How a Church Responds to Clergy Sexual Abuse; One Woman’s Story

My thanks to the Toronto Sun for this story. While I cannot know if this woman’s story is true, it certainly has the ring of truth. This is exactly the type of situation I have seen happen many times. I am reposting the article here because this church’s response is so profoundly typical.

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By Michele Mandel

She believed a church was a place of sanctuary, of caring and concern. Not a den where sexual and verbal abuse would go unchecked and unpunished.

“I dedicated my life to that church,” she says with disgust. “I was so naive.”

Now Diana Carrol is out of work and about to lose her house, while the multimillion-dollar-generating Kingdom Covenant International where she worked — and she says she suffered — steadfastly denies it failed to protect her.

Yet the supervisor now charged with sexually assaulting her continues to be employed at the Mississauga church as before.

“I am shattered,” says Carrol, 38, as crush ed as the ball of tissues crumpled in her hand. “If this didn’t happen in a church, I think maybe I’d be okay. You’re in a church for 14 years with people that you love and that you think will protect you …

“But what you see there is a facade,” she says fiercely. “The congregation has no idea what goes on on the other side of the doors.”

The irony is the church was founded by a woman — the beautiful and charismatic Pastor Pat Francis, whose Friday night prayer meetings in her home 13 years ago are now a church with 3,000 local members and a television show, Washed by the Word, broadcast around the world.

Carrol has launched a $6.8-million lawsuit against Kingdom Covenant International, church accountant Anthony Fernando — her alleged abuser — the human resources director and four pastors, including Francis, for negligence, intimidation, mental distress, personal harassment and constructive dismissal.

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

Speaking out for the first time, Carrol sits in the bright yellow living room of the home that now bears a For Sale sign on its lawn and a bank notice of foreclosure, wondering once again how it is that she is the one who is still paying when she did nothing wrong.

For 14 years, she religiously attended services at the evangelical church and was honoured when she was hired as its production supervisor in 2003.

Working tirelessly, she was showered with accolades from Francis, who addressed her as “Princess Diana” and always signed off with “I love you and I appreciate you.”

But not, it seems, when Carrol dared to threaten her church’s good name.

She claims the sexual abuse and harassment began soon after she was hired. Fernando, she says, repeatedly grabbed at her behind and stared at her cleavage. He presented her with an inappropriate gift of tight jeans and asked what she wore to bed.

Shocked and distraught, the devout Christian prayed he would stop. When he didn’t, she sought advice from a pastor without mentioning Fernando’s name — she didn’t want to make trouble for him or their church.

But the abuse continued, she says in her claim, with Fernando grabbing her from behind and pressing his body into hers.

She says that after 21 months of harassment, she finally had to report him. “He’s not supposed to be buying me clothes and feeling my ass and this is in a church!” Carrol says.

She expected that he would be fired or disciplined, that she would be offered counselling or at least, sympathy.

“Nothing happened at all,” Carrol recalls, her eyes filling with tears.

“They didn’t care — and this is a church.”

Through its lawyer, Kingdom Covenant International said it is “very concerned” about her claims.

“We find Ms. Carrol’s allegations troubling because they are such a departure from the life-changing and uplifting message that we share with more than 3,000 members of our fellowship every week.”

Saying her lawsuit is without merit and that they will be vigorously defending themselves, they declined to comment further while the matter is before the courts.

After reporting him, Carrol says the sexual abuse was replaced by years of “vicious” verbal harassment. She again complained to her bosses.

They assured her Fernando had been spoken to and a note made on his file.

It was also left clear they considered the matter closed. “I hope we don’t hear about this again, Diana,” one of the pastors allegedly told her.

In her claim, she says she was left feeling “unprotected and defenceless.”

Meanwhile, she says nothing changed. For Carrol, the end finally came last August after she claims she heard Fernando belittling her to another co-worker. Now suffering panic attacks and crying jags, she left on doctor-advised stress leave and has never returned.

In November, Peel Regional Police charged Fernando with sexual assault.

With tears streaming down her face, Carrol wrote the pastors a long letter before she left outlining her years of abuse. They ignored her for weeks, she says.

When she requested her record of employment, she says the church took 60 days to send it in instead of the required seven days.

In the meantime, with no salary and no unemployment insurance, she lived on food bank donations and fell badly behind on her mortgage. Now she’s losing her house.

“I’ve done nothing wrong,” she pleads, again and again. “This is not about money. This is not about revenge. This is not about getting back at the church.

“It’s about them making it right. A church is supposed to care about people.”

But they cared not at all.

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2 Responses

  1. I just had a look at the posting about myself. I am very moved by your printing my ongoing story. I am most confident in saying that the Toronto Sun did a wonderful accurate account of what happened to me. Michelle also did another story a few weeks ago.

    Abuse in the church is a disgrace it is a very deep problem that is getting out of control. I worked at Kingdom Covenant
    a church!! and I know it to be true myself first hand

    The man that abuse me thankfully has a court date coming up. I have had my bad days and my good. Sometimes it is not easy however I would do it again. Next month I have to think about where my rent is coming from because my IE has run out. However I would still say that I must be strong no matter what happens.

    You see I realized that to truly be a follower of Christ or God you must include yourself when it comes to respect and how you condone things in your life. It is very easy to forgive and forget because that is the easy way out (yes) but that is not what Jesus did. Jesus turned over tables in the temple, God destroyed a city (these things we forget about) because it in not comfortable for us. We would rater forgive and forget because it give us an excuse not to confront and correct.

    It pains me to know that only 18% of women report abuse. Only 2% of that 18% report abuse in churches and schools.

    I have confronted Pat Francis and Kingdom Covenant and I believe that I a quality that most followers of Christ need to have.

    Diana Carrol –

  2. Diana,

    You make an excellent point when you say that we must include ourselves when it comes to respect. In fact, the Word says we are to love others as we love ourselves. How can we love others when we do not love ourselves enough to take care of and protect ourselves? How can we stand up for anyone else when we won’t stand up for ourselves? How can we come to the aid and defense of anyone else when we will not come to the aid and defense of ourself?

    You are right – all too often, “forgiveness” is merely an excuse to take the easy way out of avoidance. I’ve been saying that a lot and invariably I get slammed for it. 😉 But it’s so true! It’s not righteousness when it is covering up and enabling sin to continue!

    I also know it isn’t easy when doing the right thing comes with a huge personal price tag. I’m living that myself. I’ve been living it for a couple years. It hasn’t gotten any easier yet. But God is faithful. Somehow, even though sometimes faithful is down and out, and out, and out. 😉 Somehow He still keeps body and soul together, clothes on my back (though I often wonder) and a roof over my head – though even that has been a very near thing on more than one occasion.

    I hope eventually those statistics improve. It’s hard to think that only 2% of that 18% report abuse in church. But, you know, I’m the oldest of 5 siblings. Of the five of us, 4 were sexually exploited by someone in the church in some way and the other one can’t remember his childhood. And not one of those situations was prosecuted or pursued in any way. Not all of those were adult perpetrators, one was an older teen on a young child, one was teen on teen (and the perpetrating teen’s father – in church and ministry leadership – was later arrested for pedophelia). But two were adults in power and one was a big-name national leader who has since died. So, it really does make sense, even looking at my own experience.

    You do have something not everyone has, but it is something we should all have – a willingness to stand up and stand out for righteousness, even if that comes at personal expense. We like to talk like we would make personal sacrifices for righteousness. But when the rubber meets the road in real life, most people aren’t willing to actually do it. Keep standing up!

    — Danni

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