Tuesday, July 29, 2014

One with Courage

This post is a follow up to my previous post A Joint Open Letter to the Super Hero Victim of Greg Kelley.
Photo by Michaela Myers

Last night outside the Williamson County jail in Georgetown, Texas, a group of supporters gathered, dressed in teal, the color representing sexual assault awareness, to stand up and speak out for the little boys in the Greg Kelley child sexual assault criminal case. Greg Kelley supporters also gathered across the lawn in front of the jail, many dressed in jailhouse orange shirts and tape across their mouths.

Greg Kelley protests draw more attention and scrutiny
Across the parking lot, people dressed in teal were supporting the victim in the case.
Janet Heimlich is the director of the Child-Friendly Faith Project, a group that advocates for victims of such abuse. She did not go to the demonstration Monday night, but says demonstrations like that of the Kelley’s supporters, especially when members of a church or faith community are involved, are harmful to victims.
“I think that maybe they don’t have a full appreciation of what kind of impact that can have when you have very public rallies in support of someone who has been convicted of sexually abusing a small child,” said Heimlich.

Supporters of child sex assault victim rally in support
"I am a victim of sexual abuse myself, and I feel that no child should be ignored," said Michaela Myers, another victim supporter.

SNAP statement on the church holding a "Justice for GK" rally
Discrediting victims and publicly supporting predators, especially convicted ones, not only hurts the innocent victims who have already suffered too much, but it also hurts other victims who suffer in silence and self-blame.
It creates a hostile environment and does not encourage victims to speak up and help protect other innocent people.
We urge officials at Generations Church to cancel this hurtful event. If congregants really must support a convicted predator, we ask that they do so privately. 
The church is run by pastors Bob & Tammy Brydon (1461 E. Woodview Dr. in Leander, TX (512-616-7000, info@generationschurch.net). According to the church website, the Brydons have been “actively involved in local church ministry, in both lay and pastoral staff positions, in several large Austin-area churches.”
I received a phone call yesterday afternoon from Pastor Bob Brydon of Generations Church who is helping lead the effort to "fight for GK," the man convicted of super aggravated sexual assault of a 4 year-old boy, in prison for 25 years after accepting a sentencing deal waiving his right to appeal. Bob immediately let me know how offended he was at our statement, saying he considered it "slander." I asked what was slanderous about it, but he did not answer. He just began a rant about how the "real perp" is still out there on the streets.

Sex offenders in our midst
Monsters behave like monsters. It isn’t a choice they make. But offenders who behave monstrously are people, not monsters, people who have chosen to behave abusively and who need to be held responsible for their choices.
Plus, it promotes the myth that sex offenders are not the regular people we know and love. And as author Amy K. Sorrells asserts“It’s not the people you don’t know who will hurt your daughter, girlfriend, wife. It’s the people you do know.”  
"Mom of a Super Hero" commented at The Wartburg Watch:
1. Child sex abusers are almost always nice, beloved members of their community (in this case a church). This is how they ingratiate themselves into a community and gain access to children. 2. Children this young do not lie. 3. If you believe he is innocent, support him privately. Do not hold rallies, or bully the family. 4. If you need to resort to making up scenarios to support the abuser, you don’t have much to stand on.
I’ve read the comments sections of the news stories on this (I have also read everything on that ridiculous freegk site). The family is being attacked because a group of people can’t believe someone they like, a “nice guy”, would do something like this. They should educate themselves on child sex abusers, especially if they have, or plan on having, children themselves.
The main insane rationalization I’ve read so far from supporters on the boards is that it was probably actually a family member of the victim who was the abuser, and the whole case is a “cover up”. First of all, I don’t understand how that would work. Secondly, as someone who went through what this family is going through last year (daughter abused at a church daycare, abuser convicted and sentenced, church people showing abnormal amounts of support for someone with a criminal background, creepy behavior he actually admitted to on stand, and other stuff I won’t get into), I can tell you that the victim’s family is thoroughly vetted in these cases. In our case, we went to the police at 8 pm at night. CPS was at our house by 10 am the next morning for a surprise visit/interview. Thirdly, how sick and cruel, to say something like that on a public forum.
The family is often maligned in these situations, when, in reality, it is a child from a supportive, loving family who will actually have the ability to testify.
So my point is yes, this family is being bullied. I was bullied too, called all sorts of ridiculous things, including Bored Housewife like the ladies who run this site, even though I wasn’t a housewife (why do housewives get such a bad rap, anyway?) The bullies said I must have concocted the whole thing and gotten my daughter to lie for my own “entertainment” (whoever would even think of that – a child sex abuse trial as entertainment – is a sick, sick person). My husband, for whatever reason, was mostly spared. Perhaps because I was seen as weaker, or more vulnerable, by the church folk, who sat in the courtroom and snickered when I broke down during my testimony. These sheeple have no decency. They will stretch to any length to conjure up reasons why the child sex abuser could not possibly have done this, no matter who they hurt in the process. They do not know how ridiculous they sound to any sane person capable of independent thought, but, sadly, I suspect they do know the damage they are doing to the victim and the victim’s family, at least deep down. They know the truth deep down.
The young ages of the sex abuser’s supporters disturbs me. In our case, several supporters were young women, just like in this case, although my daughter’s abuser was not a young man. Have we failed our young women this badly? They do not know what is inappropriate, perverted, or just plain mean, especially on a public forum? Are these women going to have children some day? Would they side with a grown man over their own four-year-old son, because the man was a “good guy”? How many of them were abused themselves, and perhaps have not dealt with it? Statistically, some of them. These questions have kept me up at night.
I related very much to the commenter who pointed out that these things said on the internet will last forever. I have thought about the day when my daughter will search for her story, and read the awful things people said, even though of course they’re not true. But how horrible for her. Pain on top of pain. People can be so cruel.
As for the commenter who said there is no benefit to writing an open letter, that the family would not want it, he is absolutely wrong. He said he knows this from experience, but did not cite the experience. I suspect he is stretching the truth or lying. I would have loved for a letter like this to be penned for my family. I had tears streaming down my face reading it tonight. This family needs to know there are people out there who support them. They need to hear a little sanity and compassion, because they are facing a lot of insanity and brutality right now, on top of their already insurmountable suffering.
The David and Goliath story is so appropriate for this situation. My daughter drew the comparison herself before she testified (yes, our family is Christian, for those of you to whom it matters for whatever reason. What we are not is Pharisees, or sheeple). People know that story, including non Christians, so cut the garbage, whoever commented on that.
I wish I could travel to Leander on Aug 10th to stand in support of this brave young boy and his family. I can’t, so I will pray for them, Christian or not (that comment made me sick. God loves all). Dee, Amy, I don’t know who you are, or understand everything you do, but keep doing it!
I firmly believe there are two types of people. Those who can deal with situations of child sex abuse, and those who can’t. I firmly believe this man is guilty, and his supporters can’t deal with it. I am so thankful for that first category of people, those who can face the truth head on, shine the light on it, and get these monsters out of society. The police (the ones in our case were maligned, too, guess what, it’s called building a defense!), prosecutors, jury members, parents/guardians, family and other support people, social workers, mental health professionals, those who run support centers, doctors. But mostly, the brave young Super Heroes who stand up before their abusers, in a room full of strangers, and tell the truth.
(sorry to make this post a lot about our story, but I wanted to give the perspective from someone who has been through it, and I believe the more light we shine, the better)

Friday, July 25, 2014

A Joint Open Letter to the Super Hero Victim of Greg Kelley: One with Courage

#onewithcourage #prayforgkvictims

Child abuse casts a shadow the length of a lifetime. Herbert Ward

Preface to our open letter:
Last week, a former popular high school football star, Greg Kelley, was convicted and sentenced (as part of a sentencing agreement) to 25 years in prison with no opportunity of appeal for super aggravated sexual assault on a 4 year old child in Texas. He will serve out the full sentence and will be on the sexual offender list for the rest of his life: link and link.
There is a large group of teenagers in the town, along with some adults, who refuse to believe that he is guilty. They have a vocal social media presence and are conducting fund raisers to support Kelley. Unfortunately, some of his supporters have been verbally negative to all who do not support their beliefs. They have cast doubts on the child, the child's family and even on the jury and the police.
It has so concerned Dee Parsons at The Wartburg Watch and myself that we decided to reach out in an open letter to the child and his family. 
Due to the nature of this open letter, we will not allow any negative comments to the post. This post is meant to serve as a support to the child and his family. We hope that they may read it. All negative comments will not be approved and/or trashed. Although we know that our  regular readers would not do such a thing, we are less certain about friends of Greg.
This post is also an opportunity for readers to send their love to this family. We do not know for sure that they will see it but we think it is a very real possibility due to the high profile nature of this situation.
Miss Amy and Miss Dee don't know your name. However, you (and your family) have been so very brave, just like the shepherd David who bravely fought a giant named Goliath and won!  So, because you were just as brave as David, we have decided to call you by his name.
We want you to know that you and your family are not alone in this battle. None of this is your fault. You are not to blame now and will never be to blame for any of this bad stuff that has happened. Although it is just the two us writing this letter, there are many, many people throughout the world who have heard about your bravery. You have become a super hero in their eyes.
Your abuser was convicted of "super aggravated sexual assault" against you. Those are really big words that mean he hurt you very badly and that the adults know that he needed to be seriously punished. His actions brought you and your family much pain.
Even though you were scared, you told your family, the police and the people in the court what had happened to you. You did such a good job in telling them what happened that all of the grownups in the jury believed you! You did the right thing even though it was hard. In fact you are a super hero. You are as brave as Spiderman and Batman and that is awesome! People all over the world are so proud of you.
Your abuser did things to you that no normal adult would ever do to a kid.  He was wrong. In fact, he was so wrong that he will be in prison for 25 years. That means he will be probably be older than your mom and dad when he gets out of jail. Even then, as an older man, the police and the people will still watch him in his community for the rest of his life. He will never be trusted again. And that is very good because it will prevent other kids from being hurt by him. This all happened because you were brave and told your story. You are a super hero.
You will never forget what has happened to you. It is OK to feel scared or sad. Never be afraid to tell your family or other grownups if you feel that way. Those are normal feelings and those who love you can help you during those times. In fact, it is super hero brave to tell them that you are sad or scared but you already know that because you have done it.
And guess what? Someday, when you are a little bigger, you may be able to help other kids who have been hurt in the same way because that is what super heroes do.
We understand that some teenagers do not believe that a popular football player could do such a thing to a kid. But you are smarter than them. You know that people who look cool on the outside can be rotten on the inside. We think that they will change their minds as they grow up and learn more about bad people who hurt kids.
Remember this always. Miss Amy and Miss Dee think you are the most awesome super hero that we have ever heard about. We are so proud of you and so are many other people. We hope that your family and you will hear of this letter and know that we care about you. We believe you and are available to your family if we can ever be of help."
Amy Smith
Mom and SNAP leader in Dallas/Fort Worth
Dee Parsons
Mom and Blogger

Helpful resources:

Children's Advocacy Centers of Texas

Williamson County Children's Advocacy Center

One With Courage

G.R.A.C.E.: Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment

SNAP: Survivors Network of Those Abuse by Priests (and other clergy)

Darkness to Light

Child Help


So I'm not alone? I'm not the only one?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

A comparison of responses to allegations of child sex abuse- Prestonwood Baptist Church and Morrison Heights Baptist vs. Believers Church: image over child protection

WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather

A longtime associate pastor at Believers Church in Auburn has been arrested on child sex abuse charges.
His arrest in May got him kicked out of the church where he had been for 30 years.  Lee County Sheriff's detectives say the two adult victims came forward in April to report they were abused in the early 1990's.
Every Sunday, for nearly 30 years at Believers Church on Moore's Mill Road, 53-year-old John Sluder, an associate pastor, would play guitar during services.
"People have shed tears because of what he appeared to be, a gentle old man.  So yes, we were very shocked," said attorney Ben Hand.
Hand represents Believers Church where his father is the pastor. Hand says the church was stunned, then angry, when Sluder was arrested by Lee County, after two adult victims revealed Sluder had molested them on several occasions in the early 1990's when they were 8 and 9 years old.
"Every child, including my own daughter that has had contact with him has been questioned to make sure there are no other potential victims out there," said Hand.
Sheriff Jay Jones would not comment on if Sluder had confessed to the crime. He did say during the course of the investigation, evidence was obtained that supported the issuance of warrants charging Sluder with two counts of Sexual Abuse First Degree.
"We do have evidence that leads us to believe this type of crime did take place," said Sheriff Jones.
Hand said his church takes the allegations very seriously and decided to remove Sluder from Believers.
"He was told if he came on church property, he would be arrested from trespassing and was forbidden from every returning to Believers Church. His bond was lowered from $100,000 to $25,000 and that is a nominal bond, and we have recommended that nobody make that bond. He needs to be there," said Hand.    
Sheriff Jones stated church leaders have been more than helpful, working with investigators to identify every possible victim.
"It's just disappointing to consider the aspect that someone in a position of trust, would abuse that trusts especially involving children victims," said Sheriff Jones.   
Sheriff Jones said if you do know of any child who has had contact with John Sluder, you are encouraged to speak with them.
"The full extent of the law needs to be handed down. And we have to do everything we can to protect these kids and they need to know they are safe and that society will come to their defense," said Hand.
Sluder has not made bond since his May arrest. The case will go to a grand jury soon.
The church says it is doing everything it can to help the victims while cooperating with investigators. 
Tears for the victims. Anger at the perpetrator. This is a refreshing response from a church who gets it. It's not about them. It's about the kids harmed by one of their own. But they don't protect their own image and shun and silence these kids, now adults, who though it took a long time, bravely came forward to report the harm done to them. Kids will be safer now, and other possible victims of Sluder will know they are not alone and perhaps have the courage to come forward as well, begin to heal and protect others.

Prestonwood Baptist Church, where are the tears for the victims? Where is the anger at one of your own former ministers, John Langworthy, who confessed publicly to sexually abusing kids at your church? The only public anger we have seen from Prestonwood staff is at those who have dared to ask simple questions of the executive staff like why Langworthy wasn't reported to police in 1989?
“In their attempts to silence and intimidate those who dare ask questions seeking answers and accountability, Prestonwood continues to wound victims, enable predators like Langworthy and endanger more kids,” she said. “Secrecy and silence helps only the predators. It’s the light of truth and knowledge that protects kids.”
Morrison Heights Baptist Church, where are the tears for the victims? Where is the anger at one of your own, John Langworthy, who stood in your pulpit on Sunday morning, August 7, 2011 and confessed to child sex crimes for which he was ultimately convicted? The only sorrow and support we saw on the video from that morning at Morrison Heights was on behalf of Langworthy. Pastor Greg Belser has publicly supported Langworthy and even refused, along with the church elders, to cooperate with the prosecution of Langworthy.

We fear there are more victims that happened on Morrison Heights' and Clinton Public Schools' watch since 1989 after Langworthy was fired by Prestonwood but not reported to the police. We have received specific concerns that Langworthy's predatory behavior continued in Clinton, MS. We hope anyone else in TX or MS harmed by him will come forward to law enforcement, heal and protect other kids. Langworthy is a convicted child sex offender, but he is not in jail. Kids are safest when predators are in jail.

I am aware that Dallas police and Plano police have each received calls in the last year from victims of Langworthy from his time on staff at Prestonwood Baptist Church in the mid to late 1980s. Has there been an investigation? Has Prestonwood ever contacted the police to report all known and suspected child sex crimes?

Privately, I have experienced anger and threats from my parents that I am "going to pay a big price" for exposing the abuse by Langworthy that led to his arrest and conviction in Mississippi. My dad still maintains that Langworthy "didn't molest anybody." My parents have repeatedly stated that they never want to see me again. Late last fall my dad said in a voice mail at our home that he was "going on the offensive."

Mary DeMuth- The 2nd anonymous letter sent to my home: a rant
Away on vacation, I came home to a pile of mail, one of which had no return address, and my own name and address typed on a piece of paper that had been cut and pasted to the envelope. I opened it. My heart sunk.
The letter had to do with this sexual offender and one church’s handling of the situation. It was a letter “proving” that the church did everything right (although from my limited perspective…I don’t know a lot about this case…it seems like the fact that the abuser wasn’t reported is a problem.)
The whole thing makes me angry, and this is why: Only cowards send anonymous letters in the mail. If this person feels so strongly about the rightness of the situation, why not dialog here? Why not address me in a public setting? To send “evidence” to my home address is underhanded and bordering on harassment.
If you wrote it, my request is this: show yourself and share your views in public. And by all means, STOP sending me anonymous diatribes.
I have been informed that, in addition to Mary, someone else received this same letter at a home address.

Ever heard of the Streisand effect? If Langworthy and Prestonwood's handling of Langworthy is in the clear, why keep bringing it up, doing so in creepy, cowardly, harassing forms of communication?

You can read in detail below the child sex crimes of 5 boys ages 6-13 that Langworthy pleaded guilty to on January 22, 2013 in Jackson, Mississippi [warning-graphic]:

SNAP seeks independent review handling by prominent SBC churches

Cover-up unravels from the inside