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.


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.

Will Pastor Chester Mulligan Make it To Trial This Time?

Will he finally make it to trial this time, or will his attorney stall yet again?

When Pastor Chester Mulligan appeared in court for his arraignment in Lake County, Indiana, in January, 2004, Mulligan pled innocent to the charges against him and predicted the case would never go to court. Who knew “never” meant through the manipulation of legal maneuvering rather than because charges were dropped due to lack of evidence. Avoidance is not equivalent to innocence.

Mulligan, currently pastoring Grace Baptist Church in Miami, FL, has been charged with multiple counts of child sexual abuse. He is accused of two instances of sexual intercourse with a minor child. He has a court date scheduled for September and many are praying that this time he will appear.

If you have information relating to this case or Chester Mulligan, please call the Lake County Indiana Sheriff’s Department at (219) 755-3400, or the Miami Police Department Sexual Crimes Department at (305) 715-3300.

Eight Common Myths About Child Sexual Abuse

This article is courtesy of The Leadership Counsel on Child Abuse and Interpersonal Violence.


Few people are aware of the true state of the science on child abuse. Instead, most people’s beliefs have been shaped by common misconceptions and popular myths about this hidden crime. Societal acceptance of these myths assists sex offenders by silencing victims and encouraging public denial about the true nature of sexual assaults against children. The Leadership Council prepared this analysis because we believe that society as a whole benefits when the public has access to accurate information regarding child abuse and other forms of interpersonal violence.

Myth 1:  Normal-appearing, well educated, middle-class people don’t molest children.

One of the public’s most dangerous assumptions is the belief that a person who both appears and acts normal could not be a child molester. Sex offenders are well aware of our propensity for making assumptions about private behavior from one’s public presentation. In fact, as recent reports of abuse by priests have shown, child molesters rely on our misassumptions to deliberately and carefully set and gain access to child victims.

According to Dr. Anna Salter, Ph.D., a foremost expert in sex offenders, “a double life is prevalent among all types of sex offenders . . . . The front that offenders typically offer to the outside world is usually a ‘good person,’ someone who the community believes has a good character and would never do such a thing” (Salter, 2003, p. 34).

In her years of work with sex offenders, Dr. Salter has found they commonly employ a variety of tactics which allow them to gain access to children while concealing their activities. For instance, many seek responsible positions that place them in close proximity with children. They also tend to adopt a pattern of socially responsible and caring behavior in public. Many have practiced and perfected their ability to charm, to be likeable and to radiate a facade of sincerity and truthfulness. This causes parents and others to drop their guard, allowing the sex offender easy and recurring access to children.

In fact, Dr. Salter has found that the life a child molester leads in public may be exemplary, almost surreal in its righteousness. In her book, Dr. Salter presents the following description written by a child molester who had used his position as a church choir director to gain access to boys.

I want to describe a child molester I know very well.  This man was raised by devout Christian parents.  As a child he rarely missed church.   Even after he became an adult he was faithful as a church member.  He was a straight A student in high school and college.  He has been married and has a child of his own.  He coached Little League baseball.  He was a Choir Director at his church.   He never used any illegal drugs.  He never had a drink of alcohol.   He was considered a clean-cut, All-American boy.  Everyone seemed to like him.  He was a volunteer in numerous civic community functions.  He had a well-paying career job.  He was considered “well-to-do” in society.   But from the age of 13-years-old he sexually molested little boys.   He never victimized a stranger.  All of his victims were friends.  . . I know this child molester very well because he is me!!!!

Soon after writing this, the author of this confession was released on parole.  Upon release, he quickly infiltrated a church where he molested children until he was again caught and returned to prison” (Salter, 2003, pp. 36-37).

  • Salter, A. C. (2003). Predators: Pedophiles, rapists and other sex offenders: Who they are, how they operate, and how we can protect ourselves and our children . New York: Basic Books.

Myth 2:  People are too quick to believe an abuser is guilty, even if there is no supporting evidence.

In truth, people are too quick to believe that the accused is innocent, even if there is plenty of supporting evidence. According to Dr. Salter, ” Normal , healthy people distort reality to create a kinder, gentler world than actually exists” (p. 177). She notes that in order to find meaning and justice in everyday life, most people assign victims too much blame for their assaults and offenders too little. In truth, it is hard for most people to imagine how any person could sexually abuse a child. Because they can’t imagine a “normal” person doing such a heinous act, they assume that child molesters must be monsters.  If the accused does not fit this stereotype (in other words if he appears to be a normal person), then many people will disbelieve the allegation, believing the accused to be incapable of such act.

  • Salter, A. C. (2003). Predators: Pedophiles, rapists and other sex offenders: Who they are, how they operate, and how we can protect ourselves and our children. New York : Basic Books.

Myth 3:  Child molesters molest indiscriminately. 

Not everyone who comes in contact with a child molester will be abused. Although this finding may seem obvious, some interpret the fact that an abuser didn’t molest a particular child in their care to mean that those children who do allege abuse must be lying. In truth, sex offenders tend to carefully pick and set up their victims Thus while sex offenders may feel driven to molest children, they rarely do so indiscriminately or a plan.

Research with sex offenders confirms that they tend to carefully select and “groom” their victims (Conte, Wolf, & Smith, 1989). For instance, Elliott, Browne and Kilcoyne (1995) interviewed with 91 child molesters, the all-male sample reported that they most often chose children who had family problems, were alone, lacked confidence, and were indiscriminate in their trust of others — especially when the child was also perceived to be pretty, “provocatively” dressed, young, or small.

Rather than being a sudden, initially traumatic occurrence, most sex abuse involves a gradual “grooming” process in which the perpetrator skillfully manipulates the child into participating (Berliner & Conte, 1995). To ensure the child’s continuing compliance, sex offenders report using bribes, threats and force (Elliott et al.,1995).

Below, a young pedophile describes the careful planning that went into finding his next victim.

When a person like myself wants to obtain access to a child, you don’t just go up and get the child and sexually molest the child. There’s a process of obtaining the child’s friendship and, in my case, also obtaining the family’s friendship and their trust.  When you get their trust, that’s when the child becomes vulnerable and you can molest the child. (Salter, 2003, p. 42)

  • Berliner, L., & Conte, J. R. (1995). The effects of disclosure and intervention on sexually abused children. Child Abuse & Neglect , 19 , 371-84.
  • Conte, J. R., Wolf, S., & Smith, T. (1989). What sexual offenders tell us about prevention strategies. Child Abuse & Neglect, 13, 293-301.
  • Elliott, M., Browne, K., & Kilcoyne, J. (1995). Child sexual abuse prevention: What offenders tell us. Child Abuse & Neglect. 19 , 579-94.
  • Salter, A. C. (2003). Predators: Pedophiles, rapists and other sex offenders . New York : Basic Books.

Myth 4:  Children who are being abused would immediately tell their parents.

The fact victims often fail to disclose their abuse in a timely fashion is frequently used as evidence that an alleged victim’s story should be doubted. Research, however, shows that children who have been sexually assaulted often have considerable difficulty in revealing or discussing their abuse.

Estimates suggest that only 3% of all cases of child sexual abuse (Finkelhor & Dziuba-Leatherman, 1994; Timnick, 1985) and only 12% of rapes involving children are ever reported to police (Hanson et al., 1999). A nationally representative survey of over 3,000 women revealed that of those raped during childhood, 47% did not disclose to anyone for over 5 years post-rape. In fact, 28% of the victims reported that they had never told anyone about their childhood rape prior to the research interview. Moreover, the women who never told often suffered the most serious abuse. For instance, younger age at the time of rape, a family relationship with the perpetrator, and experiencing a series of rapes were all associated with delayed disclosure (Smith et al., 2000).

Sex offenders typically seek to make the victim feel as though he or she caused the offender to act inappropriately, and convince the child that they are the guilty party. As a result, children often have great difficulty sorting out who is responsible for the abuse and frequently blame themselves for what happened. In the end, fears of retribution and abandonment, and feelings of complicity, embarrassment, guilt, and shame all conspire to silence children and inhibit their disclosures of abuse (Pipe & Goodman, 1991; Sauzier, 1989).

Boys seem to have a particularly difficult time dealing with sexual abuse and are even less likely to report it than girls. A review of 5 community-based studies revealed that rates of non-disclosure ranged from 42% to 85% in abused men ( Lyons , 2002). Research with abused males has found that the more severe the abuse, the more likely the boy is to blame himself and the less likely he will disclose the abuse (Hunter et al., 1992). In addition to self-blame, reluctance of boys to disclose abuse may be traced to the social stigma attached to victimization, along with fears that they will be disbelieved or labeled homosexual (Watkins & Bentovim, 1992).

  • Finkelhor, D., & Dziuba-Leatherman, J. (1994). Children as Victims of Violence: A National Survey. Pediatrics, 94 (4, :413-420.
  • Hanson, R. F., Resnick H. S., Saunders, B. E., Kilpatrick, D. G., & Best, C. (1999). Factors related to the reporting of childhood rape. Child Abuse & Neglect, 23, 559-69.
  • Hunter, J. A., Goodwin, D. W., & Wilson, R. J. (1992). Attributions of blame in child sexual abuse victims: An analysis of age and gender influences. Journal of Child Sexual Abuse, 1, 75-89.
  • Kilpatrick, D. G., Edmunds, C. N., & Seymour, A. (1992). Rape in America: A report to the nation . Arlington VA: National Victim Center .
  • Lyon, T.D. (2002). Scientific Support for Expert Testimony on Child Sexual Abuse Accommodation. In J.R. Conte (Ed.), Critical issues in child sexual abuse (pp. 107-138). Newbury Park, CA: Sage. (on-line: )
  • Pipe, M. E., & Goodman, G. S. (1991). Elements of secrecy: Implications for children’s testimony. Behavioral Sciences & the Law, 9, 33-41.
  • Sauzier, M. (1989). Disclosure of child sexual abuse: For better or for worse. Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 12, 455-69.
  • Smith, D. W., Letourneau, E. J., Saunders, B. E., Kilpatrick, D. G., Resnick, H. S., & Best, C. L. (2000). Delay in disclosure of childhood rape: Results from a national survey. Child Abuse & Neglect, 24, 273-87.
  • Watkins, B. & Bentovim, A. (1992).  The sexual abuse of male children and adolescents: A review of current research. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 33, 197-248.

Myth 5:  Children who are being abused will show physical evidence of abuse.

A lack of physical evidence of sexual assault is often cited as support that an alleged perpetrator must be innocent. However, research shows that abnormal genital findings are rare even in cases where the abuse has been proven. Some acts, like fondling and oral sex, leave no physical traces. Even injuries from penetration heal very quickly in young children and thus abnormal genital findings are not common, especially if the child is examined more than 48 hours after the abuse. In fact, even with proven penetration in up to 95% of cases, genital examinations will be essentially normal.

In one study, case files and colposcopic photographs of 236 children with perpetrator conviction for sexual abuse, were reviewed. The investigators found that genital findings in the abused girls were normal in 28%, nonspecific in 49%, suspicious in 9%, and abnormal in 14% of cases (Adams, Harper, Knudson, & Revilla, 1994).

An even lower rate of abnormal findings was found in a large scale study of the 2384 children referred for medical evaluation of sexual abuse. The investigators found that only 4% of the children had abnormal examinations at the time of evaluation. Even with a history of severe abuse such as vaginal or anal penetration, the rate of abnormal medical findings was only 5.5% (Heger, Ticson, Velasquez, & Bernier, 2002).

This low rate of abnormal findings was confirmed in a case review of children with proven sexual abuse consisting of 36 pregnant adolescent girls who presented for sexual abuse evaluations. Historical information and photograph documentation were reviewed to determine the presence or absence of genital findings that indicate penetrating trauma. Only 2 of the 36 (5.5%) pregnant girls showed definitive evidence of penetration (Kellogg, Menard, & Santos , 2004).

  • Adams, J. A., Harper, K., Knudson, S., & Revilla, J. (1994). Examination findings in legally confirmed child sexual abuse: It’s normal to be normal. Pediatrics, 94 (3), 310-7.
  • Heger, A., Ticson, L., Velasquez, O., & Bernier, R. (2002). Children referred for possible sexual abuse: medical findings in 2384 children. Child Abuse & Neglect, 26, 645-59.
  • Kellogg, N. D., Menard, S. W., & Santos , A. (2004).  Genital anatomy in pregnant adolescents: ” Normal ” does not mean “nothing happened”. Pediatrics, 113 (1 Pt 1), 67-9.

Myth 6:  Hundreds of innocent men and women have been falsely accused and sent to prison for molesting children.

Over and over again, the media has raised the question whether America is in the midst of a hysterical overreaction to the perceived threat from pedophiles. Actual research, however, shows that, as a whole, our society continues to under-react and under-estimate the scope of the problem.

Prior to the 1980s, child sexual abuse was largely ignored, both by the law and by society as a whole. In the 1980s, when the scope of the problem began to be acknowledged, the police began to arrest adults accused of child abuse. A backlash quickly formed and police and prosecutors were soon accused of conducting “witchhunts.” Although some early cases were handled badly — mainly because the police had little experience in dealing with very young child witnesses — there is little evidence to back the assertion that there was widespread targeting of innocent people.

In fact, research has consistently shown that few abusers are ever identified or incarcerated. Estimates suggest that only 3% of all cases of child sexual abuse (Finkelhor & Dziuba-Leatherman, 1994; Timnick, 1985) and only 12% of rapes involving children are ever reported to police (Hanson et al., 1999).

Further research reveals that of the few cases reported to authorities, relatively few accused offenders are ever investigated or charged. For instance, the first National Incidence Study (Finkelhor, 1983) found that criminal action was taken in only 24% of substantiated cases of child sexual abuse — a finding replicated by Sauzier (1989). After reviewing numerous studies, Bolen (2001) noted that in the end, offenders may be convicted in only 1-2% of cases of suspected abuse known to professionals. And even then, most convicted child molesters spend less than one year in jail.

Based on the high prevalence of sexual crimes against children on our society, it strains credulity to assume that the small number of cases that are actually prosecuted constitute a “witchhunt”, or that somehow mostly innocent people are targeted for prosecution. In fact, statistics suggest quite the opposite: child abusers are rarely identified or prosecuted.

  • Bolen. R. M. (2001).  Child sexual abuse: Its scope and our failure . New York: Kluwer Academic.
  • Ceci, S. J., & Bruck, M. (1993). The suggestibility of the child witness: A historical review and synthesis. Psychological Bulletin, 113, 403-39.
  • Finkelhor, D. (1983). Removing the child – prosecuting the offender in cases of child sexual abuse: Evidence from the national reporting system for child abuse and neglect. Child Abuse & Neglect, 7, 195-205.
  • Finkelhor, D., & Dziuba-Leatherman, J. (1994). Children as victims of violence: A national survey. Pediatrics, 94, 413-20.
  • Hanson, R. F., Resnick H. S., Saunders, B. E., Kilpatrick, D. G., & Best, C. (1999). Factors related to the reporting of childhood rape. Child Abuse & Neglect, 23, 559-69.
  • Kilpatrick, D. G., Edmunds, C. N., & Seymour, A. (1992). Rape in America: A report to the nation. Arlington VA : National Victim Center.
  • Sauzier, M. (1989). Disclosure of child sexual abuse: For better or for worse. Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 12, 455-69.
  • Timnick, L. (August 15, 1985). The Times poll: Twenty-two percent in survey were child abuse victims. Los Angeles Times, p. 1.

Myth 7:  If asked about abuse, children tend to exaggerate and are prone to making false accusations.

Contrary to the popular misconception that children are prone to exaggerate sexual abuse, research shows that children often minimize and deny, rather than embellish what has happened to them.

In one study, researchers examined 28 cases in which prepubescent children had tested positive for a sexually transmitted disease by forensically accepted procedures. To be included in the study, the children had to have presented for a physical problem with no prior disclosure or suspicion of sexual abuse and were required to have adequate expressive language capabilities. Each of the 28 children was interviewed by a social worker trained in abuse disclosure techniques and use of anatomically correct dolls. Only 12 of the 28 (43%) of the abused children interviewed gave any verbal confirmation of sexual contact (Lawson, & Chaffin, 1992).

Another study involved a perpetrator who pled guilty after videotapes documenting his abuse of ten children were found by authorities. Because of these detailed video recordings, researchers knew exactly what had happened to these children. They were thus able to compare what the children told investigators when they were interviewed to the videotapes. Despite this abundance of hard physical evidence, the researchers found a significant tendency among the children to deny or minimize their experiences. Some children simply did not want to disclose their experiences, some had difficulties remembering them, and one child lacked adequate concepts to understand and describe them. Even when interviews included leading questions, none of the children embellished their accounts or accused the perpetrator of acts that he hadn’t actually committed (Sjoberg & Lindblad, 2002).

Some people believe that recantations are a sure sign that a child lied about the abuse. However, a recent study found that pressure from family members play a significant role in recantations. Mallory et al. (2007) examined the prevalence and predictors of recantation among 2- to 17-year-old child sexual abuse victims. Case files (n = 257) were randomly selected from all substantiated cases resulting in a dependency court filing in a large urban county between 1999 and 2000. Recantation (i.e., denial of abuse postdisclosure) was scored across formal and informal interviews. Cases were also coded for characteristics of the child, family, and abuse. The researchers found a 23.1% recantation rate. The study looked for but did not find evidence that these recantations resulted from potential inclusion of cases involving false allegations. Instead, multivariate analyses supported a filial dependency model of recantation, whereby abuse victims who were more vulnerable to familial adult influences (i.e., younger children, those abused by a parent figure and who lacked support from the nonoffending caregiver) were more likely to recant.

  • Lawson, L., & Chaffin, M. (1992). False negatives in sexual abuse disclosure interviews. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 7, 532-42.
  • Malloy, L.C. , Lyon, T.D. , & Quas, J.A. (2007). Filial dependency and recantation of child sexual abuse allegations. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 46, 162-70.
  • Sjoberg, R. L., & Lindblad, F. (2002). Limited disclosure of sexual abuse in children whose experiences were documented by videotape. American Journal of Psychiatry, 159, 312-4

Myth 8:  By using repeated interviews, therapists or police can easily implant false memories and cause false accusations among children of any age.

Although research has consistently shown that children rarely confabulate about having been abused and false allegations have been found to be rare (Everson & Boat, 1989; Jones & McGraw, 1987; Oates, et al., 2000), the potential for false allegations continues to be an area of great concern in sex abuse cases.

Whenever prominent adults are accused of abuse, we frequently hear allegations improper questioning and suggestions that the child may have invented molestation stories to please probing authority figures. We also hear concerns that inappropriate, suggestive therapies by overzealous clinicians may have shaped or implanted the allegations.

Recent research suggests that these concerns have been greatly exaggerated ( Lyons , 2001). There is now a substantial body of laboratory research which finds that children are quite reluctant to discuss embarrassing events (Lyon, 1999; 2002). Overall, laboratory research using suggestive questioning has consistently shown that negative events, especially events involving a child’s genitals, are relatively difficult to implant in children’s statements. In fact, research shows that children are more likely to fail to report negative experiences that actually did happen to them, than falsely remember ones that did not.

Saywitz, Goodman, Nicholas, and Moan (1991) studied the memory of 72 five and seven-year-old girls for a standardized medical checkup. Half of the children received a vaginal and anal examination as part of the checkup; while the other half of the children received a scoliosis examination of their back instead. The children’s memories were later solicited through free recall, anatomically detailed doll demonstration, and direct and misleading questions. The vast majority of vaginal and anal touch went unreported in free recall and doll demonstration, and was only disclosed when children were asked direct, doll-aided questions. The children who received a scoliosis exam never falsely reported genital touch in free recall or doll demonstration; and false reports were rare in response to direct questions.

It is also important to point out that many abused children exhibit post-traumatic and behavioral symptoms. To date no laboratory or clinical research supports the notion that children can falsely remember elaborate details of sexual abuse perpetrated by a trusted teacher, corroborate each other’s stories in independent interviews, and develop post-traumatic symptoms — based solely on police interviews or suggestive therapy.

  • Ceci, S. J., & Bruck, M. (1993). The suggestibility of the child witness: A historical review and synthesis. Psychological Bulletin, 113 , 403-39.
  • Everson, M.D., & Boat, B. W. (1989). False allegations of sexual abuse by children and adolescents. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. 28 : 230-5.
  • Jones, D. P. H., & McGraw, J. M. (1987). Reliable and fictitious accounts of sexual abuse to children. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 2, 27-45.
  • Lawson, L., & Chaffin, M. (1992). False negatives in sexual abuse disclosure interviews. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 7 , 532-42.
  • Lyon, T.D. (1999). The new wave of suggestibility research: A critique. Cornell Law Review, 84 , 1004-1087.
  • Lyon, T.D. (2001). Let’s not exaggerate the suggestibility of children. Court Review, 28 (3), 12-14. (on-line: )
  • Lyon, T.D. (2002). Scientific Support for Expert Testimony on Child Sexual Abuse Accommodation. In J.R. Conte (Ed.), Critical issues in child sexual abuse (pp. 107-138). Newbury Park , CA : Sage. (on-line: )
  • Oates, R. K., Jones, D. P., Denson, D., Sirotnak, A., Gary, N., & Krugman, R. D. (2000). Erroneous concerns about child sexual abuse. Child Abuse & Neglect, 24 , 149-57.
  • Pezdek, K., & C. Roe. (1997). The suggestibility of children’s memory for being touched: Planting, erasing, and changing memories. Law and Human Behavior, 21, 95-106.
  • Saywitz, K. J., Goodman, G. S., Nicholas, E., & Moan, S. F. (1991). Children’s memories of a physical examination involving genital touch: Implications for reports of child sexual abuse. Journal of Consulting & Clinical Psychology, 59 , 682-91.
  • Sjoberg, R. L., & Lindblad, F. (2002). Limited disclosure of sexual abuse in children whose experiences were documented by videotape. American Journal of Psychiatry, 159 , 312-4.

Former Youth Minister Charles “Chuck” Bryan Named in Sex Abuse Suit

This article courtesy of The Edumond Sun.


By Mark Schlachtenhaufen

A local mother has filed a lawsuit against an Edmond-area church, claiming that a former youth ministry volunteer allegedly conducted an illegal sexual relationship with her underage daughter.

Filed on June 26 in Oklahoma County District Court, the lawsuit names Chisholm Creek Baptist Church, 17600 N. Western Ave., the church’s pastor Dan Maxwell and Charles “Chuck” Bryan as defendants.

Jerry Kirksey, an Edmond attorney representing the plaintiff, said the Oklahoma City Police Department is investigating the criminal allegations and court proceedings in the civil case could be scheduled during the next couple of months. The church has an Edmond mailing address, but lies within OKCPD’s jurisdiction.

Kirksey said church staff made some “bad decisions” that have had a profound affect on the victim and the victim’s family. He said the victim has not yet been able to speak to investigators.

“It has been a difficult ordeal for all of them,” Kirksey said, noting that he has advised the victim’s mother to not speak to media outlets.

When contacted by telephone Wednesday morning, Bryan declined to comment. He has been a guest at Grace Rescue Mission in Oklahoma City.

Scott Allen, Grace Rescue Mission director, said Bryan has been asked “a couple of times” to leave the shelter for violating guidelines, but since the lawsuit was filed Bryan’s behavior has been “ideal.”

“I have no reason to put him on the street,” Allen said. “What he’s being accused of took me by surprise. I’ve never witnessed anything that would lead up to that.”

Maxwell said he had been away from the office and had not yet discussed the lawsuit with attorneys handling the lawsuit. Maxwell said when the abuse allegations surfaced, the church immediately ended its relationship with Bryan.

Bryan assisted with the church’s youth ministry as a volunteer, but he was never a paid staff member or a church member, only a visitor briefly earlier this year, Maxwell said.

Maxwell declined to discuss the lawsuit further.

“We want to do the right thing,” he said.

Lawsuit background

The lawsuit alleges that Chisholm Creek Baptist Church did not ensure that children who came in contact with Bryan were properly protected. The petition states Bryan was “under the color of authority” as assistant youth director.

In October 2007, Maxwell contacted the Grace Rescue Mission in Oklahoma City requesting that the organization provide volunteers to assist with various tasks at Chisholm Creek Baptist Church, court records show. Bryan was one of the volunteers.

In January, the church hired Bryan’s son to be the youth minister, court records show. Whether the son was salaried or not, Kirksey could not say. But Charles “Chuck” Bryan became a youth ministry volunteer.

As a result, Bryan met the victim. During January, February and March Bryan allegedly “molested, assaulted, battered, and conducted an illegal sexual relationship” with the victim, the lawsuit claims.

The plaintiff claims that due to the alleged abuse the victim, a minor, “has suffered severe, permanent psychological, emotional and physical injuries … .” The victim has and will face medical expenses due to the sustained injuries, the lawsuit claims.

Kirksey said in the civil case, a jury would determine the amount of damages.

He’s Innocent! He just pled guilty because…

I hear these words again and again and again. I wish there were a way to make you hear them too — particularly the fact that these words are said in every case of clergy sex abuse.

By the nature of the office, a pastor is someone you trust. The man would not have been hired as a pastor if he came across as a slimy pedophile. He wouldn’t keep his career over time if he didn’t maintain an absolutely believable personna. His position is to bring the word of God to a group of Christians and to engage in their lives as a positive influence. He would not keep his job if he were not able to accomplish that.

So, every church leader who is convicted of sex abuse has perfected a completely believable image. It is impossible to see through the perfected image of someone who is good at what they do. The role of pastor is one of public image. That image is supposed to be a true and factual reflection of the inner man. But if a man is a pastor – whether the image is real or false – he has a fully believable image as a sincere and faithful man of God. It is unusual for pedophilia to be visible to anyone so it is always a complete, unbelievable shock.

However, in nearly every case, people persist in believing the pastor they know is innocent. A pedophile in the pulpit only happens to all those other churches. And this belief continues unabated in the face of a guilty plea. Often the pastor or his closest family/friends insist that the guilty plea was just to spare the family more pain, or to get a lighter sentence since “the court will always find in favor of the alleged victims.” (In fact, this is not true. The court is a good bit smarter than that and is reluctant to convict without overwhelming proof.)

I’ve been addressing this issue recently in several different cases of pastor sexual abuse charges almost simultaneously. On this I am inflexible — if a man pleads guilty in court, he is guilty. Here is why.

If the pastor were actually innocent, but chose to plead guilty, there are several serious issues which are raised. First of all, to do so would require lying on the stand. How can a Christian justify that? The act of lying on the stand would make that man unqualified for being a pastor. Second, it would be a violation of the Word by calling evil good — agreeing with evil and saying it is true. Third, it reflects poorly on God’s reputation. Do we have the right to do that, even if it will get us home to our family faster? Fourth, I doubt anyone is naive about conditions in prison. “They say” that child molesters are treated worst in prison by other inmates (with the possible exception of former law enforcement officers). Whether the sentence is the minimum or the maximum – it is not good. And last, one of the most basic tenets of the Christian faith is trusting God. Why would a pastor lie instead of trusting God?

If a pastor is innocent and pleads guilty he has mistreated and abused the church. Pleading guilty shatters people’s faith and trust. Many people have walked away from the church and God because of clergy abuse. A pastor’s guilty plea hurts MANY people and causes many to question their faith and their own ability to judge people or choose trustworthy companions and leaders. I know this because I talk to them day after day.

A pastor who pleads guilty in court has testified with his own mouth that he has abused the trust of his friends and congregation. Whether or not he actually committed the crime, the result is the same. This is not an option for a man of God. With every action and word of his life he is representing God to people. That is why the Bible says that church leaders are to be blameless. That means without blame. A pastor who is innocent has no right to plead guilty for any reason. If he pleads guilty he is to be treated as if he is guilty. His word is to be believed, especially since he swore to tell the truth in court. There is no other option. Period.

On the other hand, denial is practically universal in issues of clergy sex abuse. I completely understand why people deny the pastor/friend/family member they know and love could possibly be guilty. The thing that is hard for me, is that I see this all the time and everyone says the same thing. They are sure this time their pastor/friend is innocent.

The problem with that is it keeps people from healing and it piles blame on victims who should be able to find healing in the church. Instead the church is hostile to the victims and embraces the pastor who has pled guilty. To me this is so obviously wrong, and yet it is happening consistently, persistently. I know people personally – lots of people – who persist in believing a clergy member innocent in spite of gross, persistent and long-term abuse. People will believe whatever they are determined to believe, even if it is to their harm and the harm of others.

If a pastor pleads guilty, he is guilty. If for some reason he pled guilty when he wasn’t guilty, he is guilty of lying, of causing people under his influence to question themselves, their judgment, in some cases even the validity of Christianity. Worst of all, he is guilty of besmirching the reputation of God — something no pastor has any right to do.

One other thing, with almost universal consistency, clergy who are accused of, and proven guilty of, sexual abuse persist in claiming they are innocent. When a pastor spins their circumstance as a guilty plea for some other reason while saying he is actually innocent, it is CLASSIC. All this denial of guilt accomplishes is to underscore the fact that pedophiles are nearly impossible to rehabilitate. Denial negates absolution. There is no forgiveness (by God) and no reconciliation (with man) with denial, even if that denial is implied. If the accused pastor were actually innocent, he would be reinforcing and affirming the idea that he is no different than all the other pastor pedophiles by lying in court with a guilty plea followed by private assertions of innocence.

We need to accept the pastor’s guilt when he pleads guilty. There is no other choice. We cannot persist in believing he is innocent. By pleading guilty he has made himself guilty, regardless. We must accept the plea as stated and then honestly face the aftermath of this reality.

Pastor Dennis Bowling Sentenced in Child Sex Abuse Case

This story courtesy of Dayton Daily News.


By Lou Grieco

A Riverside pastor accused multiple sex crimes against at least eight female members of his congregation pleaded guilty Thursday to 15 felonies, including two counts of rape of a child under the age of 13.

Dennis Bowling, 47, who had been pastor of Kingdom Harvest Church, 2360 Valley Pike, was to go to trial Monday. Under the plea agreement reached between Assistant Montgomery County Prosecutors Erin Claypoole and Elizabeth Scott and defense attorney Dennis Lieberman, Bowling will be sentenced to between 10 and 20 years in prison without any chance for early release.

“The defendant will serve that entire sentence,” said Montgomery County Common Pleas Judge Dennis Langer, who will sentence Bowling on July 25.

On Thursday, June 5, Langer ordered a pre-sentencing investigation, including a psychological evaluation requested by Lieberman.

Bowling will also be designated a Tier 3 sex offender, requiring both community notification when he moves to a new residence, plus registration with the sheriff’s office every 90 days for the rest of his life, Langer said.

Bowling had been indicted on 90 felony charges. All but 15 were dropped under the agreement. Bowling pleaded to the two rape counts, both first-degree felonies punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

The other 13 charges were third-degree felonies, punishable by up to five years in prison. They include:

• Eight counts of sexual battery.

• Three counts of unlawful sexual conduct with a minor.

• Two counts of gross sexual imposition, one of them of a minor under 13.

The charges cover a 10-year period, between 1996 and 2006, and involve eight victims, all who were between the ages of 12 and 17 at the time the offenses occurred, according to Montgomery County prosecutors. Langer said the counts Bowling pleaded to also covered all eight victims.

Two of those victims were present in court, along with their supporters, but they declined to comment.

Investigators did interview other victims, but did not have enough evidence to charge Bowling in those cases, prosecutors said.

“This defendant is the very definition of a sexual predator,” said Montgomery County Prosecutor Mathias H. Heck, Jr. “He was entrusted with juveniles, and then used his position as their pastor to victimize these children.”

Bowling has been in Montgomery County Jail since his Nov. 21, 2006 arrest.

Bowling was arrested after a group of women from the congregation told police he had sexually assaulted several female members of the church.

A Stebbins High School dropout, Bowling served at the nondenominational church and the adjoining Christian Training Center as pastor, youth minister and community leader for 19 years. In May 2006, Bowling received an “Unsung Heroes Award for Appalachians” from Sinclair Community College.

A group of church women tipped off police about Bowling’s alleged crimes on Nov. 20, 2006 the night of Bowling’s annual Thanksgiving dinner for the neighboring community. Bowling reportedly did not attend the dinner.

The following day, Miami County sheriff’s deputies arrested Bowling from a family member’s Miami County home and delivered the preacher to Riverside police. Nine days later, his wife filed for divorce. The couple had been married 21 years and had five children.

Baptist Churches More Vulnerable to Clergy Sex Abuse

This article is courtesy of


By Hannah Elliot

A recent sex scandal involving two North Texas pastors and the women who accused them of molestation is unusual because the victims — by now beyond the statute of limitations for sex-abuse cases — urged authorities and media to publish their names in conjunction with the case.

Typically, the names of sex-abuse victims are not publicized in an effort to spare the victim more emotional trauma. But Katherine Roush and Debbie Vasquez agreed to be identified in order to call attention to an increasingly prominent scathe of clergy sex-abuse cases in Baptist churches.

Larry Reynolds of Southmont Baptist Church in Denton, Texas, and Dale Amyx of Bolivar Baptist Church in Sanger, Texas, were accused in separate civil lawsuits of molesting Roush and Vasquez, respectively, during counseling sessions when the girls were 14 years old. The abuse continued for several years, according to charges.

Had the women, now adults, reported the molestation at the time of the crime, each man could have faced first-degree felony charges. In juvenile cases, victims can report a crime until 10 years after their 18th birthday.

Instead of the possible life sentence that would have gone with his felony charge, Reynolds issued an apology at a church Thanksgiving banquet as part of a settlement agreement. His suit was settled out of court. Vasquez’s lawsuit has yet to be resolved.

Sex-abuse charges like the ones in North Texas have become increasingly common, with cases in Missouri, Kentucky and Florida making regional and national news. And some experts have said Baptist churches may be particularly vulnerable to this kind of abuse.

Inappropriate behavior by clergy cuts across all denominational ties and theological positions, ethicist Joe Trull said. But he says a case can be made that “nondenominational churches and Baptist churches who have autonomous church government are more vulnerable and susceptible” to instances of sexual abuse.

“In a sense, every one of these situations has certain commonalities,” he said. “But on the other hand, each one has its own unique face. In a sense, they’re all different, but in a sense, they’re all alike.”

The editor of Christian Ethics Today, Trull co-wrote Ministerial Ethics in 2004 and taught Christian ethics at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.

“Possibly if you looked at the statistics, I think there would be a higher incidence [in nondenominational and Baptist churches] because of a lack of accountability,” he said. “[Pastors there] have not been prepared by their denomination. There is still that attitude in seminaries and colleges that prepare these pastors that they’re on their own. It’s that CEO mentality. And the thing that grieves me is that there’s absolutely no sense of how this [misconduct] affects other ministers and churches.”

While Presbyterians, Methodists and other Protestant denominations have “spelled-out” obligations for ministerial ethics, Baptist clergy lack a code of ethics to which they can be held accountable.

“In other denominations, [pastors] know that if charges are brought, truth will win out,” Trull said. “Doctors and psychologists know if they are caught, they will lose their credentials and there will probably be a malpractice suit. Most Baptists and nondenominational ministers know that ‘If I get caught, I can move to California and start a new church.’”

The increased instances of sex-abuse stories in the news may not necessarily mean it’s happening more than in prior decades. It often means people are simply talking about it more openly, according to some experts. And victims like Rouse and Vasquez have encouraged others to come forward with their own stories of abuse.

Studies documenting the trend consistently find that roughly 12 percent of ministers have engaged in sexual intercourse with congregants. The Journal of Pastoral Care reported in a 1993 survey that 14 percent of Southern Baptist senior pastors had engaged in “sexual behavior inappropriate for a minister.” In a 1988 study commissioned by Christianity Today, 17 percent of pastors surveyed admitted to having sexual contact with a counselee.

Lee Orth, chairman of the litigation committee at First Baptist Church in Greenwood, Mo., recently helped his church wade through a sex abuse case of its own. A long-time Presbyterian, Orth said the lack of a clear chain of command in Baptist churches means reports of abuse often go overlooked.

“Any time you don’t have to report to anyone what is going on, the chances for abuse are going to occur,” Orth said. “Strangely enough, Baptists are so big on following the Bible exactly, but they completely ignore the part about having elders and deacons [to help lead the church].”

Pastors must be exceedingly clear in understanding who they’re accountable to and who reports to whom, he said. If more Baptist pastors knew they had to meet regularly with a central body or accountability board, they would be less likely to commit the abuse.

“I really think that the autonomy is part of the problem,” he said. “I think there is too much that is put into the hands of the preacher. What you’ve got is a lot of little popes sitting out there, and they’re infallible, and they know what the word is. It’s almost like little kings, little fiefdoms.”

Another situation that can lead to sex abuse is a false sense of security people have when it comes to churches, Robert Leslie, a detective with the Greenwood Police Department, said. It’s something sometimes neglected by personnel committees that receive little oversight from outside sources. Church leaders and parents must demand due diligence when checking the background and references of anyone working around children, he said.

“Churches have always been a place where everybody trusts everybody,” he said. “Everybody feels safe there. If you think about it, what better place for a predator to go?”

Megachurches in particular can attract the “charismatic, predator-type” minister who repeatedly takes advantage of the power he has over congregants, especially emotionally vulnerable women. The advantage of being a solitary figure at the head of a group brings opportunities for moral failure. Although the number of congregants is high on the weekends, many megachurch pastors lead relatively isolated lives with few, if any, close friends.

“[Pastors of] megachurches and growing Baptist churches are the types that go for predator abuse,” Trull said. “They tend to be loners. They don’t have close friends to keep them accountable.”

The imbalance of power between pastors and victims also plays a large part in the relationship. Bruce Prescott, executive director of Mainstream Oklahoma Baptists, said the abuse often isn’t about sex at all. It’s about power.

A former police officer, Prescott has counseled many victims of sexual abuse and found that the perpetrator often has an unhealthy view of power, sex and social interaction.

“What outrages me is when a church doesn’t do something,” Prescott said. “That’s outrageous. You perpetuate that. Somebody has got stop it, because if you don’t there will be other victims. Somebody has got to accept the responsibility to get [the predator] off the street or get them help.”

What needs to be done, others stress, is to educate seminarians, enlighten congregations, establish codes of conduct, and publish complete lists of pastors guilty of sexual infractions — no small task for autonomous Baptist churches.

Christa Brown, an attorney from Austin, Texas, insists that Baptist leaders would not let autonomy delay action if they truly cared about protecting children from abuse.

Brown works with the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, an organization of clergy sexual-abuse survivors. She maintains and has asked the Baptist General Convention of Texas to hire independent experts to investigate sexual-abuse cases within the convention.

SNAP volunteers have also petitioned BGCT leaders to publish a confidential file that lists clergy members guilty of inappropriate sexual behavior.

If a Baptist minister is convicted of an indecency or confesses to one, church leaders can report the act. Other churches can have access to the file if they submit an official request. But the information is not published.

BGCT leaders say the file is proof they’re doing more than other Baptist groups in trying to stop sexual abuse. Indeed, the BGCT is the only Baptist group publicly to acknowledge having such a file.

Oklahoma’s Prescott said church people should be concerned whenever any kind of sexual problem emerges. They have a responsibility to other churches to make that problem public knowledge, but the effectiveness of a master file of offenders depends on the integrity of those making the list, he said.

Trull seconded the call for a list, saying that anyone convicted of sexual abuse or declared guilty by the church should be on a “readily available” list. Even a periodic news bulletin of offenders sent to churches might be in order, he added.

“Too often, people opt to do nothing out of fear,” Trull said. “I personally think the Baptist convention has got to find some way of making it more accessible, in light of the crucial nature of this problem and the devastating effect on these churches. It is hurting the convention, it is hurting income. [They] have got to do something.”

Trull supports creating a code of ethics in Baptist life. Baptists are “really, really weak” on codes of conduct — “a lot of young ministers today don’t have the foggiest idea of ethical expectations, not just sexual but financial,” Trull said. He added that the training should start before young ministers enter a church.

As a professor, Trull had his students write their own code of ethics and list of obligations to model what they might present to church deacons later in life. Incorporating clauses that require doors with windows and more than one adult present with children and that prohibit closed doors, hugs and prolonged counseling sessions can be included in that code agreement, he said.

New ministers need to know their limitations, too, especially as counselors. Lengthy counseling sessions required over a long period of time should often be left to a professional counselor, he said.

Churches should also take the initiative to enact well-publicized and non-negotiable policies for dealing with sexual misdeeds before they even happen. Even with the best of intentions, tragedies can happen unless common sense procedures are enacted in a church, said Orth, the Missouri layman.

Prescott agreed. He’s seen what can happen when congregations don’t know or don’t understand the precursors for sex abuse. When the church doesn’t know how to respond after the fact, the toll is even greater.

“Congregations themselves need to have some sort of understanding of these things,” he said. “The churches have a responsibility when they know that they’ve got someone [with a history of inappropriate sexual behavior] to not just release them but they have a responsibility to other Christians and other churches to make sure that person gets whatever help is needed.”