Saturday, July 14, 2018

"Let it go": Southern Baptist Mission Organization, IMB, tells child sex abuse victim


Fort Worth Star Telegram: Southern Baptist officials knew of sexual abuse allegations 11 years before leader's arrest

I collaborated with Dee Parsons on her new post at The Wartburg Watch about this story. Read more here.









   


Thursday, July 12, 2018

Chris Conlee resigns from Highpoint Church: new statement from Jules Woodson



Statement from Jules Woodson:
Over the past 6 months, since I originally went public with my story, and through the resignations of the other 3 pastors involved, Steve Bradley of StoneBridge Church has refused to acknowledge or be held accountable for any wrong doing to include his failure to report my assault to law enforcement. 

As #ChurchToo stories continue to pop up in headlines nationwide, (i.e. Bill Hybels, Frank Page, Paul Pressler, Mark Aderholt, to name a few,) people are beginning to understand how damaging and traumatizing clergy sexual abuse can be...It is a gross abuse of power that violates victims physically, emotionally and spiritually. However, churches continue to minimize abuse by handling reports internally and with toxic theology that focuses on cheap grace and forgiveness over accountability and justice.
 

My goals in continuing to speak out are not self motivated for pity or attention but instead, to encourage other abuse victims who have been shamed and silenced by the church, to know that they are not alone. I want my story to help educate others and effect positive change in how the church handles abuse and treats victims.
 

I think Chris Conlee's resignation was a necessary step and I'm grateful he is no longer in the pulpit for now though I am confused as to why it took 6 months for Highpoint to realize this. I also feel that the leaders missed an important opportunity yesterday to affirm to the world that in moving forward, they will be a church that no longer tolerates abuse and will become a safe and supportive place for all victims. Instead, they were vague about the resignation in the official statement they released and told reporters who reached out that they were not commenting.


The New York Times: I Was Assaulted. He Was Applauded.


 

 

 

Abuse survivor Brooks Hansen also spoke out after Chris Conlee's resignation:


Thursday, April 5, 2018

Christian Author Robert D. Smith Seeks to Silence Alleged Child Sexual Abuse Survivor with Defamation Lawsuit




WSMV News 4


The News 4 I-Team's Lindsay Bramson uncovered the court records that show the brewing battle.
So how influential is Robert D. Smith, the man accused of sexual abuse? Among his 148,000 followers on Twitter, is former president Barack Obama and country star Luke Bryan.
He's a consultant, known for launching best-sellers and he's fighting for his reputation. The accuser, Jim Cochrun, now 51, lives in Texas and says Robert Smith sexually assaulted him when he was just 12 years old. Now, Smith is suing that accuser.
Smith who lives in Franklin serves as a private consultant to a number of bestselling authors, speakers and entertainers including best-selling author Andy Andrews who has cut ties with his former manager saying in a Facebook post from January, "I completely ended the relationship with my longtime manager, Robert D. Smith.  This severing of all ties, business and personal, is due to multiple allegations of child abuse with preadolescence males."
Press release:

HOUSTON (APRIL 3, 2018) – Christian author and personal branding expert Robert D. Smith sexually assaulted Jim Cochrun when he was only 12 years old.  At the time of the assault, Robert Smith told Jim to never tell anyone. Jim was bullied into keeping the child sexual assault secret.  Forty years later, Robert D. Smith is attempting to use the legal system to continue to silence this victim of child sexual assault by filing a defamation suit against Jim Cochrun.


For over 30 years, Robert D. Smith has managed the career of New York Times best-selling author and speaker Andy Andrews and has provided personal branding consultation to numerous other well-known figures in the Christian community. 

After unsuccessfully attempting to “make this go away” in direct conversations with his alleged victim, Smith filed a lawsuit against Cochrun in the Chancery Court of Williamson County, TN at Franklin as Case No. 46996.  In the suit, Smith seeks over $750,000 from his victim. The suit was removed to the United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee on February 21, 2018. That case is styled as Case No. 3:18-cv-00225.  Recently, Jim Cochrun filed his answer in federal court challenging the lawsuit against him and also made a complaint with the Tulsa Police Department in Tulsa, OK (the law enforcement agency with jurisdiction over the incidents of sexual abuse committed by Robert Smith on Jim Cochrun).

Jim Cochrun made the difficult decision to share his story with the general public in the hope that any other victims will be emboldened to step forward and seek justice like he is.

“Being sued by your abuser is understandably shocking,” George Edwards said. “Jim has never sought money from his abuser. His motivation is that justice is done and that any other victims who may exist are empowered to come forward. The good news for Jim and other victims like him is that they will defend these allegations with the truth. Proving defamation is difficult. The statements must be false, which means Smith would have to prove that the sexual assault did not happen. Our client has no reason to lie.”

Brent Webster further states that “Jim’s willingness to come forward with the truth is the only way to keep perpetrators like this out of positions of influence.”

George Edwards, III, Murtaza Sutarwalla, and Brent Webster of Edwards Sutarwalla PLLC and John D. Kitch, of Counsel for Cornelius & Collins LLP, represent Jim Cochrun. 
###
About Edwards Sutarwalla PLLC
Edwards Sutarwalla PLLC (www.eslawpartners.com) is a full-service business law firm based in Houston and Austin, Texas practicing in the areas of civil litigation, commercial transactions and corporate law. Edwards Sutarwalla PLLC also represents survivors of child sexual assault and abuse throughout the country.






The narrative portion of the Tulsa police report (embedded above) states that the victim Jim Cochrun alleges that after the sexual assault, Robert D. Smith told him, "This is going to be our little secret. You can never tell ANYONE about this."




Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Jules Woodson responds to announcement of the resignation of Andy Savage from Highpoint Church Memphis

While yesterday's announcement is a step in the right direction, the conversation must not end here. Instead, this needs to be a wakeup call for everyone. There is a systemic problem within the institution of the church that props people up in places of power and gives them immunity based on cheap grace and a call for forgiveness. This has bred a culture ripe for abuse and cover-up. Repentance, accountability and justice should not be contrived. Unfortunately, my story is not unique. My hope in speaking out is that this opens up the conversation and empowers others.  We, as Christians, should be leading the way in recognizing, preventing and handling abuse. Genuine repentance is not demonstrated by one decision but by many decisions that, over a period of time and born out of humility, transform the culture of the church. As Jesus demonstrated, the church should be the safest and most affirming community for the vulnerable and the wounded. This announcement is one step forward and I am hopeful there are many more steps to follow.


Monday, March 19, 2018

Confession Amended: The New York Times video with Jules Woodson



I was assaulted. He was applauded.
Jules Woodson says she was 17 when her youth pastor, Andy Savage, sexually assaulted her. In late 2017, almost two decades later, Ms. Woodson, inspired by the #MeToo movement, emailed Mr. Savage asking whether he remembered what has haunted her for decades. When he didn’t reply, she told her story to a blog for victims of church abuse. Days later, Mr. Savage addressed his congregation at the Highpoint Church in Memphis, where he is a pastor, and the church streamed the service online as usual.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Former Highpoint Church minister, current church member, tweets threats of violence directed towards abuse victim advocates

Yesterday morning I was made aware of tweets by Jason Bendall. Jason is a former minister at Highpoint Church and current Highpoint Church member. According to his Facebook bio, he worked at Highpoint Church as the Recreation Director. He tweeted that he was on staff at the church for 10 years. After exposure yesterday, he deleted mention of Highpoint as his past employer, as well as his current employer, Old Dominion Freight Line.


I had never heard of Jason before yesterday when I discovered he had preemptively blocked me and many others who had been sharing Jules' story of sexual assault by her then youth pastor in TX, Andy Savage.

Below are screenshots of tweets by Jason Bendall. After exposure of his threats yesterday, he deleted these tweets.










Another Highpoint Church member has been defending Andy Savage's sexual assault of Jules as a "mistake." There also seems to be some confusion about Andy Savage's position at Woodlands Parkway Baptist Church, now Stonebridge Church. Andy was a full time youth pastor, not a "college intern" as Paul Goode insists.








A few weeks ago I received an email from someone who stated that he attended Andy Savage's ordination at Germantown Baptist Church. Others have told me that they have received confirmation that this ordination took place in December of 1995.




Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Not My Mr. Royal

Last Saturday, I noticed a tweet discussing #notmymrroyal. My friend Dee Parsons and I support these brave young ladies and their parents for speaking out. Dee will be adding her post on this story tomorrow at The Wartburg Watch.



I was angry. I am angry. As an abuse survivor advocate, I am angry over the injustice being perpetuated by a tone-deaf response by the administration of Hamilton Southeastern Schools. The principal of HSE High School is Matt Kegley.


FISHERS, Ind. (WTHR) - The teenage victim of an alleged sexual assault is speaking out after the student accused of attacking her is honored by their high school.
Both students went to Hamilton Southeastern High School.
The boy was recently named Mr. Royal for winning a school-sponsored talent show.
The alleged victim says she was assaulted on a date back in September. She and her family filed a protective order against the boy and claim they alerted the school system, but say no action was taken.
“We have uprooted our lives and she is the victim and I have such a hard time understanding that why the victim and the attacker can continue to go on like nothing happened,” said the girl’s father.
They say they are touched by the support in the wake of the controversy. The alleged victim says she wants to share her story to help others.
“For four months I did not have a voice," she said Saturday. "For four months, nobody believed me, and I didn't really think that this case was really going anywhere and I was starting to give up on the idea that I was going to get justice,” she said. “Now I have a chance to have a voice and I know that there are so many girls that he has harassed, that he has assaulted, and they get a chance to get their justice too.”
Fishers Police and Noblesville Police are investigating, however at this time no charges have been filed in connection with the case.






WTHR:
On Monday, some HSE students showed support for the alleged victims, dressing in black in school hallways and in photos posted on social media.
They’re protesting a school talent show award, “Mr. Royal,” being given to a male student last Thursday even as the student is under investigation for sexual assault. 
“He sexually assaulted my daughter,” said the mother of an HSE student. “He forced her to do sexual activities that she was not comfortable with."
She is the second HSE parent Eyewitness News is aware of having made a complaint to police against the talent show winner. 
The first was last fall. A father alleges his daughter was raped. After the attack they got a stay away order against the same suspect. The order is still in force.
“I hear stories about him all the time,” says the mother of another victim who spoke with us Monday night.
“I was shocked. I couldn’t believe it. And I saw congratulatory comments and I was blown away by that.” 
That female student’s mother says the Mr Royal award and protests that followed in school and online moved her to come forward and report her daughter’s case to the the school and police on Friday. 
“I don’t know what to do,” she said. “I feel so helpless.”
She and the father of the victim we spoke with on Saturday said they felt the school district had not moved swiftly with their complaints. 
“I was starting to give up on the idea that I was going to get justice and now I have a chance to have a voice and I know that there are so many girls that he has harassed that he has assaulted and they get a chance to get their justice too,” a student allegedly attacked last year told us.