This is my story

UPDATE: I had to get someone to listen and Prestonwood Baptist Church and the Cone of Silence

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. 
Bryan College is not Penn State because there are people here that will not attempt to save face by dusting over the arrest of Dr. David Morgan.
Printing this story will not cause a Penn State situation for Bryan. I believe it will prevent one. That’s why I’m dispensing it.
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

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


SNAP Network said…

I've heard and seen and felt a ton of heartache in my nearly two dozen years with SNAP. But your parents' actions really hit me hard. I can't imagine how hard this must be for you. And I can't imagine anyone more courageous and compassionate than you.

You are right, of course, to praise Alex Green. But everything you said about him can, and should, be said about you too.

You are an inspiration, to me and to many other survivors. Thank you for your bravery and your kindness!

David Clohessy
JudyJones said…
Amy, you are so not alone with your heartache and your determination to help protect kids.
My brother was sexually abused by our long time parish priest in southeastern Ohio. My parents could not allow themselves to believe their own son.

I have a really hard time accepting that kind of thinking, I am a mother, grandmother, and a great grandmother now.. Their is no way that I could not believe my own kids.

The priest who abused my brother also abused several of my relatives. He abused kids in the early 1940's. and he lived until 1991.

This is why I got involved with SNAP, "Survivors Network of those Abuse by Priests".. I can't even imagine how many kids lives were ruined by this priest in our small town. I have learned that many folks suspected or knew about him abusing kids, yet they kept their mouths shut.

You are extremely brave, please don't stop working to expose the truth and therefore protecting kids today. Some day your parents will know the truth, it is sad they don't accept it today.

Judy Jones, SNAP Midwest Associate Director, 636-433-2511
Unknown said…
Amy, I applaud you for your actions to expose predators and to protect children. You have paid a big price and I am so sorry for the action of your parents disowning you. So sad. Please know there are many of us that support you 100%.
Mary Jean McCarty
Amy Smith said…
Thank you, Mary Jean.
Amy Smith said…
Thank you, David. Thank you for all you have done and do to protect kids and support survivors.
Amy Smith said…
Thank you, Judy. You are a hero and an inspiration!
Mary said…
I am so inspired by your courage and saddened by the price you had to pay. It just isn't fair. Yet you write, "I would do it all again." That is the most inspirational message for me.
I hope you take all the words above and carry them in your heart---for it is true, you are not alone and we are all helped by your speaking out. It is so difficult when we speak the truth and are not believed. And it is more difficult when it is our family. I remember when my own mother did not believe me when I spoke of my abuse.
I like your Bonhoeffer quote speaking of the wheels of injustice and you clearly live it-you have put a spoke into the wheel itself.
Thank you Amy. I am proud to stand with you.

Mary Caplan
SNAP New York City
Dear Amy, Thank you so much for not only being a voice for the victims of the past, but a real advocate for the children here now and in the future. This world needs all adults to act as you have and defend the future leaders of our world. How can we expect our future to be better if we don't correct the past. You are amazing and I am truly sorry that your parents don't see what a fantastic daughter they have. As a parent of a victim, you have my utmost respect.
Unknown said…
Hi Amy,
I honor your courage in speaking truth to power. I honor your courage for consistent and constant work on behalf of survivors and the protection of children. I honor your courage in holding strong with your convictions in the face of opposition from those closest to you.
You inspire all be standing tall and bringing light to the world.
Tim Lennon

Friday, September 28, 2012

Dave said…

I wish that I had the courage that you have. Had I only come forward about the abuse that I'm sure my own perp was still doing to others - some kids might have escaped. Thank you for being a beacon on the hill and shining the light of truth. I can't imagine how hard it must have been to be rejected by your parents and then still make the right choice. The choice to shine the light of truth on a severe problem. Unfortunately the kids who escaped being victimized because of your actions will never know that it is you that they have to thank for saving their souls. Instead, I would like to thank you on behalf of the unknown victims who you set free.
Unknown said…
Hi Amy,

Congratulations for standing up for what you believe in. I believe that the only reason people like Langworthy and Jerry Sandusky get convicted is because for over twenty years SNAP has kept the fire under the people who cover for the perpetrators. I am truly sorry for your parents' attitude but I'm really not surprised. I was sexually abused by a male babysitter in 1964 when I was eleven years old. I was severely traumatized and have had nightmares ever since. I didn't even have the words to describe what he did to me. Even saying the word sex was forbidden in 1964. I never told my mother until 1991. My father was in a nursing home and very ill. My elderly mother was shocked and asked me why I didn't tell her back then. She said that she would have put a stop to it. I told her that you say that now with people starting to talk about child sexual abuse on TV; but it was 1964. We lived in a "Leave It to Beaver" world. I asked her what she would have done back then? She thought for a minute, and told me that it was a different time and would probably have told me to keep quiet so the kids at school wouldn't call me names. I don't think I have to spell out the names I would have been called and most likely have gotten beat up. I found out later why she accepted my statement in 1991. My older brother was abused by my uncle in the 1950's. Noone ever discussed that. All I ever knew was that I was not allowed to visit my uncle without my parents around. He and his wife even adopted two boys later on. I hope that your courage to defy your parents and the pending trial will persuade more of Langworthy's victims to come forward. Maybe others will finally persuade your parents to finally admit what they may have suspected for years and not believe that such a "nice guy" would do such terrible things. Here in central Pennsylvania, there are still people who don't believe that "good old Joe Paterno" knew anything about Sandusky. I just shake my head. Keep up the good work and never give up. BTW, ironically, in 1968, when I was 15, I decided to become a priest. I just knew that God's representatives on Earth would never harm me and after I graduated from Catholic high school, I went off to the seminary. I had a very rude awakening. But that's another story.

Paul Hearn
Central PA SNAP

Christa Brown said…
Many might say that a religious organization which causes parents to turn their backs on their own children is a religious organization with cult-like qualities.

My sympathies, Amy. And many thanks for your work.

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