Sexual Abuse, United Pentecostal Church

A Second Victim Steps Forward – Rebecca’s Story

Today I’m sharing a new story with you. Another victim of Calvary Gospel Church has decided to tell her story. I have always intended this blog to be a place where victims other than myself can also share their experiences. This is Rebecca’s story.

It’s my turn now. I’ve left Debbie high and dry while I’ve done a lot of processing, now it is time to tell my story. I struggle with where to start, as my story starts in the UPC when I was very young. How do I choose what to say in my first post? So please bear with me as I give the highlights and the can of worms will follow.

My parents joined Calvary Gospel United Pentecostal Church when I was in the 3rd grade. Soon after my sister and I were enrolled in the church’s school. My childhood was completely enveloped by the UPC. Parents were expected to take a backseat roll in favor of teaching whatever the church dictated. My parents questioned nothing, and allowed everything, as long as it was within the church’s walls. Needless to say, we were easy targets for anyone wanting to take advantage of vulnerable kids. If we questioned anything or any of the leaders, we were disciplined and labeled rebellious. Calvary Gospel is a tight-knit community, where any independent thought is quashed and shunning is commonplace, it can be frightening to show any independence. I witnessed parents who disowned children and teenagers forced to make public apologies in front of the congregation. It was built into all of us if the “man of god” said it, it was unquestionably true. I could say more about this but I need to move on.

So I was unlucky enough to catch the eye of one of my Sunday School teachers, who also helped out as a youth leader. Everyone knew he favored me and teased me about him constantly. I was called his “little girlfriend”. He would give me rides, leave notes in my school desk, show up at my house or my friend’s houses if he knew I was there, he came to every youth function, every service, everywhere I was.

In the eyes of Calvary Gospel Church, my predator was a great young man, a burgeoning minister. He was also 17 years older than me. I’m going to refer to him as “Ben”. I was 12 the first time he sexually assaulted me. He never even noticed or acknowledged that I never responded when he’d kiss me. I clearly wasn’t enjoying what he was doing and I resisted when he’d make me touch him. He would take my hand and force it onto his pants. This went on for years until we had full intercourse when I was 14. He was 31. I took my first pregnancy test at his job after hours when I was 15. I went on birth control shortly after.

During this time I wrote letters to a friend of mine telling some of what was happening. She told her sister and her older sister went to the pastor. One night after the evening service Ben found me and was very angry. He pushed me up against a car and told me I had to lie. He threatened me, telling me it would be my fault if he got into trouble, that he wouldn’t be able to able to become a minister. I was terrified of being caught, being humiliated, kicked out of the school, and shunned. So I lied. I told Pastor John Grant Sr. that I made it all up. Strangely, Pastor Grant accused the girl who brought him the letters of making them up herself to get attention, and he kicked her out of the choir. I felt completely responsible. It silenced me even more. Sadly this made me that much easier to manipulate, control, and abuse.

I can’t wrap my head around how all of the church adults knew we were a “couple”. How was it appropriate and acceptable for a 33-year-old man to be dating a 16-year-old girl? And of course, the sex continued. He would show up wherever I was. At my school, my job, at my friend’s houses, and my driver’s ed class. He once picked me up and took me to the duplex he shared with a few other guys. He was on top of me in his bed when he heard one of his roommates come home. He shoved me into his closet and shut the door hiding me so his roommate wouldn’t see. I don’t know how long I was in there. Maybe minutes, maybe an hour. It was long enough that he grabbed some old fast food cups and gave me one so he could tell my mom that he took me there to eat instead of where he had really taken me. All I know is, I felt so demeaned, so ashamed, so lost. I felt hopeless. He controlled my every move. I couldn’t date anyone else, I couldn’t go anywhere, I couldn’t do anything, without him. After every sexual contact, he would make me get down on my knees and read Psalm 51 out loud and repent. Thinking of it makes me sick to this day. I hated it. I never liked praying out loud. I never saw the point in wanting others to listen to me. My prayers were between me and god. But I did it, read the Psalm and begged for forgiveness. “Ben” would assure me that he forgave me too.

Now I see the absurdity of it, forgive me for what?! Being a temptation when I was 12?! But in the Calvary Gospel culture, it was my fault. Men were never held accountable for their actions. I saw younger girls that were also preyed on by older men and watched how the men would be sheltered and protected while their victims the young girls would pay the price. It was reinforced again and again that the adults around me knew and would do nothing. Once when I told Pastor Grant what had happened, when I actually built up the courage, he told me not to “rock the boat” because it would “make the church look bad”. I knew I was being eaten alive by this system. I was hopeless, but like any good UPC’er, I made it look good.

I should wrap this up for now. It’s like a plate of spaghetti, one thought/memory leads to another and another…It’s difficult to stay on one path when I have so many stories and details to add. But I want to add my voice to Debbie’s, and many others, that were and probably still are being victimized by the UPC. After all of these years, I’m not the scared and depressed little girl anymore. It’s my time. I will be heard.

12 thoughts on “A Second Victim Steps Forward – Rebecca’s Story”

  1. I am so very happy that you took the opportunity and had the bravery to share your story. It will help people who need to know that they are not alone, and you are finally freeing that inner child whom was forced to stay quiet so long.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I wish all parents or soon to be parents could here/read your story. I’m sorry that you were left unattended, to me you were. I hope the story you tell helps educate its something that shouldn’t be talked about, because that is what it will make someone second guess, it will make a difference.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Absolutely! And just where were the parents of this girl, who should have been protecting her. She was too young to even DATE and she’s having sex with a man. I can’t believe these parents were absolutely in the dark about this. And why in the world did Rebecca MARRY this man and have two children with him?


      1. I believe she married him because she was a trauma victim. Her parents dropped the ball but that doesn’t discharge all of the body of Christ who witnessed it and did nothing.


      2. I will answer you, “Rae”, as I’m wondering who you actually are, as if you had been attending since 1979 I would know you. But I do not recall anyone with that name.

        When a child is coerced, manipulated, and groomed to be a victim, they often lose the capacity to make their own decisions on a healthy way. I was in a sexual relationship with a 30+ yr old man, a “minister”, and “man of god” since I was 12. I was a child. I had no way to process that. I was controlled by him – he bought me clothes, took me out to eat, gave me a standing and in a sense, a protection I wasn’t getting from anyone else. And yes, many adults around me dropped the ball. My parents, teachers, church members, church leadership, that all knew we were “dating” when I was obviously very underage. For arguments sake, even if sex was not involved, that is a highly inappropriate relationship. Many of these adults didn’t just know, but they encouraged it.
        I was taught to never question my leadership, the pastor or a man of god. When I did say something, I was scolded and told “not to rock the boat, it’ll make the church look bad”, and implying that if the church looked bad, souls wouldn’t be won, and I’d be the result of souls then going to hell. That’s massively psychologically abusive.

        To get back to your question, I had lost my virginity to this man, he had been having sex with me weekly for YEARS prior to my turning 18. I hadn’t been allowed to date anyone else, and felt I would never get away from him to pursue my own life. I couldn’t go outside upc, and he was always wherever I was – my youth group, my home, every church service, my friends houses, even coming to my job at the mall or where I went to drivers ed. I couldn’t get away. So I might as well give in. Believe me, when you’ve been messed with that long, you lose your sense of self, any sense of individuality, hope or strength. Most adult women struggle with leaving an abusive relationship, how could a child be expected to do even more, especially when they lacked adult support?

        It took years for me to be able to stand in my own. I got to a spot where I hated myself and my life so much I wanted to die versus continue how I was living. And if anyone thinks for one second that sexual abuse, or attraction to young girls just go away when one repents, I will set that idea straight. My marriage was not a marriage of happiness or friendship or equality.

        Adults can make their own decisions. But children, with still developing brains and psyche, experience trauma, they no longer have “normal” brain development. They no longer get to grow up and develop into who they’re meant to be, in a healthy and supportive community.
        Growing upc, where love and acceptance is highly conditional, based on performance and obedience to “standards”, teaches children to blindly obey and to be fearful of questioning, or not being what upc considers “normal”. One can’t argue that fact – we all know if a ministers wife decided to cut her hair or wear pants, her upc friends would shun her so quickly she wouldn’t know what happened.

        And why blame the child here? Why does no one in upc blame these adult men, who were caught having sex with underage girls? Yes, absolutely the parents should’ve taken care of it, but if others knew too, especially leadership, they should also be scrutinized. We all know the pastor is looked on as the final authority in upc.
        They should all have answer.

        Liked by 1 person

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