the pastor and he said the man would be asked to leave. Then we were told it was a legal issue to ask him to leave and that we should be content that he sits on the front row and does not leave the sanctuary during service. At our last meeting with leadership one of them told us that we were being unforgiving and are we against people who have been divorced coming to church also?? I was confused how those situations were related. We left the church instead and the man still serves there. The point that they kept bringing up was that the abuse was in the past and the man had completed therapy. But the parents were not made aware of his past and our suggestion that this happen was outright dismissed. The man was a frequent guest at the home of the Sunday School Director. The man now trains staff at the church’s coffee shop and shows up to youth events. The man originally had access to my cousin through babysitting, so if parents are not aware of his background, how can they protect themselves? He got away with the abuse he was convicted of for 7 years

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Oh, Amanda, I’m so sorry. That’s awful when a church sides with the abuser instead of the victims.

          Just remember–you have no legal obligation to remain silent. And if he is a registered sex offender, he also may be in violation if he is at youth events. It’s okay to check to see if he’s on a sex offender registry, and then call the police if you need to. Again, I’m so sorry!

          Reply
    • JennR

      Emily, sexual predators lie! If he went to jail, he did something SERIOUS. Someone should have looked up the court transcripts for his case.

      Also, many child abusers abuse children in front of other adults! They get off on it. They position themselves to hide what they are doing. A friend of mine was abused by a family friend while she sat in the backseat of his car, he drove, and his elderly mother was in the front seat! He just reached into the back seat and touched her…I’ll not get graphic.

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Larry Nassar assaulted tons of his victims with the mother right in the room. It is very common. And so sad!

        Reply
  2. Rosa Lyn

    I’m pretty sure this wasn’t specifically listed because it seems so obvious, but anyone accused should be immediately placed on leave of absence from any position of leadership. If it’s determined to be unfounded, they can be reinstated.

    We went through a long battle with our church for justice and finally had to go public to force them to take action. My perpetrator remained in his position for that entire time. Unbelievable but not uncommon.

    Reply
    • Rosa Lyn

      I also wanted to point out something that most people don’t know until they have navigated the system. What you mention about pastors putting their hands up and saying that accusations aren’t valid because no legal action happened is very common. In my state, there is no statute of limitations on child sex abuse, but prosecution is completely up to the now-adult victim. Going through prosecution is extremely strenuous for the chance that maybe something will stick. Many, many people decide that it’s not worth it. Not having charges pressed is absolutely zero indication that there isn’t enough evidence, so making the statement that guilt is based on that outcome is a scapegoat for churches. Reporting is always the right first step, but no church should wait for a legal outcome to protect their congregations, and using that already grueling process as a weapon against victims is despicable.

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        YES! Exactly. Very few cases actually go to trial. Doesn’t mean the police don’t think the person is guilty, though. We must have a higher standard.

        Reply
  3. Jane Doe

    While attending a church we are no longer part of, the youth pastor had “inappropriate contact” with an underage female in the youth group. As a result, he was removed from his position and moved away. The victim’s immediate family soon stopped attending and nothing more was said about it, as to discuss it would be “gossip”. Even the elders’ meeting minutes were very vague about the matter. Fast forward several years and this youth pastor was brought back to the church to assist his brother, the senior pastor. Within 2 years, the youth pastor was accused of inappropriate behavior with a married woman. This too was swept under the rug. It was an incredibly toxic environment and spiritually abusive. Today, the youth pastor serves as director of student ministries at a church in a different state. The senior pastor left and founded a new church.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, that’s awful, Jane. Have you contacted that other church where he is at?

      It is not “gossip” to talk about something dangerous that has been in a church. It is wise. I hate it that churches call it gossip when you simply call out leaders for doing the wrong thing.

      Reply
  4. Kate

    I’m sooo glad that God is shaking up the Christian Church! We have turned his house into den of child molesters. God help any child molester who comes into contact with me, because i’ll make him regret the day his mother gave birth to him. I’m so happy all this expose is happening. Now these pedophiles will think twice about finding shelter among “forgiving” people.

    Also, Sheila, Matt Chandler’s Church was also caught in another scandal a few years back when a wife wanted to divorce her “Christian” husband who was addicted to child porn. Instead of dealing with his vile self they put her on discipline! And they were about to be missionaries in Asia. And you know child molestation is rampant over there, this filth was about to get filful his sinful desire to his heart content, before she took matters into her own hands and went to the police. Here is the whole article: https://www.thedailybeast.com/megachurch-stay-with-your-kiddie-porn-watching-husbandor-face-discipline?fbclid=IwAR0t64l3EdF7l7jiJMwbfgl57NznHZnBy5k_ddxbutsH-3Y63skIBSa-mkQ

    Don’t get me wrong, i love Matt Chandler, and i’m about to attend a church founded by his minsters (Acts29), but he needs to vet, vet, vet, his congregation better. These are two abhorrent sins to hit his church. Unbelievable!

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Exactly, Kate! I’ve written before about the Karen Hinckley debacle. That was absolutely ridiculous. And such horrible, horrible judgment on his part. He has also gone on the record saying that he wants to shepherd those who have been abused. Your first responsibility is to protect your flock. He does not understand abuse, and I believe that that church is not a safe place.

      Reply
      • Kate

        To be honest Sheila, my greatest fear as a single woman has always been to unknowingly be married to a pedophile. Because that will be the only time i’m capable of killing. I’ll tolerate any sin, adultery, physical abuse, drunkenness, etc. but hurt a child sexually and he/she will regret the day they were conceived. I have always had 2 request in a future husband: 1). That he love the Lord with all of his heart, soul, and mind, 2). That he’s not a pedophile. It makes me physically ill literally to read all these articles. That’s why i commend with all of my heart the police, FBI and lawyers who do this job to catch these filth’s!

        I saw a show once that said, child molestation investigators have a high turnover rate because investigators become so sick watching the videos in order to catch the criminals, that they leave their job and pursue something else. I was also told by a lawyer once that finding willing jurors to serve on pedophiles cases is harder than any other cases. It literally destroys your humanity and your psyche. This is why Jesus said what he said about hurting little children.

        Reply
  5. Christina

    Ok what an article to wake up to this am! This is my current story. Except I am the mom and I was the child abused by a relative. The family of origin did nothing. The church did nothing. I knew nothing until this past year. Finding out as an adult, has been horrific. Seeing family and church that I trusted my whole life with myself and my children, allowing and supporting child abuse has been devastating. It is a crime and a sin. It is not simply something that you need to “forgive and get over it” NO! It is life changing and wrong! For this, Christ died.

    Mom who wrote the question, thank you for your bravery. Thank you for doing what is right even when you are rejected for it. Your child needs you to do this, and you are doing it. What could be more important than to know God, stand for truth, and protect your child. Well done momma.

    Sheila thank you for the concise way you have laid this out. This will be a resource I use as I walk my current journey of court dates and church functions where I sit counter my biological father.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, Christina, I’m so sorry! This is not how the body of Christ should have treated you. Just know that not all churches are like this, and there is a big reckoning coming. God is judging the church right now, and He is removing the lampstands (in the words of Revelation) from churches that have covered up abuse, and I think that we should rejoice, even if it’s painful. It’s right. Children deserve better.

      I’m glad you found this article helpful!

      Reply
      • Christina

        Thank you Sheila. I also want to add, that not only is this article useful and a tool that i will be using even this weekend, it is invaluable that you are talking. You are hosting the conversations that need to happen. And when you do this, you invite us all into this lifestyle of honesty and freedom where we can talk about what is really going on and what really matters. Thank you for this faithfulness. I sent the article to a friend this am and her reply was “Oh Sheila! hitting it out of the park again! just telling it like it is.”

        this is a gift that you give to all of us, and it brings much glory to God the giver of the gift..Thank you

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Oh, thank you so much, Christina. I really appreciate that!

          Reply
  6. Erin

    Our situation was a little different. One of my kids was abused by a relative who was a pastor of a church but it was not our church or in our town even. The police investigated and were unable to file charges. He has since moved out of state and it keeps me awake at times that he didn’t have to pay any consequences whatsoever for what he did and could now be abusing kids in another state. I never contacted the church because I thought it would be slander. This article makes some great points how to word it so that you can do that legally. Very helpful.

    At one church we were attending, the youth pastors got in trouble because one of the teens told them she was raped and they contacted her family instead of involving police. It was a very large church and the youth pastors were relatives of the senior pastor. They did move them out of youth ministry at least.

    This ignorance is what abusers prey on. So frustrating!

    At our current church, they have clear policies in place for protection for the kids as well as clear policies of how they handle accusations. It gives me some peace of mind to let my 5 kids be involved there.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      You know, this whole thing about employing relatives of the senior pastor so often ends up causing such havoc. Just because they’re the relatives of the pastor does not mean that they are safe or spiritually mature. And the church should not be a business. It’s okay for me to leave my business to Rebecca and Katie, because it is a business. It earns money; it doesn’t take donations; we don’t shepherd anyone. But if this were a church, it would be totally wrong to have my kids involved. That’s nepotism, and that’s how abuse so often shows up. I’m sorry.

      And I’m so sorry for your child, and for your mama’s heart that must be so hurt! That’s just awful. Yes, I would reach out to that church and just say, “so and so abused my child, and it was reported to the police, though charges could not be filed.” That’s not slander. That’s fact.

      Slander is a “false statement made to a third party that causes harm to the reputation.” But the false statement has to be knowingly false.

      Remember that as a mandatory reporter, even if you have a suspicion, you have to report. In this case, you have much more than a suspicion, and the police were notified. Again, not slander if you tell the next church. You would have to make it matter of the fact, and not elaborate, but if you could give them a copy of the police report that would be helpful as well.

      Oh, dear, what a mess. This must grieve Jesus so much! I know that He cares deeply for you and for your child. I’ll pray for wisdom for you.

      Reply
      • Erin

        One thing I didn’t mention is that the relative who abused my son did pass a polygraph. And a lot of people are quick to accept that as proof that he’s innocent. But polygraphs are not admissible in court as evidence because of how unreliable they are. And DHS did substantiate the report at least. The detective in the case said they would keep an eye on him but now he’s not even in the state. The whole mess was very eye opening to how sexual abuse investigations are conducted and how abusers manage to continue abusing.

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          So sad, Erin! I’m so sorry. That’s part of the problem with churches thinking that registries are enough. You can’t just do registries of those who have been charged; it also has to include credible allegations. I know there can be false allegations, but those are few and far between in these situations, and the safety of children is paramount.

          Reply
  7. Phil

    Ok so in my story my mom says when I returned home from my trip with my abuser (Youth Pastor) She scolded me for running in the house and not thanking him for taking me on the trip. I responded with “he got a king bed” My Mom never took action and I continued on the sex addicted path until I crashed at 30 years old. Of course the first thing I thought was I was a sex addict because of this guy. I wanted to blame someone. There was many contributors including personal choice that made me that addict person. However, at first I wanted revenge for what was done to me. Keenly aware that revenge would get me know where I admittedly twisted to the point that was also true. I did not want this to happen to someone else. That is what I believe truly got the church to take action. I sat with the Bishop and the Assistant Bishop of our local Evangelical Lutheran Church Synod and told my story and I did threaten news media and lots of noise if they did not address this man who was at the time currently serving as a music minister at a church. They investigated him and told me they would inform his current congregation to be on the radar. They then told me that if nothing happened with the investigation and there were no existing issues with his current church that when he made his next move I needed to be prepared for a meeting one on one with my abuser and officials from the church. I agreed to it. I believe some internal stuff happened such as transparency. They informed me of the church my abuser was serving in. It was difficult not to drive the 1200 miles to go attack him….I will say that. However, all of the sudden the church he was serving in began posting ALL their minutes online from their church council meetings. I followed along for many months. Then he was nominated for Youth Pastor at that church. A new policy had been introduced while I followed their minutes. Background Check. They ran the background check and at the very next meeting he was terminated. He was then “defrocked” and removed from ELCA church listing as an ordained serving Minister. I never had to have that meeting. They told me he would most likely deny and not submit to the meeting anyway. I surmise that is what happened. My Pastor followed up with me after all that and told me my abuser would never serve again. What should this woman do? MAKE NOISE! In fact, tell me where to go and I will help you! There are facts that I don’t know exact numbers on – Sheila does the numbers…I speak on my experience….however, There is a fact that says 1/3 of people who are abused become abusers themselves. I admit openly I was an abuser of sorts. Unfortunelay my brain understands the abusers thoughts. I so get Larry Nassar. I of course don’t condone it..I just tell you that my brain understands that man…very scary stuff… My Mom and my wife and in part my kids have taken the brunt of my past. ANGER that came outside was for years! It is a horrible reaction to the things I was exposed to as a child. WE MUST TAKE A STAND AND STOP THE THE ABUSE. The child obviously needs professional help. And I will tell you that that help must never end. I still have impact from what happened to me. I had an incident a few weeks ago that flipped me out…and I was watching the Super Bowl of all things when it happened….I never know when it will strike. I was 13-16 when I was abused. I am 46 today. It has not left me in some ways. It takes constant work to head the other direction. I am paying for that man’s crap. It is hard for me not to post that man’s name right her right now for all of you to see. The only reason I am not doing it is because I want to ensure my comment makes the board. LADY! FIRST – GET YOUR DAUGHTER HELP! SECOND – MAKE SOME NOISE FOR YOUR CHILD AND THEN WHEN YOUR DONE MAKE SOME MORE NOISE!!!! Praying for you and your daughter.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Great comment, Phil, and thank you for sharing your story.

      I do want to point out one thing in what you said: a church leadership telling you that if nothing was done you’d have to sit down and face your abuser is completely inappropriate and wrong. It means they have no idea how to handle abuse.

      I’m so glad that this worked out, and that the guy is no longer serving. And I’m glad that you’ve gotten the help that you need and that Jesus has really taken a hold of your life and put you on a better path.

      But I do just want others to know–Phil’s story is a great example of how badly some churches handle this. You should not be required to sit down with your abuser and accuse them face to face. Wrong. I know of situations where the church required the victim and abuser to sit together so the victim could forgive the abuser (in Sovereign Grace Ministries’ case it was a 3-year-old little girl and her 15-year-old abuser; the child was badly traumatized). Another allegation out of Master’s University by John MacArthur was that a rape victim was supposed to reconcile with her abuser and forgive him. Just awful, awful, awful, awful and wrong.

      If a church tries to make you do this–refuse. Say no. And make a lot of noise, just like Phil says!

      Reply
      • Phil

        Yes Sheila thanks. There were some things that were not handled correctly by my church including my Pastor at the time who I love dearly when I went through that. That was 16 years ago. I like to think it would be different today but I have doubts. I am glad you pointed that out though. Here is why: I speak on my experience. I have worked through things “incorrectly” a lot. I suppose it has to do with the world being the way the world is. Not perfect. Being abused is certainly not perfect. Recovering from being abused will not be perfect either. If you work at it, I believe that not only can justice be served but you can have a great life regardless of it all. I am walking proof and I am a nobody. For me, I got the satisfaction of watching my abuser go down. No he did not get locked up. I am sure he lives life stuck in this world to this day. Plus he will face the true judge at his death. That is enough for me. Again, if I were this woman I would work tirelessly until that man is removed from his position for the honor of my daughter and to help ensure it doesn’t happen to someone else. What ever that rule book looks like…through it out and make your own rules. If you live in the United States – I choose the 1st amendment and the media – News Outlets, Internet Twitter, facebook, and any other place you want to advertise would be my friend. Take a picket and go!

        Reply
        • Phil

          and also – I tell my story with complete hope that someone will read it and see what to do and what not to do. There is both in my story. Sometimes I do it wrong and I am succesful. That doesnt make it right. You have to see the pain I went through because I did it the wrong way too. It should be an alert for someone that they shouldnt do it that way. However, I am HUGE beleiver that when you work God’s will, even if you screw it up but you are doing your best; HE WILL BLESS YOU. Have a great weekend everyone.

          Reply
  8. K

    We recently saw another side of this in our church – a regular attendee of our church (not a member due to differences in belief on some key issues, but someone who regularly attends and has always been considered part of our church family) had past history with child molestation from before he was a believer. He truly hated himself for this and was sincere in his salvation. HOWEVER, that didn’t mean he expected to be treated like someone without his past. Before starting to attend regularly he spoke to our pastor and elders explaining everything, he asked for extra oversight, and with their approval/recommendation made sure to subtly keep his distance from children in the church so as to keep from even the appearance of sin (he mainly did this by arriving right before the service and leaving right after and limiting his fellowship mostly to adult Bible study times). He is currently serving time for those sins of his past and the entire time worked to be honest and sincere with the police and judge, humbly accepting the judgement given him since it was deserved. I am thankful that the church and this believer took the route of recognizing that sin has consequences and that true sorrow for your sin doesn’t make those consequences magically go away!

    Reply
  9. Daniel

    Earlier this week, I wrote a post on my own blog, looking at another aspect of this issue. Watergate taught us that “the cover up is worse than the crime”; nevertheless, there is often a temptation to cover up things like this, for various reasons. Churches and denominations need to take a hard look at their structure, to try to make sure that a cover-up attempt is unsuccessful.

    Reply
  10. Sarah O

    WE NEED CHURCHES TO PREACH ON THIS AND TRAIN THE WHOLE CONGREGATION REGULARLY. Not just leaders. Not just ministers. The whole congregation and especially parents.

    I know it’s ugly and we don’t want to look at it – but we’ve been avoiding looking at it for so long that we can’t recognize a wolf and don’t know what to do even when we do recognize one.

    I have been following #metoo #churchtoo etc. for several years now and what I am learning is that most of us really have no idea about how abuse (of every kind) works. We have a kind of “fantasy” where there’s this terrible person doing terrible things to a sweet innocent who is crying and begging for help and we righteous ones stride in to the rescue with our whip of cords and white shining armor and we get so confused and angry when that doesn’t happen.

    Its never a terrible person. It’s usually the very best person. Many times, abuse acts less like violence and more like poison, where the damage doesn’t show until much later. The victim may not understand what’s happening, or may even appear “complicit” or “consenting”. It’s not just victims that get groomed – the entire community around them gets groomed. Be assured – when you discover a case of abuse, it will seem very minor, and the consequences will seem MAJOR. This is DELIBERATE. Abusers lay a whole big elaborate trap before they ever even enter into abuse, and when we don’t see the trap being laid we don’t know how to get out of it once it’s sprung. It seems so easy to work it out on paper with the benefit of hindsight, but it plays out very differently.

    WE NEED TO BE SHREWD. WE NEED TO STUDY THIS. There is almost a 100% chance each of us will be affected by abuse – either we are abused, know an abused person, or know an abuser. All of us. But we NEVER talk about it in church.

    Reply
    • Sarah O

      Example:

      Sexual relationship is discovered via disclosure between a 14 year old girl and her 41 year old mentor. The girl says she is “in love” and will kill herself if forced to break off the relationship. She is not, at this time, crying and acting like a victim who is scared of an abuser.

      Abuser is married with a stay at home wife and small children. They will be left destitute if criminal charges are pressed. Abuser says this is a “momentary lapse in judgment”, that he will stay away from victim and appears to be adhering to that promise for the past few weeks. Abuser is also beloved, friendly, does lots of community service, is a pillar. No one suspected anything at any time.

      Victim’s parents are very visible in the community, have several other children. It will be very difficult to report the crime while keeping the family’s identity confidential. Family’s livelihood and reputation will probably be jeopardized if reported.

      Abuser swears this is the only time something like this has happened.

      The correct and biblical answer is that the crime should be reported to authorities, but do you see the concussive waves of damage? The abuser will first make every attempt to ensure they are NEVER caught, but second will make sure that if caught, reporting the crime will cause further damage to everyone involved.

      This is a typical presentation. It will seem like the good of reporting will be next to nothing compared to the damage. The temptation to say that the 14 year old “did not suffer” or “was as much at fault” will be OVERWHELMING. The path back to normalcy is much shorter if you take the secrecy route. The problem is that the secrecy route is WRONG. The 14 year old IS a victim and WILL suffer.

      WE NEED TO UNDERSTAND THIS.

      Most of us WILL do the wrong thing here if we are not TRAINED and PREPARED.

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        SO AGREE WITH THIS, Sarah.

        In fact, this is almost exactly what happened in a situation that I know.

        The only difference is that it was portrayed as an “affair”. She didn’t present as a victim (and I don’t think she even knows that she was a victim).

        I think one day, in the future, she may suddenly realize that she was. And then all kinds of trauma will come down on her. That’s what happened with Anne Marie Miller, who was abused when she was 16 by a youth pastor, and the IMB of the Southern Baptist Convention covered it up and didn’t report it and allowed him to stay in ministry in different churches. He has since been arrested.

        But she didn’t realize it was abuse until she hit the age that her abuser was, and then looked at a 16-year-old.

        We think that it’s being kind not to report, but the damage done to the victim down the road by not dealing with this is immense. They will carry the shame of the “affair” (when it was never an affair).

        REPORT.

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    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Absolutely, Sarah.

      Reply
  11. Joe Bryant

    Excellent article, Sheila! I also would highly recommend any organization (esp churches) involved in a youth program have a “Plan to Protect” in place. Moreover, EVERY adult worker/volunteer should have comprehensive Youth Protection Training, along with a police background check, completed BEFORE they are allowed to participate.

    As an adult scout leader in The Boy Scouts of America for almost 20 years, I will tell you that the current BSA Youth Protection Program, is, by far, the most comprehensive program of its kind. The online training and recourses are available to ANYONE to take—not just scouts. Wherever, possible, I urge church leaders/elders to take the training and to see for themselves.

    If you’d like to find out more or take the online training for yourself, you can find those resources at the following link:

    https://www.scouting.org/training/youth-protection/

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yes, absolutely, Joe. When I was in youth ministry we had to go through the Plan to Protect training yearly, and it was actually quite good. It was seriously a pain to abide by all the rules, and sometimes you wonder if it’s really worth it. But it is. You remind yourself that even if YOU would never harm a child, you don’t know about the NEXT youth leader. So you have to put the rules down now. It does matter!

      Reply
  12. Kathryn

    Great post!! Sadly, this kind of abuse happens in so many churches.
    It happens a lot in Amish churches, but nothing is ever done about it because they do not believe in going to the police. So abusers are only shunned for a six week period, and after that it’s considered dealt with and the victim needs to forgive and forget and move on. So sad.
    My family left the Amish years ago but we continued to live like them until just recent years we joined a messianic group.
    In our case it was our Dad who was the abuser. Me and one of my other siblings opened up to elders of the church about it (the messianic group). They took action and removed Dad from our home and placed some rules. But my parents didn’t cooperate so we took it to the authorities. It has been dealt with,and it has been a long journey.
    Hope this can encourage someone! There are good church groups out there.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, Kathryn, I’m so sorry! I’ve written before about the high rates of abuse among the Amish. It is staggering. I’m glad you spoke up. And you show, again, how important it is to involve the authorities. No, they can’t always do anything. But they are the safest place to go.

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  13. Paul Coneff

    I was an associate pastor at a church. I had two notarized statements from girls who had been molested by a volunteer children’s ministry leader. He admitted that the statements were true in front of the senior pastor and the area coordinator for children’s ministries and myself. It took 2 full years, working with an attorney, to get this man out of children’s ministry because the pastor was supporting the molester for political reasons. It was a rude awakening to church politics…and how these leaders were getting something out of the politics (the area coordinator was good friends with the molester) and a leader in the church. As I kept bringing it up, and the attorney finally came to our church board, half the church was angry at me…somehow the molester had switched roles and he was now the victim. By the way, there was a 3rd girl as well who had been molested and once again, he admitted that what she said was true 🙁 So whenever I read stories about victims and their families being ignored or ostracized by the church as they speak up, I know it is true. I am now a Marriage and Family Therapist and I have many friends who are pastors and I’ve seen this pattern repeated more than once. So whether it is the family who speaks up against the pedophile, or the pastor, the leaders tend to work against that person and sooner or later, the pastor moves on because [1] a few key board members support their “friend” and opposed any accountability at all – even if they have to thrown the child, the child’s family, the pastor and any one else under the bus [2] the tension is always there, something has to change, so the pastor moves on… I can only imagine what God will say on judgment day when these “leaders” want to enter into heaven and they have to answer to God for their willful decision to protect a pedophile and throw the victim under the bus. That will be a rude awakening for all the molesters AND molester-protecters…

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Amen, Paul. I would not want to be them at judgment day! Thank you for speaking up. I know that must have cost you so much, but it’s clear that God’s given you a great passion that you’re using to help families!

      Reply
  14. Rhonda

    Well said! I’ve seen churches cover up a pastor’s crime to try to protect the Gospel. I felt powerless to change anything. in our Church, I always tell people to go to the police when there is a crime, no matter what. The Law is ordained b y God to protect and punish the evildoers. I hate it when victims are silenced in order to protect a leader.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      The way we protect the gospel is by protecting those under our care. When we fail to do that, we hurt the gospel.

      I wish all churches could see that! And absolutely–always go to the police.

      Reply
  15. Kiwi girl

    Sometime talking to the pastor, elders or someone higher up the chain can be useful in ensure kids are safe at church. Police can be helpful with sexual abuse issues as well. Some churches deal with child abuse badly and others are improving in the way the handling it. Christians circles can have crazy ideas like it unchristian to non have a relationship with your abusive family member, it is unchristian to go the police and talking about it gossip etc.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yes, the “talking about it is gossip” is ridiculous. We SHOULD be talking about it so as many people know as possible that a certain person is an offender. That makes it harder for them to insinuate themselves into another unsuspecting community.

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  16. Natalie

    Reading this article and the comments section have been very enlightening!!! As the mom of an 18 month old who goes to Sunday School each Sunday and soon to be the mother of another little boy who will be following suit in a year (but in a different class than his brother, so it’s not like they can look out for each other), I feel so overwhelmed by all the possible ways my children could be sexually abused by authority figures!! Particularly since church and church functions are often seen as a safe space where children and parents can let their guards down. Could you write another post about things to look for in your child’s behaviour, the adult leader’s behaviour, etc that could indicate abuse is taking place? Particularly in a Christian setting and particularly when they’re very young and can’t put those thoughts and emotions into words. I, for one, am terrified that I’d miss the signs if something like that were happening, since I have no experience with abuse first-hand. I would find that super helpful!!! It’s a sick, sinful world out there and the more info we parents have, the better off we and our children are.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Sure, Natalie, I’ll think about that type of post!

      My big thing, though, would be to only go to a church with a clear child protection policy where an adult is never alone with a child, and then make sure that policy is enforced. But, of course, neighbours, family members, and others can still abuse, even if it doesn’t happen in a Sunday school room, and I’ll try to write a post about that.

      Reply
    • Sarah O

      You can also check out the church training videos at http://www.jimmyhinton.org – he had a useful list of 20 behaviors to look for. All of the behaviors are normal and legal, and most people will engage in about 5 of them – but if you see someone flagging on 10 or more, you should be concerned, intervene, bring it up, and set boundaries.

      You could also consider with your church leadership reaching out to Boz Tchividjian’s organization GRACE to see if it would make sense to consult on effective church policies http://www.netgrace.org

      Reply
  17. Brandy

    To keep it biblical… Matthew 18:15-17. She went to her family, her pastor, and police. Nothing done. She needs to go to the pastor of the offender/abuser. If nothing done then, she needs to just go before the church members, both churches, and tell what happened. Then tell that the pastors refused to do anything about it and she felt that other parents needed to know. Then, as far as the pastors and family members are concerned, I’d treat them exactly as verse 17 says! They would be lost to me.
    I pray God’s justice be done! Prayers for healing your child!

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Very wise, Brandy. And I totally agree with you in terms of the woman’s prerogative to shout it from the rooftops now.

      I just want to clarify one thing (and I know that this is not what you meant, but I want to say it clearly). When it comes to child abuse, Matthew 18 doesn’t really apply. You aren’t required to go to the abuser first. You should go to the police first, while also telling the church leadership. But you are not required to keep it quiet. Not when the children’s well-being is at stake.

      Reply
      • Phil

        This is essentially the same argument I was trying to pitch with the love and respect discussion. Basically what I have determined is when lines are crossed in which great harm has been or is being done we skip this verse and go right to knocking over tables. I got no problem seeing that in this instance. It eluded me for a bit with the love and respect discussion. These 2 discussions are the same.

        Reply
  18. Bethany

    My abuser now goes to my old church, and is married and has 3 little girls. While he’s not a church leader, I was hoping to maybe get some helpful information. A year or two ago, i was trying to research information on filing police reports against both of my abusers. One was a child molester and the other was. Grooming me for a clearly innapropiate relationship. I have no support in this from my immediate family, they think its useless or not that important. The issue with the groomer is that he is now living in a different state.(OK and im on TN) and the molester is a news reporter. And everyone is warning me that I’d get sued for ruining his reputation. I got married to a man in law enforcement and while he’ll support anything i decide to do, pointed out that we have no money. Also because my parents blatantly messed up and did nothing when I revealed 11 yrs ago, statues of limitations have run out. So I think i may be forced out of options? Whatever I do, I never want to be in the same building as either one, I’d rather die.
    (We have physical proof still of the grooming behavior, so I feel like i could do something maybe)

    Reply
    • Bethany

      Oh and they’ve also continually brought that by talking about it, I’m endangering the “perfect family reputation”. Which, while they’re keeping it down low, has been struck again. My sister Appearantly married a physical abuser and has a restraining order. My other sister had some kind of affair with him, physical or not isnt really known.

      Reply
      • A

        My thought is that filing a police report doesn’t cost anything. Depending where you are you may also be able to do it anonymously. It may be a good option for deciding if it can go any further and then you can make the next decision from there.

        Don’t think of it as “ruining” anything. All it is doing is exposing what is already there. People seem to forget that the abusers are the “ruiners”. If, as a family, it is important to keep a specific “image” than it is also important to hold people accountable and not hide behind abuse.

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        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Amen, A!

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    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, wow, Bethany, that’s really tough. I think it’s okay to turn evidence of the grooming behaviour over to a church or to law enforcement, even if the statute of limitations has passed. The thing is that sometimes police are trying to make a case on someone, and they don’t have enough evidence, so when people step forward it really does help.

      The big thing to remember here is that you are under no obligation to keep silent. You cannot be sued for ruining someone’s reputation if it is not slander (and it is not). Or rather, they could sue you, but they would not win, and you could likely get damages from them for filing a frivolous lawsuit.

      You don’t have to be quiet. You can tell people, matter of factly, that when you were of such and such an age, this guy abused you. That’s okay.

      You don’t have to, of course, but I want everyone to know that they have nothing to be ashamed of, and your story is your story. You don’t have to keep it quiet.

      Reply
  19. Barbara H

    Something that has really been on my mind & hasn’t really been addressed, is prevention. When churches hire pastors, there should be a rigorous screening process, not just a criminal check or child abuse registry check. I’m no expert, but surely there is a way to screen for individuals who may have tendencies to abuse.
    The church I attend is currently hiring several positions & after the SBC scandal, you can bet that I am asking questions about church policy & hiring practices. I think it behooves all church attenders to ask these questions.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I’m not sure, Barbara. I know that many abusers are classic manipulators. I also think that many pastors truly have narcissistic personality disorder, and we should be able to screen for that. Apparently the pastorate is one of the most common jobs for narcissists, so they are overrepresented there. So sad!

      Reply
  20. Csab

    I also experienced abuse in the church, but it took me years to understand what really happened.

    The story: every boy struggles with masturbation at the age of 12. There is confession in the catholic church and it was very hard for me to tell my sin to the chosen priest. There was always guilt and shame and I felt my sin was really big. My confessor said to love my relatives, give them help and bad things will fade away.

    One day there was a party in the assembly for the kids. A different priest asked me if I want to confess my sins.
    I said no, I used to confess to someone else.

    That priest asked me to fill a graphological test, so he’ll tell my personality. The result was some esoterical crap (true to 95% of men). He told me, that he sees in my writing that I masturbate. He added, that this is a great sin and it will lead me to the ethernal condemnation. No other boys do this, I am the only one who struggle with the problem. He told me that I always have to confess it, I have to visit a priest immediately after relapse, I also have to tell how many times I did, and when. He also said, that I previously confessed in a wrong way, I always have to tell the details, otherwise God will never forgive me.

    I respected my previous confessor so much, that I was afraid of telling him the details. The easiest way was to change the confessor to the one I hate. Harassed kids sometimes make the wrong decision. I also didn’t know that sexuality is intimate even if it’s masturbation. One can’t confess sexual sins to anybody, otherwise it will hurt seriously.

    It took me 10 years to realize, that this priest won’t save my soul for ethernal condemnation. Actually, he was a liar or probably pedophile. I still don’t know if he was simply bigot, or used my confessions for sexual arousal.

    I also had suicidal thoughts which is “normal”, even if the victim is unaware of the harassment.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, wow, Csab, I’m so sorry that so much shame was heaped on you! That’s awful. And I’m so sorry that this led to so much despair and confusion as a teenager. Just know that God was not behind that. He really wasn’t.

      Reply
      • Csab

        Thanks for your response. Actually I’m lucky as I’ve been living in a happy marriage for 12 years now (not everybody has married from the assembly). My family still thinks, that this priest is a saint who behaves ethically and teaches the right thing to the kids. It was an enormous work for God to fix the problems he caused.

        He taught that Christian women should never be sexy or seductive. Only prostitutes are seductive. Prostitution begins when a woman invites a man for a coffee. Good Christian women are passive, they never initiate.
        Christian wifes never initiate sex, only prostitutes do this. The Christian women should take care of their husband and kids not their make up.

        (he frequently used prositutes for girls at teaching the sexual ethics.)

        At that time I had serious mental issues, so I went to the psychiatry. The doctor politely explained me the human sexuality right from the beginnings. She was an atheist, didn’t care much about religion, but reassured that I was not the only Christian there with sexual problems.

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Oh, wow. I’m so glad you found a good psychiatrist! That’s great. And what a warped picture of marriage and sex. I am so sorry.

          Reply
  21. Samantha Ross

    At 19, I married a preacher and thought life would be perfect. Eight years and three kids later, I began divorce proceedings because even after much counseling and tears and effort on my part, his porn addiction was so bad that I couldn’t afford food for my children. I never in a million years dreamed that his porn addiction would grow into molestation of his own children. However, that is exactly what happened. It eventually came out that he has molested all three of my children. He was also fired from his job as a chaplain for an in-home hospice company “for his perverted ways”. The first job he took as a minister after our divorce didn’t seek verification for why he was a divorced man (even though that is extremely taboo in that denomination). When I stopped allowing him to have visitation with his children, the church never asked questions (and I didn’t believe it was my job as a Christian to tarnish his name – I know, my fault). Eventually, he was fired as they determined he was consistently lying about everything to them. At such point, he sought a job as a youth minister and was loved by all. At the time, I didn’t say anything to the new church because I didn’t figure they would believe me (as the vindictive ex wife) especially since no charges were filed for his molestation of my two sons. When he was fired again and his second wife left, I contacted the church to let them know what he had done to my boys in case they had any other similar situations. They didn’t let the parents know because he was fired for embezzling funds from the church and not for sexual impropriety. At this point, he took a job as a worker at a juvenile detention facility where it was his job to monitor the boys during the overnight hours. I was finally smart enough to alert the employer to the fact that he had sexually abused my boys. They were unable to do anything because the investigation was botched and he was never convicted of the crime. He continued in this position for about three years and was engaged to one of the counselors that worked with some of the boys when she discovered his web of lies and alerted the organization who let him go based on her information. Now, I have no idea where he is working. There is a new investigation because of his sexual abuse against my daughter (it took her several years before she came forward with the abuse), but again I fear that he will walk free. I now realize that it is not my responsibility to keep silent. However, I struggle with how to handle telling the story since I am not his victim. I want my kids to understand that this is their story and that they do not have to remain silent… But at the same time, do I have a right to tell their story and warn others or do I remain quiet about THEIR story? My children are now 16, 15, and 12.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Hi Samantha,

      First, I’m so sorry that you went through this! So very sorry. What a horrible thing to live through as a mother!

      I do think that it’s fine to speak up to any future employers that you happen to find out about. I think getting something on the record can be helpful, even if it’s just reporting your daughter’s abuse. I don’t think that’s telling your children’s stories far and wide.

      I also think, though, that within your personal circles those are your stories to tell. It sounds like your husband’s professional life is very different from your personal circles, so you wouldn’t be harming your children by telling future employers.

      But I also think that talking to your kids about it is really important, and just letting them know that you want to make sure that future people are protected and not victimized. And I think conselling for your kids would be so important. But I am sorry, and I’m glad you got out when you did!

      Reply
  22. Laura B

    Just a point about “forgiving” someone who has abused someone else, such as a child. We don’t have that authority. We can’t forgive sins on another person’ behalf, there’s not a biblical example of this. I’ve heard this said, and it makes no sense.

    Reply
  23. BigFan

    Shelia,
    What about family? A women preyed upon my brother, then married my other brother. My parents understand not having her and the victim together, but think we are ‘unforgiving’ for not wanting anything to do with her either. We have forgiven, letting go of the desire to punish and hoping she has really repented, but I believe accepting her in the family would just be wrong. Yet everyone says that we HAVE to EVENTUALLY reconcile because she is now family. Every argument is shot down because “it’s family” and we weren’t the victim. I find no support in scripture for this attitude (more of the opposite- Duet 13 implys a godly attitude is throughly washing your hands of a family member who commits great evil.) Marriage is sacred, and you have to honour those who raised you, but besides that I don’t see family obligation in the Bible, just an assumption that you’ve created very close bonds. What do you think?

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, that’s awful! I’d definitely protect the victim and stand up for the victim. Absolutely. The fact that this hasn’t been dealt with is just so sad! Is this something where police should have been involved? If it’s not too late I’d call. New York state just passed a law where you have a year to file suit even if it’s outside of the statute of limitations, and other states are doing this as well. This should be taken seriously!

      Reply
      • BigFan

        Yes it was very ugly. They did file a report with the police, but there was no evidence and since she is a female it would be hard to prove.
        He has healed a lot but I think that encourages people to feel like befriending her is okay, and that doesn’t seem right to me. Like we’re punishing him for doing well.
        I don’t want to go into the details here, but I don’t think she is a threat anymore. But I still don’t want to befriend her ever. If she really repents, am I supposed to since she married in? The thought makes me sick.

        Reply
  24. Dani

    I know this is an older post so I’m not sure if this will be seen but I wonder if anyone has any thoughts on false allegations. I’m sure they aren’t common but I don’t think it’s out of the realms of possibility when it comes to troubled teens. What is a church to do on the whole and then on an individual level if nothing is ever substantiated? He maintains his innocence. And what of his family who absolutely had nothing to do with it even if he did?
    It’s so very messy and sad

    Reply

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