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. ]
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. ]