Is Your Spouse or Pastor a Serial Bully?

This information blew my mind. It describes my ex-husband so precisely, it’s just spooky. I’ve known quite a few pastors who fit this description as well.

Please note, this is not a gender-specific problem. The gender of a serial bully can be female or male. This applies in marriage – the bully could be a wife rather than a husband. It also applies in church leadership. The female serial bully may be a Sunday School teacher, pastor in some churches, elder/deacon/board member, women’s leader, etc.

The serial bully:

  • is a *convincing,* *practised liar* and when called to account,
    will make up anything spontaneously to fit their needs at that moment
  • has a *Jekyll and Hyde nature* – is vile, vicious and vindictive
    in private, but innocent and charming in front of witnesses;
    no-one can (or wants to) believe this individual has a vindictive
    nature – only the current target of the serial bully’s aggression
    sees both sides; whilst the Jekyll side is described as “charming”
    and convincing enough to deceive personnel, management and a
    tribunal, the Hyde side is frequently described as “evil”; Hyde is
    the real person, Jekyll is an act
  • excels at *deception* and should never be underestimated in their
    capacity to deceive
  • uses excessive *charm* and is always plausible and convincing when
    peers, superiors or others are present (charm can be used to
    deceive as well as to cover for lack of empathy)
  • is *glib, shallow and superficial* with plenty of fine words and
    lots of form – but there’s no substance
  • is possessed of an *exceptional verbal facility* and will
    outmanoeuvre most people in verbal interaction, especially at
    times of conflict
  • is often described as *smooth*, *slippery, slimy, ingratiating,
    fawning, toadying, obsequious, sycophantic*
  • relies on *mimicry, repetition* and *regurgitation* to convince
    others that he or she is both a “normal” human being and a tough
    dynamic manager, as in extolling the virtues of the latest
    management fads and pouring forth the accompanying jargon
  • is unusually skilled in *being able to anticipate what people want
    to hear* and then saying it plausibly
  • *cannot be trusted or relied upon*
  • *fails to fulfil commitments*
  • is *emotionally retarded* with an *arrested level of emotional
    development*; whilst language and intellect may appear to be that
    of an adult, the bully displays the emotional age of a five-year-old
  • is *emotionally immature* and *emotionally untrustworthy*
  • exhibits *unusual and inappropriate attitudes to sexual matters,
    sexual behaviour and bodily functions*; underneath the charming
    exterior there are often suspicions or hints of sex discrimination
    and sexual harassment, perhaps also sexual dysfunction, sexual
    inadequacy, sexual perversion, sexual violence or sexual abuse
  • in a relationship, is *incapable of initiating or sustaining
    intimacy*
  • *holds deep prejudices* (eg against the opposite gender, people of
    a different sexual orientation, other cultures and religious
    beliefs, foreigners, etc – prejudiced people are unvaryingly
    unimaginative) but goes to great lengths to keep this prejudicial
    aspect of their personality secret
  • is *self-opinionated* and displays *arrogance*, *audacity, a
    superior sense of entitlement* and sense of *invulnerability* and
    *untouchability*
  • has a deep-seated *contempt of clients* in contrast to his or her
    professed compassion
  • is a *control freak* and has a *compulsive need to control*
    everyone and everything you say, do, think and believe; for
    example, will launch an immediate personal attack attempting to
    restrict what you are permitted to say if you start talking
    knowledgeably about psychopathic personality or antisocial
    personality disorder
    in their presence –
    but aggressively maintains the right to talk (usually
    unknowledgeably) about anything they choose
    ; serial bullies
    despise anyone who enables others to see through their deception
    and their mask of sanity
  • displays a *compulsive need to criticise* whilst simultaneously
    *refusing to value*, praise and acknowledge others, their
    achievements, or their existence
  • *shows a lack of joined-up thinking* with conversation that
    doesn’t flow and arguments that don’t hold water
  • *flits from topic to topic* so that you come away feeling you’ve
    never had a proper conversation
  • *refuses to be specific* and *never gives a straight answer*
  • is *evasive* and has a Houdini-like ability to *escape
    accountability*
  • *undermines* and *destroys* anyone who the bully perceives to be
    an adversary, a potential threat, or who can see through the
    bully’s mask
  • is *adept at creating conflict *between those who would otherwise
    collate incriminating information about them
  • is *quick to discredit and neutralise* anyone who can talk
    knowledgeably about antisocial or sociopathic behaviors
  • may pursue a *vindictive vendetta* against anyone who dares to
    held them accountable, perhaps using others’ resources and
    contemptuous of the damage caused to other people and
    organisations in pursuance of the vendetta
  • is also *quick to belittle, undermine, denigrate and discredit*
    anyone who calls, attempts to call, or might call the bully to
    account
  • *gains gratification from denying people what they are entitled to*
  • is *highly manipulative*, especially of people’s perceptions and
    emotions (eg guilt)
  • *poisons peoples’ minds* by manipulating their perceptions
  • when called upon to share or address the needs and concerns of
    others, responds with *impatience, irritability and aggression*
  • *is arrogant, haughty, high-handed*, and *a know-all*
  • often has an overwhelming, unhealthy and narcissistic
    *attention-seeking
    need to portray themselves as a wonderful, kind, caring and
    compassionate person
    *, in contrast to their behaviour and
    treatment of others; the bully sees nothing wrong with their
    behavior and chooses to remain oblivious to the discrepancy
    between how they like to be seen and how they are seen by others
  • is *spiritually dead* although may loudly profess some religious
    belief or affiliation
  • is *mean-spirited*, *officious*, and often *unbelievably petty*
  • is *mean, stingy*, and *financially untrustworthy*
  • is *greedy, selfish, *a *parasite *and an *emotional vampire*
  • is *always a taker *and *never a giver* [Note from Danni: On this one I would say, never a giver unless there is a hidden motive of manipulation to gain.]
  • is convinced of their *superiority* and has an *overbearing belief
    in their qualities of leadership* but cannot distinguish between
    leadership (maturity, decisiveness, assertiveness, co-operation,
    trust, integrity) and bullying (immaturity, impulsiveness,
    aggression, manipulation, distrust, deceitfulness)
  • often *fraudulently claims* qualifications, experience, titles,
    entitlements or affiliations which are ambiguous, misleading, or
    bogus
  • often *misses the semantic meaning of language*, misinterprets
    what is said, sometimes wrongly thinking that comments of a
    satirical, ironic or general negative nature apply to him or herself
  • *knows the words but not the song*
  • is *constantly imposing on others a false reality* made up of
    distortion and fabrication
  • sometimes *displays a seemingly limitless demonic energy*
    especially when engaged in attention-seeking activities or evasion
    of accountability and is often a *committeeaholic* or apparent
    *workaholic*
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Pastor Jose Campoverde Charged with Child Sex Abuse

Pastor Jose Campoverde has been arrested on suspicion of molesting four girls in his church in Anaheim, CA. According to the linked article, Campoverde is being held in lieu of $500,000 bail on suspicion of lewd conduct with a minor, sexual battery, child annoyance and false imprisonment.

It is my hope that if anyone affected by this case should find this blog, you can find some help and additional insight about dealing with the issue of alleged sexual abuse in the church in the articles in the right sidebar of this site and under the Church Abuse tab.

Church Volunteer Angelo Serrano Charged with Child Sex Abuse

Church volunteer Angelo Serrano was arrested for suspected sexual abuse against a 10-year-old boy. He has been charged with one count of first degree sexual abuse.

It is my hope that if anyone affected by this case should find this blog, you can find some help and additional insight about dealing with the issue of alleged sexual abuse in the church in the articles in the right sidebar of this site and under the Church Abuse tab.

Church Youth Director Bradley Boda Charged with Sex Abuse

Church youth director and volunteer Bradley Boda has been charged on suspicion of two counts of sexual assault on a child, two counts of unlawful sexual contact, two counts of sexual exploitation of children, one count of attempted sexual exploitation of a child, three counts of enticement of a child, and two counts of indecent exposure. According to the linked article, police believe Boda used his positions as church youth director and volunteer at Christ Our Savior Lutheran Church in Longmont, CO to sexually assault boys as young as 11.

It is my hope that if anyone affected by this case should find this blog, you can find some help and additional insight about dealing with allegations of clergy sex abuse in the articles in the right sidebar of this site and under the Church Abuse tab.

Pastor Craig Johnson Indicted for Failure to Report Child Sex Abuse

In an interesting side note to a child sex abuse case, pastor Craig Johnson from Taylor County, WV, has been indicted on charges of failure to report child sex abuse. Charges state that the alleged abuser told the pastor about his actions and the pastor did not report him to the authorities.

While there is no way to say whether charges in this case are accurate – they are merely allegations at this point – this case highlights a serious issue in the church. All church leaders are mandated reporters. There is no guarantee of privacy for someone who confesses abuse of a minor to a clergy member, contrary to common misconception. Nor is a pastor excepted from this obligation if he hears of alleged abuse from someone besides the perpetrator but truly believes the person to be innocent. ALL allegations of physical and sexual abuse of a minor are required by law to be reported to authorities — without exception. Allegations of abuse by neglect get a little more fuzzy, but it would be better for a pastor to err on the side of caution in favor of the child’s welfare.

The Word says the government authorities are ordained by God for the preservation of good and protection against evil. Even if we have differences of philosophy on many levels, we need to remember that God inspired these words in the Bible during a time when the government specifically referenced was at least as corrupt as ours today. We must not live in fear that the government will “destroy families” if we report alleged evil. God has ordained government for our good and we are commanded to submit to every ordinance of man.

What we are seeing happen in reality is that children in the church are among the least protected in our society because abusers have a safe haven under the church’s misunderstanding that “preservation of the family” is paramount over the safety of the individuals in it. The Bible is full of admonitions to stand against oppression and affliction. That is the primary expression of true religion.

But today’s church seems to live in fear of all governmental authority and the result is willful disobedience to God. The truth is that there are an abundance of believers who work in the social system, even at the highest levels. And there are an abundance of believers who are foster parents for children who are removed from homes during investigation. God can be trusted with our children’s safety when we obey Him. But we cannot be trusted with their safety when we disobey Him by failing to report abuse allegations.

Youth Minister Joshua O’Bannion Arrested for Child Sex Abuse

Youth pastor Joshua O’Bannion of Gilbert, AZ, was arrested September 9 for alleged sexual contact with a 14-year old in the youth group at Christ Life Church. According to the linked article, Bannion subsequently admitted to three incidents of sexual contact with the girl.

It is my hope that if anyone affected by this case should find this blog, you can find some help and additional insight about dealing with the issue of clergy sex abuse in the articles in the right sidebar of this site and under the Church Abuse tab.

Church Culture That Fosters Clergy Sex Abuse

There are some interesting findings in Baylor’s study on the prevalence of clergy sex abuse, that can give insight into both the reasons for this abuse and how we can prevent it.

Our general ignorance of the existence of the problem is significant. While all of us have seen cases here and there of clergy sex abuse, we tend to think of it as first, a Catholic Church problem, and second, as something rare and unusual. The findings by Baylor’s study show that “In any given congregation with 400 adult members, seven women on average have been victims of clergy sexual misconduct since they turned 18…” If you think about that, in reference to your own church, that is not a rare or unusual event. (On a side note entirely, if we would take the same type of statistical information about child abuse and domestic abuse and apply it to our churches we should get another wake-up call. Abuse in the church is a wide-spread, common problem, not a rarity.)

In Baylor’s study, they found some interesting correlations about the particular culture of modern churches which make church members vulnerable to abuse by church leadership.

Lead researcher Diana Garland said, “Research showed 92 percent of those sexual advances were made in secret, and 67 percent of the offenders were married to someone else.”

“This is not simply an affair. It is an abuse of power,” Garland said.

According to the linked article, some of the ways church members are made susceptible to abuse include:

  • Warning signs ignored. In some instances, congregations “see it happening and don’t know how to name it,” she said. Religious leaders may be observed acting inappropriately in public as well as private settings, but the congregations lack the ability to categorize and process what they witness.
  • A culture of “niceness.” Particularly in the context of religious communities, people are expected to be nice to each other—be careful not to hurt anyone’s feelings, give others the benefit of the doubt, overlook incidents that might cause embarrassment and generally avoid confrontation. That culture can cause victims, family members and friends to remain silent about the abuse of authority by spiritual leaders.
  • Ease of private communication. In the past, family members knew when letters arrived in the mail addressed to other family members, and phone messages often were posted in public places. With e-mail and cell phones, religious authorities can conduct intimate conversations with members of their congregations without anyone knowing about it.
  • Lack of oversight. Religious leaders seldom have to report to anyone for their time, and they are able to move freely within a community without being suspected of any inappropriate activity.
  • Multiple roles. In addition to their appropriate role in providing comfort and spiritual direction in times of crisis, some religious leaders enter into longtime counseling relationships with individuals that can create vulnerability and dependency.
  • Trust in the sanctuary. “We call it a sanctuary because it’s supposed to be a safe place. We trust leaders to tell us the truth,” Garland noted. But some clergy abuse that trust, using their “positional power” as religious authorities to prey upon members of their congregations.

These are all issues the church and church members need to take note of and make adjustments in church policies accordingly. We have a moral and Scriptural obligation to take back the “sanctuary” of church and make it safe for all members to be free to worship God there.