they took it down


That’s what I felt like last night around 11 pm. Then I started crying.

First, I want to thank all of you for joining me in asking Leadership Journal to #TakeDownThatPost. Seeing so many of us rally on twitter, and on facebook, and reading the e-mails you were sending … it was extraordinary.

I also wanted to say this, in case they ever have the chance to read it.

To his wife: you are an incredible woman. What you did when you left him was amazing, and courageous, and I – a stranger you’ve never met—am proud of you. You did the absolutely right thing in what must have been one of the darkest times of your life.

To his victim: I wish there was a way to express how much my heart broke for you. My horror if my rapist had the opportunity to manipulate and deceive Christian leaders all over the country would be inexpressible. Hopefully you didn’t know that he’d been given a platform, but if you did, I hope you know that everything we did to get that post removed, we did for you. You are a child of God, and we love you.


It took the Leadership Journal five days to remove the post, and there were some significant bumps along the way, but they did, ultimately do the right thing and removed it. And not only did they take it down—the absolute best I was hoping for—they apologized. And it wasn’t a non-apology of “we’re sorry you all were stupid enough to be offended.” It was a real, legitimate apology.

I read it, and I laughed, and rejoiced. We did it. They listened. It was . . . incredible. This week had been so hard because I fully expected them to continue ignoring us, to delete our comments, to silence our criticism, to block us and ridicule us. Since when would a Christian media outlet recognize that they’d screwed up so epically? I was cynical, and my cynicism made me angry because I desperately wished that I didn’t have a reason for it. I hated that an entire editorial team had been taken in by a manipulative abuser, and that they had allowed a rapist into a pulpit to spread his lies.

And then I cried, because oh how I wish I weren’t so surprised that they’d done the right thing. It is a sorrowful thing to know that it is so extraordinarily rare for a Christian organization to admit to wrong doing.

So, thank you, Leadership Journal and Christianity Today for not taking the road that so many Christian leaders before you have taken.

But what now?

They were right in one thing: Christian leaders desperately need to be educated about child sexual abuse, clergy abuse, rape, and sexual ethics. To me, it is the most glaring and hideous fault in the modern American church, that they are negligently ignorant about this issue and the lives that are at stake.

I would like to see the Leadership Journal replace that hideous screed with posts—not just one, but many, and again and again and again in the years to come—from the perspective of victims and those who work with abuse survivors of all kinds. The American evangelical church knows nothing about abuse—not physical abuse, not domestic violence, not spiritual abuse, not sexual abuse—and that needs to change. Now.

They need to go to pastors like Jeff Crippen, who have been working with abuse survivors for decades. They need to ask the leaders at GRACE to do an entire series about how to identify abuse and how to properly respond to victims, especially children.

They also need to think about bringing more diversity into their editorial staff. All of them are men. I can’t help but believe that if they had a woman on the editorial staff, this atrocity would never have happened. Women are the targets of sexual violence in a way that men simply aren’t, and because of that we are going to be much more aware of what sexual violence is and the ramifications that it has on victims.

During this week, it was women who were leading, women who were telling our stories, women who were starting and participating in the hashtags #TakeDownThatPost and #HowOldWereYou. Men were there—good, amazing men—but the overwhelming majority of the voices calling on Leadership Journal were women.

We are half the church, after all.

So—you did the right thing, Leadership editors. You apologized. You took it down.

Don’t let it end with that.

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  • Amen!

    “Don’t let it end with that.”

    Amen, amen, amen!

  • andria

    A little about me: I work as a community education coordinator for a non-profit group in SC, which helps victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.

    The desperate need and cry for prevention education WITHIN faith communities is evident to me. I just attended the SCCDVASA conference in April in which we discussed just that: how do we as organizations reach out to churches, pastors, faith organizations, with a helping, supportive hand? How do we get them to understand the NEED for the trainings, the teachings, the steps they should follow if a victim comes to them or if the abuser comes to them? It’s something that has been lying heavy on my shoulders for months now. Which is why, I’m in process of developing something county specific.

    I have been haunting the FaithTrust Institute for inspiration, looking and following GRACE’s work, and hoping that I can somehow break through the incredibly resistant wall. When I first was faced with the idea: I scorned it. I couldn’t understand the ignorance – I had no patience for it. I couldn’t understand how those leaders in faith communities, for the most part, did nothing, wanted to do nothing, and refused to, in some cases. They can, in some cases, act as first responders. I know I don’t have to impart the importance of what the phrase means, “first responder” – it’s so vital and delicate a position, one that can help or hinder a victim in so many unforeseen ways. And I realized, that I was expecting these leaders to understand what trauma is, what re-victimization is, what being a “first responder” meant, all without them, for the most part, having a single ounce of training.

    I think if magazines like CT were to use their platform as advocates for trainings like what I am working on, like what so many other organizations offer for FREE, we could start to see a slow turn in the tide. I wonder, weep and worry that this may never change, that they will never hear, never understand, never see the desperate NEED of the support places like where I work can offer them. But I know, that I have to try, have to keep chipping away, have to keep using the vernacular of a culture I long left behind so that they can maybe hear, maybe reach out, maybe learn and maybe, hopefully, become more educated, more aware victim advocates who actually think of the victim first and know what steps they can take as pastors, as faith leaders, to protect those and to stand up against abusers, predators and assailants.

    • Hi Andria
      I’m glad to hear your heart and passion for this. If you visit A Cry For Justice you will find lots of resources for addressing domestic abuse in a Christian context. At A Cry For Justice we also recommend the new blog by Chris Moles called Peace Works . Chris is an evangelical pastor who is also a trained and experienced facilitator of groups for men who abuse their intimate partners. We don’t know of many pastors who fully get it about domestic and sexual abuse; Chris is a wonderful exception and one more little light in the resistant darkness and ignorance we are trying to overcome.

      I am hoping soon to ship a large quantity of my book “Not Under Bondage: Biblical Divorce for Abuse, Adultery” and Desertion to the US from where I live in Australia. I want to distribute them to DV agencies and women’s shelters and other places where they will be used to help victims. If you are interested in this, please email me at barbara@notunderbondage.com .

  • I was proud of his wife too. It must have been so disturbing to find those texts. I also found it so gross that he blamed her for not paying attention to him, and that it justified his actions at least partially.

    It was so encouraging to see women come together, say “no this is not okay. We will not accept it” and initiate change.

  • yes to everything you said here. i’m relieved and hopeful and ready to keep banging this drum and to see the Church take this stuff seriously in measurable, tangible, practical ways. thanks for all your hard work. <3

  • I woke up this morning to this news and I was – actually shocked (which doesn’t happen often) and really happy. Okay, I confess that I need the actions that follow that apology to be absolutely convinced, but only because I am grumpy old cynic. It didn’t stop the happy dance, or the tears. It was a good day today. 🙂

  • Patrick Prescott

    A real victory, bravo for taking the fight to them

  • I was surprised, too. I guess that makes me a cynic. Don’t count on editorial discretion just because a woman, or even women, would be on the board. Remember, there are plenty of Debi Pearls in the evangelical world. It has to be the proper hearted woman.

    • “Don’t count on editorial discretion just because a woman, or even women, would be on the board. Remember, there are plenty of Debi Pearls in the evangelical world. It has to be the proper hearted woman.”

      I second that.

  • I’m relieved and happy they took down the post as well. I was sexually molested as a child and I was also married to a sexual predator, although not a predator of children, but a sexual predator nonetheless. It was not until I went through my own therapy that I realized how I had been groomed by my molester, and then chosen by my husband. My husband “operated” outside the church, but used the appearance of purity and the rigidness of the conservative church we were in to hide behind. He knew the buzzwords and the jargon. He knew exactly what Bible verses to quote and exactly what people wanted to hear and what questions they would not ask. And he blamed me for his actions. He knew how to persuade people and manipulate people expertly. In fact, after his sin had been found out, he had a meeting with the church elders. And he came home triumphant because he made the elders apologize to HIM for failing HIM and not shepherding HIS faith enough to keep him from his sin!! He never apologized or repented or even acknowledged his own guilt, only what being caught cost HIM.

    Throughout the divorce, I continued to go to my church. However, the final straw was when it came to light that a young girl in our youth group had been raped by one of the fathers of other kids in the youth group. The father took advantage of the closeness of the families and the innate trust that was instilled in him as he hosted many youth events in his home. The position within the church gave him access to this young, trusting, naive girl.

    When the young girl finally told the truth (after a suicide attempt that landed her in a psych hospital) she was ignored, blamed, bullied,and eventually kicked out of the youth group. When she became college age, then she was “discouraged” from participating with the college group as well. All the while, the perpetrator was protected, people sympathized with him and stood up for him, and the church was in a virtual split over whether you were on the “victims” side or the “accused” side. After about 18 months, the rapist was sentenced to 43 YEARS in prison for what he did because he had VIDEOTAPED the many assaults and kept it on his computer.

    I did the same thing that others on this post did…I begged the elders in my church to take some kind of action. To educate themselves on abuse. To learn how to respond to victims. To teach the members how to be a help and a balm to the victim instead of rewarding and excusing the perpetrator. That it was NOT okay to ignore the situation and do nothing!! That no woman or girl was safe in that church as long as they kept silent. That there may be other victims that wouldn’t dare speak out now after they witnessed how the victim had been treated. But, all that was said to me what, “why do you want to talk about this? This is over.” and “You shame us by bringing this up again.” I finally walked out and have never returned.

    I miss so many things about being part of a church, but because of this issue and because women and girls are not safe in an environment that blames and vilifies victims and gives perpetrators almost unlimited access to young people. And Church leaders who are so ignorant and backward that they have no idea how to offer help and many times hurt even more instead.

    Lastly, Samantha, I agree with you that if women were included on the boards of churches, if they were in pulpits and leadership committees, and if they were part of editorial staffs, one of them would have seen the problem with the post before it was posted. There may be some Debi Pearls out there…but there are also come Samantha Fields.

  • “The American evangelical church knows nothing about abuse—not physical abuse, not domestic violence, not spiritual abuse, not sexual abuse—and that needs to change. Now.”

    ^And that right there is a reminder why I need to go back to church. I’ve been afraid of being let down by another church for so long, but if I don’t go back with an educational mindset then I’m being completely useless with my time.

  • Amen! By speaking up so strongly, the community of survivors and advocates has turned on one more light. The Leadership Journal now knows who we are and what we stand for. They owe much to the courageous souls who called them to account. If they want to repay the debt, they can open their pages to our voices, to our stories and to our call for safer churches.

    • I agree — the Learship Journal could repay the debt by opening their pages to our stories and to our call for safer churches. It is not only church leaders who read that journal.

      We survivors are part of the body of Christ, and when our voices are ignored or marginalised, the body is impoverished and will never be healthy.

  • Well done! fyi-we issued this statement last week:


    David Clohessy, SNAP, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, 314 566 9790, SNAPclohessy@aol.com

  • Don’t let it end with that. YES AND AMEN.

  • Anne

    When I was in high school, there was a 13-year-old girl from the other fundamental church in my town who committed suicide. She succeeded on her second attempt. I remember everyone puzzling over why a 13-year-old would say that “life wasn’t what she thought it would be.” Today I wonder if she had been abused. I wonder if there was a police investigation into her death. (I don’t remember hearing of one.) I hope that someday she gets justice.

  • Anne

    Seriously, Leadership Journal! Why publish something by the guy and not his wife! Obviously there was a lack of women on their board.

  • Thank you thank you so much. I sometimes feel like a coward on weeks like the past two, when I have to avoid the internet almost entirely for fear that I’ll read about a current issue that feels me with the Shame & Loathing of a Christian woman. Thank you so much for your spirit, your persistence & your strength. For those of us who are working to be strong enough to return to the battle field, this means the world.

    From one geek to another, you’re one of my heroes. Never give up! Never surrender!

  • Thats what I would do.

  • Deeae

    re: I can’t help but believe that if they had a woman on the editorial staff, this atrocity would never have happened. Women are the targets of sexual violence in a way that men simply aren’t, and because of that we are going to be much more aware of what sexual violence is and the ramifications that it has on victims. …
    Perhaps – but as a Christian woman who has not only lived through the horror, unknowingly married a Christian man who perpetrated the horror, then lived through my toddler son being subjected to living through the horror, I seriously doubt it. Then there’s what men go through at the hands of other men: . The heart of this kind of violation sets up gender to be a distraction – and effectively so because it is such an obvious draw; we are sucked in with our own volition, pricked by outrage and pride, requiring little effort on the adversary’s part. Eve was just the beginning.
    Focusing on gender and organized self-effort may help us get our focus and give us encouragement, but we’re off target. Women protesting has limited effect and serves to delight evil: another successful manipulation producing lots of noise and motion. The predators among us retreat or go underground for a while to observe us more, hone their deceptive tactics more so as to learn and perfect better angles, approaches, facades and backdoors. Our mothers and grandmothers and great-grandmothers ad nauseum could tell us the same stories. As long as we sleepwalk to the tune of this world, even under banner of religion/church, we continue to play in their sandbox, and they’ll continue to “win”/steal, kill and destroy.
    Paul wasn’t romanticizing/sentimentalizing or intellectualizing/politicizing when he said we are crucified with Christ. Jesus suffered horribly (read up on what a Roman gauntlet did to the poor man forced to run it – or read the American soldier’s stories … then multiply it by however many men were tasked with brutalizing Jesus that morning: http://www.gq.com/long-form/male-military-rape) then died hours later when the demands of justice had been fully served on His body instead of ours, not so we could then stay in this world and try to reform/conquer it with and in the “flesh”. In Christ, we are in the higher ground/realm His once-and-for-all sacrifice allowed us to legally go into and His resurrection empowered us to act from.
    And what are we to do in Christ? Rest in His shalom and speak His Word: the Holy Spirit (of power, love and discipline) witnesses with truth; our Father God puts the enemies under our Lord’s feet: His Word does not return to Him void but accomplished the purpose for which it is sent.

    • “Full of sound and fury,
      Signifying nothing.”