Crime, Sexual Abuse, Shame, Southern Baptist Church, United Pentecostal Church

Timing

I have been thinking about this blog for days and today especially. My writing has slowed down to a trickle as I have been dealing with new parts of the trauma unearthed during the writing process. 2018 has been a weird year. It has been amazing in some respects and a horror show in others. One of the biggest lessons I learned this year is that they (The UPC) can still hurt me. I’m not talking about physically but emotionally. I was caught off guard multiple times by things I learned about Calvary Gospel and what has and is going on there. They continue to surprise me and I thought I was way beyond that. I participate in many online support groups like Ex-evangelical and some UPC specific groups. In those groups there are always folks who want these Christian organizations to reform themselves and acknowledge the pain they have caused. I think there was a corner of my heart that wanted that as well, but that is not how I feel now. I have been watching as this year has played out and what I see is organization after organization covering up crime on the backs of the abused. My wish for 2019 is that more people will feel emboldened to tell their stories and report. I want our laws and government to reflect the idea that just because you are a church doesn’t mean you get a free pass. My wish for myself is that I can continue to fight this fight even when it takes me to the darkest of places.

I have been thinking about how they keep us quiet. My younger self had this fear that if I told anyone the church might say ugly things about me and I think part of that fear still lives although on life support. They might say I was rebellious, or they might tell you how I snuck into movies in highschool or that I wore clear nail polish one summer, or worst of all they might say I was never really saved. When I look at it closely I know that nothing I did as a child would even register with most people as being a bad thing. These are the things they use to discredit women and girls within the UPC. She wears her skirts a little too short don’t you think? She asks too many questions or the wrong questions. She listens to the radio when her parents aren’t at home. Why do we care what they say? Well I guess the best answer is these are the people who raised us. We have so many shared experiences with these people and shame can be hard to shake off. Especially when it is served to you by those who are supposed to care for you. While women are discredited and condemned for any tiny little thing the perpetrators are given grace and forgiveness without stain or scar. They are not overly scrutinized or raked over the coals they are tolerated and enabled to abuse again and again. They are promoted and exalted even when they leave a trail of wounded in their wake. This is not ok.

I’m sorry if this seems a little rambly, I have had lots of thoughts swirling around in my head and I have been avoiding this blog and all writing really for months. I’m going to end my first blog post of 2019 with a reminder. I am here and so is this blog for you, the survivor. If you want a platform to tell your story please reach out to me and I would be happy to help in any way I can. I can’t promise that it will be all roses, healing and light, but I can promise that I will be here with you every step of the way. There are so many of us here waiting to hear your story and waiting to offer support. I think the timing is right, let’s make this the year we hold them all accountable.

D

Crime, Sexual Abuse, United Pentecostal Church

Struggle

I have been struggling lately. I have not known how to move forward with this blog. I have been depressed. More and more victims of the UPC church are being uncovered every day. Most of them are too fearful to take any action against their abusers and so along with feeling sad about their stories I feel helpless. Let me be clear, I have not given up, but I have been taking a moment to gain some clarity.

This is my message to all victims of the UPC church…Come forward and tell your story. If we all told our stories it would be so much harder for the church and the authorities to ignore us or brush us aside. Yes, the statutes of limitations might be over for your case, and it might be true that the police cannot do anything about it, but if the cops keep hearing from us whenever someone comes forward then they will have to pay attention. Remember this isn’t just about us as victims it is also about those who are still there. If I can keep another young girl from being abused I will do it! If you want to tell your story but are too afraid to come forward let me know. I will stand beside you and have your back the whole way.

I will write more soon.

D

Compassion, Crime, Forgiveness, Sexual Abuse, United Pentecostal Church

Missing

My story is being read by more and more people. I appreciate everyone who takes the time to stop by my blog and go on this journey with me. I have been receiving lots of feedback and I would like to address some of that here.

I’m finding some Christians feel a real need to defend god. They feel like my story is an attack on god or that I’m somehow blaming him for what happened to me. Often their comments are filled with statements like “don’t blame god” or “god never fails” or “I’m sorry you feel that way, I hope you will come back to god” or “god will provide and protect”. Please understand I have no desire to debate god with anyone. I have made my choices in life and I’m happy with them. I don’t care what you believe as long as it helps you get through life, makes you happy, and doesn’t hurt others. What concerns me is the missing lack of attention to the content of my posts. I don’t think it helps anyone to debate who is worse Catholics or United Pentecostals. Arguing over whether or not god was blamed in my post or whether or not it is all UPC churches is not the issue.

I know this can be hard for some folks to hear but I don’t see how god is the issue at all. Why even bring god into it? In my view, the issue is adults and how they commit crimes and are not held accountable. At issue are the systems that make it possible for people to get away with hurting children, or how children fall through the cracks. Another thing to consider is how the church is a business and men are protected because they are the ones paying the tithes. Rape is happening within UPC churches and some people’s main concern is to preach to me? It worries me that I have laid my soul bare and many don’t want to talk about how we stop what is happening.

I know it can be scary when it feels like something you cherish is at risk. As humans, it is normal to want to protect what you cherish. For some people that is the Christian god, pastors, and churches. I would only ask you to take a moment and just be human, show some empathy and compassion, and be willing to look critically at what has happened, and is continuing to happen and ask yourself if you are ok with doing nothing. Do you feel that praying for me is enough? Will you carry my story with you into the pew this Sunday? Will you ask your church leadership what its policies are regarding sexual assault? If those policies are not in line with the law will you leave that church or take action to change the policies?

Whether we agree on the topic of Christianity and god can we at least agree that sexual abuse of the young is wrong and that those who commit these crimes should be turned into the police? Can we also agree that those in leadership who cover up these acts should be turned into the police? I’m fine with people claiming forgiveness if that is what they believe, but should that forgiveness mean they suffer no consequences? When my children would disobey I forgave them immediately because I loved them, but I also made them suffer a consequence so they would understand that there is a cost to our actions. Shouldn’t these adults suffer a consequence as well? I love my country even if I don’t always agree with those in power. I respect my nation as a nation of laws. When an atheist breaks the law he should pay for that, and so should a Christian. Your house of worship or lack thereof should be of no bearing.

If you have any ideas on how we can work together to change the culture of abuse within spiritual communities I would love to hear about it!

D

 

Childhood, Crime, Sexual Abuse, United Pentecostal Church

Crime and Forgiveness

Forgiveness can be a beautiful act to witness and experience. It is central to Christianity’s salvation message. I feel it is one of the most positive messages you will hear when attending church. Unfortunately, that message has a shadow side. When those in authority decide that forgiveness means that someone who has committed a crime should not suffer the consequences of that crime the message becomes toxic. That attitude assumes that the forgiven person will never commit the crime again and it assumes that the community is no longer at risk. It also minimizes the harm done to the victim. Just because the perpetrator is forgiven by god doesn’t mean that the victim isn’t still suffering the consequences of whatever happened.

I have encountered story after story where the perpetrator was quickly moved away from the church into another unsuspecting congregation. The victim is left to deal with the gossip and shame surrounding the incident. The perpetrator’s life goes on and the victim’s life is destroyed. Often the victim is blamed for the absence of a beloved perp and viewed as a troublemaker. In the case of Calvary Gospel UPC, this often means the young woman is kicked out of school and youth group. Her peers are told not to communicate with her unless they want to be removed from the community as well. She is cut off from her support system at a time when she needs them the most. Because the victims are often minors they have few choices. The perps, on the other hand, go on with their adult life often paying next to no cost for what they have done. They are not shut away from support or the company of their peers. They might be forced to move temporarily but it is seldom permanent. They might lose their license to preach but often they are invited to preach and teach later with or without a license.

Why shouldn’t these men be turned into the police? If they want to claim god’s forgiveness I’m ok with that, but does that forgiveness mean they don’t have to obey the law? If someone commits murder would they cover that up too? If someone robbed the church would they extend the same forgiveness without police involvement, I think not. What about mandatory reporting laws? I have been unable to figure out if there were mandatory reporting laws on the books in 81/82. My case happened a long time ago but some of the women who I’ve talked to experienced abuse that clearly happened when mandatory reporting laws were on the books. So I guess that is another law it is ok to ignore if you are a Christian? The perp breaks the law when he commits the crime and then the pastor also breaks the law by failing to report. Parents who fall under the pastor’s leadership often do nothing but add to the shame and torture the victim is experiencing. Is it criminal to not report the rape and molestation of your own child?

I’m going to be bold now and speak my mind completely. Make no mistake Calvary Gospel has two types of women you can be. Madonna or whore, it is a story as old as time. If you and your virginity make it to the marriage altar then you gain the Madonna role. You will be held up as an example and they will praise you. If you are one of the many who is sexually abused during childhood then the only role available for you is the whore. I know this is harsh language but it is the truth and someone needs to say it. If a sexual crime is committed against you no amount of god’s forgiveness will wipe away the stain in the eyes of the church. You will carry the shame of that crime forever unless you get out of the church and do a mountain of work, I’ve done all that and I still feel shame thirty years later. Meanwhile, the pastor and perp feel no shame and suffer no consequences. If you are a young man with a bad reputation and you change then you are seen as a story of great redemption. Most young victims never find that redemption if they stay in the church because they never receive any counseling or even recognition of the horrible crime committed against them.

Sexual abuse, molestation, child abuse, sexual assault, rape, whatever you choose to call the crime it deserves to be punished. As a society, we must be willing to hold religious leaders to the same standard as everyone else. Religious freedom should not be a cover to commit a crime without penalty. Were you enraged to find out what was happening within the Catholic church? What about the FLDS? I’m here to tell you it is happening within the UPC too. I’m sounding an alarm and I hope the UPCI will pay attention and take action against these pastors and perpetrators. I hope they will seek to make restitution towards all of the victims who have suffered and had their lives destroyed by the church.

D