Culture of abuse: victims blamed, perpetrators protected, voices silenced

Rape culture and evangelical culture collide at "God's Harvard"

Listening to Sarah from across her desk, the dean was as polite as ever. But she didn’t seem to believe Sarah’s story at all. “If you were telling the truth about this,” Sarah remembers Corbitt saying, “God would have kept you conscious to bear witness to the abuse against you.” [...]
 Corbitt summoned Sarah for several rounds of questioning. “It’s my job to poke holes in your story,” Sarah remembers Dean Corbitt saying. “I have to make sure that you’re not lying to me. … I don’t think you’re wholly innocent in this situation.”
The problems of rape culture are not unique to Patrick Henry College, but the confluence of its evangelical Christian worldview — which penalizes sex outside of marriage, strictly regulates women’s behavior and lauds men as God’s representatives on earth — and the broader institutional and cultural forces that silence victims and punish those who speak out has produced a devastating result for its female students. One that has not only compromised their physical safety at the school, but also the core tenets of their faith and their place in the Christian community.
Sexual Assault at God's Harvard: Patrick Henry College was supposed to be a safe place. For these young women it wasn't.

My church in 1989 was supposed to be a safe place too. But it wasn't for several of my friends, both boys and girls. My eyes began to slightly peer open into this culture of abuse at Prestonwood Baptist Church in the summer of 1989 when our youth music minister, John Langworthy, was accused by several boys of sexual abuse and fired by Jack Graham but not reported to the police. I never did shake the sinking feeling over the next 22 years that what happened then and how it was handled internally just wasn't right. I used to have nightmares in which Langworthy would show up at my church in Houston, and I'd try to speak out about what I knew, yet no sound would come out.

I don't have that nightmare any more, since I broke my silence about the culture of abuse I experienced at Prestonwood. I know now what to call it.

Since the exposure of the abuse by Langworthy and cover up by Prestonwood, I've had other abuse survivors from Prestonwood contact me and share their stories. Some of these were my friends in the youth group. Some I suspected had been abused. Others I had no idea about. One of these survivors was raped by another boy in the youth group. She went to our youth minister at the time, Neal Jeffrey, who blamed her for the rape. Neal never called the police. He even forced the victim to forgive her rapist and seek reconciliation with him.

Another survivor was raped by an assistant youth minister who was attending Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. She also told Neal Jeffrey who blamed her and never called the police. This child rapist is still out there.

I have shared my story here before about my parents' anger at me for exposing Langworthy's child sex crimes. He was convicted last year in Mississippi where he pleaded guilty to sexually abusing 5 boys ages 6-13 from 1980-84, just before his job at Prestonwood Baptist. He is a serial child predator. He is not in jail, though he received a 50 year prison sentence. We know there are more victims. We hope anyone who has seen, suspected or suffered child sex crimes by Langworthy will come forward to the police, begin to heal and protect other kids.

My parents have said repeatedly that they never want to see me again. A few months ago, my dad left a message at our home stating that "Amy's hurt too many people for too long. I'm going on the offensive."

The light of truth and knowledge is our greatest tool to protect kids. Share it. Speak it. Know you are not alone. Though the pain is awful, healing comes from rising up and shining the light of truth.

UPDATE 2/25/2014: 
The Baptist Children's Village in Mississippi is holding a sexual abuse awareness training conference.

10:00 A.M. TO 3:00 P.M.


 Email Celeste Cade at The Baptist Children's Village or call 601-952-2422 with your questions or for registration assistance.
Morrison Heights Baptist Church is located at 3000 Hampstead Blvd., Clinton, MS 39056 Exit 36 off Interstate 20 West. 
We applaud the Baptist Children's Village and Morrison Heights Baptist for hosting this important conference. It is critical that people in our churches and communities become more educated and aware of the systemic child sexual abuse happening in our midst, in places that kids should be the safest. But when churches and other trusted institutions protect the perpetrators and silence the victims, kids are not safe.

Morrison Heights Baptist Church unfortunately fought our efforts to expose the child sex abuse crimes of John Langworthy. Thankfully, their efforts to silence the truth about Langworthy were overcome by a brave survivor who came forward to the police in August 2011 leading to more victims coming forward. Langworthy pleaded guilty in Jan. 2013 to sexually abusing 5 boys ages 6-13 from 1980-84. Though he was sentenced to 50 years in prison, he did not serve any time in jail.

It is critical that Morrison Heights reach out to others and urge anyone who has seen, suspected or suffered child sex crimes by Langworthy to call police right away, to begin to heal, and to protect other kids. Pastor Greg Belser gave the pulpit to Langworthy for him to confess and then Belser dedicated the morning service to praising, supporting, embracing and praying for Langworthy. This same public display of support has not been given to the victims.

The light of truth and knowledge is our greatest tool to protect kids.


Anonymous said…
Well done for speaking up. I've recently spoken out about my own sexual abuse as a child and have faced many of my close friends and family not believing me, or choosing to pretend I never mentioned it and wishing me to sweep it under the carpet. its outrageous, and its why abuse continues to occur so widely in our societies

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