Tuesday, May 15, 2018

"Let it go" Southern Baptist Convention organization tells child sexual abuse victim after internal investigation and failure to report pastor to law enforcement

Last month, Anne Miller reached out to clergy sex abuse survivor, Jules Woodson. Jules was sexually assaulted by her youth pastor, Andy Savage, in Texas in 1998. Dee Parsons (The Wartburg Watch) and I have supported Jules in speaking out about her abuse, so Jules offered to connect Anne with us. We all spoke on the phone at length and have been in communication throughout the last month. Anne had just begun the process of reporting her abuser, a current SBC pastor and convention leader, to law enforcement. That investigation process is ongoing. We are refraining at this time from naming the pastor at the request of child sex crimes investigators.

Posted May 10, 2018

From Anne's story on her Go Fund Me page:

If you read any of my books or my blog, you know that I was sexually abused in 1996, when I was just 16 years old. The man who did this was a 25-year-old seminary student and youth pastor in the Southern Baptist Convention. You also did know I did not recognize it as abuse until I was his age in 2005. The day after I recognized it as abuse, I went to a church counselor within my SBC church where I worked who told me to work on my forgiveness and that to do anything about it would do more harm than good to the body of Christ, the church. I followed that counsel and that is what I did. 

A year later, in 2006, at the suggestion of my counselor, I wrote my abuser a letter saying I forgave him for what happened. He never responded. I felt somewhat free but constantly haunted by flashbacks of the experience triggered by things that reminded me of him. 

I began writing more about the experience of forgiving him for my local church newsletter and as a result, I had a friend come to me with her own story in 2007. Since we both were in the same denomination, I told my friend where my abuser worked–in a position of leadership within one of the many autonomous organizations in the SBC. I did not know her father worked with the same organization. She told her father who in turn told the organization.

That organization confronted my abuser with this and he denied it. They conducted an investigation that lasted months. I had to tell them every detail of what happened. I did not know then, but what I experienced was revictimization. At one point, my body went into shock during the investigation. 

The internal investigation within the SBC concluded that this man DID sexually abuse me, a child, when he was 25. 

Even though I knew this man was still working at a large church, I was under the impression he was terminated from the position with this organization. 

On March 20, 2018, when I asked this organization directly, I learned he was not terminated and was given a chance to resign. I then asked the legal counsel for this investigation if they reported it to law enforcement, as is mandatory in Texas. They did not because they did not believe that is what I wanted. What I wanted doesn’t matter. 

It is and was required by law for them to report it. The law says this is a felony: indecency with a child of at least five counts. I remember five times specifically, but I am sure there are more. Yet they did not report it.

This man presently serves in a position of leadership with more stature and responsibility than before. When, over the course of the last decade since the internal investigation, I asked how it was possible, I was told to “let it go” because to dwell on it or to desire what the SBC termed “reconciliation” (what the law and what I consider is justice) would cause me more harm than good.

In 2010, I was diagnosed with PTSD because of this abuse and was hospitalized at a trauma-specific psychiatric hospital for a month to work on healing from this and other issues that stemmed from it. This treatment was incredibly effective and allowed me to write and speak and engage as you know me. It allowed me to find healing and to find me again. It allowed me to share that hope and healing with others during my tenure as a religious writer and speaker.

When I learned this crime was not reported, I reported it. I reported what happened to CPS on March 23, 2018 and made a police report on April 4, 2018. On both occasions, within 24 hours, the authorities followed up with me and are pursuing this man for a criminal investigation. They said they don’t care if it happened 22 seconds, 22 months, or 22 years ago. It’s a felony and justice needs to be served. I have been working diligently with the crimes against children (CAC) unit task force of this police department over the last six weeks. I had no idea the trauma would resurface as it has. I even joked with some of the detectives about how much counseling I had; I thought I would be okay.

I have never been so wrong in my life.

This experience has shaken me to my core. I am eternally grateful for my the CAC unit, the DA, and others involved and am grateful for all they have done and continue to do. However, in working with them, I have had to re-live many moments of my abuse. I knew this was a risk but one that I am willing to take. I’ve also suffered from the shame and guilt for NOT reporting this sooner because I realize there are likely other victims that I could have saved if I would have gone to the authorities first and not the church.

The courage it took to come forward to law enforcement may be admirable, but I now understand why more victims do not come forward. My anxiety has rendered me a shell of who I was. There have been many days in the last month where I cannot leave my bed, where I am medicated to the max just so I don’t return to the level of shock and dissociation I have previously experienced. I went to a short-term psychiatric hospital. I explored a partial hospitalization program locally. I have been faithfully seeing a psychiatrist since even before I went to the police. I thought I was prepared to handle this, but my level of re-experience trauma is beyond stable.

It breaks my heart beyond words to hear our 21-month old daughter playing in our living room with her dad or her grandma while I stay in our bedroom unable to move. Every time I hear “Mama?” and the response, “Mama’s sleeping” makes me not want to continue living. Please know I am safe. I am not suicidal although I have had suicidal ideations and that is why I am seeking this help urgently. I am afraid if I do not get the help I need soon, I will never get me back again. My daughter will never have her whole mama and my husband will never have the woman he married back.

After talking at length with counselors, my family, my spiritual family and law enforcement, we have concluded that I need to be stabilized in an inpatient trauma facility. Instead of going to the hospital I went to in 2010, we have decided that Onsite’s Residential 30-day Trauma Program in Tennessee is the right place for me to find this healing my heart and mind so desperately need. I will start treatment on Tuesday, May 15, 2018.

Before this all happened, Tim and I were saving to buy a house so that we can give our daughter a safe neighborhood to live and learn and love in. We had just paid our down payment on our house which now only leaves us with a little bit of savings when all of this happened. We will be using what money we have to help pay for treatment, but the total cost for the 30 days is $28,000. They are willing to work with me on this cost, and I want to let them know I am fully invested in my treatment and they deserve to be paid for the necessary and exceptional work they do.

I am asking for help. For any support you can provide.  That doesn't necessarily mean money, but money is needed. 

I think the SBC and the organizations for which this man worked, and the man personally should be held responsible for paying for this treatment and any other treatment I need for the rest of my life. However, the statute of limitations for the civil part of my abuse is long gone. I can not sue them for treatment costs.

I have pushed Tim, my best friends, and my advocacy group so far back against asking for help publicly. It seems opportunistic and wrong to me, but I have been assured this is the right thing to do and so I trust those that are thinking with a clearer mind than mine.

We can contribute $2,000 to this out of our own money. I need to raise $26,000 to cover the cost of the treatment. The cost of transportation, the cost of childcare, the cost of my husband having to take off from work, the cost of me losing work...these are all costs we can absorb, although they are a sacrifice. 

The cost of treatment for me is beyond reach for us, and so I ask your help. So that you know your money is going to pay for this treatment and that alone, I will provide every donor with my final statement from the hospital when my treatment is complete. You can donate through this page, through personal check, or even directly to Onsite. 

You all have given so much of yourselves to me and my family through the years and I pray this does not feel as if I am taking advantage of you.

Thank you for reading this, and for your prayers, and if you can, your donation.

With love,

Anne Marie Miller

Author of Mad Church Disease (by Anne Jackson), Permission to Speak Freely (by Anne Jackson), Lean on Me, and 5 Things Every Parent Needs to Know About Their Kids and Sex

Former Blogger at FlowerDust.net, AnneMarieMiller.com

**I have been asked by law enforcement to not publicly reveal this person's name to protect the integrity of this investigation.

As Anne mentions in her story, the internal investigation within the SBC concluded that this man sexually abused her as a child when he was 25 and a seminary student in Texas. He was allowed to resign his position with the SBC organization when the abuse was discovered. He then obtained a new job shortly after as a pastor at a large Southern Baptist Church. From there he moved on to his current, prominent position with the SBC in another state. Key individuals in the SBC are aware of his history of child sex abuse. I have seen the 300 page transcript from the internal investigation that concluded that this pastor sexually abused Anne. The leaders of this investigation never reported this abuse to police as required by Texas law. They covered it up and told a broken, hurting young woman to "let it go." 

I was very concerned and disturbed today when I discovered that he appears to be teaching youth at his current church. Dee and I feel morally obligated to do what we can to shine the light of truth and knowledge about this man. We have informed a pastor at this abuser's current church about our plans to write this post. 

We hope and pray that Anne will continue to heal. We hope that she can see justice done. We hope other kids will be protected from her abuser. It's time for action to protect kids. Words and policies are meaningless if not accompanied by action.