This is my story of how I came to be an advocate for survivors of child sexual abuse and the personal price I would pay as a result. But I would do it again.
I loved my church, Prestonwood Baptist Church in Dallas. I spent my years in high school as a dedicated member of the youth ministry, and while attending Baylor University, I spent my summers as an intern on the youth staff at Prestonwood. It was there I met my then youth music minister, John Langworthy. John soon became a close friend of our family, even living in our home for a while in the mid 1980s while on staff at Prestonwood and attending seminary. I was in his wedding in Mississippi. He was a friend and mentor.
The person that I knew though was not reality. The reality was a wolf masquerading in sheep's clothing, albeit a very talented, charming, magnetic, charismatic one. The entire time I knew him, he was sexually molesting boys at Prestonwood, some of them my friends. Some of the abuse took place in the church building, the former Prestonwood location on Hillcrest at Arapaho in Dallas. This came as a shock to all of us when he was suddenly fired in June of 1989 and packed up quickly and moved back to his home state of Mississippi. I heard the rumors like many in the youth group then. I was 20 and on staff as an intern. I did not know exactly who the victims were at the time. The Prestonwood executive staff, headed by Dr. Jack Graham, heard Langworthy confess to these child sex crimes, along with Neal Jeffrey, then youth pastor, but no one reported these crimes to the police as required by Texas state law. They even had a few of the victims that they knew sit down with church attorneys to give statements, but none of this information was reported to the police.
The church congregation was not informed of the reason for Langworthy's departure. Parents were not notified so that other victims could be found. From my understanding, having talked to victims since then, a call came in to Prestonwood in 1989 warning them of John's past in Mississippi, of alleged child sexual abuse there.
In August of 2010, after hearing about the conviction of Pete Newman, former Kanakuk Christian camp director, I decided speak out and not leave it up to someone else to warn about Langworthy. I was someone else. I had to get someone to listen, anyone who could shine the light of truth on this admitted child molester. I began to search online for Langworthy and found him working at a church and public high school in Clinton, MS. Here is the timeline of my efforts to warn about Langworthy.
After my interview on WFAA in Dallas, the story began airing in Jackson, MS. One brave survivor of abuse as a child by John Langworthy came forward to the police in Clinton, MS, and then several more after that. John was arrested and indicted in September 2011 on 8 counts of felony gratification of lust for 5 victims, boys between the ages of 6-13. This abuse took place between 1980-84 while Langworthy was serving at First Baptist Church of Jackson and Daniel Memorial Baptist Church in Mississippi. He is awaiting a criminal trial on these charges set for Nov. 26, 2012 in Hinds County in Jackson, Mississippi.
When I first began to question and seek out information to warn about Langworthy, I informed my parents about what I was doing, and that I was concerned that more kids were at risk. They expressed disapproval. I knew I was doing the right thing though. I called the Dallas police myself to report what I knew. I was told that the victims I knew, now adults, would have to report the abuse, or the Prestonwood staff who fired Langworthy. I communicated this information with Dr. Jack Graham, via Mike Buster, executive pastor. To my knowledge, they have yet to report the child sex crimes that took place at Prestonwood by Langworthy from 1984-1989 that constituted the reason for his dismissal. I have also heard from and and about victims of two other former Prestonwood youth ministers and one adult youth ministry volunteer that the staff knew about but have not reported to the police. Looking back, it seems that a culture of abuse reigned there unchecked.
Recently, my parents stated in writing that they are going on with their lives without me and want no more contact with me. In their own words, they insist that I went on a "witch hunt." They still stand by and defend John Langworthy saying "he didn't molest anybody," though he has confessed publicly from the pulpit at Morrison Heights Baptist Church in August 2011. They have also demanded that I apologize to Jack Graham and Neal Jeffrey at Prestonwood. On a call with my husband in August 2011, my dad stated:
You and Amy are going to pay a big price for what's been done here. I'm tellin' ya. You don't go on a witch hunt from 22 years ago.
I will not apologize for the truth. It is the light of truth and knowledge that is our greatest tool to protect kids.
We need more people like Alex Green, a student editor at Bryan College in Tennessee, who defied the school administration to report and publish a story on a professor's alleged child sex crimes:
Had one individual in the Penn State program stepped up and revealed the truth about the actions of Jerry Sandusky, there would have been no fallout 14 years later. Joe Paterno would have died a hero. Instead, he died a goat. Penn State could have been praised. Instead, they are broken.Well done, Alex Green.
Child sexual abuse ravages war on every aspect of the life of a child. Where are the warriors to fight for these children? It's past time to stop protecting and enabling the predators who prey on kids.
If you have been a victim of sexual abuse at Prestonwood Baptist Church by John Langworthy or others, or have information about these crimes, please call and make a report to the Dallas Police Child Exploitation Unit at 214-671-4211. Your call will be answered by a trained counselor with 20 years experience. If you need to leave a message, your call will be returned.
If you have suffered Langworthy's child sex crimes in Mississippi or have information about these crimes, please contact Hinds County Assistant District Attorney Jamie McBride at 601-968-6568.
Silence only benefits the predators. Coming forward shatters the silence of sexual abuse, helps survivors heal and protects others.
"I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And that which I can do, by the grace of God, I will do." ~ Dwight L. Moody