I struggle with telling my story. I have tried to tell it many times only to erase all that I have written. Today I will not be silent anymore. In 2003, I was sexually violated by my married pastor. This form of violation is one of the worst kinds because it not only affects you physically, but emotionally, financially, mentally and, mostly, spiritually. I have had to separate church from God in order to keep a relationship with God. I lost my identity. It affected my identity because being a Christian is how I defined myself. Really my identity was stolen.
Right before this time in my life, while I was traveling in Israel, I heard God speaking these words to me (no, not in an audible voice, but in that still, small voice that one hears when they have a relationship with Him) “You are as innocent as a dove.” I never knew why He was saying this to me or why I had heard this. Now I think it was because He knew what was about to happen and in all His love He wanted me to know that it was not my fault.
I now know the grooming that was done on me in order for this sacred, trusted, boundary line to be crossed. Grooming creates desensitization. Dictionary definition: “To make insensitive and non reactive by long exposure or repeated shocks.” There are different degrees of grooming, some done over years. Grooming is done through actions and with words. This pastor would shock me, not only in action but also with words and then back those words up with scripture. He would twist scripture in answer to every question I had. This left me confused.
This type of abuse, Clergy Sexual Abuse, is very hard to get out of. As women we need to talk to someone and, because we feel like we cannot tell anyone, we go back to the only person we can talk to and that is the abuser himself. That is how they keep you in it. Shame wanted to cover me but the anger inside of me took precedence and I was a fighter. Once I was free from this very controlling, manipulative, narcissistic pastor, and found The Hope of Survivors ministry, my healing began.
Even after this, I would still often question God about His words of me being innocent. Many times I would say to God, “Why, if I was innocent as a dove, why was I not also as shrewd as a snake?” I was referring to the scripture in the Bible that says, “be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” (NIV) God remained silent but I continued to ask him the same question over and over. One day I was at my kitchen sink doing the dishes and casually asked that same question. All of a sudden I heard these words: “Because you never knew you had to be as shrewd as a snake IN my synagogue.” I stopped what I was doing and ran to get my Bible. I turned to the scripture in Matthew 10:16 and read these words:
“I am sending you OUT like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.”
There it was. The wolves are thought to be outside, not inside, let alone in the pulpit. A church is a place where you let down your guard, let your vulnerabilities surface around those you consider to be family. A place that should be the safest place on earth. A place of refuge. I trusted this pastor. I attended this small church for 10 years as a single mom. He was married, his daughter was one of my best friends and he called us sisters. He was 15 years older then me, and a spiritual father figure in my life. He was my counsellor and I trusted him. I was sexually abstinent the whole time I attended this church. I was living my life for God, whom I love with all my heart, soul and strength. It never once crossed my mind that this pastor was grooming me in order to abuse me. People think grooming happens only to children in Catholic churches but that is not true. It is also happening to women in churches of all denominations. This pastor told other senior pastors, “he fell into temptation.” That is also not true. He would never in a million years have gotten close to me if he had not put me through a grooming process. I trusted someone I should not have trusted.
Here I am today. Seven years have gone by and I still have a very hard time walking into a church. Some Christian songs, some scripture and partaking in communion bring me triggers. I listen to others’ stories, some worse than mine, and I know that I need to speak out. Our churches need to change. It is because these pastors are not held accountable that they continue to abuse. Other pastors and leaders, those with integrity, need to do the right thing by not allowing these pastors to continue to hold these trusted positions of power. Their license should be revoked immediately, never to reinstated again.
I will not be silent anymore. I will speak to those who are willing to listen. I will be a voice for the voiceless, for those who cannot find their own voice. This is not the end of my story. I know the greatness of my God and the love He has for all those that have been through this. I know my God is a God of justice, truth and freedom. I can say today that God once again has given me peace and a joy that can only come from Him. If you have been through Clergy Sexual Abuse, this is not the end of your story either, God can and will bring you through!
The Hope of Survivors welcomes Wendy Lee as the newest member of our volunteer staff. In June 2010, she became the victim support services representative for victims in Canada. She also helps with victims from other localities as needed.
[END OF STORY]
If you are a survivor of pastoral abuse, we would love to hear your story
and possibly make it available on this web site for others to read and renew
their hope. You can use a pseudonym if you choose and rest assured that all
personal information will be kept private and strictly confidential. Please contact us.
Please note: We
do not necessarily agree with or endorse all the information contained in
the survivor’s stories. We do, however, feel they have some valuable
information that could be useful to you in your recovery. It helps to know
you’re not alone, that others have shared your pain and have healed,
by the grace of God, in their own time and way.