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# Southern Baptist Church Sexual Assault

Southern Baptist Leaders Silenced 700 Assault Survivors for Two Decades.

Powerful Men Shamed Rape Victims to Avoid Liability.

“I was a girl who would have done anything for God… I remember how, each time when you were finished with me, you would always say ‘God loves you, Christa.’ I can still hear your voice. I can’t even hear about God’s love without wanting to vomit and run..”  – survivor/advocate Christa Brown1

For 20 years, sex assault survivors in the Southern Baptist Convention (the largest Protestant denomination in America) tried in vain to get someone to care about their brutal stories of manipulation and rape at the hands of top leadership, pastors, youth ministers, staff members. Nobody listened. Instead, survivors were shamed and shunned. Yet, year after year they kept calling for transparency and reform, to their peril.  And it finally paid off — or so it would seem.

The SBC Executive Committee of 86 men, under pressure from 15,000 church delegates at last year’s annual conference, hired a third-party investigative firm, Guidepost Solutions, to plumb two decades of alleged hidden sexual abuse by administrative leaders, pastors and support staff.

After Guidepost spent seven months gathering information from thousands of internal documents and 330 interviews, the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News on May 22, 2022, released a 400-page investigative report shocking even those who sensed a storm was coming.

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Five Guidepost Takeaways2

1

The actions of a small core of SBC administrators led by attorney August “Augie” Boto warned EC presidents for two decades to stay tight-lipped about abuse allegations and to actively oppose reforms to avoid potential liability and financial loss.
2

Survivors included adolescents who were molested, exposed to pornography, photographed nude or repeatedly raped by youth pastors. Some victims as young as 3 were molested or raped inside pastors’ studies and Sunday school classrooms. A few adult women and men who sought pastoral guidance told Guidepost they were instead seduced or sexually assaulted.
3

Some registered sex offenders returned to the pulpit. Others never left, including a Houston minister who sexually assaulted a teenager and now is the principal officer of a Houston nonprofit — Touching the Future Today Inc. — that works with student organizations, according to federal records.
4

While a proposed churchwide offender database was being rejected, EC core leaders compiled a private list of 703 “accused ministers” to protect themselves.
5

Leaders deliberately stonewalled victims, disavowing their claims. A pattern of intimidation emerged: staff members were directed to not engage with callers asking about how to stop their child from being sexually violated by a minister.

Please don’t be afraid of the process. We’ve got this. We’ve got you.

Physical Boundaries Are Spiritual Too.

The wound to survivors’ psyches, when tangled within a faith culture espousing God’s unconditional love, is bitter. The predator relies on the believer’s faith and eagerness to be “good,” confusing their instincts by twisting biblical scripture, encouraging blind trust, then threatening damnation to ensure secrecy.3

Female survivors recounted to Guidepost that being raped was less traumatizing than disavowal from an all-male church leaders they had assumed would be horrified and act hastily to protect them from future harm.4

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Promises for Change.

In response to the Guidepost report, and with more sexual abuse survivors coming forward, SBC leadership held a virtual meeting to discuss damage control and next steps. Executive Committee Chair Wally Slade began the meeting by acknowledging the survivors: “Our commitment is to be different and do different,” he said. “We can’t come up with half-baked solutions.”5

The goals are to prevent sexual abuse, better care for survivors when such abuse does occur and assure that abusers are not allowed to continue in ministry, according to California minister Bruce Frank who leads the SBC Sexual Abuse Task Force.6

  • A hotline has been opened so survivors who reach out can be directed to the proper place to tell their stories and receive proper care.
  • The EC’s private list of sex offenders will be released to create a long-awaited public Offender Information System for dissemination among the denomination’s more than 47,000 churches and 15 million followers.
  • Any survivor information will remain classified.
  • Leaders pledge to earn back victims’ trust, which explains the utter denunciation of Boto’s written words, sentiments and actions.7

Take Your Power Back with a Baptist Sexual Assault Lawsuit.

If you or a loved one was sexually assaulted by someone in a position of power at a Baptist church, you are not alone! This is where you turn the tables on those who hurt you and wounded your faith in love, in others and, worst of all, yourself.

You may qualify to file a Baptist assault lawsuit that could bring compensation to you and help change the broken system. Please contact us for a free consultation regarding civil legal action that is handled on a contingency-fee basis, meaning you pay nothing unless you win a financial settlement.

We’ve worked with hundreds of survivors of sexual assault, ranging from women assaulted in an Uber or Lyft to those assaulted by Catholic priests. Assault is never okay.

Don’t be afraid of the process. We’ve got this. We’ve got you.

What You Can Do: Talk to a Baptist Sexual Assault Lawyer.

Call us today to speak with a real human.

TAKE A STAND

Fighting for Truth.

“Fighting for truth, justice and reform is the work of a community. Caring well for those who have been deeply wounded requires the participation of everyone. Messengers had to listen, pay attention, care, and take a stand. And they overwhelmingly did.”

– Survivor/Advocate Rachael Denhollander, Twitter Thread, June 16, 2021

Sources

  1. Christa Brown, “Christa Brown Writes an Open Letter to Tommy Gilmore, the SBC Pastor Who Sexually Abused Her,” BishopAccountability.org (June 7, 2019). https://www.bishop- accountability.org/news2019/05_06/2019_06_07_blog_Christa_Pastor.htm
  2. David French, “The Southern Baptist Horror,” Atlantic (May 23, 2022). https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2022/05/southern-baptist-evangelical-allegations-cover-up/629954/; and Robert Downen, Lise Olsen, John Tedesco, “Abuse of Faith: 20 years, 700 victims: Southern Baptist sexual abuse spreads as leaders resist reforms,” Houston Chronicle (February 10, 2019). http://www.houstonchronicle.com.3184790422.proxy.jingzhou.gov.cn/news/investigations/article/Southern-Baptist-sexual-abuse-spreads-as-leaders-13588038.php?proxy=https_
  3. William Nye, “The Gospel, Sexual Abuse and the Church,” churchofengland.org (June 2016). https://www.churchofengland.org/sites/default/files/2017-10/theologicalresourcefaocweb.pdf
  4. Elizabeth Dias and Ruth Graham, “Southern Baptist Leaders Mishandled Sex Abuse Crisis, Report Alleges,” New York Times (May 22, 2022). https://www.nytimes.com/2022/05/22/us/southern-baptist-sex-abuse.html
  5. Unnamed, “Southern Baptist leaders plan to release a list of accused sex abusers,” npr.org (May 24, 2022). https://www.npr.org/2022/05/24/1101012028/southern-baptist-sex-abuse-list
  6. Ibid.
  7. Ruth Graham, “Southern Baptists Release List of Alleged Sex Abusers,” New York Times (May 26, 2022). https://www.nytimes.com/2022/05/26/us/southern-baptist-sex-abusers.html
  8. Deepa Bharath, David Crary, Holly Meyer, The Associated Press, “Report: Top Southern Baptists stonewalled sex abuse victims” (May 23, 2022). https://apnews.com/article/baptist-religion-sexual-abuse-by-clergy-southern-convention-bfdbe64389790630488f854c3dae3fd5