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Letter from an Abuse Survivor to their Senator (Names Removed)

Dear Senator (name removed),

I greatly appreciate your time in reading my letter.  I hope that today finds you doing well. Thank you for all you are doing to make life in (place removed)County better.  We only recently moved to (name removed) , but we have grown to love the area.

I spoke with a friend recently regarding a law that she is trying to get passed in (state removed) against clergy/counselor abuse.  I, too, have experienced this terrible abuse, and would like to share my story with you as a plea for your help in getting a law passed against what I consider a heinous crime.

In (year removed), my husband and our children began attending (church name removed)Church. We were disillusioned over (events removed)  also greatly hurt over our own family’s involvement in those events.  We were extremely vulnerable and in search of a church with strong leadership and application of the truth of scripture.   My husband had grown up in (name removed) and had also been a elder in a (name removed)church that had almost died out, so it felt like the best place for our family.  After hearing the first sermon from the pastor at the time,(name removed), we decided that we’d found our new church home.

It was only after a couple of weeks before (name removed) visited us at our home. He was such an outwardly kind and compassionate man.  In our vulnerable and weakened state, both my husband and I determined that he might be someone who could help us deal with our recent hurts.  My husband and I are both are adult children of alcoholics who were emotionally and physically abused by our fathers. (name removed) quickly became a father figure to us.

In (time removed), right after we officially joined the church, I began talking to (name removed)through email and phone conversations about recent church hurts and repressed memories of sexual abuse from my father.  Again,  he seemed genuinely concerned and wanting to help.  In the (time removed), I met with him the first time in his office.  During that meeting he hugged me for the first time and told me that he loved me.  It didn’t feel like abuse to me. Actually,  I believed God had given me the father I’d always wanted but never had.  He began counseling me from a book on helping adults recover from childhood sexual abuse.  As some of the worst suppressed memories began to resurface in my mind, I found it difficult to even get out of bed some days I was so traumatized.  But (name removed) would talk to me on the phone until I felt better.  Our conversations began to take place daily. I became completely emotionally dependent on him.  By the end of the summer,  (name removed) shared with me that not only did he love me like a father but as someone he desired to marry, but he asked me to keep this a secret.

I was terribly confused, but as an adult survivor of childhood sexual abuse,  it is a normal reaction to be consumed with shame over the abuse, to believe somehow it was your fault, and that you brought out the worst in your abuser.  I believed somehow I’d caused this pastor to be tempted, and it wasn’t long before things in the relationship crossed the line into sexual.  Approximately a year later, we had sexual intercourse for the first time.  In the meantime,  his friendship with my husband had grown.   (name removed) called my husband his best friend.  They began (doing things) together.  Our families began (doing things) together.  (name removed) also began asking me to do jobs around the church and it wasn’t long before I became a part-time paid employee of the church.   The sexual relationship continued off and on.  Though I was consumed by shame my life was so intertwined with his that there was no way to break free without doing a tremendous amount of damage to our families and the church.  (name removed) asked me to take the secrets we shared to the grave. The heavy weight of this secret and the pressure it had me under was terrible.

In (time removed), (name removed) retired from (the church),  but continued to attend the church. As a (church staff member),   I began working for a new pastor, (name removed). (The other pastor) was man who had integrity.  He worked diligently to truly serve the church.  (name removed), who I still talked to every day but was no longer sexual with, began to voice his dissatisfaction towards (the other pastor) to me.  He was voicing this dissatisfaction to others as well.   In (time removed), I finally began to realize the abusive nature of my relationship with (name removed) and his true character, and went to (the other pastor) for help. (the other pastor) took the matter to the (church leadership) who quickly deposed (name removed).  However, the (leader) assigned to our church, (name removed), as well as the elders at (the church) made the decision to relieve me of my duties as (church staff member),  as well as tell the entire church about what happened.   After much pleading with them for them not to expose my name as a victim of clergy abuse, they refused and gave my name anyway.  They also did not present it to the congregation as clergy abuse and edited the letter from my counselor and myself explaining the abusive nature without my knowledge, as my husband and I were in intensive counseling in (place removed) when the meeting was held.   As you can imagine,  the shame of having all that had happened being exposed was crippling.  I did not want to leave the house, was terrified that our children would hear the gossip around town, and my husband was in a rage.  After two months of living in total distress and mental anguish, our family uprooted from (name removed)County,  where we’d lived our entire lives, and moved to (place removed) to start over.  Though we love the area, we have struggled terribly.  My husband’s mental state has worsened. I’ve had to have counseling weekly since that time and our children have had to face the challenge of making new friends.  As much as we’d love to be a part of a church again, because of all of the betrayal we suffer from PTSD at church and have found it better to stay home on Sunday.

Senator (name removed) I know this is a long and terrible story, and I’ve only touched on the important details. Both my husband and myself believe that (name removed) was a predator pastor who sought to feed off of his sheep.   I have no doubt that God hates what occurred at  (name removed) and at other churches and counseling offices where vulnerable people should be able to get help and not further abused.  As a man of faith, I am sure that you understand how important our faith is to our daily lives. To have it attacked so viciously when we are in a weakened state is the most damaging thing we’ve ever experienced.  It is one of the most heinous crimes committed.

If it had been against the law in my case, I don’t know that (name removed) would have been so quick to abuse, and if he had he could have been arrested.  If it had been against the law, I could have reported the abuse to law enforcement rather than the church and been protected from the humiliation of having abuse labeled as an affair.  If it had been against the law, we might have been able to stay in the church, as other members may have understood what happened and offered us support.  But it wasn’t against the law in (state removed),  and as a result we’ve lost so very much and are still suffering greatly from this abuse.

Senator (name removed), talking about this is terribly hard and brings up so much pain, but if my story can keep even one person from suffering the way that our family has, then I am willing to do so.  Thank you so much for your time and consideration in this matter.  May God bless you in all you do.

Sincerely,

(name removed)

Steps to Begin the Process

Steps to Begin the Process of Getting a Law Passed

  • First, educate yourself on the Laws in your State (compare to other States). (See our home page.)
  • If your State has NO Laws against Counselor Sexual Abuse OR Clergy Sexual Abuse – it is recommended to focus on passing a Law against Counselor Sexual Abuse first.  Then later add on Sexual Abuse by Religious Counselors/Clergy.
  • If your State HAS a Law against Counselor/Professional Sexual Abuse ONLY – then you will need to get a Law against Clergy added to the Counselor Law that is already in place.  
  • Next educate yourself about Clergy Sexual Abuse (CSA) and/or Counselor Sexual Abuse – you may need one or both depending on what your State has currently.  Look at our list of sites like SNAP, The Hope of Survivors etc…(Also check out our resource page.  We will add information to this as it is provided.)
  • Learn all you can so you can define and explain this abuse to legislators.
  • Gather all the statistics about the abuse: like the prevalence and consequences of this abuse – for example, Baylor University’s research shows 1 in 33 women will experience CSA sometime in her lifetime in the U.S.
  • Add articles about CSA in the U.S. and particularly in your State showing why your state needs to protect its citizens. (See our articles page.  Also send us any that you want to add.)
  • Add useful resources like State Boards Practice Codes that declare any sexual relations with clients is forbidden OR Church by-laws like United Methodist have that forbid clergy from any sexual relations with those under their care.
  • Compile all of your information together with all the States with their Laws together to show the need for protecting ALL people in ALL States.
  • You may get needed support and help from local advocacy groups in your area. In Alabama, ACAR – AL Coalition Against Rape is a great resource.
  • Also, try to get counselors in your State to support such Bills OR get clergy to support a proposed Bill.
  • Try to find other survivors of this abuse to help you and possibly be willing to testify or give a written testimony. (Check our resource page for survivor blog links.  If you have one to add please send!)
  • Next you need to get a Bill sponsored by a State Senator or State Representative. Call and set up an appointment – be persistent.
  • Once a State Senator or Representative agrees to sponsor such a Bill – it needs to pass through the House and then the Senate – and then finally
  • The governor of your state will have to sign it to make it Law.
  • Keep in mind that this is a process that will take a lot of time and effort on each individual’s part, but it is a effort that is worth it.   You will be giving voice to so many who do not have a voice.  Your work in this area will clarify the boundary lines that have been crossed in a victim’s life. 
  • Laws make a clear statement about where the boundary lines must be drawn.  Laws keep us safe.  Laws also clear up confusion in the victim’s mind about who is to blame.  Laws also clearly communicate to an individual, organization, or church who is to blame.  Laws motivate to bring about  much needed change to protect us!
  • There is strength in numbers.   We encourage you to network and find others in your state who care about this cause like you do.  Set up a social media page for your state.  Get a petition started.  Most of all educate yourself.  If you will send us your contact information or a link to your social media page, we will post it on our PASA site, so that others can find you.  We will also post on our site any information that you’d like to share that will help our cause of networking, educating, and working together to get laws passed.   PLEASE SHARE YOUR INFORMATION WITH US!  WE NEED YOUR HELP!

Other helpful resources for passing a law:

http://www.house.gov/legislative/

http://peopleof.oureverydaylife.com/law-passed-state-6220.html

Find and contact your senators and representatives here.