The goal of this blog series is to motivate people to find redemption in Christ and to believe in the local church again. If you missed them, the first three posts are linked below.
*Key names have been changed for privacy purposes. This post is rated R (if you are a teen, please read with a parent or guardian)
Let’s recap in the most generic way possible. I became a born again Christian over 15 years ago. Got plugged into a church and started dating the Pastor’s son. Eventually, the Pastor got asked to step down from ministry due to a “moral failure”. I was bitter and bummed. My almost youth pastor boyfriend “Frank” dumped me because I was a hypocrite and was struggling through my church wounds.
And action ….
I never thought I would type out this next sentence. I was dating a tier III sex offender and had no idea. Tier III is a category for those who are the most dangerous or repetitive sex offenders. The man I once loved, was strategically in a place of authority in the church to develop inappropriate relationships with young girls.
For years I would wonder “How did I miss this?” He seemed so … holy. Was I blinded by love? Dumb? Spiritually manipulated? I’m sure it was all these things plus more. For a quick millisecond, I even asked God if it was my fault. Did I drive Frank to prey on those victims? Could I have done something, anything, to protect those girls? I had to walk through a process of letting myself off the hook for Frank’s horrendous actions.
I may be off the hook but that doesn’t mean I can’t go to battle.
I battle through my story, trudging through the deception in hopes that God uses it to bring others freedom and healing. My husband and I cheer on those that are strong and stand up for what is wrong. We celebrate those that do the hard things. And we honor those who have been hurt but tell their story regardless.
I wasn’t a victim first hand by Frank, but I was volunteering in the youth group investing in two youth girls that were.
About a year after Frank and I broke up, my phone rang. On the other end of the line was a young girl, Stacey. Her family was members of our old church. We made small talk but I could hear in her voice something wasn’t right.
“Did you hear the news?”
“What news?” My heart skipped a beat.
Stacey then recounting play by play details of how Frank had mistreated her. Her mom found out and was threatening to go to the police.
Frank went through a grooming period with Stacey. He invested months getting to know her, caring about her life and counseled her through her teenage problems. He showed her what a Godly man looked like. After he had gained Stacey’s trust, he would prey on her vulnerability. He would advise her spiritually and in the next breath teach her about sex. Frank would expose himself to her but then proceed to tell her he wouldn’t kiss. To quote him “kissing was more intimate and should be saved as something special for her husband.” He didn’t want to take away her first kiss. Instead, he took away her confidence and trust in men.
She continued to spill detail after detail of the abuse. He held a position of authority over her and was using it to manipulate her. Frank, a leader in the church, had just done the opposite of his job description. He had broken her and left her wounded.
As soon as Stacey and I got off the phone, I remembered another girl, Mandy, who Frank and I had helped. Years earlier, this eighth grader, confided to us that a family member was abusing her. We helped Mandy as she took the proper steps to be protected. It turns out Frank was also abusing her and her safety was gone. Frank would find those that already felt lost and use that to his advantage.
After hearing Stacey and Mandy’s shocking stories, I just sat in a puddle of tears. Frank and his dad, were like master puppeteers pulling the strings and manipulating and deceiving everyone. In the next blog post, I’ll expand upon Frank’s ministry that led him behind bars. More importantly, I’ll share how God continued to heal my anger and heartbreak.
Frank invested a lot of time connecting with his victims over the internet. He would exchange pictures, sext and “educate” them. Over the years technology had advanced and so did Frank’s methods. He would use video chat and smartphones to victimize people. If you have young kids, please monitor their internet and phone usage.
Nine out of 10 children know their abuser. It is often a crime that is kept a secret and brushed under the rug. This leads to victims not getting the proper help they need. If you or someone you know is a victim of sexual abuse, please get help.
If you or someone you know has been sexually abused or spiritually manipulated by a church leader I want you to know you are not alone. You deserve to be heard, and I am SORRY.
An open letter to anyone abused by a leader in the church,
I am sorry that the church you went to, to build your faith ended up not feeling safe. It must have felt REALLY scary and confusing. I imagine that it left you feeling broken and maybe even wondering about God’s character and if He even cared.
I'm so sorry that you went to church searching for God and found just the opposite. You deserve to be respected, valued and honored in your church community and from church leadership.
It's not okay that you were victimized. I'm angry that you endured such heartache. It’s not okay and it will never be okay.
You are valuable and you matter. You aren’t insignificant and please don’t wrap yourself in shame or guilt. I believe God can and will bring healing to your mind, body and spirit. God can redeem your relationship within the church. I believe that if you battle through this, God can bring you immense healing and truth. There’s a purpose over your life that is unique and special.
I cry for you because I want you to know that you aren’t alone. You are valuable and God’s love for you is far greater. I pray for you and that your dreams aren’t tarnished or forgotten. Invite God into your process of asking the hard questions and walking towards healing and wholeness.
Please know, we are praying and God's fighting for you. If anything, I pray you know just how greatly loved and valuable you are.