What happens when church leaders learn that a victim is thinking of filing a complaint? Here are the voices that influenced my decision:
From my offending pastor: “I don’t think you’d get the result you hoped for. I would likely just get a note in my file.”
From the associate pastor: “If you report him, you lose control over the information.”
From a friend on staff who knew the pastor well: “You have to report him.”
My friend had nothing to gain if I reported; the pastors had everything to lose. I listened to my friend, and I talked with my new pastoral counselor, “Joyce.” (In addition to her work with me, Joyce also supervised all of the real pastoral counselors at my church. By that time, I had figured out that my pastor was untrained, unlicensed, and totally unfit for counseling). Joyce seemed awed by the fact that I was willing to report my pastor despite the personal risks. I told her I had no choice: I believed other women were in danger.
Two days after I reported my pastor, Joyce and I met in her office. She seemed stunned that I had actually done it. She asked me, “Couldn’t you have just walked away and let those women fend for themselves?” Needless to say, that was our last meeting. I may be a hero or I may be a fool, I told her, but it doesn’t much matter which. I had to turn him in or I couldn’t have lived with myself.
August is Clergy Sexual Abuse Awareness & Prevention Month. I’ll be posting all month with helpful, hopeful resources from The Hope of Survivors and others. Check out the THOS blog for another survivor’s story about what a church leader said to her when she was about to report.
Stay strong and hopeful, friends!