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Story ~ Adult Clergy Sexual Abuse

Girl by the Sea

In recent years, there has been increased media coverage of spiritual leaders accused of sexual misconduct. Many people are now becoming more familiar with the sad reality of adult clergy sexual abuse. Adult Clergy Sexual Abuse includes any sexualized behavior by a spiritual leader toward someone under his or her spiritual care. Someone who, by nature, is in a position of less power and authority. More and more, survivors are speaking about their experiences, which helps us understand just how traumatic it is for the victim. The Church has been faced with this harsh reality, and the call is for us, as Christ’s body to respond like him.

 

I want you to get to know and welcome our guest story teller Tamra…

 

On the Safe to Hope podcast, names have been changed in order to protect those associated with these stories. The HelpHer ministry exists to help people in crisis and to train people helpers, so integrity is one of our concerns. To the best of our ability we have sought to honor the privacy and dignity of those who share their precious stories with us.

 

Tamra is an Advocate, but she is also a Survivor of Adult Clergy Sexual Abuse and she is going to share a bit of her story with us today.

 

Tamra, “thank you so much for joining us!”

 

Tamra Hi, Ann Maree. Thank you so much for having me on your podcast. Telling my story is quite difficult, but I think it’s necessary that people become aware of adult clergy sexual abuse. 

 

Absolutely! And I am anxious to hear your story, some of the specific dynamics related to adult clergy sexual abuse, and then also how God has or is redeeming your story in His story. Our goal throughout this 12-week series will be to hear you—your circumstances and perspective—but also to show how God’s redemptive thread flows throughout as, through our circumstances, he invites us to join with him in his transformational work.

 

Before we begin though, I’d like to share with the audience listening at home that there may be some things discussed that can be triggering. If you’re a victim or survivor we want to just let you know Tamra’s story may be hard to hear. Maybe find a trusted friend to sit with, or someone you can talk to and process after you’ve heard her experience. 

 

Tamra, you use the term “adult clergy sexual abuse,” but are there other terms used to describe this form abuse?

 

Yes. Some terms include clergy sexual misconduct, clergy abuse, pastoral abuse, and clergy-perpetrated sexual abuse of adults. It’s important to know that, because there is a growing wealth of research and information out there on the internet, but you have to know what appropriate terms to search in order to find it. 

 

There’s also misinformation out there, often coming from the Church, unfortunately. Because the victim is an adult, not a minor, people who aren’t educated don’t have the categories yet to explain what happened. So, they mislabel it with terms that imply consent, like the term “affair.” I’ve chosen to share my experience here with you today, because I see the damage that is done to the lives of so many survivors when this misinformation is propagated. It has real life detrimental consequences to survivors and secondary survivors, such as spouses and children, and whole communities.

 

I think we tend to forget there are real, living breathing human beings impacted negatively by our words. Sometimes those people are victims. I know they are listening to what we say, gauging whether or not we are those who they can talk to. How do you suggest we help the church become a trusted place?

 

I believe that the church needs to be educated on how to identify, respond, and especially prevent this type of abuse. I also hope that by sharing my story, other survivors will feel less alone, and that silent victims will feel empowered to speak up and disclose the abuse that is happening to them. They need to know that what is happening to them is not right, is not what God desires for them, and is not their fault. There is hope.

 

And if that’s you, there are people who you can tell, who will believe you, and walk alongside you as you heal away from your abuser. There are people out there who can show you true Christ-like love.

 

That is my motive: to help survivors and victims and encourage the church to get educated about this form of abuse. So, thank you for kindly sharing your platform with me today to help do that.

 

That’s my pleasure. And, as you’ve mentioned, telling our stories can be very difficult. So I want to make sure the people listening today are aware I’m basically just going to listen as you share. I feel like it’s easier for someone to work through a difficult story without a bunch of interruptions. Tamra, if that’s ok, let’s start with you sharing how the abuse began.

 

 

Sure. My story of adult clergy sexual abuse started way before the actual sexual contact even occurred. Like many survivors of adult clergy sexual abuse, there was a period of grooming that took place prior to the initial sexual contact.

 

It all began after college, where I had become a Christian. I was a new believer. I was that bright eyed, bushy tailed, “tell-me-everything-there-is-to-know-about-Jesus” type of Christian. Everything I learned was new and exciting and amazing and unlike anything I had heard about God growing up. In other words, I was the evangelist’s dream convert. And I still love Jesus, but now I am a bit more discerning about what I take in and believe. But at the time, it was all new. And it was all so beautiful to me.

 

Unfortunately after I converted, I was estranged from my family, who weren’t approving of my new faith. This was traumatic to me—to lose the acceptance and safety of my family. So, when I joined the church after moving away from my family, I came with nothing. Whatever fit into my friend’s car came with me–a trunk full of belongings and my faith. And that’s also how I left, but we will get to that part later.

 

The church was small–only a handful of people and was more of the charismatic persuasion. But, it’s important to note that abuse doesn’t happen only in charismatic circles. I know adult clergy sexual abuse survivors from all types of churches and denominations–from Pentecostal to Presbyterian and everything in between. 

 

But, this church was non-denominational. The pastor was the only leader with no direct oversight. There was no governing body over him. The church had no building yet, so we met in homes and other locations.

 

At first, the pastor was helpful. As a new believer from an estranged family, he became like a father figure to me. He gave me counsel in every facet of life. Advice that seemed reasonable, like spiritual counsel and career advice, but also advice in areas that were a bit intrusive, like romantic relationship advice, which amounted to “dump your boyfriend and don’t date anyone.”

 

He took a real interest in my personal life and shared how “special” I was compared to others, especially since people would constantly leave the church.

 

People just didn’t stay in that church. At the time, I never could understand exactly why they left. They never really explained to me in a coherent way what they didn’t like about the church.

 

But the pastor always had an explanation. The people who left the church were considered “dangerous.” There were explanations like “they had a lustful spirit” or “they’re into witchcraft,” or they are “religious,” which was considered a negative thing and seemed to apply to people who had reasonably strong convictions based on scripture.

 

Another explanation–one that was especially scary–was that people who left the church were “demonic.” The implication was if you followed them, you are following the devil, and the result would not only be partnering with satanic forces, but also missing what good God had planned for you.

 

And I didn’t want to follow Satan! I love God. I wanted Jesus. I wanted more of Jesus. I don’t want to follow someone with an evil spirit. What Christian would want to knowingly side with Satan? Not me. 

 

So, the thought of even engaging with the many people who left the church was scary to me, because I could get infected by whatever spiritual stronghold they had–that’s a term that was frequently used. Even worse, engaging with those who left the church would make my pastor very upset with me. So, talking to those who left the church was off limits for spiritual and practical reasons. 

 

In my mind, and from what I was taught, this pastor was the authority God put over me to submit to. He was appointed by God and therefore following him meant following God. Not following him meant following Satan. Serious spiritual consequences.

 

Additionally, he supposedly had a special gift—the gift of “discernment,” which enabled him to “hear from God” and “discern hearts” of everyone he met. So according to him, I was blessed to have someone with such great discernment protecting me from those who Satan had sent to disrupt the work of God. This pastor could supposedly take one look at you and see your sins and spiritual strongholds. He could identify evil spirits operating in your life that you didn’t even know existed. For the record, I do not believe this now. But back then, I felt like my spiritual safety depended on this man. 

 

It seemed like everyone in that church was given a label at some point with some sort of secret sin that I had to avoid. And oftentimes, you would hear about it from the pulpit. Now this was a small church and so when you're preaching about fornication and how those who do it are absolutely wicked and the congregation consists of two married couples and three singles, you know someone in there just had all their business put out there. It was absolutely humiliating and fearful for people to hear rebuke like that from the pulpit. You had one pastor to go to for counsel and confess your sins to, and then everyone in the congregation would get a group lesson on it. No names, though. But it was obvious. And I was always afraid I would be the topic of the next week’s message.

 

So, you could imagine the relief and thankfulness to God that I had when he took an interest in me and said I was “special.” Not only that, but the praise I would get, even from the pulpit at times for my submissiveness and dedication to the church and loyalty to him was the highest honor. This was proof that I was obeying the Word in submitting to my elder and being obedient and a true servant–unlike those demon possessed people who were supposedly coming in the church trying to thwart the mission of God.

 

That sounds like a lot of pressure to be estranged from your family and part of a church where if you didn’t live up to the leadership’s standard you would be humiliated, especially since your deep desire was to please God. How did this affect your development as a Christian?

 

I certainly wasn’t the “perfect church member.” I was a new convert who was early in her sanctification process and needed a lot of godly guidance. I came into that church as a young adult with a desire to date and get married. Normal human desires that I was taught were wrong to have.

 

Looking back, I see that instead of being led according to the Word of God and conformed into the image of Christ, I was shaped and molded and conformed into something else. After a couple years of that sort of leadership, I wasn’t further sanctified, but instead I was molded into an image that the pastor seemed to accept.

 

Becoming a person that he could mold seemed like a good thing to me. It meant I was teachable and submissive and willing to be used by God when everyone else would just leave and go live their lives the way they wanted to. Not me. Ministry became my life. I was a local missionary and I felt that was a good and godly thing.

 

I was so happy that he saw something good in me when even my own family didn’t seem to. And on top of that, God had appointed him to cultivate my spiritual gifts. He taught me that God had given me to this pastor to be molded and mentored and sent into the mission field under his watch. And I felt so blessed to have that position. I was his protege, and I believed God had ordained it and it was an honor.

 

Then, he employed me with his personal business. So now he’s not only my spiritual leader, and mentor, but also my boss–my source of financial stability. As with many decisions I made at that time, I didn’t feel like working for him was an actual choice. It was more of doing what he said. I was given the job and I was expected to take it.

 

This wasn’t a choice, and if it wasn’t for the promised paycheck, which by the way didn’t match what I was promised, I wouldn’t have taken that job. I actually hated that job. But, if I were to fulfill God’s will for my life, then I would have to comply.

 

Compliance is the best word to describe how I practiced my faith at that time and what I thought true Christianity looked like. But, compliance, as it turns out, is not complicity and it is not consent.

 

That's a hard reality to wrap your head around. You weren't encouraged as a follower of Jesus to be conformed to the image of Christ. You were encouraged to be conformed into a compliant follower of the pastor. Tamra, you’ve explained what it was like to be a member of this pastor’s church, what was it like once he also became your boss?

 

As time went on, his behavior became increasingly controlling, demanding, demeaning, volatile, and generally unpredictable. And when he was unpleasant, it was dark, extremely intimidating to me. I felt like he was a bear and I was a small cowering animal, trying to remain so still so he wouldn’t attack. I mean, I don’t know how I would act if I met a real bear in the woods. I would probably freeze and hope he doesn’t see me. And that’s exactly how I was when he became upset and unpredictable.

 

But, in private, he would also present himself more like a teddy bear. He would be kind and encouraging sometimes. But, also inappropriate. Without boundaries. He would share information with me about his intimate life with his wife and past relationships and ask me about my past intimate relationships. He would refer to me as his best friend and the only person he could confide in who understood him.

 

It’s so bizarre and inappropriate when I reflect on it now. But at the time, I didn’t have anything else to compare it to. As far as I knew, and as I was taught, pastors had a close circle of friends called an “inner circle,” just like Jesus did (Peter, James, and John). And I was like Peter. And being like Peter was the greatest honor. And loyalty was the key quality to be considered a “Peter.”

 

So, one moment, the pastor would be so nice and quote “vulnerable” (and I put the word vulnerable in quotes because he was always in the position of power over me and I was actually the vulnerable one). But, then, the next time, he’d be greatly displeased with me. His temper was unpredictable, and I lived with a constant fear of upsetting him. In my mind, upsetting him meant that I must be sinning and upsetting God. The back and forth unpredictability caused me to live with intense anxiety and hypervigilance.

 

Every time he would be displeased, it would feel like a huge weight was placed on me. It could be an error at work or some theological difference, or perhaps a new friendship that he didn’t approve of, which essentially were all my friendships. Whatever it was, I would always be proven wrong or questioned intensely. Many times my memories would get questioned, causing me to think that I was confused or unstable, especially since he would call me words like, “crazy.” It left me questioning my judgment and my sanity. As long as I agreed with him, I was considered sane. 

 

So, when he began flirting with me, it was almost like a relief from all the name calling, and cowering in fear, and trying to speak up for myself.

 

But, flirting is wrong, right? My spiritual leader obviously doesn’t think so when he does it toward me. But, then again, is this flirting? Am I crazy? What if I’m wrong again and falsely accusing him? When I did speak up, I was labeled “religious,” which like I said was supposedly a sinful way to be or at least less spiritual.

 

Besides, isn’t rebuking an elder wrong? I can’t tell anyone over him, because there was only him. No governing body. And even if there was, shouldn’t I be loyal? Am I not to be submissive? How can I even accuse this man who has poured so much into me spiritually? How can I even think such a thing?

 

I tried not to be alone with him, but he’s got it so that I’m almost always alone with him. He hired me, so now I work side by side with him. He convinced me to carpool with him. He comes to my apartment any time he wants to discuss work and ministry. He convinced me to give him a spare house key to keep his files in my apartment. I don’t even know if he’s coming over, until I hear his key turning in my lock.

 

He takes my car without asking, because he convinced me to give him my spare car key. So, some mornings, I’ll wake up, and see my car is missing, and I have no way to travel anywhere. He borrowed thousands of dollars from me because he convinced me God spoke to him about some business deal that never worked out and he didn’t keep track of how much he owed me. But I was still honored for my faith. And isn’t that what pleases God? Without faith you cannot please God, right?

 

Besides, this pastor was supposedly my spiritual covering of safety. He was always present, unlike those who left the church and my estranged family who I felt abandoned by. Leaving him would mean leaving God's covering of protection and venturing into unknown danger. So, obeying him and remaining under his authority felt like a matter of my survival.

 

Everything about my life revolved around this leader and depended on this leader. I felt isolated and controlled within this little world that was created for me to exist in… and then all of sudden he’s flirting with me. But, maybe he’s not flirting with me.

 

Think about the ramifications of accusing a minister of sexual misconduct. Look at the news and see how other Christians respond to reports of sexual misconduct allegations. The victim shaming is intense, and the leader is backed by the majority, or a loud minority. Do I really want to go there? Or should I just stay quiet and see if he stops? Maybe, just maybe, he will stop.

 

He didn’t stop.

 

In the midst of being overwhelmed working 9-5 with this volatile man, and immersing myself in ministry on my off hours like a good Christian girl, always being around this spiritual mentor, always dealing with his incessant questioning of what I was doing and who I was with, and whether I was steering clear of those satanic people who left the church and making sure I wasn’t dating anyone because that was off limits, his sexual talk and affection for me intensified.

 

Then, he began explaining to me that he quote “discerned” that we were quote “in love” and that we shouldn’t fight our “destiny.”

 

I specifically remember feeling dizzy with confusion and deeply afraid when he told me that and literally trying to run to my apartment to get away from him, but he followed me right in.

 

That’s when the sexual contact began. And just like I did before, I felt powerless to stand up to the bear.

 

They say there are four trauma responses: fight, flight, freeze and appease. Appease is also known as fawn. My trauma response was to appease. Just like I always did before.

 

Tamra, thank you for sharing that, I’m sure it was hard to relive. It seems the spiritual abuse set the stage for the sexual abuse. Once the line of spiritual abuse crossed into physical sexual contact, how did you process what was happening?

 

Once the overt sexual abuse began, I was in a daze. Just absolutely thrown off kilter and completely confused. I was convinced it occurred because I had some sort of “lust spirit” or “generational curse”–a term that was often used. The fact that I was loyal to him for so long (because I was taught that loyalty was so highly esteemed), his claims about us being “in love” seemed believable. 

 

In my mind, spiritual abuse wasn’t even a concept. So I interpreted my actions of submission to him as how he framed it, and he framed it not just as a love for God, but also as a romantic love for him.

 

But I wasn’t loyal to him because I was in love with him. I didn’t hang around him all the time because I wanted to be around him. I did those things because it was expected of me in order to be a good Christian. Now, all my obedience to him all these years was being described as proof of my so-called romantic love for this man.

 

My definitions of what was spiritual and good and right were shaped and molded by this pastor. The sexual contact didn’t make sense to me, but as he always did before, he had a way of spiritually explaining away behavior I didn’t understand.

 

One of the most egregious and disturbing lies that was told to me was that I was a quote a “whore” and the only way to keep my supposed innate behavior “under control” and not “infect” other men was for me to comply with this sexual behavior.

 

Even to this day, I get concerned that my very presence around a man of God could possibly make him stumble. Probably because I spent years living in fear that someone would see some demonic influence controlling me. It’s been one of the hardest lies to shake, despite the fact that once I broke free from this man, I wasn’t tempted to seduce men like he said I would.

 

During the abuse, I also developed a fear of leaving my apartment and would get dizzy spells in public, especially while trying to shop. Those anxiety attacks and dizzy spells lasted for years after the abuse, often when shopping, and then finally subsided as I experienced safety within my marriage.

 

Those blatant lies about who I was as a person kept me in this oppressive situation–this spiritual and mental captivity. The manipulation was so effective and so many thoughts were planted in my head that I felt like I didn’t even own my own mind. Nothing was mine. Nothing. Not my apartment, my car, my schedule, my life, my thoughts, and definitely not my body. 

 

When the sexual contact began, it felt like the cage door was officially slammed shut, and if I said anything, I was told I would be labeled a “Jezebel”–a conniving seductress who targets men in power and controls them with her sensuality and witchcraft in order to ruin the ministry and bring down the man of God, so that the work of God would be stopped.

 

It wasn’t too hard to convince me that I had a “jezebel spirit.” He knew about my past as an unbeliever and details about my former romantic relationships due his intrusive and inappropriate form of “counseling.” Bringing up my pre-Christian past as evidence that I had a supposed quote “generational curse of lust” made it easier for me to believe that as a single person struggling with certain desires, I must have a lust demon. Why else did I want to get married and have a family? Interestingly enough, pretty much every unmarried person in the congregation was labeled “lustful” at some point, particularly when they expressed a desire for marriage.

 

Being in an oppressive situation, while carrying the weight of secret shame, and a supposed “lust demon” was a lot to carry. To make the burden even heavier, I was told the gospel ministry would be ruined if I spoke up about what was happening. It would be like the lust demon won.

 

Everything was riding on my silence. It felt like everything and everyone’s safety, including the safe passage of the gospel to the lost, was riding on me not saying anything.

 

Even today, I see this in the church at large. I see it in how the survivors of clergy sexual abuse are treated on social media and in the news. There’s a clear message to us that speaking up about the abuse we endured in the Church is “a threat to evangelism.” My abuser, their abusers, all said the same thing.

 

A survivor always loses in some way once an abuser preys on him or her. If we speak up before the sexual contact begins, then we’re accused of slandering a holy man and ruining his ministry. We’re criticized for “reading too much into his actions.” But, if we speak up after the sexual contact, then we were said to be “complicit” and therefore to blame. You can’t win either way.

 

These are all lies of Satan meant to keep people in oppression and abuse. Lies, cover-up and darkness have nothing to do with the light and truth of the gospel.

 

That is incredibly powerful, Tamra. Survivors always lose in some way. There is such a high cost to pay for abuse. What would you like to say to survivors about that cost?

 

I want every survivor here and any silent victim listening to know that speaking up and disclosing abuse to a safe person is the right thing to do–no matter what your abuser says or the negative messages you’re receiving from people who profess Christ. God does not want you living in the oppression of abuse. You are not meant to carry the burden of another person’s sin. Yes, the cost is high. But, I encourage you to tell a safe person, because there is healing and there is hope for you. The cost is high, and that shouldn’t be, but the freedom is worth it. You are worth it.

 

Amen. Before you were able to speak up and gain your freedom from the abuse, how did you cope with the ongoing oppression?

 

I’m still processing and coming to terms with what happened to me during my abuse. Those were long, dark years of overwhelming oppression.

 

As I tried to cope, I found myself creating a whole new persona that was unlike the woman who was vulnerable and bulldozed and taken advantage of. This woman was strong, a leader, and a force to be reckoned with. That identity was shaped and crafted by the so-called leadership training I received from the pastor, which now I have come to understand was actually training in spiritual abuse.

 

Unfortunately, many people came to know this side of me, and in many ways, I was embraced for being a seemingly single-focused, ministry-minded, zealous soul winner. But others who were under my leadership suffered from the fruit of that toxic leadership training.

 

Sadly, the ministry grew under my leadership and under the oversight of this abusive pastor and many were harmed by it. And I am so deeply sorry for the pain I caused people from that. I have apologized to so many people for what they suffered in that system.

 

Though I’m the only one that I know of who was sexual abused, anyone who participated in the ministry at that time was affected by this toxic system. So, I know what it is like to be both abused and to participate in a spiritually abusive system. It has made the healing process all the more complicated.

 

My abuser continued to present himself as my protector and the person that God had supposedly assigned to me for my own protection. So, despite seeing everything wrong with him and how he betrayed my trust and used everything I confided in him against me, I was loyal to him. And he reinforced my trust in him by letting me know that if it did come out about what was happening, he would always “protect me” from harm.

 

I cannot tell you what that does to the mind and spirit and how that just utterly cages and crushes a person. The person who is supposedly protecting me from the outside world, and even from myself because of my own supposed demons, is the same person who is repeatedly violating and controlling and silencing me.

 

My brain could not handle the immense confusion and conflict. So I just released myself into the hands of God and figured that if God wanted to end it, He would be the One to end it. I couldn’t make sense of what was right and wrong, so God would have to be the One to move to help me understand His will.  

 

So, I kept serving God in ministry. This “other person” that I was in front of people–the one who was strong and zealous, was embraced by other Christians, and when I was performing all these good works, it made me feel like God was pleased. It seemed like the pastor was right. The gospel was going forth in power, or so it seemed. So, I figured it was quote “bigger than us” as I would often hear, even though I was dying inside.

 

Behind closed doors, when I was alone, I found myself physically harming my body. It would especially occur after arguments with the pastor that left me so absolutely confused about reality and feeling completely helpless, without any control, and intensely angry, not just at him, but more so, at myself.

 

I would break out in tears, screaming and raging, and I’d curse at myself and tell myself what a horrible, vile and stupid person I was. Then, I would suddenly beat myself in the head or I’d pull a belt tight around my neck and punish myself. It felt automatic–not like I was consciously doing it. I just couldn’t not do it. It was explosive and felt right and necessary.

 

It was like there was a person inside of me beating my outer body, begging my body to let that imprisoned person out. And my outer body just wouldn’t do it. My outer body wouldn’t listen to the screaming, scared woman on the inside of me, begging to be free. It was the most painful form of oppression, because all the doors in the room were unlocked, but I couldn’t bring myself to leave.

 

But that part of me–that outer body it seemed, wouldn’t let me go free and escape the abuse by speaking out, because that part of me knew, or believed, that it was safer to stay quiet, than to speak up, and let that imprisoned person out before she was ready to face the victim shaming and blaming that was to come.

 

The reaction of those who would find out scared me almost more than the abuse itself. I felt I could handle the hatred of this one man–the abusive pastor. But, I didn’t know if I could survive the hatred and harm of so many others. 

 

But, I want to pause here and say: I did speak out, and although some of those fears were realized, because I was shamed and blamed by some, it was the best thing I could’ve done for myself–to free myself and use the voice that was taken from me to speak the truth, as hard as it was.

 

There is hope after disclosure of abuse. If you’re wondering if you should tell, I want to encourage you to find a safe person and tell.

 

There is hope. God got me through it. I’m living proof.

 

You are, and I’m thankful you are here with us today sharing that hope. Is there anything you would like our listeners to know about this type of abuse? You said earlier that there is a lot of misinformation. What are some ideas you would like to see corrected?

 

I think it’s important to note that although I met this abusive pastor when I was a young adult and also new to the faith, and he shaped and molded my spirituality in significant ways, many survivors of adult clergy sexual abuse were not new to the faith when the grooming and abuse began. Many were even mature in their faith. Various factors make a person vulnerable to this type of abuse, not just being a novice in the faith.

 

In fact, a national survey of adult clergy sexual abuse survivors revealed that the average age of victims when the abuse started was age thirty. 62% of them were being counseled by the leader. 65% of them had unprocessed trauma or unresolved trauma prior to the abuse.

 

Hungry wolves, who are looking to prey on sheep, know how to find the right ones to target, isolate, and ravage. Those with less power, like congregants, are automatically vulnerable. There are also other factors that make people even more vulnerable, such as a need for counsel or trauma.

 

It’s typical for adult clergy sexual abuse victims to have additional vulnerabilities that are exploited by the leader, who misuses his power to abuse.

 

So, those who may think they are too seasoned a Christian to fall for the deception of a wolf, I would say, remember the warning of our Lord Jesus, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.”

 

There’s a reason why the Church has such a tremendous problem with sexual abusers. It’s because those in leadership are deceived. Those charged with protecting the flock are blinded by the charms of the wolves themselves. The most “seasoned” pastors have hired and platformed abusers unknowingly.

 

Even after the abuse is made known, many seasoned Christians and seminary educated pastors believe the abuser’s narrative, and continue to support and platform wolves in sheep’s clothing. So, is it no wonder a woman or man who is taught to submit to leadership might likewise be deceived when they submit to a wolf who chooses to prey on them unknowingly?

 

We cannot underestimate the depravity and deception of wolves. Maybe you would not have fallen for the lies my abuser told me. But, if a predator targeted you, he would use tactics specific to deceiving you.

 

This is why we need to be humble, sober-minded, watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Abusers are masters of illusion, incredibly adept at crafting personalized plans of manipulation to entrap their prey. 

 

Tamra this has been so rich, so hard, and I am just so thankful that we have you here. When we speak again, Tamra, we would love to hear about how you were finally able to tell others about what was happening, to escape the abuse, and then maybe you can help us understand some of the dynamics of adult clergy sexual abuse that churches should know in order to recognize it and care well for the victims.

 

That’s all for today, on the next Episode Dr. Heather Evans and I will talk about what happened to Tamra. I look forward to hearing her advice for the best way to help victims of adult CSA. Make sure to join us again as we explore how, despite sharing in Christ’s sufferings in a fallen world, we can be Safe to Hope.

 

For anyone concerned about Adult Clergy Sexual Abuse and looking for more information, go to the Clergy Sexual Misconduct website link in our show notes.

 

Safe to Hope is a production of HelpHer. Our executive producer is Ann Maree Goudzwaard. Safe to Hope is written, mixed, and edited by Ann Maree Goudzwaard, with assistance from Matt McQuade. Music is from The Detour, from the Integrity Music release "FAITHFUL: Go And Speak" and licensed by Integrity Music.

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