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It has been many years since the story broke of “sexual impropriety” in my church. On a Sunday evening, the elders publicly announced the senior pastor had confessed to “one count” of sexual impropriety with a young lady, Wanessa,* in the congregation. The elders mentioned her by name! I was horrified! They could have used my name! They knew I was one of the victims (there were at least 5). I was outraged! How dare they publicly name one of the victims, making her the scapegoat, and lie to the congregation about something so serious!

And where was the erring senior pastor? First Timothy 5:20 says, “Do not receive an accusation against an elder except from two or three witnesses. Those who are sinning rebuke in the presence of all, that the rest also may fear (NKJB).” The elders had at least 3 or 4 witnesses! Why wasn’t the senior pastor on the podium to be rebuked?

I was sitting near the back of the sanctuary, flanked by my husband, brother, sister, and a couple of dear and courageous friends. My blood started to boil with the announcement of only one count—as if this were a courtroom hearing! Besides, I was aware of more than a thousand counts of sexual impropriety just against me! To which one of the thousand counts did he confess?

I turned to our friend, Bill, next to me. “He did not confess!” I retorted under my breath.

“What do you mean?” Bill said. “They just said he confessed!”

“They said he confessed to only one count,” I argued. “He’s guilty of more than one count!”

“You’re right, but you can’t say anything. They’ll crucify you!” he said.

“They just crucified Wanessa!” I responded. “They could have crucified me!”

I knew in that instant I had to say something! If Wanessa was going to be crucified, then I would be crucified with her!

Bill finally agreed with my argument, and gave approval to what I think we both knew was about to happen, but could never have anticipated. “You’re right,” he quietly said. “Go for it.”

“He did not confess! He did not confess! He did not confess! He did not confess! HE DID NOT CONFESS!” With each repetition of the phrase, my voice grew louder and louder! I don’t recall how many times I said it. And then, as if being lifted out of my seat, I found myself standing and screaming at the elders and guest preacher who were on the podium so far away.

“THAT MAN RAPED MY SOUL!” Suddenly the audience of about 400-500 people grew terribly silent, and I realized the severity of my accusation. I thought I needed to clarify a little, so I added parenthetically, “. . . though not physically.”

Yes, it’s true the senior pastor never had intercourse with me, only because I insisted on keeping my clothes on while he “counseled” me! In a very real sense, he did rape me over and over again. I know that now, but not then.

As the elders scrambled to have me thrown out of the church, my husband, brother (thank God for his “tank” physique) along with his wife, my sister, and friends surrounded me as we left on our own accord.

The elders never brought the now former senior pastor before the congregation, and I never went back to my church, except for two meetings with the elder board to try to deal with what the senior pastor had done to me. Both of those meetings were essentially pointless.

Wanessa sued the senior pastor and church, only to have her case thrown out of court because of “separation of church and state.” Apparently, in the state of California it’s legal for a pastor of a church to sexually assault members and/or employees of the church! The judge did, however, order that the case be sent to arbitration for a settlement because he believed beyond any doubt that the senior pastor had indeed sexually assaulted Wanessa. As part of the settlement (which the church’s and senior pastor’s insurance companies paid), Wanessa agreed to have her case sealed so as not to cause any more shame and embarrassment. But doing so also shut up the voice of any of the other victims, and allowed the church to lie to the public about what happened. The amount she received in the settlement was never disclosed, but I doubt it was anywhere near what she was originally asking. She was the only one who had her case heard, and the only one who received a settlement for sexual assault by the senior pastor.

The elder board agreed to pay $1700 in counseling for me because they said I had become “deranged” and needed psychological help, and because legally I was still a member of the church. However, the church refused to take responsibility for what the senior pastor did to me. As a matter of fact, they refused to acknowledge that the senior pastor did anything to me, denying my claim of sexual abuse. The amount they paid covered only two months of counseling, which was only a fraction of what was actually needed. My therapist stated in her report to the church that, in her professional opinion, I was a victim of clergy sexual abuse!

After receiving my therapist’s report, the elders initially agreed to pay for counseling. But when they realized how much counseling was involved—individual counseling, marital counseling, and family counseling—the elders consulted with their attorneys who advised they discontinue paying for any more counseling because of liability. I looked into suing the church, but was told my case was not strong enough to stand in court, even though the attorneys believed without a doubt I had been sexually abused. Greatly dismayed, I made no more attempts to contact the church.

My husband and I have had to pay for most of counseling ourselves, as many CSA survivors are forced to do. We have been very fortunate and blessed to have found a counselor and therapist who reduced their fees. Many victim/survivors, because of financial constraints, cannot receive the counseling they need. My husband and I have only been in counseling when it was absolutely necessary. It’s just too expensive. While having medical insurance helps, much of the reimbursement for counseling is minor compared to the real costs of treating a victim/survivor of clergy sexual abuse.

A while back, the church where my abuse happened contacted me. They wanted to invite me to attend the church’s anniversary and celebrate what God has done at the church. I was outraged! It was just an attempt to tell the public that all was better when it wasn’t! It put me in the uncomfortable position of confronting the church leader who approached me, and once again ask the church to deal with the truth. The church leader promised to “make things right” (but to date has done nothing). My husband, along with other witnesses, then confronted the current elder board and current senior pastor. All of this was to no avail. The church leadership refused to acknowledge what the pastor perpetrator had done to me, and refused to take responsibility for what happened.

Out of that, however, another church in our area felt compassion for my husband and me. They committed themselves to pay for counseling for us. That was simply a blessing of the Lord! However, after only a few months of counseling the church funds ran dry. We were once again forced to pay for counseling ourselves.

I have been on an incredible journey! My family has stood by me—through the ups and downs. We have been attacked, misunderstood, misjudged, maligned, and not accepted by Christians. We have continued to attend other churches, but have faced insurmountable prejudice when the church leadership or fellow parishioners found out I was a clergy sexual abuse survivor! We have also seen God work miracles through true servants who acted as angels in encouraging, restoring, and even protecting our very lives.

I believe God has much to say to CSA survivors. We have become modern-day lepers in religious organizations. God, however, wants to give us great comfort and let us know that He has not abandoned us. I believe He is working to begin to right our wrongs, and empower us to make change. Each of us has a voice! One voice may not be strong enough to pull the weight of our burden . . . but together we can bring hope and encouragement to each other, and invoke real change in our places of worship, as well as society on the whole!


[*Note: While all accounts are true and real, names have been changed to protect the innocent.