Within six months of moving back home, he and his wife divorced.
It didn’t take long for members of the church to start hearing rumors about the pastor’s son and his ex-wife. His father, the pastor, approached me privately. He made me aware of a deacon meeting that was going to be held to vote as to whether or not his son should step down from leadership.
The pastor convinced me to rally the troops to protest this decision. He asked me to get all the young adults in our church group to write up a testimony about how his son had helped them grow in the Lord since his return to New york. I was naive and eager to earn his respect, so I agreed to take part in his.
The deacon board voted and it was agreed that his son could stay on staff as the young adult leader.
There was a huge split within our church and those that opposed his staying on staff ended up leaving the church.
Shortly after, the pastor’s son and I ended up dating publicly, but the relationship didn’t last. I started to study the bible for myself, and he quickly became physically abusive any time I challenged his manipulative and sinful ways. I resorted to coping behaviors I had learned while he was away at college.
One time he caught me out drinking alone. He was livid. He forced me to ride home with him to my parents house where I was still living. On the way we got into an argument and I tried to jump out of the vehicle as it approached a red light. He caught me by the hair and pulled me back into the vehicle and proceeded to choke me out (the rear naked choke hold he used is a blood choke hold he practiced in his Mixed Martial Arts).
I wish I could say I wised up and left him after this incident, but I didn’t. I broke things off for a while, but he was relentless with his apologies and in pursuing me. I was eventually lured back into the relationship. It took yet another altercation where he knocked me out cold in front of my two year old daughter before I attempted to seek help.
That April, I wrote a letter to the director of counseling of the church and explained everything that had transpired over the last year, including how the relationship began in adultery and details of the physical abuse I endured.
What I didn’t know at the time was that I was not the only women the pastor’s son had been grooming. While he went on to publicly date me for the first time, he was seeing another women behind the scenes. The neighbor of his divorce attorney. Three months after I broke things off with him, he went on to marry her.
That didn’t stop him from attempting to pursue me again several times after his second marriage, and even after I was married myself.
At my husbands suggestion, I reached out to the director of counseling, again, to make him aware. The counselor was (and still is) good friends with the pastor and his son. I realize now this individual was more concerned with the church image and protecting the pastor and his family because nothing was done to address anything that I reported to him.
My first abuser went on to adopt a little girl. She is currently sixteen. I can’t fathom the heinous things that poor girl has faced at the hands of her adoptive father. My childhood church could have engaged law enforcement when I finally came forward about him, but they chose to handle the claim internally within the church instead.
My second abuser, the pastor’s son, went on to allegedly abuse a sixteen year old girl, a German foreign exchange student who was living with him and his wife at the time. Shortly after she came forward, a young man and his wife’s sisters came forward to say they had been sexually abused by him too. Despite media attention surrounding these “sexual abuse allegations” he was promoted to head pastor and continues to maintain his innocence.
It has taken years of counseling for me to realize how deeply the grooming of these two abusers affected me. To this day I have night terrors, panic attacks, severe social anxiety, and issues trusting people in authority.
Some days are tougher than others. On the days I find myself struggling, I use that energy to pray for my abusers and for others like me.
I am a survivor.
I am not perfect.
I am not without sin.
The same God who sent His son to die on the cross as payment for my sins died for my abuser’s sins too.
If you are a survivor of sexual assault or abuse and have remained silent, I want to encourage you to speak out.
I lived in fear and silence for years… No more!
Those who abused me no longer have power over me. Their lies no longer control me. I refuse to allow my past to master me.
God is faithful and promises to bring truth into the light.
“For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open (Luke 8:17).”
Please, Lord, protect the hearts of those closest to this story and comfort those who may still be hurting. I know you allowed for even the darkest moments of my life to draw others and myself closer to you. Thank you for the heart of compassion you have given me, especially for survivors of sexual assault and abuse. Thank you for being a shelter for the weak, and refuge for the oppressed. I pray those reading this who are still seeking will put their hope and trust in you. I pray this all for your glory, Lord, in Jesus name, Amen!