The Church Holocaust Through One Person’s Eyes

By Danni Moss
Copyright protected, all rights reserved

Do you think I exaggerate about the seriousness of abuse in the church? Is it of holocaust proportions?

Read the first-hand story of a 16-year old girl who loved God and wanted nothing more than to please and serve Him. She was innocent, clean, and pure – until her youth pastor noticed her…

Warning: this post is triggering! If you have experienced abuse, you will need to be prepared for triggers.

(Christa begins this part of her story from her adult perspective as her childhood memories plague her, the way it does for many abuse victims…)

~~~~

…I went for a run, hoping it would get the pain…out of my system… Then from out of nowhere, I felt his breath on the back of my neck and heard his voice in my ear. “Don’t worry, you’ll still be a virgin.”

I hurled into the tall grass and wiped the last trail of vomit on my shirt. I stayed bent over, hands on my knees, trying desperately to breathe. My chest was clenched shut. I began to shake.

Memory fragments filled my head. They were all fragments that I had glimpsed before…this time, I decided to try to line them up – “one, two, three” – the way the music minister had done…

One: I’m at the church parsonage in the same bedroom where my two sisters and I slept when my mom stayed at the hospital after my dad’s back surgery.

Two: I go in the kitchen with Dunagan, and he takes a couple beers from the refrigerator. “But it’s against our religion,” I say. He just laughs. He says that’s another one of those rules for lesser, weaker believers, and not for people like us.

Three: He puts the can in my hand and insists I drink. I don’t want to, but he keeps pushing the can up to my mouth. Finally, I take a sip. It tastes awful. He keeps drinking from his can, and then starts on another…

Five: I’m naked on my stomach on the bed. He is on top of me. I am saying “no” and squirming. I hear my own crying. His voice is in my left ear, shushing me. “Don’t worry. You’ll still be a virgin.”

Six: I hear his laugh…

At this point, I smell his breath, as real as if he is with me on the running trail. I stop and vomit into the bushes again…

I keep hearing him. It’s an endless loop in my head. His voice is there with me on the trail. His laugh goes on and on…

Nine: As we’re going into the garage, his voice softens and he tells me how special I am. “God loves you, Christa.”

Ten: It hurts to walk.

Now I’m doubled over on the trail yet again…

(From earlier in the book)

“We’re already married in God’s eyes,” he proclaimed. “It’s pre-ordained.”

“But you’re already married to Patsy.”

“Christa, God has predetermined that we are to be together. It’s already written in His plan, and He will make a way for it to happen. Your task is to live by faith and to stop fighting it. His ways aren’t our ways, and it’s not for us to try to understand.”

He told me about how men in the Bible often had more than one wife and even had concubines. I knew this was true, but I still didn’t understand.

“I’ve prayed long and hard about this, Christa. God wants you to be a helpmeet for me. He wouldn’t make me feel this way if He didn’t intend for you to be with me.”

Then he said the three words I could never argue against.

“It’s God’s will…”

“We know that all thing work together for good to them that love God and who are called according to His purpose…”

“Christa, you should know this by now. You’re called of God, and this is your predetermined purpose. You need to start trusting that God will take care of it and will make all things work together. You have to live by faith. You have to trust that it’s all part of His plan…”

God was testing me, he said, and God wanted to see whether I would continue to insist on my own way, or whether I would be willing to trust in Him and “live by faith…”

I tried to be a good helpmate, but somehow, I was never good enough…

(Later…)

After the beer-drinking episode, Eddie went back to telling me about how I was harboring Satan… He said I had seduced him and that I was a terrible temptress.

One day he called me into his office and made me kneel. I cried and cried there on my knees while he stood over me. He prayed long and loud, beseeching God to cast Satan from me and to cleanse my soul.

I went home and did my own praying… I prayed without ceasing. I begged God to keep me safe from Satan. I begged for forgiveness.

I didn’t know how I had let Satan inside me. I didn’t mean to.

When did it happen? How did it happen? I didn’t understand.

I prayed and prayed and prayed, but it didn’t do any good. I was utterly and completely alone and empty. No longer was there any Spirit beside me or within me.

Before all this, God had been my constant companion, a presence as real as any physical being. But now, God had turned away from me.

Everything went dark inside me. The darkness was like another living creature. It breathed with me and through me. It was always there – every hour, every minute, and every second. I didn’t have a clue how to make the darkness leave me…

I was terrified…

(Later…)

“God loves you.” Lots of people seem to want to tell me that, and I hate it when they do. It’s a visceral response. Those words ring in my ears like a vile curse. I’d rather hear someone say “Go to hell” than “God loves you.”

Perhaps God does indeed love me, but I will never sense it in the sound of those words. For me, those words feel like words of hate.

People seem to also want to tell me that God will heal me if only I will put my faith in Him. I try to be polite… but to me, those are also hurtful words. Faith is what got me into this. Faith is where the path turned terribly wrong.

For most people of faith, their faith is a source of solace… But for me, faith is neurologically networked with a nightmare. Sexual trauma and faith are inextricably seared together in my brain.

This is what it means to be subjected to the force of faith unleashed by a clergy predator. It is not only physically, psychologically, and emotionally devastating, but it is also spiritual annihilating. It is soul-murder. It is why many experts talk about the unique nature of clergy abuse trauma and the devastation of its impact.

When faith has been used as a weapon, it becomes almost impossible to use it as a resource for healing…

~~~~

These excerpts are from This Little Light, by Christa Brown and powerfully reveals just how insidious and devastating this problem is in the church. I’ll be excerpting and commenting on more from her book in subsequent posts.

The Link Between Illness and Abuse

This post was written by a friend of mine and she communicates it so well, I am copying the post in its entirety.

This is such a huge issue, which is still almost completely unnoticed in the church’s ignorance of abuse. And it is affecting many, many people sitting in our pews.

~~~
ILLNESS AND ABUSE: My Doctors Said…

By Sharon Merhalski

I am a survivor of childhood abuse: every kind of abuse from my mother (22% of pedophiles are women) and sexual abuse from my brother. As an abused child I experienced a childhood of illnesses. I now understand illness is an expected scenario given the constant internal and external stress an abused child (and children raised in domestic violence) carries. And I now understand until abuse issues are dealt with and healed, that internal stress cannot be alleviated, resulting in continued illness in the adult years.

I believe the Bible gives plain affirmation on this subject (words inside parenthesis are definitions for the previous word from the Strong’s Concordance).

Hope deferred maketh the heart sick: but when the desire (longing) cometh, it is a tree of life. Proverbs 13:12

A victim living in an abusive situation constantly hopes the abuse will end. When they are separated from the abuse by age or living situation there is usually an internal longing (especially with child abuse)–hope for a healthy relationship with the abusive parent. When hope longed for doesn’t happen the Bible says it makes their heart (feelings, the will and even the intellect) sick (be weak, sick, afflicted, cause to grieve, diseased, put in pain, be wounded) If our feelings, will and intellect are sick we are under extreme stress and on our way to physical illness.

In spring of 1984 I was 35 years old. I had severe allergies requiring weekly allergy injections and a lot of allergy medication. I was always fatigued, in bed a lot of the time, fought sinus and bronchial infections and yeast infections constantly and was an overall miserable mess.

In September of 1984 I came to a crossroad in my spiritual and emotional life that ended in my allowing God to take my very damaged heart and emotions and heal them with His Word. About six months into this lengthy process my allergies were so minimal that I no longer required allergy shots and I seldom took allergy medications. By mid-1985 the sinus infections and yeast infections were few and far between. The bronchial infections maybe happened once a year.

At this time I began to see a licensed physician who is a dear Christian man. He was the first doctor I asked about the ‘coincidence’ of my emotional healing and healing from allergies and infections. I remember clearly his saying to me it was no ‘coincidence’ and then teaching me about inner stress. He assured me what I experienced was a normal reaction to my internal healing. Since then I have asked two other physicians the same question and received the same answers.

In the last twenty-plus years I have been entrusted by God to both counsel and work with many women who are survivors of abuse…child abuse and/or domestic violence. The pattern I have observed is almost all of the women with unresolved/unhealed issues have been physically ill in some way…from allergies to cancer. And, those women whom I have observed through their personal spiritual and emotional healing process have experienced a lessening, if not total healing of their physical illnesses, i.e. arthritis, allergies, repeated infections, stomach and/or bowel problems, Candida/yeast infections, etc. I have always been very thankful I can share with each woman why their health was improving…using the words of my physicians—my Heavenly physician/Jehovah-Rapha and my earthly physicans–spoken to me. (The Bible has much to say on this subject.)

A few years ago I began to find research on this perceived ‘phenomenon’ of relieved stress and healing. Recently there has been much research done on this subject. I now understand fully the reasons for an increase in health when there is a decrease in stress…internal stress and external stress.

If you are a survivor or victim of abuse, or know a survivor or victim of abuse, I hope you will assimilate this information for yourself and/or pass it along to others.

Links to articles:

Physical Abuse Raises Women’s Health Costs Over 40 Percent The implication of this is that there are all these women suffering long-term health problems as a result of abuse.

possible link between sex abuse and Interstitial Cystitis

Child abuse ‘impacts stress gene’

Facial Fractures Speak Volumes

Childhood Abuse Raises Psychosis Risk in Women

Teenage Stress Has Implications on Adult Health

In this search page there are a couple posts about studies on domestic violence and ill health.

When the Church Usurps Authority

Another situation where the church usurped the authority of the government has been before the court. Unfortunately, the church itself wasn’t confronted directly — I believe that day in our country is probably not far away. But Kenneth Duncalfe pleaded guilty to sexual assault and indecent assault against his daughter, Susan Duncalfe. He was sentenced to 9 months in jail, partly in consideration of his age and poor health.

But the church’s complicity in this case is glaring, and was remarked upon by the judge in the case, John Lenaghan. The problem is that the church was told in 1990 about Duncalfe’s constant assaults on his daughter. From the time she was 14 years old, until she left the church at age 22, she experienced hundreds of sexual assaults at the hands of her father.

There are two huge issues which should give the church pause in this situation.

First of all, Susan realized that the only way she could get away from the abuse she was experiencing was to leave the church. That means, whether anyone wishes to acknowledge it or not, the church was a defacto abuser in this case. The church empowered and enabled her father because it teaches the absolute authority of men. Susan realized that if she left the church she would become “untouchable” and the abuse would stop. The church was not a place of safety, salvation or comfort for her. Instead, it was a place of danger and destruction, literally tearing her soul apart and driving her away from what should have been a refuge.

Secondly, when a family member reported Kenneth’s sexual assaults of his daughter to the church, her father was brought before the church and excommunicated for “lasciviousness.” Nothing whatsoever was done to help the family or Susan. And after a brief separation, Kenneth was restored to fellowship with the church. Now, what was that supposed to have accomplished? NOTHING was done about the problem!

When Susan finally attempted to work toward healing in the family, Pastor Bev Toews of the Abbotsford Mennonite Church of God in Christ stepped in. He insisted that Susan not press charges against her father (something church leaders often suggest since “Christians are not to take each other to court”) and he assured her he would make sure her father got the help he needed.

However, Susan later discovered the Pastor’s interpretation of getting her father the “help he needed” was to counsel him personally, rather than insisting on responsibility and serious counseling by a qualified professional.

So Susan took the matter to the police, though, according to the attached article, she says it was the hardest thing she has ever done.

The church does not have the authority to violate the law of God – which states we are to submit to governmental authorities. The Word says government officials have been given for our protection and for punishment of evil. The church does not have the authority to supercede that. There is no Scriptural justification for such an idea. The fruit of these actions will always lead to the triumph of evil and destruction in the lives of the sheep the church is called to protect.

Minister David A. Merritt Charged with Child Rape

Ordained minister (not practicing) David A. Merritt has been charged with eight counts of first-degree rape, two counts of unlawful sexual contact and one count of continuous sexual abuse of a child. The child involved was 12 when the abuse allegedly began in 2006.

Though Merritt was employed by a church at the time of arrest, he was a web designer and had no contact with church members, according to a church representative.

Trial Date Set for Youth Pastor William David Webb

The judge has set a trial date for youth pastor William David Webb. Trial is set to begin April 16. Webb has been charged with Rape 1st Degree, Rape 2nd Degree, and Sexual Abuse.

Why Do Children NOT Tell about Sex Abuse?

By Danni Moss
Copyright protected, all rights reserved

One huge misnomer in the issue of child abuse, particularly child sex abuse, is the unspoken idea that since children don’t tell, somehow they have either forgotten or the experience was less traumatic than the same event might have been for an adult. We love to talk about the resilience of children, and sweep a host of evils under a cute little blankie of minimization.

This misunderstanding is profoundly wrong, with devastating consequences. We fail to respect the fact that children’s souls and spirits are complete from the beginning, though those youthful minds, wills and emotions are under development. The fact that they are under development does not negate the fact they are fully active and will remain intact throughout life. That 3-year-old, 6-year-old or 8-year-old is the same person they will be as an adult, merely less developmentally mature. We confuse the fact that person is physically small and unable to function at an adult level, with their value as a person and their ability to be fully affected by experiences they do not understand.

There are three basic reasons children do not tell about the abuse they experience.

1. Child brains are not yet able to quantify or process what they have experienced.

Two things may happen when a child experiences abuse. First, brains have a limit of how much information, especially traumatic information, they can process. Dissociation, where the brain just says, “nope, can’t take any more,” is not even uncommon for adults under extreme duress.

There has been a lot of controversy over “repressed memories” because of the unconscionable actions of some practitioners. It is certainly possible for a practitioner to implant false memories in a client they are treating. However, the fact that some people have implanted false memories does not negate the reality of repressed memories for those who experience them.

Generally, the more horrific the abuse, the more deeply repressed the memories may be. Sometimes, when there is general and serious abuse, a child’s mind will repress only particular memories. For instance, a child may remember gross physical abuse and repress memories of sex abuse by the same or another offender because their brain just cannot bear that additional offense.

Memories may also be suppressed rather than repressed. I do not know if this is a clinical distinction; it is just one I have observed. Sometimes these memories are completely repressed from the conscious memory. Other times they are there in part, in shadows, in dreams, in day-mares (often associated with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) that we attempt to deny, but are aware of. This was my experience. I always knew the memories were there, I just didn’t understand them and stuffed them back down out of sight every time they popped back to the surface because they were overwhelming.

The other thing that can happen because young brains do not know how to quantify or process what they have experienced, is that they do not have the verbal skills to express what has happened to them. We wonder why children don’t tell, but how can they put into words experiences that are completely out of their realm?

This comment was made by Katherine on another thread:

…A while back, I was talking about the childhood abuse with a friend. She asked what would have happened if I had told my parents what my cousin and my babysitter were doing. I thought about it and released that as bad as thinks were, if my parents had know what was going on, it would have been worse.

About a year ago, I laid out in plain language for my mother to read, the events as they happened. I asked her what she would have done if she had know. She had to think about it, then said she would have sat us down and told what w should and should not be doing. I think it would have been much worse than that….

Why don’t we tell? Hmm… the funny thing is, children do tell, in so many ways — addictions, changes in personality. I actually drew a picture when I was 3. And my mother sent it to her little (teenaged) sister. Neither of them got it. I didn’t have words, just pictures…. We do tell. People just don’t know how to hear.

This is extremely common. In my own case, I didn’t know how to say anything to my parents. What I came up with was to ask if my molester “was a good girl.” How is a parent going to realize that means something nefarious? When my parents said she was a good girl, I determined what she had done must not have been bad, even though I didn’t like it and didn’t understand it and fought her over it, and that was when I closed the door on the memories.

But as this commenter noted, people just don’t know how to listen. The adults responsible for children have to learn to “listen” with more than just their ears, while not either secondarily- or primarily-assaulting their children in their probes for information. Children who are being abused cry out – they just don’t know how to do it so they will be understood.

The signs are fairly obvious when you’re clued in to them. I wonder about various children a lot. There can be other reasons for those things, too — not everything means sexual abuse! — but here’s the thing – there are always reasons. They are not just “that’s the way that child is.”

When a child has a very low self-esteem, overweight (in a family where that isn’t a genetic trait or family-wide habit), hides behind their hair, wets the bed, escapes in fantasy or other escape mechanism to an unusual degree, rarely smiles or laughs, is very still and/or withdrawn, or conversely is very aggressive — these are all signs! Something is not right. There are other signs, too – and it’s hard to make a list because children can even have their own unique manifestations.

But bottomline – children are naturally trusting, open, rarely given to weight extremes (unless that is a genetic family trait), etc. When there is an obvious and persistent variation from this norm, something is wrong. Even children who are by nature more quiet and withdrawn, are that way in a positive and healthy way, not in a “something’s not right” way. The “something” may not be sexual abuse, but this pattern of behavior is a sign for parents and caregivers to pay attention and find out what is going on in the life of that child.

Children may also be attempting to cry out safely if they know they are in danger. This can further obscure the message. If they have been threatened by their abuser or they know their circumstances at home are not secure, children are even less able to clearly communicate they have a problem. In their child way, they have to try to figure out how to reach out without putting themselves or others in more danger. How much “odd” or unpleasant child behavior could be a cry for help?

2. Children have been trained in impotence.

We tend to train children that they are powerless. This is something we do with children as a general course, but it is particularly true of children who are experiencing abuse.

In the “normal” way of things, we treat children with disrespect. This is common in our culture and within Christianity. We express this in the way we minimize their thoughts, emotions and experiences. These are real people who have simply not yet reached adulthood. They are not “less” by nature of their age and size.

There is an additional factor which enters the picture with abuse. Abusers choose their targets because they are available. That availability is not just geographic. Abusers also know how to sense a child who is vulnerable to abuse.

Unfortunately, in families where abuse is in the family tree – where parents have experienced abuse, too, or were raised by parents who experienced abuse, there is a whole subset of patterns of behavior that are built in, which leave children vulnerable to abuse.

One of those patterns is a pattern of powerlessness. The idea of standing up for ourselves is utterly foreign. Literally, if an abuser were to ask for permission to assault one of us, we wouldn’t know how to say no! Parents do not stand up for their children or for themselves, and they will actively teach a passive, fatalistic, perspective of life.

Another way this is taught to children is by the way we parent, even from birth. This pattern of parenting is actively taught in several popular Christian parenting programs. There is a belief that parents must establish dominance over their children from birth, under the guise of “breaking the will” of the sinful child.

However, what this does is teach a child from birth that their parent is inaccessible and will not come when the call. Parents are not available except on their schedule and children’s “needs” are never really important. We also end up punishing children for behavior that is age-appropriate and simply needs training, or when they are attempting to express a need – and don’t know how to do it “right.” Both of these teach a child she is powerless and/or will be punished for speaking out.

So, when a child is 3 or 6 or 8, and she is being abused by a family friend, she just knows “instinctively” that nothing will happen if she tries to tell her parents. Her parents have been unavailable to her cries when she felt she had a need they couldn’t see – that is simple reality.

And when her abuser says she must not tell, or all these threatened results will happen, she knows the abuser is more powerful than she is – because he is. She has no power at all and, obviously, the abuser has all the power because he has been able to force this behavior on her against her will already. This is simple, unassailable child logic.

3. Children need to be loved and will not tell if they believe the price will be loss of love.

Katherine pointed this reason out when we talked about this issue further. She said,

There is another reason…that children don’t tell. They know, instinctively, that what has happened is bad. And, especially if the parents aren’t that loving to begin with, the child may fear that if known, this would make them unlovable. This was what I thought. Based on the way my parents already treated me, I could not imagine that they would still love me if they knew how damaged I was. And I had no idea what the consequences of that would be, but I knew they wouldn’t be good…

This is so true! If telling about their abuse is going to jeopardize the love they do have, such as it is, children will not tell. This is actually a powerful motivator, even for adults. I see this motivation in action when people do not want to divorce an abuser, even after years of severe and persistently unrepentant abuse — and the real reason is because they know they will lose the one loving haven they still have — the church. They will literally rather choose to continue to live in torment, even if it costs their lives or the lives of their children, to preserve the illusion of one place of acceptance. Children can hardly be condemned for having the same motivations as adults!

The even more unfortunate results of these realities is that a child is set up by them for further abuse. A child who has been abused becomes a walking target for further abuse. Every instance of abuse builds the child’s vulnerability to abuse because of these facts. And abused children, frequently become abused teens, and then abused adults – because these patterns are in place, setting them up as targets for abusers.

It is critical that we stop minimizing the profound impact of abuse on children. This article doesn’t even touch on the extreme consequences of abuse in the lives of children. But, it is up to the adults to become aware of the realities surrounding abuse – why children do not tell, how we set them up not to be heard, and how we can learn to “listen” to their cries.

If We Ever Tried to Tell

Copied with permission from From the Child’s Blog

If We Ever Tried to Tell

He said we’d go to hell
If we ever tried to tell;
that we were the ones to blame
Since we played his little “game.”

But when she told it all
(Assuming HE would fall)
None of us girls knew
What they were going to put her through.

They said she was a whore–
That “she got what she asked for.”
We listened to her plight
Then shook with rage and fright.

We’d done the best we could
but it hadn’t done any good.
They let this snake go free
And judged girls like her and me!

We watched them tell her
That God would forgive her
If she confessed how bad she’d been.

We watched them tell her
To keep her mouth shut
And not speak against this “good” man.

We watched him laugh
And snicker with glee
Then go out and do it again!!!

We were punished–
We live with the shame.
While he got away with it all.

Some got diseases,
Some just got crazy.
Some died with no help to call.

Still there are those
Who have a desire
To believe this is not how things were.

They want to pretend
It all would have been fine
“If it wasn’t for people like her.”

I learned from observing
How all this went down
That there is no help in the church.

The truth brought you bondage–
It didn’t “set you free”.
In fact, it made everything worse!

So don’t trust the Pharisees–
They cover their ears
And don’t ever believe what you say.

If you look to them
You’ll be dying alone.
That’s just the reasonable way.