A good article that provides much needed perspective on sexually exploitive church leaders. In Marianne and my experience with Nathan’s Voice, a ministry of our fellowships which has helped literally hundreds of abuse survivors over the years, this is spot on. It describes the typical personality, motives and means of predation by those who use their emotional and spiritual position of trust to sexually exploit others.
Excellent article – in my experience it’s “spot on” – nails it on the head!
Victims, especially if they are married to the predator in the pulpit, have limited resources to find help. The danger escalates exponentially if/when she asks for help. Victims need specialized care, along with people armed with enough knowledge, wisdom, and discernment who are willing to stand as protectors between her and the predator.
The opposite usually happens… the predator is protected and the victim is blamed, isolated, and shunned. She stands to lose everything, including her identity and her faith… not to mention her reputation, family, friends, and financial assets.
In my own experience, the predator took glee in watching it all play out in his favor. He told me, “I’m not going to divorce you. I just want to watch you suffer!” Although he did divorce me a year later, he never let me forget that my suffering was purely for his own pleasure.
I went through the appropriate channels, always going ‘up’ for help, in private (at first) to ministry leaders. Without exception, they refused to intervene. We were part of an international ministry, but we had a pastor outside of that ministry who did help me.
I cannot thank God enough for the pastors outside of our international ministry who stood by my side, like lions. One pastor called me every single morning via Skype, because he knew my husband would be “out with the boys” and I could talk freely. For several months, he stood by my side in this way. His wife was indirectly a part of this, but they both knew I needed a man to stand between me and my predator, who was almost an itinerant minister and my husband.
My marriage counselors also stood watch over me, protecting my mind and heart. I could speak for hours about “Stockholm Syndrome” and other reasons why a victim will cling desperately to the lie that “if only ____” the marriage can be saved. There is really so much more that could be said. But to summarize, the victim – who has been abused, even psychologically tortured, for years is not thinking straight. She needs knowledgeable, mature, strong leaders who will simultaneously fight for her, protect her, and help her to stand up on her own. Ultimately, the only defense she has to empower herself, to educate herself, to take the time to heal.
That’s why a predator works so hard to charm his associates, friends, congregation etc… because all the resources (emotional, financial, social, etc) go directly to him. The victim is left totally desperate in every way.
In my case, I was left homeless… nearly everything stolen from me. I was dropped in the middle of a desert. I lived in a hayfield for awhile… This was intentional. Again, for the “pleasure” of the abuser, so even after he moved on and married his next victim he could still watch me suffer. He projected all his self-hatred onto his victims, of which I was not the first.
This is the reason why I applaud the motive of Jim and Marianne Wright to stand between the victims and the predators, after doing the due diligence of listening to multiple testimonies, of gaining access to church leaders, etc.
Thanks, Susan. We need more to tell their stories, so folks understand the true dynamics in these cases.
Unfortunately, it can take years for a victim to fully understand the true dynamics of what happened, and then to find the willingness to speak up. In reality, most victims fall prey to the same abuse again and again, just as the predators cycle through victims repeatedly. I believe God is bringing this subject into the Light because He wants to bring change, and change is always messy and chaotic, at first.