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My Innocence Was Stolen From Me

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A few days ago an essay was published titled “My Easy Trip from Youth Pastor to Felon.” The narrator relates his story of a “spiral into sin”, detailing how his sin destroyed his life and ministry. It wasn’t until the very end of the story that he noted that his “friend” with which he was having an “extramarital relationship” was in fact a student and that he was writing his cautionary tale from behind bars. Pointing out how the story is abuse apology and re-victimization, many readers are now asking the Leadership Journal / Christianity today to #TakeDownThatPost

Tonight a friend messaged me and asked me if she could share her story here. This is what was left out of the youth pastor’s story. Are you listening? This is why it matters. 

I am the other side of the coin.

I know more about a predator’s thought process than I ever wanted to, more than I wish I had to.

He was over 40, and I was 15.

He had raped before and I hadn’t even had my first kiss.

He was a professional liar and manipulator and I was young, trusting, and naive.

He said he wanted to be friends and I was depressed, on awful medication, lonely, and vulnerable.

I fell into it fast and easy, but he — like all predators — saw me, my circumstances, and an easy target and sprang for it.

Just like the youth pastor in that article, he made me believe it was a consensual relationship. He made me believe I wanted it just as much as he did. Just like the youth pastor, he made it sound as lovely and harmless as some summer fling between two teens.

///

A few days ago, Leadership Journal — an imprint publication of Christianity Today — published an article by an ex youth pastor who is now a convicted sex offender behind bars. He wrote about what he viewed as a consensual relationship with a minor in his youth group. It was blatantly painted as an affair and adultery (as he was married) — not once mentioning the fact that it was child molestation.

He ended the article with a sob story about how he lost his wife, his job, and his kids and is now sitting in jail. And then warned others to avoid what he did, because he seemed to believe so many men are like him and are tempted to have sexual activity with the kids entrusted in their care. (Sociopaths need to believe they are normal, and other people think just like them.)

Not once did he mention what he did to the girl, the church, or her family. Not once did he mention the detrimental impact this will inevitably have on her for likely her entire life.

Not once did he mention that no minor wakes up one day and just thinks, “I’d really like to be sexually involved with my youth pastor and have him do things to me that no one has ever done to me before.”

Not once did he mention that what he called a friendship was really just a classic period of predatory grooming.

I know, because I am the other side of the coin.

///

These things? They do not happen by accident.

A youth pastor does not accidentally become ‘friends’ and later sexual ‘partners’ with a female minor from his church. A 40+ year old does not accidentally find himself actively and relentlessly pursuing a 15 year old. A sociopath and predator does not work that way. And to think it just happens accidentally is terribly dangerous and frankly uneducated.

At 15 years young, he stole my innocence, many ‘firsts’, my security, and my trust and replaced it with jadedness, fear, distrust, and triggers.

My healing journey took even longer than it needed to because it took months of walking with my parents and a therapist before I even realized and believed it wasn’t the relationship he led me to believe it was. It was child molestation, plain and simple.

Adulterers do not go to jail. Child sex abusers go to jail.

///

Save all of us victims of child abuse the “all sins are the same” or “he needs love and compassion and grace.”

All sins do not have the same damn repercussions as others.

All sins do not leave young youth with bitter views of church and its congregations.

All sins do not leave the sinner in jail and the victim in therapy, and sometimes hospitals because of suicidal tendencies.

All sins do not leave young girls with a fear of authority figures.

While you stand on your boat of misguided love, compassion and grace for the child molester, the child is fighting the tidal waves of guilt and shame out alone in the ocean.

You extend love and grace to the abuser by praying for his soul while he sits where he belongs — in jail, not ministry or out roaming free, looking for his next prey.

You extend love to the first inheritors of the kingdom by speech, support, belief, and protection. You extend love to the victims of child sex abuse by the simple words, “I believe you, and I am so sorry. You did not deserve what was done to you, and you are not guilty in this.”

Lest you be another to hang a millstone on a child’s neck.

[ UPDATE: On Friday evening, Christianity Today / Leadership Journal did take down the post saying: "We apologize unreservedly for the hurt we clearly have caused." Read the full apology here. ]

read more…

Leadership Journal, Christianity Today, and #TakeDownThatPost
by Samantha Field

An Open Letter to Christianity Today
by Elizabeth Esther

Christianity Today Publishes a Rapist’s Story
by Libby Anne

Because it’s Time to Take Down That Post
by Tamara Rice 

On How the Church Discusses Abuse: Denying the Endorsement
by Dianna Anderson

Because Purity Culture Harbors Rape and Abuse
by Suzannah Paul

Why did a Journal for Christian Pastors Give a Platform to a Sexual Predator?
by Hännah Ettinger and Becca Rose

[ image: rachel a.k. ]

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The Filthy Shepherd
Leaving the Baggage Claim
  • http://hopefullyknown.com/ Tamara Rice

    Oh, anonymous writer, your story is heard. Your pain is heard. I’m so sorry that the church still isn’t getting this right and that every time they don’t you have to remember your story. When will they ever understand it’s never mutual when we’re talking about a teenager and her 30-something or 40-something spiritual authority figure? It just never is when all is said and done, and that’s why it’s a crime. Thank you for being vulnerable. I pray to God they take down that post.

    • http://hopefullyknown.com/ Tamara Rice

      And thank you, Micah, for sharing your space for such an important story.

  • http://www.edcyzewski.com/ Ed_Cyzewski

    It grieves me that church leaders can be so unaware of victims that they would post that story in the first place and that they would continue to ignore the voices of victims and advocates. Your line hit it on the head: “While you stand on your boat of misguided love, compassion and grace for the child molester, the child is fighting the tidal waves of guilt and shame out alone in the ocean.”

    Even more than that, I read the Leadership piece as a moralistic “lesson” in sin and depravity. It unfortunately teaches a very different lesson.

  • choctaw_chris

    While the pain is very real and personal for the victim, the story of the pastor is shared with the church. So long as churches demand obedience to the program/denomination/leadership this abuse will flourish. When the pastor is held in higher esteem than the flower arranger and the home group leader is more credible than the greeter you have conditions suited to abuse.

    I have never understood how someone claiming to be a Christian who is found guilty of sexual misconduct can be restored to a pastoral function especially when they deliberately covered their tracks or hid behind their position of trust. Its beyond arrogant to then preach to others.

    In my experience, abuse (whether spiritual, emotional or physical) is endemic in the church and the notion that we are magically taken beyond that, when we say the sinners prayer, only makes rooting out abuse more problematic.

  • http://carmenjibrahim.wordpress.com Carmen

    Thank you for sharing your story, anonymous. I stand with you. Although I do not know what it feels like to be betrayed and hurt by a spiritual authority figure, I do know what it feels like to walk around, doing your best to hold yourself together, wondering why someone you trusted took advantage of that trust. I am sorry that this post by CT is causing you to re-live the horror of what you went through. I hope that they realize the grievous error of their ways and take it down, with true humility and repentance, not just saving face.

    Love,
    Carmen

  • A

    Thank you poster. You are so loved and your story is not shared enough. Thank you for choosing to return to your painful experiences in writing in order to help give a voice to others.

  • Hannah Lewis

    That article from CT was just weird and disappointing. I’m all for hearing all sides of a story, and after many, many stories over the past weeks from victims because of the #yesallwomen (nothing wrong with that, mind), it’s interesting to hear a story from the POV of one of the abusers. Unfortunately, this abuser perspective story CT posted played right into the “script” of how to talk about such things in the church. Like, instead of it being seen as child abuse it’s seen as marital infidelity, etc. Like, you can see how much of Christianity is just not ready to go there. They still need to frame stuff in their safe pre-prescribed script and Christianese. It’s sad too because the story the abuser tells in this article shows how little he – EVEN AFTER GOING TO PRISON – has realized the straight-up truth of what he’s done. He’s still seeing it in through the Christian lenses he’s been trained to see it through. Until we’re ready to start calling things what they are and seeing the reality of the situation instead of continuing to paint things over with nicer words or softer colors, things won’t get better.

  • http://www.SamJolman.com/ Sam Jolman

    Thank you for sharing your story so bravely. I can only imagine the labor and courage its taken to finally tell this story, especially when your abuser worked to convince you that you chose it. Well done! Your voice is strong. It helps all us victims be more brave.

    Micah, I agree with what others have said. I love how you honor your friends with your platform. You’ve got an awesome heart.

  • ThisBethesdaSea

    How brave you are. Bravo to you for finding and using your voice. I would hope that Christianity Today comes to their senses.

    Jaime M Prater

  • Forgiven/forgave to the future

    I know all about this other side of the coin and it isn’t others that forgive the predator that matters but ourselves. To hand the millstone around our own necks by unforgiveness means that although it isn’t happening anymore we are still held prisoner while the predator walks away scott free even if they are in jail. Believe me, you are no longer in their mind and nor do they care.
    The Godly people forgive because Jesus paid our price at the cross for all mankind. The take away is for us to forgive those who wronged us and most importantly to forgive ourselves and let it go so that we can heal and move on.
    Predators were sometimes young children who stood in our shoes. They too knew the pain and shame but were never rescued from it and it became their life.
    I watched a movie one time about this young girl who had been molested and when she became a young lady she flirted and had affairs even after she married a soldier who was sent out on duty.
    This man she flirted with one night took her home to his place. Instead of abusing her he tied her to the bed and let her rant till she fell asleep. He took care of her and told her that snake came because she didn’t learn to love herself and forgive. It was a fight only she could win. In the end she overcame and was well when her husband returned from duty.
    We all have our fights and they can be darn well scarey BUT ‘If God be for us, who then can stand against us?’
    There are always two sides to every story and whatever your story is, the outcome is for you to decide. Hold on to the negative past or forgive and move into the future.
    A lesson long learned. Don’t wait and let life pass you by.

  • jtheory

    This is the article I wish Leadership Journal had shared. The victim’s side of the story. If they were looking for a cautionary post, her side would have been far more hard hitting

  • Susan Irene Fox

    Micah, thank you so much for sharing this story. It is reprehensible they published that post.

    Dear writer,

    It is so clear there is no remorse, no concern for you at all from the writer of the Leadership article or the publication. You are courageous and there are plenty of us who care for you. Please know that you are in our hearts, minds and prayers. We will not let you go through this alone. Many of us have already written to ask them to take the article down. There are people who do evil in this world, and you did nothing to deserve this.

    Please do not let this man come between you and your relationship with God. Please see, by the support you receive, that He walks with you; He speaks to you through us. You are loved; you are not abandoned. You are His special and precious daughter. Let Him continue to love and cherish and guide you.

    Thank you for being brave enough to share your story. Others will find comfort in it.
    May the Lord watch over you and favor you with His presence.

  • Renata Barnes

    Ya know…..I think that there is even more to examine here…some things that we perhaps do not consider when speaking of what innocence is…sin there is no one righteous. Please bear in mind that this is in no way an attack on the author of this article. I am wondering aloud and asking myself question along with everyone else… I can recall being in youth group and hearing girls talk about having crushes on the youth pastor and wanting to get his attention. For some of us he was a hero, someone who cared and understood when our families and other friends did not. As young women, we were forming ideas about men and relationships and what our part was in these. I saw girls dressing in certain ways to get the youth pastor’s attention. There was an almost perverted obsession with dating, sex and marriage which wasn’t overtly or covertly addressed but almost quietly encouraged by smiling church women who, in so many words, allowed young girls to think that their worth was solely wrapped up in MRS. and how quickly they got there spoke to their desirability and affirm the quiet whisperings of adults. I surely knew of plenty of girls who virginal innocence hid desires they had clue how to control and no one and nowhere to discuss them. Do I think that SOME girls(or boys) in the throes of adolescence add fuel to the blurred lines of predators and and predatory behavior. Absolutely…but let me be clear…I am not victim blaming here as I think there are a few more guilty parties that seem to fade into the miry murk background. Fantasy and over romanticized visions or love and weddings and all that have clouded the visions of many young girls who without being properly equipped for the realities of what it means to be a sexual being inside and outside the church become easy targets and unwitting victims in their own destruction. Yes that youth pastor should have known what the boundaries are and Yes he is right were he needs to be…I am also sure that he wasn’t the only one reveling in the success of his ministry either. The Sr. pastor and the church as a whole benefited from his growing youth ministry and the accolades and affirmation it brought. Who wanted to rock that boat? He went unchecked and unchallenged. Perhaps those who should have spoken up didn’t speak up…and in the end a young girl had something taken from her she cannot get back again. AS much as we extol virginity in girls we seem to forget the virginity and fidelity is something that is required from both sexes. Whiel we are chastiing girls for hwo they dress and to be mindful of their presentation are we also sounding the alarm that predatory behavior in boys and men is not to be tolerated( the whole “cat and mouse” game we perpetuate in the dating process). Seeing my Bible College professors dating your students always seemed wrong to me but was never seemingly addressed on campus. Later I went to a large private university and discovered that that behavior was not tolerated at all. Clear lines. My heart does feel for this young woman and as a survivor of a rape, I understand the feeling of the robbery ones own self. I would like the church to have real conversation about sex and lust and emotions and hormones and all that and stop just preaching the wait until marriage with no tools available on how to do that. WE need to look out of each other and ask those uncomfortable question and have those awkward conversations. Everyone needs to be put on notice and held accountable and protected.

    • Willow Bird Baking

      You say you’re not victim blaming, but saying that a teenager remotely “fueled the fire,” is doing so. It doesn’t matter if a teenager outright throws herself at an adult, because she’s a TEENAGER. That’s why we consider them minors — because of their immature decision making skills, heavy impressionability, etc. Adults are the ones responsible for not having sex with minors, and if they do, the blame is ALL theirs.

      • Renata Barnes

        I agree that it is the adults responsibility…however I do not think that sin differentiates between ages(perhaps certain ages) If there is any culpability on the part of the teenager it is allowed in the face of the larger offense of the adult. The legal price is shouldered by the adult perpetrator as it should…but I can’t help but wonder what was actually in the mind of the teenager initially….was she manipulated? It seems so and that whatever girlhood crush she had was turned into weapon against her and an tool of pleasure by that youth pastor. And I also agree with Hannah that placing blame is not an exact science. I still believe we need to confront the issues of this behavior before it happens with leadership, youth, parents, the church as a whole…the culture of silence and manipulation and cowardice when confrontation is needed needs to stop. Confrontation is not a bad thing…it clears the air, settles the dust and fog quicker and if it is done in the beginning when an issue is small there is little or no damage control. After a conflict gets big and ugly, confrontation is used as a means to stop said conflict and usually with many casualties. No victim blaming Willow…know that. (pardon the typos folks)

    • Hannah Lewis

      I’m going to come out and say I get what you’re saying here. But I also don’t believe that victims in situations like these are 100% of the time NEVER at ANY fault EVER. It’s very likely poor decisions were made by more than just the youth pastor at some point. Just being a teenager, to me, isn’t a get-out-of-jail free card. Teenager-hood gets a lot of latitude in our society, as well it should, they’re learning and immature, etc, but they’re not idiots. Placing blame is not an exact science by any stretch.

      • Hannah Lewis

        I mean, it’s not like we’ve heard one sentence of her side of the story in this. We just assume we know all about the guy in prison and the girl he abused, when we actually know very little about the first and none about the second.

    • ako

      Just saying that you’re not victim blaming doesn’t make what you’re saying any less victim blaming. You’re picking over the details of desires victims might have and details of how they might have dressed and behaved, while talking about how you think kids can “add fuel to the hazy fires of predators”, as if a sexual predator were simply a force of nature that slipped out of control. That’s classic victim blaming.

      No matter how the victim dresses or behaves, there’s no way they can definitively protect themselves against abuse. (They can reduce their risk, but it’s still possible to be assaulted when you follow all of the safety rules.) While the only way sexual assault happens is if the perpetrator chooses to act. That’s why, whether you think the victim behaved perfectly or not, all blame and all responsibility should lie on the perpetrator.

      • Renata Barnes

        I’m probably dealing more with the conundrum of the flesh and mind. Again, I’ll say it and I do understand the fine line I am walking here…I am not victim blaming. And I’ll say it again as well…the blame solely lies with the perpetrator. Self control is a fruit of the spirit, we are all responsible for our actions. The youth pastor was under no pretenses of who he was and what his responsibilities were. The “adding fuel to the hazy fires” in this case is talking about emerging pubescent angst/desires whatever their called now…something internal that maybe expressed externally and again regardless, no adult should seize any opportunity that seems to present itself for their own selfish reasons. Again, not victim blaming.

  • NoBigGovDuh

    I hate to say this but you are assuming many things that you do not know about the youth minister. And the idea that you know what one or any groups of people are thinking is ridiculous.

    We have freedom of speech for a reason, and there needs to be more dialog not less.

    • Willow Bird Baking

      We know he had sex with a girl young enough to get him sent to prison. This is called rape. That’s ALL we need to know to be able to say he should not get a huge public platform to own that story of extreme violation and discuss what HE lost.

  • Willow Bird Baking

    Thank you so, so much for being brave enough to share this.

  • Joy

    Thank you dear brave woman for sharing this. You are not alone. The fact that there are way to many people who find that article acceptable makes me weep. Thank you for sharing your story with us. I know how hard sharing your story can be because I am a child survivor too.

  • Billymcmahon.com

    Given the theological disposition of the CT author, the original article unfortunately did not surprise me at all. Treat a relationship with Jesus as entirely privatized and personal–one where sin is primarily against divine powers, and NOT against victims–and you likely won’t consider the other side of the coin. Heartbreaking considering all the issues with SGM and perpetual victim blaming and/or neglect. The evangelical movement ought to do some serious soul-searching in this regard.

  • melissia

    Thank you for speaking truth…

    The pain this… man… caused needs people to speak out.

  • Anonymous in MD

    Thanks for sharing this. One of the reasons Bill Gothard can not be trusted was his pursuit of so many young girls to join his “harem” working for him at Oak Brook. How other people indoctrinated into IBLP can not see his actions as sociopathic predatory behavior is beyond me. Keep up the good work shining the light on these vermin wherever they may show up.

  • Herm

    Children don’t rape children, children don’t rape adults, self centered adults rape children and self centered adults rape others. The coveting of another’s innocence and/or the unique value they each own to have the choice to share is the most degrading sin mankind can possibly do to mankind.

    The greatest gifts we should be graced with as children of mankind is first this opportunity of life that we did not choose and second to be able to choose to share our growth in love with each other for each other. The one most important gift healthy parents hope to have time to impart is more abundant opportunity for the children we raise up so mankind can continue grow in the bond of love.

    All fathers, mothers, and children will die but none should ever have to die to imagination, innocence, joy, peace and most important love. Carnal mankind need not die at all so long as we sufficiently value and maintain the gift of propagation but first we must value each other. If we cannot why would we want to continue this degenerate behavior (…for a brief moment of self centered fun at the cost of another?).

    Mankind can finally heal when we finally teach as gospel and by our example that we value all others as much as we would have them value us. I simply could not rape another to fulfill my hormonal attraction because I was convinced by my community as a child the attractive other deserved no less of life and love than I. I have done too much otherwise to hurt others and am so glad that I have been graced with time to learn not to again and most of all graced with the merciful forgiveness of so many, especially my Father in Heaven. Happy Father’s Day!