Sex offenders, faith communities, and four common exploitations

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No Exploitation - photo courtesy Jeru Sustainable Development Blog

No Exploitation - photo courtesy Jeru Sustainable Development Blog

Child molesters are very professional at what they do and they do a good
job at it. – 
convicted sex offender

One of the many things I have learned in the past 20 years about sex offenders is that they access and target children in a multitude of despicable ways. I have also learned that many offenders within faith communities often use similar methods to perpetrate and silence abuse.  These methods focus on the exploitation of common characteristics of faith communities.

One horror is that many abuse survivors have suffered from such exploitations.  Another horror is that most people of faith are completely oblivious to these destructive and deceitful methods.   Knowledge and understanding of these common exploitations is the first step in protecting our communities from predators who walk in and destroy lives right underneath our noses.

No Exploitation - photo courtesy Jeru Sustainable Development Blog

No Exploitation – photo courtesy Jeru Sustainable Development Blog

Exploitation of Faith Terms

Experienced abusers know how to effectively distort and twist faith language in order to validate abuse and to keep victims silent.  Let’s examine how offenders exploit a faith term such as “sin”. Offenders will often define sin to younger victims in order to justify.  For example, they will tell the child that the abuse is not sinful, but is “The expression of God ordained love”.  When an adult in the church tells a child that abuse is not “sinful”, the confused child is less likely to resist or report the criminal behavior.  As the child gets older and perhaps begins to openly question or resist the ongoing abuse, an experienced offender will attempt to redefine “sin” in a manner that shames the child into silence, such as “You should be ashamed of your sin”.   An abuse survivor once told my friend that her abuser kept her silent and submissive by repeatedly telling her, “Because of your sin, God doesn’t care about you, but I do.”

I recently came across a letter written by a pastor (who now sits in prison) to his 17-year-old victim, which chillingly illustrates this exploitation.  He writes,

This week, I tried to climb into your heart and write the graffiti of the Gospel on the walls. I wanted to spray paint in Neon colors that you are Priceless + Precious + are “off the charts” important – yes – to me personally -but especially to OUR Savior Jesus Christ. I’m reading my Bible now to draw a little closer to God – even if it’s a millimeter closer – because if we both get a little closer to Him, we also get closer + stronger + deeper w/ each other.

The spiritual impact that such exploitation has upon a child is devastatingly complex and oftentimes, lifelong.   Perhaps the greatest damage is that many abuse survivors spend a lifetime attempting to disassociate these distorted biblical truths from their experience. Abuse survivor Christa Brown put this tragic truth best in responding to a friend who attempted to encourage her by telling her to trust God,

It is as though you are telling me that I should pick up that very same sword that was once used to eviscerate me and should fall on it all over again.  I can’t do that.  My love of God, my faith, my own extraordinary desire to live the will of God…those are the very parts of me that were transformed into weapons that savaged and destroyed me.

Not surprisingly, many survivors want nothing to do with anything related to faith.

Exploitation of Authority

Abusers in faith communities know that from the earliest of ages, children are taught to “respect and obey” those in authority.  This propels these offenders to actively work themselves into leadership positions in churches and other faith based organizations.  Once authority is grasped, it is immediately exploited to the point that their power and control is justified as being sanctioned by God. The resulting culture is one in which abuse is shrouded in silence and seldom questioned. In her book, This Little Light, Christa Brown recounts how her youth pastor exploited his authority in order to gain her submission. She writes,

Eddie [pastor] always said that God had chosen me for something special.  I guess I really wanted to believe that.  Doesn’t every kid want to think they’re special?  Besides, who was I to question a man of God?  It wasn’t my place.  My role was to be submissive.

Exploitation of Needs

How many churches can you think of that are not in need of volunteers to help out with children and young people?  (i.e., nursery, youth group, vacation bible school, etc.).  Many offenders are well aware of these ongoing needs and will go to great lengths to exploit needs for the purpose of accessing and hurting children.   In a highly publicized case, Father Lawrence Murphy filled a teaching need at St. John’s School for the deaf where he sexually abused as many as 200 deaf or hard of hearing boys.  A twenty year old volunteer in a church program for children with special needs was recently charged with sexually abusing two young boys in the program.  A church volunteer in West Virginia was recently charged with abusing at least 12 children while filling a church need. These heartbreaking reports are endless.  The common thread of each is an offender exploiting a need in order to abuse.

Exploitation of Trust

I consider church people easy to fool…they have a trust that comes from being Christians.  They tend to be better folks all around and seem to want to believe in the good that exists in people.  I think they want to believe in people.  Because of that, you can easily convince, with or without convincing words. – convicted child molester

Faith communities usually foster a very trusting environment.  For a variety of reasons, we naively tend to automatically lower our guard when we are amongst professing Christians.  This same naiveté is why offenders flock to the faith community.  There is no other environment that I know of where children can be accessed so quickly by so many with little or no concern from others.

Years ago, our family moved to a new city and engaged in the “fun” process of searching for a new church home. At that time, our eldest child was an infant, and at each visiting church she was dropped off at the church nursery.  Yes, I entrusted my child into the care of a complete stranger at a strange new place.   Could you imagine walking into Wal-Mart and handing your child into the care of the greeter while you shopped?  Though I don’t think I would be so careless today, the reason I did not think much about it then was that I immediately trusted these strangers because they were part of a church “family”.  Christians all too often mistake familiarity for trust. However, it is common knowledge that most children are not sexually victimized by strangers.  In fact, one study found that only 10 percent of child molesters victimize children that they do not know.

I recently read a news story about two boys who were sexually abused by their pastor.  The grandmother of one boy stated that she allowed him to move in with the pastor because she thought he “would safe with him”.  What she didn’t know was that her trust had been exploited by a sex offender who had found a profession that gave him unfettered access to abuse children.  It is time that the Christian community come to terms with the heartbreaking reality that those who pose the greatest risk to our children are within our families, churches, and circle of friends.

Understanding the methods of predators is not something anyone wants to think about let alone study.  However, such willful ignorance is what has allowed these criminals to infiltrate our communities and destroy the lives of untold numbers of children.

Don’t you think it’s time that each of us step forward and do what we can to expose these exploitations and protect our precious children?


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  • Learning to be a survivor

    I am so thankful for this article. When we attend church and I check out each class my children could potentially be in asking questions about those working with the kids and what sort of safety protocols are in place, I often get odd looks. Our church has a VERY comprehensive safety protocol, however, it isn’t always recognized by all, how important that system is.
    That is being addressed through training for all the children’s workers, etc., but ultimately, the responsibility falls back on me as their mom to do all I can to know that my children are safe. It seems irresponsible to not assume that there are offenders and/or potential for offenders in every church.
    Growing up in churches in a very conservative denomination, offenders seemed to be present and active in just about every religious environment I was exposed to. Because of the blind trust placed in all members of the religious environments, there really no one to tell. Telling meant accusing highly respective adults. I vividly remember how the offenders presented themselves to others. Every one I encountered was very charming and friendly. They always seemed well connected to the leadership and/or part of the leadership. They were above being questioned or accused.
    They often did small things that gradually tore down the believability of the children and teenagers they had offended, planting doubts in the minds of others just in case any child or teen did try to report them. They already had explanations in place that would ensure that we, as children, would never be believed over them.
    I specifically remember one offender who boldy talked with girls in our church right in the middle of the church lobby and auditorium. He would describe, in great detail, the sexual things he was planning to do to us. We would look around at the other church members, often only a few feet away and realize that what he was saying was true. Who would ever believe that he was having these conversations with us with a crowd of people surrounding us? Who would believe the intense fear we had of him, when he was so charming to others? Who would believe the things he was saying when he so quickly switched the subject to something very innocent and often about God when others walked up and joined in the conversation? This particular offender reportedly fondled one of the younger girls right in the middle of a church service. Another girl woke up to him having broken into her bedroom where she had been sleeping. How does that happen and who would believe it if anyone tried to tell? His wife was in full time ministry. In recent years, I talked with her knowing that she was aware of numerous incidents of sexually offending a child. She stated that I should be afraid, that God was coming soon and would destroy any of us who spoke of his “sin” as it meant we were unforgiving, thus God would not forgive us for our own sin. Even as an adult, knowing that he should be exposed for the safety of the children around him, I felt complete terror at her statements.
    This specific offender had been caught raping a child by his wife, yet he continued having access to children and teenagers. No one talked about what happened. One person finally overcame his personal fear and reported this person to an authority in our church. I will always be thankful to this boy who dared report his own father to protect girls his father preyed on. He pleaded for help, but nothing changed. He continued to have access, continued as a respected man in the church community. He continued and still today continues to be involved in church community with no restrictions or safety protocols. How does this happen?
    Other offenders WITH their offenses known are in positions of church leadership – pastors, missionaries. How? Why? When I have asked, their ministries don’t view these people as needing any accountability whatsoever. The explanation for that is that they are “godly” men. They victims are tainted, but the offenders are not.
    As for understanding who God is after growing up in that environment? I hope that is possible one day, but right now, it is an intense struggle. It seems that every passage of Scripture was used to blame victims for the abuse. We were either already impure (even if the abuse happened when we were young children), we must have been living in sin, God was judging us, etc. One of the ultimate weapons was being told that if we did not forgive AND forget (a sign of true forgiveness), God would NEVER forgive us for our sin and we would go to hell. Another was telling us that if we ever told anyone, then we would be responsible for sending innocent people to hell as our accusations would detract from the Ministry. The offenders were not the threat to ministry. The victims were considered the threat.
    Offenders were and are permitted to continue in ministry. They only have to say they are repentant and then they continue as if nothing ever happened. They are accepted and protected by the religious communities they are in. I was recently told that if I reported a sexual offender (a different one) who is currently in full time ministry, I would be destroying his ministry, a ministry of God. I was asked if I wanted to be responsible for destroying God’s work by revealing this man’s sexual offense. The implication and statements were very clear. I can protect God’s great work by keeping silent or tell his offense and destroy God’s work.
    I identify completely with the quote in the article,

    “It is as though you are telling me that I should pick up that very same sword that was once used to eviscerate me and should fall on it all over again. I can’t do that. My love of God, my faith, my own extraordinary desire to live the will of God…those are the very parts of me that were transformed into weapons that savaged and destroyed me.”

    While I couldn’t have put that into words so beautifully, it perfectly reflects my own thoughts. Because every sexual abuse experience I endured was tightly intertwined with faith, every time I hear verses that were used at those times, I have flashbacks of abuse. I feel the panic again. The verses terrify me. They are too tightly interwoven in abuse. I have no idea how to learn and hear them from a different perspective. People will mention that God is a Father who wants to protect us. What about those whose fathers did not protect BECAUSE of their views about God? What about those who themselves abused, but did so in God’s name, justifying it with the Bible?
    It seems that almost every verse of Scripture that should offer me encouragement or show a picture of a loving God, instead brings terror. It brings the memories of abuse, abuse that I do NOT want to remember, that I do not want to face. How do I respond to well meaning Christians who use verses that are meant to bring comfort, that the very verses that them comfort, bring me an instant reaction of terror and past memories reawakened? How do I explain that while these verses may portray to them a picture of a loving God, that I can’t see or understand that picture? It must often appear to them that I am rejecting God when I pull back. I am not. I am simply trying to pull back from the memories of how those verses were used to manipulate and destroy. I’m trying to pull back from memories I don’t want to remember that are tightly wrapped up in those verses.
    I often wonder if I will ever freely know God on earth. My view of him has been so poisoned and tainted. Will I ever be free enough to know really who he is? If I can’t, does he understand? Will he forgive that? Will he still allow me in heaven and let me see him then for who he really is without all the tainting that has colored my understanding now?
    I am not alone. This response to Boz’s post, isn’t about me. Churches and the community outside of churches are filled with people just like me. Some don’t want to hear the word God and have given up hope that he could be good. Others, like me, are trying to replace the picture of God that was presented in the past and are trying to understand who he is in spite of what was taught. With the help of a few who have been kind and understanding, I have found some hope in a few passages in the Bible that clearly describe God as not being who I was taught he was. I cling to them, but don’t know how to “feel” differently. I know in my heart that he is not who I was taught about in the past, but struggle to disconnect from the fear of him.
    It is incredibly hard to try to replace the old picture of God, when I still see multiple Christian institutions still actively protecting sexual offenders. I still am seeing Christian leaders go to great lengths to protect the offenders and discredit victims. Why? What does it mean? When those same leaders are so highly respected by many in Christianity, what does it mean?

  • Oscar

    How do you feel
    When you read post after post
    Do they go well with coffee
    Or do you choke on the toast

    Do you want to dive
    Into the Word of God
    To find a little verse
    To solve this little problem odd

    Do you wait for the Holy Spirit
    To show you what to say
    Hoping you hear nothing
    And that it will all go away

    Do you look across the fence
    And see others have done worse
    Like them naughty Catholics
    Who in sin did fully immerse

    Do you want to scream “forgive”
    And then it will all go away
    Because it can be all forgotten
    And you can get on your way

    Do you want to blame the law
    Or the natives in foreign land
    Do you want to sing “We Welcome You”
    Drown out the posts with big brass band

    Do you never want to imagine
    If this was your little girl
    Robbed of her childhood
    Caught up in evils whirl

    Do you want to go on reading
    Prayer letters of dire need
    And tick the like on facebook
    Of each servant who sows the seed

    Do you want to apply labels
    To posters you know not
    Like “bitter”, “unforgiving”
    And “ungrateful for their lot”

    Or do you want to vomit
    When you read of all the pain
    The pain inflicted by the wolves
    Who claimed in Jesus name

    Do you want to hunt them down
    And strip away the fleece
    Show the world who they really are
    And some justice finally release

    Do you want to hear your conscience
    Scream above every religious word
    Resist the temptation to patronize
    And let your feelings be really heard

    Do you want to weep with survivors
    And mourn those who mourn their dead
    Do you want to shake the world
    From it’s comfortable little bed

    Do you want to find millstones
    And apply them in Jesus name
    To those who killed little souls
    In their perverted little game

    So what do you want to do
    As you finish this poetic post
    What will you do my friend
    As you have your tea and toast?

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  • Raz

    Thank you, Learning to Be A Survivor, for you very honest and impactful first-person account which so vividly illustrates the truth of everything Boz has said in this blog post. How do we get Christians to read and believe your words, and to act on them? I do not know. Boz is trying to get their attention. I wish him success, but at this moment, all I can think of to say is: I don’t know.

  • joeythebushkangaroo

    Learning to be a survivor-

    I am also a child victim of 2 pedophiles who were adult physical brothers,one especially professing Christian faith in the Baptist Church but who obviously did not practice true Christianity,even lived in our Family home with us for approx 5 years(9 children available)(Sunday School Teacher).
    My son at 3yo was also molested by another man decades later, so I know the damage that these men can do in just minutes.

    They can affect someone for the rest of their lives. Their victims boundaries have been distorted & they cannot then detect if a person is being friendly or being predatory/seductive. I know that may sound hard to understand but because we were damaged as children, it is like our child-like faith in people will not move on and mature. We cannot seem to pick up the nuances of an abuser for many decades,so we are often victimized over and over again as adults,sometimes sexually & also many I am sure fraudulently in some way.

    When it finally dawns on us the nuances of a predator,then we are amazingly so sensitive to these little hints that it is like they have a sign written on their heads & we know when someone is then doing,saying or intimating something that is questionable as the fear comes up. The sad thing is that others can think we have tickets on ourselves if we warn someone that another person is acting in an inappropriate way towards us.

    I have been in this position where I told someone that I was concerned about a particular man saying & doing strange things around me and because I was made to feel that this was ridiculous,actually was put in a very vulnerable position later that I would have avoided if I had been believed. When we are doubted by significant others ,we end up doubting our own “danger-radar” so we then doubt what our body is telling us when it has been given to us by God, to warn us of impending danger from our previous experiences.

    I am old enough now to realize that I do not have to care what other people think anymore & that if I get signals that I am worried about I now act upon them & distance myself from that person now & am wary in the future. I make it impossible to ever be alone with him at ANY time. This is a safeguard & good advice as this is what a Perpetrator wants,is for you to be ALONE. They do not want others around to hear what they say,see the things they want to do to a victim. Beware-Some are even so brazen they will even try things with others around.

    Do not ever let your children alone with others,anyone that seems to want to isolate your child is a danger to your child. I brought my son up by myself & taught him that if he was ever felt scared and did not know what to do to run to the nearest WOMAN & stay there as it is 99% less likely that a woman will molest,abduct,rape a child. Sorry Fellas but I am sure you would tell your little girls to do the same. When there is danger to your child it is no time to be Politically-correct. The statistics show it is mainly males that are the main Perpetrators & children & women that are the main victims.It is sad for decent men but safety is paramount.

    When I was 8yo,with my younger 5yo brother,holding his hand,we were chased home from school about half a mile—by a man who ran the whole way after us. I did not know what to do so ran & caught up to a lady pushing a pram with children & just talked to her & we walked along with her & the man left off running after us. I was so scared that I did not even know what to tell her so I said nothing about the man behind us. I was just pretending to him that I knew her and that maybe she was even my Mother,thus he would leave us alone & he did.That lesson stayed with me.

    The point I would like to make about Religions is that any religion that 1st of all,teaches & believes in HELL is a Danger to your children as it can & has been used as a weapon of fear by adults that play on the fear of a child. This teaching is not Biblical,even tho it has been taught as if it is.

    I now belong to a Religion that does not teach such God-Dishonoring LIES. We congregate with our children as a family,they are not separated from us. We do not have “YOUTH GROUPS” where pedophiles seem to be attracted to. (because parents willingly leave their children with people they do not really know at all).

    We are Family-oriented,and follow the scriptures by removing the “Wicked” man from among you”-see 1 Corinthians 5:1-13. This is how the WICKED man should be treated-as “a little leaven ferments the whole lump” verse 6. Pedophiles are “bad apples”-get away from them,do not condone this behavior by even staying in ANY religion that does not REMOVE a Pedophile once it has come out in the open.If this is not “wicked” behavior then what is?? Joey:)

  • April 1st

    I was raped when I was 15 years old by two older guys! I know we are supposed to say we are survivors, but I don’t feel like a survivor. Last year our world was turned upside down when we found out that our daughter and 3 other girls were sexually abused by our youth pastor and his brother! Both are in jail! They groomed the girls for 4 years. People who pose as men of God and sexually abuse children are False Prophets! The Only way to prevent this is “Silent No More!” We must educate teachers, staff, volunteers, parents, children and teens!

  • Learning to be a survivor

    For some reason, your response is incredibly encouraging. I am thankful for those who care, who perhaps don’t have answers, but also don’t pretend to. Just the fact that you listen and care means a lot.
    Thank you! I suppose I can’t speak on behalf of others, but from my heart, I thank you for caring.

  • Learning to be a survivor

    I can identify with your description of after the first victimization, being a target of others. For a time, I felt like a magnet for other offenders. I would feel so much guilt for feeling caution, wondering if I was being overcautious and distrusting everyone, that I would try to set it aside, thinking I was overreacting. I wanted to put the past behind me, feel normal and trust people, but it led me to ignore and feel guilt for instincts that were accurate.
    It wasn’t till I had children that I began trusting my instincts. I have been incredibly careful with them. If something doesn’t feel right, we err on the side of caution, even if I don’t understand what feels “off”. I realize that it won’t guarantee complete protection, but I don’t care about being criticized for being “overprotective”. I don’t care the cost. I will protect them to the best of my ability.
    At the same time, I do sometimes wonder what the balance is supposed to look like. It is hard to figure out how to give children the freedom they need as they mature, to be wise and make their own decisions, but also to protect them in the ways they need to be protected.
    I don’t want them to grow up jaded and distrustful of others, but I want them protected. It is a hard balance to figure out and there are no guarantees.

  • Amie

    I have never read a more accurate article! Thank you for all you do!

  • Thank you, Amie.

  • Thank you for sharing these honest, but very difficult thoughts. One of the tragic consequences of abuse is that it eviscerates the ability to trust. On one hand, I believe that can actually be a protective mechanism from further abuse. On the other hand, it can also destroy any ability to have a relationship with anyone. I think it is critical that survivors be given the tools (through qualified resources) to help learn how to process and balance what it means to “trust”.

    So glad you don’t care about being criticized for protecting your children. Shame on those who criticize you for this…and bravo to you!!

  • DHM

    My husband was active duty military with a job that required extensive travel and we were often able to join him, so we traveled a lot and had a lot of experience visiting new churches. Because of my background, I never left any of our babies in the nursery without me, and we didn’t send them off to do things with people we’d just met, either. I cannot count the number of times we’d show up on a Sunday evening, and somebody would invite us to send our 10, 11, 12, 13, year old children off with a group of total strangers, kids, usually supervised by a single young man in his early 20s, to go get pizza or go to the movies, and be shocked when we said no. Nor would we go to somebody else’s house and let our kids head to the basement with their teens.

    I got tired of the arguments, and I am a tactless person anyway, so I just started saying bluntly, “We don’t allow our kids to be alone with somebody else almost ever, but especially not with somebody we don’t know.” A few times people still argued (usually with the ‘but we’re *Christians*” – and since most of the victims of child abuse that I have ever met were abused by Christians this makes me gag), and I would say, “If I just showed up here and asked for the keys to your car, your checkbook, and your pin number would you give it to me just because I said I was a Christian? Well, my children are more precious to me than all those things.”

    There were still people who would argue with me about it, “Well, but if you had a really good reason why you needed those things, I would.”

    First of all, I don’t believe they would, actually. And secondly and more importantly, they have no really good reason why they need to take my child whom they just met out to pizza, the movies, or a swimming party. If they want to get to know us, they can do that as a family, especially since we only just met.

  • I was both grieved and angered when I read your comment. I am grieved over the deep and dark horrors you and your daughter have been subjected to. I am so angered that two predators infiltrated the Church to gain trust and access your daughter and others to perpetrate one of the most heinous crimes. Thanks to you and your daughter, these predators were caught. Thank you for using your voices to be flashes of light for so many others who are drowning in darkness and pain. Thank you for not being silent!

  • Thank you for sharing what you have learned throughout all of the deep pain you have experienced. It is time for the faith community to start listening and learning from such heroes as yourself. Thank you for not being silent!

  • Your powerful comment raises so many legitimate and critical questions. All too often those who profess Christ are sacrificing the souls of precious hurting people in exchange for protecting reputations and protecting the status quo – this is the evidence that this grave offense is born in the heart of hell.

  • Your powerful comment raises so many legitimate and critical questions. All too often those who profess Christ are sacrificing the souls of precious hurting people in exchange for protecting reputations and protecting the status quo – this is the evidence that this grave offense is born in the heart of hell.

  • sam

    thanks for this article boz, I am sharing the link to it to as many as I can in the church.
    to the survivors of sexual abuse that posted here, my heart goes out to you, and I can totally relate to how you feel. I have a history of abuse also, not so much in church but some there too.
    DHM thank you for a very nice post, I pray all parents have the courage to do the same.
    I was thinking about how the disciples had to chose honest men to distribute food in the early church and that if it was that important to check the qualifications for that part of the ministry, why is not soooo much more important for childrens ministries? 2 Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables. 3 Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. Acts 6:2-3 (KJV)

    I was once at a church and had a check in my spirit about leaving my children in the care of a youth minister and decided against it. several weeks later I was talking about him with another person that attended that church and she said that he had confessed a sexual sin against a minor years ago but had been restored to fellowship and was fully trusted now. he also took the children to pizza places and sometimes home to his house to use the computer. I am not going to judge whether his repentance was true and whether he has reoffended but I would definitely never do this in a church. it puts the recovered restored person in a place of too much temptation and is totally putting children at risk. I am a recovered alcoholic and I think it would be tempting God for me to go to work as a bartender even if I had the best intentions.
    one other comment is that I wholeheartedly agree that bringing abuse to the Light publicly is the only way this can be dealt with. the offender will never come to repentance without being confronted honestly with their sin, even if that has to happen in a jail cell, and the abuse victim is not allowed to heal when their abuse is minimized and disregarded. “You shall know the Truth and the Truth shall set you free.” its like saying to Jesus, “that being crucified thing didn’t really hurt, it wasn’t that bad, and if you hadn’t done something you wouldn’t be up there…” people did actually say things like that when Jesus was on the cross. It is just as much a sin for them to say things like that to people who have been sexually abused.

  • I was abused in a very left-wing, liberal, faith-based community, a group of Christian hippies, basically. Most others I know who were abused in faith-based communities were in extremely right-wing, conservative environments so I often can’t relate to their experience, especially the bits about not questioning authority. In reading your piece, I find that what does seem similar to my own experience is the way abusers will exploit a child’s genuine faith and desire to be close to and serve God, will tell the child that she is “special” to God in ways others are not, and will claim that the abuser and child are drawing closer to God in this heinous act. I experienced all of that. I was also told that, because we, in our little community, were more “enlightened” than others, we knew that our love was special and we need not follow “society’s rules” about how to express that love. (All of these lies implied my complicity in the acts, though I was far too young to be complicit in any way.) I was told not to tell anyone, not because what was happening was wrong, but because, since others weren’t enlightened, they “wouldn’t understand.”

    Yet, in contradiction, I was sometimes also told that I was filthy, evil, and beyond redemption or love, even God’s love, no matter what I did, because of the things I had done (even though I’d been forced to do them).

    It was very confusing. Happily for me, I maintained my own, personal faith throughout, which helped to save my life. But, no, I’m not affiliated with any Christian church and do not consider myself a Christian. I never did, even as a small child, and never will.

  • joeythebushkangaroo

    Learning to be a Survivor–
    I totally understand what you are saying when you say that it is hard to find a balance in caring for our children & protecting them. . I would rather be accused of over-protecting than under-protecting!

    When it does happen,the child ALWAYS thinks-“Where was my Mother/Father? Why did he/she ALLOW this person to have access to me?
    As a parent you must try to answer these questions yourself and it is very upsetting when little bells were even going off in your head and yet they were ignored. As a parent I have to live with this guilt now as this happened to me.

    After my son was abused at only 3yo,I was more wary & then educated my child about what was “acceptable & non-acceptable” touching and behavior and then concentrated on his “Feelings” as we all do have an inbuilt “danger detector” if we will just LISTEN to it.
    As parents we cannot always be there every minute of every 24 hours so the next best thing is to make sure that the child has their own tools to DETECT danger & then to ACT on them-TELL Mummy/Daddy straight away,ring me,yell to me that you need to talk to me – even if the child just feels “uncomfortable” around anyone,TELL your parent/s & then avoid being near or if that is impossible,then ALONE with that person again at all times.

    This cannot always work 100% but it certainly will prevent some abuse because if parents are sensitive enough to their children they will act upon comments like-“I feel very uncomfortable whenever I am near —–“,—– is always tickling me on my top bed-bunk but I dont like it (his hands wander) or —– looks at me in a strange creepy way that makes my skin crawl(later he crawled into my room & raped me),etc etc.

    I remember that these were the ‘danger-feelings’ I had from those that did have the wrong intentions & ended up showing it by some abusing me as a child & others as an adult also. All I can recommend to tell your child is to “trust your feelings & do not allow this person to get you into a vulnerable position(alone)”- as sexual abusers are just looking for and will even manipulate circumstances so that these opportunities somehow come about.

    These evil people actually go for children that are ,in their own eyes “neglected”-which means any child that they CAN somehow get access to. They do not molest children that they cannot get near(unless its a parent)-the one that is not allowed to sleep overnight at friends places from a very young age; the child that is not allowed to go on camping trips without his parents; the child who has to explain who they are with & what they are doing; the child who is not allowed to be out running the streets for hours at a time without parental supervision.

    The cunning thing is that the man that molested my 3yo son put up posters in our town to attract MOTHERS to his Indoor Cricket center,offering free child-minding during the week. Now, how cunning is that? Single Mothers with small children that needed a much-needed break to socialize came there without men around. He had his pick of children on a plate. While we mothers were playing in tournaments together at the center,and our pre-schooler children were being minded by a woman in front of our eyes-he would take 3-5yo boys one at a time into his office to “help” him or follow them into the boys toilets & molest them, at an age where most did not even know how to verbalize what he was doing-they were little Preschoolers.

    This just shows the ends these abusers will go to as they PLAN to abuse your child.They get a victim where they want them 1st & then somehow manipulate things so as to isolate them from others/parents,then pounce.

    My son,after this, was never allowed to stay over at friends houses until he was 16yo. He could have friends stay with us,but not where we were not supervising elsewhere. I would hate to think what could have also happened to him if I had not been so “over-protective” as it is called. Are those parents,that allow them to go anywhere with anyone,called “UNDER-PROTECTING”,yes!!–to a Pedophile, these are the children to zone in on as the others are too much hard work.

    These children are in the most vulnerable position. Just like a beast of prey will go after the weakest animal,so the pedophile goes after the child that is alone somehow,away from the care of his Parents/others. He seduces the Parents 1st to get their trust ,and then goes for the intended target-your child. We must be aware of the habits/thinking of Sexual Abusers to protect our children & ourselves from them.

    They even are attracted to Churches where people are so trusting,because its the Christian thing to do,not even imagining such terrible things-this is the perfect playground for them-lots of children with naive parents who would love someone to spend time with their children to give them a break. Over-protection is better than your damaged,abused,hurt & Under-protected child asking you later, why was he ever allowed to have access to me,Mum/Dad?

  • Thank you for your excellent articles, and your concern and compassion for victims/survivors of child hood sexual abuse and assault. After watching the church as a whole be entirely too silent, and too complicit far too often I am glad to see a strong male voice arising. Some of us women have been yelling for years but it’s time that male voices joined our chorus and “sing bass very loudly” so to speak. God bless your important work.

  • I am incredibly grateful to have come across this article!! Thank you so much for spelling this out so clearly to the Christian, church-going community!! As a trafficking and ritual abuse survivor, my family was complicit in the abuse I endured at church (and everywhere else). But that’s just the thing – my perpetrators all faithfully attend Christian churches to this day! My husband and I have NEVER put our children in child care until they were old enough to talk WELL and until we felt we knew the workers (which is almost never). We have left churches that have a revolving door on childcare, with a new worker every single week. I know it’s a difficult thing for churches to deal with because child care is often the ONE thing that always goes understaffed. But, your article is absolutely correct in saying that it is that weakness within our churches that sex offenders prey on. My husband and I have been given so much crap over the years from clueless Christians who can’t begin to understand WHY we DON’T put our kids in the nursery! I don’t care what they think, but I have often been so heavy hearted, KNOWING that so many Christians are absolutely missing it on this. I hope this article spreads far and wide, and I will certainly do my part to see that it does! Bless you for what you do.

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  • Stones, your experience sounds very much like mine: sex trafficking, ritual abuse, within a church context. My primary abuser, a close family member, became a Christian minister! Ministers have access to kids all the time, and great trust from their congregation. It’s sickening.

  • Oscar

    Thanks for sharing your personal story. I grew up in a right wing missionary group. Child abuse was rife and the consequences for many were disastrous.
    Like you I found I didn’t fit into the group I was with and found it easier to take a path that was more Agnostic than Christian. It has given me the freedom from my past and those associated with it and find happiness despite the strange childhood.

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  • Susan Murphy

    I read “When it finally dawns on us the nuances of a predator, then we are amazingly so sensitive to these little hints that it is like they have a sign written on their heads & we know when someone is then doing, saying or intimating something that is questionable” and thought–Good! I’m not the only one who picks up on these guys. .
    Last summer I saw a neighborhood guy staring expressionless waaaay too long at a 2-year old. For the first time, I did something. I told her mother with the guy right there that I’m doing a survey (I’m a writer) —what she would do if she suspected her daughter was being molested. The neighborhood guy walked off as the adults talked about this.
    The next time, it was a guy at 7-11 offering to buy the young boy anything he wanted. I gave the guy a dirty look–and got one back!
    We make it too easy for child molesters.

  • joeythebushkangaroo

    Susan Murphy-
    Good on you for being pro-active about anyone you suspect. I had a similar thing happen at a Market as I used to be a Stall-Holder about 6 years ago & I noticed that one Stall-Holder man next door to us was grabbing & then sitting this young 4yo girl child of another Stall-Holder on his lap in a very strange way often & I actually warned her young Mother to be careful with her kids with predators as she seemed to just leave her 2 small kids running around freely unsupervised for hours,while she worked. She did not seem to get the idea that someone YOU EVEN KNOW could be like that,only strangers as she thought she KNEW EVERYONE here.(Mind you she was just a ‘newbie’,had arrived in the last few months & did not know any of us at all-he was also new???).

    We would just feel sick whenever we saw him doing it again. What can you do if the parent does not get it? A few months later there was something in the news about an investigation into a whole group of pedophiles throughout Australia being exposed,caught & charged because the police had been able to track their usage online by following the money-trail,(their credit cards),and it was still an on-going Investigation. They were producing,buying & swapping explicit child-pornography & all belonged to a child abuse ring.

    I was absolutely sure about this guy & I just happened to mention,when he was near our stall one day (on purpose of course,lol)”Hey, Did you hear about how all those pedophiles are being caught through their Computers-their Online Buying usage has been tracked-from their credit card details?My husband was right there with me and this guy blurted out -“But what about our personal rights when we are online?”and then just walked off back to his stall.

    We then looked at each other & shook our heads.My Husband was then absolutely convinced by those words from that man’s own mouth. What decent man would worry about your own rights online,when a child’s welfare is at risk?I already knew it. Strangely, he stopped selling at the Market & finally sold his stall about 1 month later & we have never ever seen him again since.

    I honestly believe he was up to no good with that little girl & he knows he had said too much to us,a ‘Freudian slip’ as they say. It pays to do or say something,at least you have done what you can to remind them that others are aware.Regards Jo:)

  • joeythebushkangaroo

    Hi there, thank you for your honesty. I was raped myself at 23yo twice by 2 different but related men.I was also a child that was sexually abused by 2 adult brothers. Then my own son was molested at 3yo,so I can totally understand why you may not feel like a “survivor” right now,because of what damage has been done,especially lately. However, YES, you are a SURVIVOR because you are alive & opening up & speaking out which will help others in some way. Survivors are always alive,a survivor is never said to be dead.

    We are survivors because they CANNOT keep us quiet,which is what abusers hate. Sexual Abusers LOVE Secrecy & Silence & Shame(SSS). They would even secretly rejoice if we even killed ourselves as then it protects them from ever being exposed & they can have free reign to abuse again if people are ignorant. But,If we all speak loud enough about what has happened to US & HOW it was ABLE to happen, then just maybe someone reading these comments will be warned through our experiences. We cannot let these evil people silence us-it needs to be told. You are a “survivor” because you are speaking out & breaking the SSS(Secrecy/Silence/Shame). Best wishes for the future- Jo:)

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  • Charlotte, yes, they do! Mine is an elder in a large, evangelical church. I SO OFTEN wonder….where is the discernment that should be practiced among those in church leadership?? The number of Christian leaders he has in his pocket is astounding – big names. People that the Christian community as a whole respects….authors, pastors, etc. Where is their discernment? I have to admit — it makes me very jaded towards those ministries, and Christians in general. I wish I could understand why people think that being a Christian means turning their brain off.

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  • Sabem

    Not at all discounting your story or the validity of your struggle. I know the Bible is often distorted and twisted for man’s evil purposes. But my understanding of something being not Biblical would be that it’s not taught in the Bible. Maybe I’m misunderstanding you, but it sounds like you’re saying that hell is not a Biblical truth?
    Matthew 5:22
    But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.
    Matthew 5:29
    If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.
    Matthew 5:30
    And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.
    Matthew 10:28
    Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.
    Matthew 18:9
    And if your eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.
    Matthew 23:15
    “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.
    Matthew 23:33
    “You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?
    Mark 9:43
    If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out.
    Mark 9:45
    And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell.
    Mark 9:47
    And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell,
    Luke 12:5
    But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.
    Revelation 20:15
    Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.

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  • Thanks so much for understanding. This article is absolutely necessary for every church and everyone to hear. It touches a deep place in my heart. The one phrase of a survivor really jumped out at me as my story: “My love of God, my faith, my own extraordinary desire to live the will of God…those are the very parts of me that were transformed into weapons that savaged and destroyed me.” I went to a minister for counseling during a very vulnerable time in my life, and he, like a cunning devil, groomed me. This church was about hell and damnation instead of the tender, caring love of Jesus. Ministers were put on a pedestal as the very “voice of God” Himself. This minister not only abused me but He also abused God’s Word. Three in my family have been sexually, emotionally, and spiritually abused by ministers of that denomination, and they have never been brought to justice. The perpetrators are protected and supported more than the victims. These men have died since, but I have yet to hear from any of the leaders in that church that they believe me and care. They treated me like a “whore” instead of a victim. Even friends I thought were for a lifetime have never said they believed me when I told them the whole truth. They don’t want anything to do with us anymore, especially after we left that church and they believed we were “lost” because we were leaving “The Truth.” I am so grateful to Jesus as my Healer and Faithful Savior and Friend who understands me and cares so deeply that He cries with me. Healing from all this is a lifetime process. Sometimes “Christians” make us feel worse by expecting us to “forgive and forget” at the snap of a finger. A true Christian is not someone who goes to “church.” She/he is a person who has given their heart to Jesus, desire to become more like Him, and long to live a life that glorifies Him and His love. Thank you for letting me speak out.

  • schmutti3

    Learning to be a survivor, I so appreciate the fact that you are trying to find the balance in being protective and yet living in the freedom Christ wants us to have. May God continue to give you discernment. Thank you for your vulnerability in sharing. Blessings!

  • I don’t think of myself as agnostic at all. I know what I believe and I know it’s not Christian. I am a theist. I see no contradiction between my believe in God and absence of belief in church doctrine and Jesus as christ.

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  • Boz:

    I’m not convinced that anyone is convinced that most Pastors really don’t give a rip about the victims of this crime who have been hurt within the church. So, listen to my story:

    Last year I was asked to be a presenter at a regional pastors District Council Conference held at the Christian Life Center in Bensalem, PA. I was asked by the district’s President after he completed reading my book on a trip to India. I was given a “booth” and told to set up to sell books. I had a 24 X 36 poster of my family made from a photo taken by a professional photographer after she had positioned us on the back of my boat. It is a fantastic picture of a family whom God restored to unity after a difficult period of fracture. In the upper left margin I added “Restored – Renewed”. I set the poster on an easel at the left side of the booth. Over 400 pastors (many with their wives) attended the 3 day conference. I would estimate that over 150 of them passed my booth. All, without exception, looked at the poster with an expression of interest, however, as they looked down and saw the title of my book, “Molested In God’s House” they all looked away and made no attempt to have a discussion with me. Many even turned away just before I made eye contact with them. After 2 hours I began calling them over to open a discussion. I handed out over 50 books and many of the pastors that I handed the book to seemed as though they didn’t want a copy. It is rare when a pastor won’t take something for free!

    As the conference proceeded, I came up behind the pastor of my church and eavesdropped as he tried to get a verbal commitment from many of his friends to attend my presentation. He sounded very persuasive and got a nod of approval from a number of other pastors. On day 2, within the main sanctuary, hundreds of pastors had gathered to cast their votes on future leaders for the fellowship. The master of ceremonies (if you would) Steve, the district president, gave a shout-out and told the gathering that he had read my book and recommended that they attend my presentation.

    The presentation room was set up with a 25 foot projection screen and a fine PA system. I had keyed up my power-point and waited with anxious anticipation. I knew that the business meeting had adjourned about 45 minutes before my scheduled presentation and I was watching my watch expecting an audience of 25 or perhaps more. The host church had set up about 50 seats. 6 people showed. 2 curious laypeople, 2 youth pastors 1 security staff member and 1 person to make sure the projection system was working properly. For the record, 3 – 5 Senior Pastors had given me a promise to show when I gave them a copy of my book. I heard 2 or 3 Senior Pastors tell my Pastor that they would be there. NONE showed. I was heart stricken. However, the lesson I took from the entire experience has become crystal clear over the course of the past year: Pastors today are CEOs or worse Rock Stars. They are not men with shepherds’ hearts nor do they exhibit any heartache for people who have been molested within a church setting. I believe most would prefer the victims simply don’t attend. It’s a hard task to help victims to rehabilitation and reintegration into the “Fellowship” and I am increasingly reassured that many pastors do not want that responsibility. How diametrically apposed to the Messiah who came to bind-up the broken hearted.

    We now live in a time wherein leadership must be held to their own words and promises and the sheep MUST take the initiative to search the Scriptures, find the Messiah there, cast all of their cares upon Him, and come to terms with the reality that most church leadership has not changed its’ interests since the time of Christ.

  • April 1st

    This is happening to me as well. We found out our daughter and 3 other teen girls were sexually molested by the youth pastor and his brother, and the church would not let me take a safety course on the subject. The pastor would not even say the words “sexually abused.” I have asked two churches if I could come and give my testimony to the staff, students and parents… they all said no! One church said they have improved the security in the childrens area…it is the people on the inside that they need to teach about child sexual abuse prevention!

  • April 1st

    Thank you for the comment and reassurance. It is nice to know that I am not loosing my mind. This is happening everywhere! Please, please pursue prosecution or beg your daughter to do so if she is of age. I am 54 years old now and I can tell you that the consternation only grows deeper as the years go by. I have looked up my molester after completing my book. He pastors a church in AZ and his entire web page brags about his continued “work for god” centering around children and youth ministries. I have contacted the Attorney Generals Office, the FBI, and Local Law Enforcement within his immediate community notifying all that they most likely have a predator in their community. Although the FBI spent an hour questioning me and then told me they had confirmed all of the details I had given them with regard to my molesters pastorship as well as his position directing Teen Challenge in Philadelphia and much more, they would not open an investigation because the allegation was decades old. Local law enforcement said there were no allegations within their area. And, the Attorney generals office simply stopped taking my calls. These villains continue to offend until they die unless they are restrained. Furthermore, their best hope for redemption is offered within the confines of restraint. Please help the future even though prosecution is a painful process. Finally, don’t give up on Jesus regardless of your pain and frustration.

  • April 1st

    Both my daughters perps are in jail, but only because they found child porn on their computers, not because of what they did to the girls! It has been a long hard road since we found out, but we were never angry at God; only at the evil perps!

    What is the name of your book? I would like to read it.

  • April 1st.

    Thanks again for your interest. The book is entitled, “Molested In God’s House” It is available at which is my web site. That’s the fastest way to obtain a paper copy. It is also available at Amazon and other book sellers, however it is a couple dollars more thru those book seller. My e-mail address is also at the site and I would very much appreciate your feedback if you buy a copy and complete reading it.

    Thanks again!

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  • joeythebushkangaroo I think you may have written in the wrong place. What has your comment got anything to do with pedophiles taking advantage of innocent children while masquerading as Christians???

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