Before the Minister of Youth was convicted of sexually assaulting a woman in his church in 2013, his criminal history included several drug and traffic charges as well as an assault with intent to kill in July 2001.
Did you grasp that last part?
Assault with an intent to kill.
Yet, the officials at the 1,700 member South Carolina church had no comment when asked about the incident that led to their youth minister’s arrest.
Why should they?
If you are going to hire a man as youth minister when he has this sort of criminal background,what could you possibly say about him sexually assaulting a person?
That you’re not surprised?
That you thought Jesus had fixed him?
Several years ago, I was a member of a church where both the husband and wife served in leadership ministerial roles. One day, the woman minister confided to me that one of their family members, a young girl, had accused her husband of sexually assaulting her. Because of my work in the legal fields, she wanted to know what she could do to clear his name.
All I could think about for days to come was whether his name should be cleared, and how it was this couple had ended up in a ministerial role within the church.
I have been in churches with sex abusers.
I have witnessed teachers sexually abusing students, with my own two eyes.
I have reported peers for inappropriate contact with children.
I have been fired for reporting inappropriate conduct between adult and child.
Actually fired for reporting it after a so-called investigation, which was more a mockery than an investigation, reportedly found nothing wrong, despite what I witnessed with my own two eyes.
Sexual predators know that the easiest prey can be found within the religious community where people are taught to “forgive and forget”, where children are taught to “trust authority”, where patriarchy is the order of the day.
I have been sexually assaulted by an old man within the church doors myself. I didn’t report it because I knew they would not believe a teenage girl over a church elder. His tithe was much more valuable than me, or my dignity.
So the Houston Chronicle’s in-depth report that over the past 20 years, Southern Baptists have covered for sex abusers, leaving hundreds of victims in their wake, did not surprise me in the least.
Most reporting,however,makes it seem like men are covering for other men. And while that is undoubtedly true, just as men in government are covering for the sex abuse of our current president, it is also true that men could not cover for men without the assistance of women in leadership roles. Just like the woman minister who was seeking my assistance in helping clear her husband’s name for the abuse he was alleged to have committed. Just like the female principal who dismissed me after I reported inappropriate contact between a male teacher and a female student.
He was a popular teacher. The student was putting the moves on him. What was he supposed to do?
Uh, maybe not be alone in the room with a student with the door shut?
Women are covering for our sex abusing president.
Women are covering for teachers abusing students.
Women are covering for their pastor husbands who are abusing congregants.
Women are covering for peers they know are abusing children.
Women are abusers, too, often complicit, if not outright sexually abusing those entrusted to their care.
This is not just a church problem. This is a societal problem.
We live in a society in which the trust of a child is seen as permission to abuse them. As one sex abuser said of the girl he assaulted, a young girl under 10, “I just feel like I was the victim.”
Patriarchy breeds predators who will always believe that they were the victims.
Until we address the deceit of patriarchy, predators will continue to be emboldened, and women and children will continue to be regarded as prey.
Karen Spears Zacharias was raised up in the Southern Baptist tradition. She is the author of a multitude of books, including Karly Sheehan: The True Crime Behind Karly’s Law.