The Account of Doug Phillips and the Victim
All forms of sexual behavior or harassment with clients are unethical, even when a client invites or consents to such behavior or involvement. ~American Association of Pastoral Counselors
Note: This article is Part 2 in a series. The first part is Attempting to Set the Doug Phillips Record Straight: Part 1 – The Puzzle of Control.
I have written the majority of this article in my own words based on information sent to me and many hours on the phone with a specific person who has had a birds-eye view of Doug Phillips and his ministry for many years. Before publishing, it has then been checked by other sources to ensure that the account is as accurate as possible. Doug Phillips’ victim will be referred to as “Victim” throughout the article. ~ja
Douglas Phillips, the man who founded Vision Forum Ministries, spoke strongly about family values, modesty/purity, about the role of fathers in Christian home, loving their wives, etc. He also got himself entangled in a sexual affair with a young woman from his church. He continued speaking at conferences and conventions with his wife by his side, acting as if their marriage was fine for many years while his heart was with another young woman.
Who was this young woman?
How did her family not see what was going on?
What was their response when the truth came out?
The Victim’s family were long-time members at Boerne Christian Assembly (BCA). They were a humble and hard-working family. The father spoke in broken English, the mother had better command of the English language. They were passionate folks who lived within their means. Their work ethic and good character earned them respect within the BCA community.
Another notable man, billionaire James Leininger, was also friends with the Victim’s family through BCA. Leininger, who previously attended BCA, donated a house to Vision Forum Ministries, which became the Phillips family home while Phillips was head of the ministry. The Victim’s family had worked for the Leiningers and the Victim’s brother is currently employed at one of Leininger’s businesses.
Over the years, Victim spent time with the Phillips family. It has been reported that she was a full-time nanny. Although she did work as a nanny and helped them in other ways from time to time, it was never full-time or on a consistent basis. She did, however, travel with the Phillips on some of their trips and helped with the children on those trips and at home.
The victim was a simple young lady. She became interested in health and fitness and educated herself in those topics. Health and fitness became a priority for herself and consequently she was healthy and fit. At BCA, special attention is given to appropriate modesty guidelines and Victim adhered to them, i.e., she didn’t wear skirts too short, or revealing outfits. However, even with those guidelines, nobody could miss that she was in good shape, quite attractive, and made heads turn when she entered a room.
Victim’s parents were not opposed to her going to college. And perhaps this might have occurred had Phillips not been so involved with her.
Victim stayed closely connected with the BCA community and as a result, she was not very street-smart. She was naive, especially about things of a sexual nature. Most likely it was because of this naivety that Doug Phillips was able to successfully groom her. It has been reported that she was groomed as a minor. This is not true. All of the sexual grooming occurred after she was a legal adult and this information has been validated by both Phillips and Victim.
What was it about Victim that attracted Phillips? As previously mentioned, Victim’s physical beauty certainly played into the picture. But she also had an engaging personality, was kind, and loved to serve people and make them happy.
Phillips was smitten by her and eventually began grooming Victim. The grooming of Victim eventually led to an emotional affair. In 2007, the relationship became sexual. Phillips was honest in that he did not “know” Victim in the physical sense, i.e., there was no sexual intercourse, but there was sexual touching. This information has been corroborated by both Victim and Phillips a number of times.
During this time, the victim was spending much more time at the Phillips’ home and was considered to be a close family friend.
In 2007, Phillips began employing Victim to write Jonathan Parks scripts with his daughter in an effort to spend more time with her. This was a paid position. Despite what others have said, Victim was compensated for her work on Jonathan Parks project. This provided Phillips more opportunities to spend time with her in his home after the children had gone to bed.
Phillips was confronted by a member of BCA and friend of Victim in 2008, but there was no evidence to prove his guilt. Many people at this time began to notice the relationship with Phillips and Victim, but no one had real and hard evidence of any wrong behavior other than it just did not look right.
In 2009, Victim’s mother caught Phillips and Victim having sexual-based chat sessions in the middle of the night. Doug and his wife, Beall, met with Victim’s parents. This was the first time the Doug and Beall and Victim’s parents met together. Doug confessed to having romantic feelings for Victim, but there was no acknowledgement of any sexual impropriety. At the time, Victim did not disclose any sexual impropriety, but only the feelings they shared together.
Phillips told Victim they were soul mates. He told her he loved her and had promised they’d eventually get married and have children together. During these years, the relationship with Victim ebbed and flowed. Phillips worked very hard at keeping prospective courters away from Victim. There is a story published on a specific blog about an engagement ring. That story is not true.
There were quite a few men who expressed interest in courting Victim. But Phillips did everything he could to keep her affections turned towards him, even going as far as telling Victim, “that in every other generation of the Phillips’ family, the wife dies early, so she would only have to wait.” This statement was not to imply in any way that Doug was planning on killing his wife. This was said based solely on the early demise of wives in the Phillips’ family.
In turn, Victim also loved Doug Phillips and was willing to wait for him so they could eventually get married. She had a servant’s heart and seemed to “blow sunshine” in Phillips’ direction. Phillips loved this affirmation and his heart drew to hers even more.
Beall Phillips was made aware of the adulterous nature of the relationship at least by October 2010 when Victim’s mother informed her that Doug Phillips and Victim had been kissing. Beall, at this point, had enough of Victim, and began to get other young ladies to help her with the children at home and on trips.
Doug Phillips’ double life starting to unravel in December 2012 when he was caught trying to climb through Victim’s bedroom window. Victim’s father and brother chased Phillips down the street with a shotgun until Doug stepped under a street light, revealing his identity. The relationship with Victim ended on that day.
It is interesting to note that to this day, Victim admits that she has sinned, feeling that she herself should have stopped the relationship sooner. As Victim has been sharing the story to her friends, she has made it very clear that she wants to confess her sins and wants Phillips to come clean and do the same. She is not trying to play “victim” in order to gain anyone’s sympathy.
Where is Victim now?
Victim is living in her own apartment and attends a new church, the same church her parents attend. She remains close with her parents. She is employed and is doing as well as can be expected.
Clergy Sex Abuse and Legal Considerations
This final section expresses my own understanding and opinions of this situation, based on the specifics that have been made known to me and the general patterns of abuse and victimization that I am all too aware of.
Victim’s response of accepting responsibility for “her part” in the sexual affair is very typical of those who have been sexually violated in a clergy/victim situation. It is my firm belief that she is not to blame and she is a true victim. She is not responsible for Doug Phillips’ fall in any way. Doug Phillips was in a position of trust and authority over Victim. He knew her for many years while she was a minor and earned her trust. Later, their relationship deepened and he completely crossed the line of integrity. Because of the sheltered environment in which Victim lived, Victim was naturally in a vulnerable position. She did not have street smarts, she was unable to protect herself. Emotionally and intellectually, Victim was not mature enough to make rational decisions that others might have been able to make had they understood the nature of sexuality, power, and control. Doug Phillips knew she was vulnerable and he used his power over her and her vulnerabilities.
While Doug Phillips was emotionally grooming her, this did not make sense to Victim. As Phillips made sexual advances towards Victim, she didn’t understand what was going on in her body sexually. She was naive about sex (this, too, has been reported by Victim). Doug Phillips stirred the feelings of sexuality in Victim that had never been awakened. One of the challenging issues for sex abuse victims is that sex does sometimes “feel good,” even as a victim. How does one make sense of this pleasurable experience, yet being done by someone who is an authority figure? It can produce confusion, shame, and guilt – and yet, we must constantly remember, Victim was the one being pursued by Phillips.
This relationship was not consensual and cannot be considered consensual by the fact that Doug Phillips was in a position of authority. It doesn’t matter whether Victim received pleasure in her sexual encounters with Doug Phillips. It doesn’t matter if she may have flirted with him (I’m speculating.) The basis of this relationship can only be interpreted as abusive because of Doug Phillips’ position of authority in her life. Doug Phillips used his position of power and trust to control and gain access to a naive young woman, and he used her for his benefit for many years while hiding under the public guise of promoting family values. It is important to not shift blame onto the victim. Doug Phillips, because of his position of authority, is the perpetrator here, period.
It is also important to note that, legally, the courts would see Doug Phillips in a position where he must ensure fiduciary duty.
The clergy/parishioner relationship is no different than other professional relationships where there is a fiduciary duty. The “professional”, whether it be a teacher, therapist or clergy has a fiduciary duty to whomever they have a professional relationship. A fiduciary duty is a relationship based on trust. The Latin definition for fiduciary is none other than ‘faith’. The trust or “faith” in a fiduciary duty relationship is established even before the relationship begins. The trust does not have to be earned. In most cases a person grows up with the belief system that certain professionals can be trusted with no questions asked. (Source, emphasis added.)
The most damaging myth is the belief that the sexual relationship between clergy and parishioner is a consensual affair. The reality is the sexual relationship is a sexual assault. No matter if it happened once or if the sexual relationship lasts for 30 years. A sexual relationship between clergy and parishioner can never be consensual. The power differential is too great. As with all victims of sexual assault, the parishioner victim takes on the responsibility of the assault. Thinking they must be the “cause” of this “holy man of God” falling from grace and going against his vow of celibacy or, in other denominations, the vows he took with his wife. That feeling of responsibility topped off with guilt keeps many adult victims silent. (Source, emphasis added.)
“Why Adult Victims of Clergy Sexual Abuse Are Not To Blame” By Mark Scheffers, M.Div., M.S.W., Child Trauma Assessment Center, Western Michigan University.
Understanding sexual abuse by a church leader or caregiver.
It is also important to note that there are states in which clergy falls within fiduciary duty laws and codes of ethics:
Fiduciary duty refers to the responsibility of licensed caregivers (doctors, therapists, lawyers, social workers, etc.) to “do no harm.” Society’s expectation of these caregivers is that they will attend to the needs of those in their care.
All forms of sexual behavior or harassment with clients are unethical, even when a client invites or consents to such behavior or involvement. Sexual behavior is defined as, but not limited to, all forms of overt and covert seductive speech, gestures, and behavior as well as physical contact of a sexual nature; harassment is defined as but not limited to, repeated comments, gestures or physical contacts of a sexual nature.
We recognize that the therapist/client relationship involves a power imbalance, the residual effects of which are operative following the termination of the therapy relationship. Therefore, all sexual behavior or harassment as defined in Principle III, G with former clients is unethical. (American Association of Pastoral Counselors. Code of Ethics, emphasis in the original)
Caregivers are prohibited by state criminal statutes, fiduciary duty laws, and by codes of ethics from exploiting their clients or patients to meet their own emotional and psychological needs.
One important note: This illicit relationship occurred in Texas, and Texas is a state in which it is a crime for clergy to have sexual relations with a congregant. The relevant section of the Texas Penal Code are below (emphasis added).
Texas Penal Code Chapter 5. (22.011)
Title 5. Offenses against the person.
Chapter 22. Assaultive Offenses.
Sec. 22.011. Sexual assault.
(b) A sexual assault [...] is without the consent of the other person if: [...] 10) the actor is a clergyman who causes the other person to submit or participate by exploiting the other person’s emotional dependency on the clergyman in the clergyman’s professional character as spiritual adviser …
Texas Penal Code 22.011(b)(9): “by exploiting [the patient or former patient's] . . . emotional dependency”; and (b)(10) “by exploiting the other person’s emotional dependency on the clergyman in the clergyman’s professional character as spiritual advisor”
So, while Victim said her involvement with Doug Phillips was consensual, by law, it was not consensual in that Doug Phillips, acting as clergy, was in a position of trust to “do no harm,” but he violated this position of trust over her. While Doug Phillips is on his high horse threatening to sue Muela, Renaud, and Bradrick, methinks he should drop the threat against those innocent gentlemen and lawyer up because he was in the WRONG state to be violating clergy ethics laws.
BREAKING: Doug Phillips Threatens Lawsuit Against Former Vision Forum Associates Who Had Earlier Confronted Him about His Sexual Sins