To deal with “systemic abuse,” we must understand systems, victimization, and what makes individuals and institutions vulnerable.
Key component in a system of resources on child sexual abuse for policy makers, survivors, educators, and advocates.
Guest post by Brad Sargent, with input from Julie Anne Smith.
Cross-posted at futuristguy.
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Spiritual Sounding Board was invited to participate in the Litfuse “blog tour” for the recently released Child Safeguarding Policy Guide. They asked us to post a one-paragraph summary of our overall response to this resource book, so that could be used as an excerpt on other sites. Here is what I wrote:
How will our church serve those who’ve suffered the harm of childhood sexual abuse, and seek to prevent it from happening to others? On this difficult but foundational issue of human dignity and care, will we choose conscience and compassion – or corrosion and complacency? The Child Safeguarding Policy Guide and the range of other resources from GRACE equip us with clear definitions, well-organized knowledge, and practical skills to follow a right and righteous path on these global problems of violence and abuse.
Available reviews of the Policy Guide share about its concepts and content from a variety of angles. Already posted on Amazon are great summaries, detailed insights from church leaders, poignant personal accounts from survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Litfuse Publicity Group has review excerpts and links to full posts, and New Growth Press, which published this book, has additional endorsements.
In this post, I will give a brief preview of key features from a systems perspective, and list other resources from GRACE and New Growth Press. In a follow-up post, I will add my thoughts on the big picture of systemic abuse, why we’ve needed a set of resources to deal with it, and share some personal perspectives on how the Policy Guide and other books produced by GRACE represent answers to some longstanding prayers. Continue reading
The Keepers, Netflix, Cathy Cesnik, Systemic Sexual Abuse, Catholic Church, Spiritual Abuse, Clergy Sexual Abuse
The Keepers is a new documentary series airing on Netflix. I have watched 5 of the episodes and it is excellent. If you have seen Spotlight, it is similar, however, the investigative reporters in this case are two grandmas who have spent the last three years compiling details of the case and trying to get answers as to who killed their beloved former high school teacher, Sister Cathy Cesnik in 1969.
Like the movie, Spotlight, the series uncovers systemic sexual abuse of female students at Archbishop Keough High School in Maryland by Father Maskell who was a counselor on campus. When I refer to the word “systemic,” I mean it is a whole system of cover-up and abuse. Father Joseph Maskell was not the only one who committed the crimes. His friends in high places also committed sexual crimes and helped to conceal the crimes: police officers, businessmen in the community, etc.
The first episode lays the groundwork for the story and introduces the main characters. Then, the second episode goes into repulsive, unimaginable sexual abuse descriptions. This episode is definitely difficult to watch and I would caution those who get triggered by topics of abuse to be very careful watching it. The second episode was the most difficult for me to watch, but this is important information to know how insidious these crimes were, not only sexually, but spiritually.
Because this documentary series is being discussed so much, I wanted to have a post specifically to address it, and especially to be a place where people can discuss how it may have affected them.
So, let’s use this post to discuss how the show may have affected us and try not to include spoilers for those who have not yet watched it.
Below, I have gathered a variety of links that may be of interest. I encourage you to check out the first link, especially. It is excellent.
Note: While this sexual abuse scandal – also connected with the systemic abuse cover up with cases around the world uncovered by the Boston Globe Spotlight team occurred in the Catholic Church, Protestant churches are not exempt from these types of scandals. We know of the Sovereign Grace Ministries sexual abuse scandal which is still ongoing. I am personally aware of several others that are “under the radar.” No one church group is exempt from systemic abuse.
A website was set up for the movie here: The Keepers. I am very impressed with the information presented at the site, from information about the series, to helpful resources for survivors, therapies, systemic abuse, how to help, etc.
The following links are related and may be of interest:
- Ahead of Netflix doc, our 2005 story “Who Killed Sister Cathy?: One of Maryland’s coldest murder cases heats up” This gives an overview of the case. *Spoiler alert
- From ‘Spotlight’ to ‘Keepers,’ Richard Sipe sees celibate priesthood as problem for the Catholic Church Richard Sipe has been referenced in both Spotlight movie and The Keepers.
- How The Keepers Inspired Police To Make It Easier To Report Sex Crimes A positive outcome from the series.
- The Keepers,’ pending closure shadow Seton Keough’s final days
- 6 Important Things That Happened After the Events in The Keepers *Spoiler alert
- The Keepers: Everything You Need to Know About the Other Victim, Joyce Malecki
- ‘The Keepers’ Is the Best True-Crime Docuseries Yet
Phil Johnson, Grace Community Church, Sex Abuse, Domestic Violence, Twitter
Blog reader, Christina, left an important comment on yesterday’s post regarding an insensitive and callous tweet Pastor Phil Johnson sent out regarding domestic violence. His tweet created quite an uproar on Twitter. Because Christina’s comment is addressed to Phil Johnson, I didn’t want it to get lost in the shuffle. It is excellent. Thank you, Christina for sharing. ~Julie Anne
Response to Phil Johnson
Dear Phil. I guess you are a teacher, not a pastor, maybe that accounts for your lack of compassion. Perhaps we expect too much of you since you work and speak for John MacArthur, and so many people hold you in high esteem I used to be one of those, even though I am not a Calvinist, I always respected your teaching. Lately however, I can’t bring myself to listen to you. Continue reading
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Have you met Boz Tchividjian of GRACE – Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment? This would be a good video to post on Facebook or send to church leaders. Until churches have safe policies in place and survivors feel safe to share their trauma to others in the church, the church is not whole. We need to be proactive in minimizing the opportunity for sex abuse to occur and also to help those who have been harmed by sexual abuse.
Josh Duggar, Sex Scandal, ATI, Ashley Madison
The eldest son of Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar of TLC’s popular TV show, 19 Kids and Counting is in the news again. Josh and his wife Anna Duggar made an announcement on their family’s website. This announcement comes two years after accusations of:
- alleged sexual abuse against his sisters and another young minor as a teen
- having an Ashley Madison online account
- paying for sex
- entering a pseudo Christian “treatment” facility
- separating from his wife, Anna
Part #4 of 4, by Julie Anne Smith
The public ministry platforms of Tullian Tchividjian — including his books — have become an issue of public concern and debate, in light of his various degrees of involvement with multiple women.
- Part #1 introduced the third woman reportedly seduced by Tullian Tchividjian into a sexual relationship. Her story extends his womanizing behaviors back into 2013.
- Part #2 shared an infographic showing what Tullian Tchividjian’s pursuit of multiple women looks like, when it is layered over some of his ministry platform and publication data for Fall 2013 through 2016.
- Part #3 provided reference information about Tullian Tchividjian’s publishers and his publications, both out-of-print and presently available, from three publishers: Crossway, David C Cook, and Multnomah. It also highlights the “Christian Living” category bestseller status in 2014-2015 for his most recent book, One Way Love: Inexhaustible Grace for an Exhausted World (David C Cook, released October 2013), and related character contradictions in light of his self-admitted moral failures plus newly emerging reports of emotional grooming and clergy sexual misconduct.
- Part #4 addresses issues with David C Cook specifically, given their reported intention to publish a future book by Tullian Tchividjian.
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One of the more frustrating things about abuse is that sometimes you know the truth about an abuse situation before others. It’s especially difficult when your friends or people you respect are still believing and defending the abuser. This is what happened in the case of Tullian Tchividjian. Some people came to realize that Tullian Tchividjian was not who he claimed to be after the first sexual relationship outside of marriage went public. Many more saw the light after the second woman was revealed. Yet, many church leaders still extended grace, believing that Tullian had been truly remorseful and wanted to make a positive change.
This seeing-the-light process that other people needed to go through seemed extremely long for me, but that is because I had information directly from the victims — information which I held in confidence. But as the victims have slowly recovered and have agreed to release more from the accounts of their experiences, they discredited Tullian’s testimony, which was previously the only testimony. With the victims’ narratives going public, more people saw the truth and were no longer being duped by someone whose intention was to control the narrative. Continue reading
Part #3 of 4, by Brad Sargent
SUMMARY. The public ministry platforms of Tullian Tchividjian — including his books — have become an issue of public concern and debate, in light of his various degrees of involvement with multiple women. Part #1 introduced the third woman reportedly seduced by Tullian Tchividjian into a sexual relationship. Her story extends his womanizing behaviors back into 2013. Part #2 shared an infographic showing what Tullian Tchividjian’s pursuit of multiple women looks like, when it is layered over some of his ministry platform and publication data for Fall 2013 through 2016.
This post provides reference information compiled by Brad Sargent about Tullian Tchividjian’s publishers and his publications, both out-of-print and presently available, from three publishers: Crossway, David C Cook, and Multnomah. It also highlights the “Christian Living” category bestseller status in 2014-2015 for his most recent book, One Way Love: Inexhaustible Grace for an Exhausted World (David C Cook, released October 2013), and related character contradictions in light of his self-admitted moral failures plus newly emerging reports of emotional grooming and clergy sexual misconduct. This research writing is part of his due diligence to produce a forthcoming case study on this situation, focusing on systems of accountability and how they succeeded or failed, and possible reasons why. This information on publications is all drawn from publicly posted documents and websites.
This series concludes with Part #4, in which Julie Anne Smith addresses issues with David C Cook specifically, given their reported intention to publish a future book by Tullian Tchividjian.
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The above infographic was provided to Spiritual Sounding Board by a reader who wishes to remain anonymous. The preparer based this chart on information that appeared in the Partial Timeline post, which provided details of various women whose connection with Tullian Tchividjian has been made public, and publication information that was likewise available online.
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by Brad Sargent aka brad/futuristguy
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Introduction: Changing Our Language to
Remove Neutrality Toward Abusers and Negativity Toward Survivors
Who typically gets trusted or distrusted by default — the reported perpetrator, or the victim who reports? That is especially important in understanding the realities faced by survivors of abuse. Language is crucial to communicating what abuse took place, and specifics of whether it involved violation/violence that is emotional, physical, spiritual, sexual, or all of the above. But there are problems with victims speaking up about such things. Continue reading
Part #2 of 4, by Julie Anne Smith and Brad Sargent
Part #1 introduced the third woman reportedly seduced by Tullian Tchividjian into a sexual relationship. Her story extends his womanizing behaviors back into 2013. This post shows an infographic on what Tullian Tchividjian’s pursuit of these women looks like, when it is layered over some of his ministry platform and publication data for Fall 2013 through 2016. (UPDATE: The revised version below of 12-17-2016 replaced the original version posted on 12-16-2016. See the updates in Notes #1 below the infographic for details on the differences.)
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Introduction to Four-Part Series:
Tullian Tchividjian Situation Update
We (Julie Anne and Brad) were planning a two-part series to update the situation on Tullian Tchividjian, focusing on what has been happening with his current and former publishers, and individuals who’d been promoting him over the years. However, we are now able to share related breaking news — a third woman with whom I (Julie Anne) have been in touch gave us permission to share certain details of her story. She was reportedly drawn into a sexual relationship by Tullian Tchividjian, with a very similar pattern as other women have stated he used for grooming them emotionally. Tchividjian lured them in to trust him and doubt themselves, and then in two other cases at least, eventually seduced them into sexual involvement.
This newly revealed woman says that her connection with Mr. Tchividjian started in October 2013 and ended in August 2016 before he got remarried. Her additional account changes things — her narrative extends Mr. Tchividjian’s apparent manipulative patterns back into 2013. It also means he has kept silent about this relationship for over three years, which fits the general pattern he has displayed with two other women, of not admitting to adultery until it has been exposed publicly.
And so, this has led us to reconfigure the material we had into a series of four posts: Continue reading
This morning, GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment) released a thoughtful, clear statement of empathetic support for victims and constructive solutions for changing Church systems that perpetuate abuse. The five-page statement from the Board of Directors addresses key systemic needs in four areas:
- Seminary education of pastors about maintaining appropriate boundaries.
- Rigorous screening and selection of pastors or other church leaders who provide counseling.
- Implement checks and balances to minimize abusive situations.
- Implementing clear policies for responding to abusive conduct, including reporting abuse to the appropriate authorities, removing abusive pastors from any leadership role and, most importantly, supporting survivors.
Please see the full statement below, download the document, and like/share the links on social media!
Before we get into today’s article, we’ve passed an important milestone here. Today, I noticed in my Facebook’s “On This Day” feature, that it is the 4th year anniversary date of the judge’s decision on the defamation lawsuit brought on by my former pastor, Chuck O’Neal of Beaverton Grace Bible Church (BGBC) vs. me and 4 others. Our attorney filed an anti-SLAPP counter suit which meant that O’Neal and BGBC had to prove that our case met the legal definition of defamation. It did not. Not even one phrase that I used (or anyone else used) met even the first tier of the defamation definition (that we had intentionally lied). In order Chuck O’Neal to have won, he had to prove that we knowingly lied about him, AND, we lied with the intent to harm. Judge Fun dismissed the entire case.
When I think back on four years, the amount of information I have learned is remarkable. So much of that has been because of you. Thank you. God has restored what the locust has eaten. Through my pain and now the information I’ve learned along the way, SSB has been a safe and a growing place for me and for others. Yea God.
Here’s the note that appeared on my timeline 4 years ago by a friend:
Would your church be able to help someone in the midst of a crisis? How equipped are they?
Doug Phillips Lawsuit, Lourdes Torres, Sex Abuse, Vision Forum, Spiritual Abuse
It’s been a long while since there have been any updates on the Lourdes Torres vs Douglas Phillips lawsuit. Normally, I received updates from Attorney David C. Gibbs III, who represented Lourdes Torres. Either he would e-mail or text me, or I would inquire of him, and he or another attorney from his office would respond quickly.
Because of the influence Doug Phillips had in so many lives in the Christian Homeschool Movement, I’ve tried hard to get information from first-hand sources. Sadly, after several requests, I have not received any response from Attorney Gibbs’ office regarding recent updates on this case; however, Free Jinger, a website that hosts discussions on the culture, abuses, and key people in Christian fundamentalism, noted mid-May that the court case was dismissed:
I was also told by a couple of very reliable sources that the lawsuit was dismissed, settled out of court, and a gag order in place, so that would explain why we haven’t heard anything from Lourdes Torres or anyone.
I’m disappointed with the outcome of this case for a number of reasons. Although this case primarily concerned Doug Phillips’ inappropriate relationship and grooming of an underage teen, then using his position of authority as clergy, boss, and mentor to continue the relationship after she became an adult, it represented much more than that.
While Phillips’ ship has sunk, and the case has closed, it doesn’t really feel finished to me. Lourdes Torres was the sacrificial lamb who bravely spoke out about this clergy abuse. She helped to sink the ship of Doug Phillips’ ministry, Vision Forum, which had been a mainstay in the Christian homeschool community for many years. However, it feels like Phillips got away with harming much more than a Titanic-full of people. People who boarded his ship, expected a captain who would safely navigate them. They had no clue that he was going to cause a shipwreck.
One cannot say that this lawsuit only affected Lourdes Torres, Boerne Christian Assembly, and the Phillips family. As a result of Doug Phillips’ so-called ministry demise, some families have shattered and had difficulty picking up the pieces. Some have shipwrecked their faith. I read e-mails from divided spouses and families: one spouse wanted to discard the teachings of Phillips, while the other wanted to continue Phillips’ teachings. How does a family reconcile this kind of conflict?
While Doug Phillips and his family have now abandoned the idea of family-integrated churches (which he claimed was the right way to go to worship as a family), he and his family have joined a traditional church in Texas with segregated age groups (something he taught against). He also failed to abide by the church rules he helped establish when he founded the church, Boerne Christian Assembly.
In November of 2014, elders Jeff Horn and David Fry posted a note at the Boerne Christian Assembly website (which now doesn’t seem to exist) that Philips was excommunicated. Doug Phillips has done nothing to resolve that issue. No big deal for him, he just wiped his hands clean of his old life and is starting a new one with his family.
In closing the final chapter of Doug Phillips and his shipwrecked ministry, I thought it would be good to reflect on a couple of comments left here at SSB by two individuals during the height of the Doug Phillips scandal. I do not believe these two individuals have commented since that time, but they obviously had a need to share what they had gone through. Their personal stories about sex abuse and patriarchy represent real lives and most likely echo the experience of others.
If you were affected by Doug Phillips’ teachings on Patriarchy, the Homeschool Movement, Courtship, family-integrated churches, etc, and would like to leave an update on how you and your family are doing, I’d especially love to hear from you.
Oh, one more thing – – I checked out VisionForum.com to see if there was anything left of the site. It has changed [see updated note below]. I don’t think it is quite what Doug Phillips, Esq. had enVisioned . . . or not.
Edited to note: Gary W. correctly pointed out that the Vision Forum website used the address: http://www.visionforumministries.org, not Vision Forum.com. I’m going to leave the above photo posted because of the irony of a website named Vision Forum. To me, this aptly describes how Doug Phillips lived his life. He lived the high life, while gambling with people’s lives. ~ja
Update again: Ok, the Vision Forum store/catalog which sold books and gender-specific toys did use the VisionForum.com site!! The ministry used the http://www.visionforumministries.org site.
Sexual addictions, pornography, pedophiles, family and friends of sexual addicts, S-Anon
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. 2 Corinthians 1:3-5
Thanks for bearing with me as I’m getting hit with year-end activities for my children and me at school. I’m in the middle of cramming, finals, and looking forward to having a Summer break this year!
While the blog articles have tapered during my busy school schedule, the activity behind the scenes continues and I’m grateful for all I have learned in walking with people who are going through challenging and very difficult times. Last night was one such example which I’d like to share.
Last night, I attended an S-Anon meeting. It was my first time going to a 12-step meeting of any kind. I attended at the request of a new friend who, understandably, didn’t want to go to this meeting by herself.
What is S-Anon and for whom is it geared?
S-Anon a 12-step group that meets weekly for family members or friends of people addicted to sex (pornography, relationships, etc).
With any addiction, family and friends become a part of the addict’s system. Family and friends are impacted by their loved one’s addiction. It can affect them personally and in relationships, present and future. Additionally, how they respond to their addicted love one can have ramifications. Is the sex addiction talked about openly? Or is it the elephant in the middle of the room that people know exists, but refuse to talk about.
Would S-Anon be a good fit for me? The sexual addict I know is not in my immediate family.
At first, I was thinking that I really didn’t qualify to be at this meeting since there’s no sex addict in my immediate family and I don’t have close friends addicted to sex (to my knowledge, anyway). But then I realized that my in-law certainly has affected my immediate family. He is a pedophile, and our family has had to make very clear boundaries on visitation rules; for example, he is not allowed in our home, period. We allow time for meals, etc, but my kids are always reminded about safe touching, not being alone with him, etc. So, yes, I would benefit from these meetings, as would my adult children. There is a teen version of S-Anon, so that would be an additional option for my younger kids.
While the sex addict in my family is not in our immediate family, the situation has presented challenging issues for our family. We have had to broach the subject of sex and sex abuse at a very young age and in very clear terms with our children. We have had to grieve the loss of a normal grandparent-grandchild relationship.
I remember the day it struck me that my dreams of leaving our kids with the grandparents for a special weekend or a few days was completely out of the question. My children have had to find other “adopted” grandparents to fill some of those roles; but it will never be the same as most families where grandparents are an integral part of their lives. That’s just one of a number of losses we have faced due to sexual addiction. This is definitely something I could bring up at a future meeting that has affected me. Do I have anger about it? You bet! I wanted my children to have the best childhood possible and that was robbed from them (and me) due to the pedophile.
Another area that I’ve seen an increased amount of discussion is the issue of a husband’s use of porn (including child pornography) and it’s effect on marriages and families. This is a very real and ongoing problem many Christian families face. The sense of betrayal, lack of trust, self-blame, body shaming issues really come to surface for wives of porn addicts. With porn, the marriage bedroom becomes very crowded and complicated. This takes its toll on wives, and the ripple effect on the children can become very apparent. If the sexual addiction interferes with a job and the addict gets fired, obviously this will have severe consequences on the family.
Because sexual addictions are such a secretive sin, children might sense that something is wrong, but not know quite what it is. They might not understand why mom is so depressed. It would be good to explore this topic more and I hope to be able to share personal stories because I know it is a growing issue that is rarely addressed from the pulpit. I wonder how many wives of sex addicts are sitting in the pews each Sunday at church wondering how their church can help them. It’s typically not a topic that pastors address. Where will these wives turn for help?
Over 3 years ago, I posted the first article on wives of pedophiles, Being Married to a Pedophile: A Wife Speaks Out and Offers Hope to Other Wives of Pedophiles. This was written by a SSB reader, Anon3, who shared her experience and offered words of hope to another wife of a pedophile. I wish I had kept track of how many women have found that blog post and responded. Looking back, I would say that on average, one person per week has either comment or sent an e-mail asking for help. Those are just people who land at the blog by doing using search engines. Wives of pedophiles would certainly be welcome at A-Anon meetings.
What are the meetings like?
The meeting we attended was quite small, but it varies at every location. The meeting is structured and begins with reading excerpts from their S-Anon book which establishes the rules, objectives of the meeting, and a focus topic area. There is a time where people are allowed to share and a closing. It is confidential and what is said there, needs to remain there.
What I did find is that it is a safe place to gather, share personal stories, get encouragement and support. So many times when we are dealing with something by ourselves, we take it personally, blame ourselves. When we open up with others and exchange stories, we will see familiar behavioral patterns. This is similar to the familiarity many of us have had with spiritual abuse. We have a common denominator with similar, but not exactly the same experiences. (More questions about meetings.)
I think in time, an S-Anon member can get clarity and understanding why they have responded the way they have: why they may have trust issues, why they may have anger, etc.
Knowing and identifying these patterns will be helpful when learning to make healthier decisions and setting appropriate boundaries with the sexually addicted loved one. This is not an easy process. It takes work, but I have spoken with several people who have said the program has given them great tools.
I sensed that those who were at the meeting last night found confidence, understanding, and a tremendous amount of weight lifted from them as have traveled this journey. Rather than trying to survive, they seemed to be thriving AND have enough energy left to help others along in their journey. That was very encouraging for me to see.
For those who have just found this article via a search engine and who are dealing with a sexual addict, welcome. You are in a difficult place, but you are certainly not alone. You are always welcome to comment here on the blog. I also have a private forum you may ask to join. (Email me at email@example.com). But I also encourage you to seek out a local S-Anon for ongoing support. You definitely do not need to walk this road by yourself. Many have done it before you and would like to offer support.
Here are a few questions from a longer set of questions at the S-Anon website:
- Have you felt hurt or embarrassed by someone’s sexual conduct?
- Have you secretly searched for clues about someone’s sexual behavior?
- Have you lied about or covered up another person’s sexual conduct?
- Have you had money problems because of someone’s sexual behavior?
- Have you felt betrayed or abandoned by someone you loved and trusted?
- Are you afraid to upset the sexaholic for fear that he or she will leave you?
You can see if there is a local S-Anon group in your area here.
Note: Although I used men as addicts in the examples above, women are not exempt from having sexual addictions.