Pride and Destruction


I want to tell some stories. They are stories I have told in part here before, and they are not pleasant stories. If you are among the sadly increasing tribe of those walking wounded who need trigger warnings, consider this a warning.

These are not my stories, but some of them could be. They may not be your stories, but I guarantee you know more people than you wish, more than you are aware, who could be telling these stories.

The first story: JImmy Hinton is a preacher in the churches of Christ. He grew up there. His daddy John was a preacher, too, well loved, respected, popular, and much admired by everybody, including his own children. And then one day their world came crashing down when they learned that John had been molesting children pretty much his entire adult life. Jimmy turned his father into the police, and his dad is in jail now (or was the last I read). This was incredibly brave and altruistic and the right thing to do, but he did more than that. Jimmy took that heart-ache and grief and turned it into an outreach where he helps teach others to recognize the signs and how to deal with the uniquely dishonest, deceptive, and elusive pathology of the pedophile, and more importantly and often entirely overlooked for some reason, how to love the victims.

He says he hears a lot from church members who are hurt, stunned, horrified, shocked, and often directly wounded by pedophiles in their midst- first by the wicked themselves, and then by the responses of leadership. He doesn’t hear much from leaders asking what to do, how to respond, what to watch for. In fact, he says, “many leaders are making uninformed decisions and doing it with complete confidence. They routinely shut down people who try to warn them that they are making dangerous decisions.” {1}
Here, he says, are the most common excuses leadership give for handling things as they do:

“He (or she) did his time
We don’t want to bring shame on this brother
It’s not fair to publicize his past sins
He poses no threat to children
We’re keeping an eye on him
He’s not allowed near the children’s wing
We met with him and he’s very remorseful and repentant
We need to encourage him and his family and shining a light on his past sins will greatly discourage him
You’re not to tell anyone about this because you’ll be undermining the leadership” {1}

I hope none of this sounds familiar to anybody reading this.

That’s one story. Here’s another one.
There was once a church leader in his fifties who was convicted of molesting two fatherless boys who were part of the church’s outreach program. He molested them while chaperoning a church outing for underprivileged children. He insisted it was his first time, ever. He was convicted of those two counts and spent a short time in jail.

Released from prison, he placed his membership at another congregation in the same denomination in the same large city where his previous church as. The elders wrote a letter to all parents when he first joined to let them know the boundaries they put in place to keep the children of the church safe. They promised he would not to come into contact with children, would not to be in the classroom areas, and would always to have an escort with him while on church property.

One of those parents saw him alone in an isolated hallway, chatting up a vulnerable youngster, no supervision or escort in sight. The parent notified leadership who had no apologies to make, but promised to ‘remind’ the pedophile of the boundaries he was supposed to be keeping.

Shortly thereafter his name appeared on a list of volunteers for a children’s program, where he was prominently thanked for his help. The same parent went to leadership again, and was assured his help was in preparing materials, that there was no contact with children at all. Also, leadership said, “He’s repented. And he’s not ‘like that’ anymore anyway.”

Here’s another story:
A prosecutor who specializes, if there is such a thing, in prosecuting sex crimes against children says that in all the years he practiced, he often saw church leadership and members show up at court and sit on the side of the accused, to support him. He never saw church people at court sitting with the victims. He’s retired from procescuting and now works with an organization dealing with such abuse in church settings. {2}

Here’s another one:
A 16 y.o. girl asked for help with a see you at the pole event and the 25 year old pastoral student who answered her call proceeded to seduce her, use her, and drop her in what she would later realize was classic pastoral abuse. She told church leadership multiple times, shocked to learn her abuser was an overseas missionary working with kids. The Southern Baptist Convention’s church missions board knew. They investigated and found the allegations were true, “more likely than not”, and that he was dishonest with them about the extent of the relationship. He resigned but went on to serve the same church organization in other capacities which gave him access to teen-agers and parents were not warned. His crimes against his first victim were severe enough that when she went to the police ten years later, there was no statute of limitation and he was charged and prosecuted. Meanwhile, the advice of church leadership to is victim was that she needed to forgive and move on. {3}

You don’t really have to work hard to imagine this, because it’s happening all over the country.  Some of the minor details change, but the gist of it remains the same and church leadership gambles recklessly with children in that church while claiming to protect them.

In many situations where a perpetrator is caught, he will do what they all do in these circumstances- sob, cry wretchedly, express self-loathing, claim repentance, and say this is the first time it ever happened, or some other way minimize what he did, focus on his feelings, and try to stop you from looking deeper. If law enforcement gets involved,they may confess, but only to the exact same children law enforcement taxed him with, not one child more. That’s a red flag. Short of something like a brain tumour, no normal, healthy upright adult of integrity just gets the urge to violate a single child out of the blue in his fifties. It’s happened before, many, many times. It’s going to happen again.

It is not appropriate for leadership to act like law enforcement. A crime has been committed, a crime against children, and it needs to be referred to law enforcement and anybody who could have had contact with that perpetrator needs to know. Not just church members, not just parents. Are there no uncles, aunts, neighbors, grandparents who might bring along a child to church? Shouldn’t they know? What about visitors? Do we really only care about protecting the congregation’s reputation and not children who are not associated with our group? You cannot put in place enough protections to keep children safe while allowing a known child molester in your midst.

Quite often people who pride themselves on being good judges of character are the worst people in the world to decide what to do about a pedophile in the midst of the church (or anywhere). Pedophiles are clever manipulators and con-artists. Child molesters love people who think they are good judges of character. They are charismatic con-artists and gifted communicators who work very, very, hard to manipulate their image to get into positions of trust. They need to get you to let them have access to children and to have everybody trust them and think “What a great guy!” They are incredibly good at it, and they convince people so thoroughly that they doubt themselves before they would doubt the predator.

Molesting children is not just a whim, a taste that one loses. IT is always there, that attraction to children. IT’s not normal. You can’t use your healthy mind to assess the future behaviour of somebody else’s unhealthy mind and make determinations that put children at risk. Nobody can know they ‘aren’t like that’ anymore. And even if it were true, people can repent and yet still fall prey to temptation. Dont let them in temptation’s way, and more importantly, do not risk children over your pride in your own judgement.

There is some horrifying research showing molesters typically have abused 200 children by the time they are caught, and many of those children multiple times. That number should horrify you. Don’t let the 201st child be one that happened because of your silence.

Be wise as serpents here. It’s entirely possible that the people nattering on about forgiveness and believing in repentance without much proof other than the kind of thing that we already know pedophile excels at (tricking people into believing he is something he is not) are just naive. but there could be more sinister reasons at play for sweeping this kind of thing under the rug as well. I have become increasingly cynical. At the very least, pride is often at play- they want to believe in him (he’s one of them, after all), and they don’t like being challenged or told they are probably wrong. They probably consider themselves good judges of character. But sometimes, birds of a feather… Don’t be paranoid. But don’t be stupidly naive, either.

Here are some tools to help you be wise rather than gullible dupe:
http://wineskins.org/article/protecting-children-pedophiles-practical-steps-parents-churches-organizations-identify-address-problem/

http://www.churchprotect.org has some helpful programs and resources.

http://wineskins.org/2014/04/08/what-place-do-pedophiles-have-in-the-church/”>Definitely read this: “Good hard statistics show that the vast majority of sex offenders re-offend when put back into a high risk setting, such as a church. Why? Because they are tempted by children and because we give them access to the drug of their choice. I believe that, with good treatment and lots of prayer, pedophiles can repent. But make no mistake—they will always be attracted to children. And because they are attracted to children, and because they have successfully offended in the past, and because survivors of abuse fear their presence, and because we are called to protect the vulnerable, when we invite them in a gathering with children, and because there is no true test to know if they’ve repented, and because they prey on the naivety of church members, and because sexual abuse has such devastating spiritual, mental, and emotional effects, we owe it to everybody to keep children and sex offenders separate. Period.”

From the comments on that  article: “According to a very reliable study of thousands of pedophiles done my Dr. Gene Abel, 93% of pedophiles described themselves as religious. Religious people go to church. My dad told me the 2 easiest places to get away with sexually abusing children are churches and Christians daycares.”

Also from the comments: “If there is evidence that pedophiles, as defined by the medical definition of pedophilia, can successfully break their attraction to children for good, I am unaware of those studies. There are studies that evidence about 40% of pedophiles can successfully avoid offending again but only with constant treatment. The downside is that these studies only follow them for about 4 years. And the attraction still remains. They can learn how to identify and avoid high risk scenarios. The reality is that nobody knows of people who have successfully avoided offending again long-term. We certainly are made new creatures in Christ, but temptation is still a very real factor.”

And this: “we do not mix registered sex offenders with children is because of the revictimization that is so commonplace among survivors of abuse, which accounts for anywhere from 40-50% of our church members. Sometimes in an effort to accommodate the sex offender, we forget about the victims.”

This is also by Jimmy in the comments of the Wineskins article:
“people diagnosed with pedophilia average over 200 victims each. That’s not 200 instances of abuse, it’s 200 children. Some of those children are abused by the perpetrator hundreds of times. Dr. Gene Abel, et. al predicts that a pedophile only has a 3% chance of getting caught each time they abuse a child. It literally is that difficult for us to detect it. Had someone not spoken up when they did about dad, he would have abused children for the rest of his life and none of us would have ever known it. One common misconception is that registered sex offenders (specifically pedophiles) just “messed up” and had a run in with one child. Once people understand the grooming process, however, we find that it is anything but accidental, and there is rarely ever only one victim. The reason this misconception sticks is that plea deals are struck and they usually are only charged for one victim, even though there could be hundreds. For example, dad confessed to 23 victims and only had charges on 3. So in the news, they reported that he had 3 victims which is entirely inaccurate.”

“Another point to make is that probably 40 percent of the women at any given congregation, as well as a large number of the males, were likely molested as children. Openly letting a convicted child molester be involved at this level is re-traumatizing them.

“It is unfair to your child to assume that someone couldn’t be a pedophile.”

“John the Baptist, as he was baptizing people, said, “Bear fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matthew 3:8, ESV). In other words, prove that you have changed, don’t just say it. Paul, in giving a defense before Roman authorities, tells King Agrippa that he preached the Gospel to Jews and Gentiles, “that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance” (Acts 26:20, ESV).

In other words, Paul didn’t give them the benefit of the doubt. Paul wasn’t so naïve as to think that, just because people claimed that they loved God and were good people, it meant that they really were. He demanded, as John did, that they prove themselves through their actions. Jesus, as he sent the 12 out to preach, warned, “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16). In other words, don’t be naïve and think we live in a safe world where all people should be trusted just because they go to your church. Remain innocent, but don’t be fooled. So with that in mind, I demand that people prove themselves when they question my boundaries. You want me to believe you are a good person? Don’t violate my boundaries and then we’ll talk!”
That’s adapted from here:
http://jimmyhinton.org/2013/09/24/boundaries-part-2/#comment-328

Pedophiles will violate boundaries. It will be an accident.  They will have a good reason.  A good excuse. Plausible deniability.  Understand that they were already given the benefit of the doubt before people found out they were pedophiles. They don’t get more.  Now the burden is on them.  Keep an eye on them, and report suspicious behavior to the police.
What is suspicious behaviour? For somebody who is known to have a pedophile history, it’s contact with children. Gift giving, no matter how small, passing out suckers, pretty much anything endearing him to children is no okay once the predilection is known. Consider, too, that a truly repentant person would want to avoid any contact with children himself, and would certainly not be trying to make them comfortable with him or attached to him.

Don’t be embarrassed. Don’t be swayed by tears and pleas. Remember this person has a history of deceit, look back and remind yourself how you were previously deceived.  Learn about they groom potential victims and their parents and other adults, some of the links in this post will help with that.  Remember that Evil hates the light and fights it tooth and nail.  It will be hard.  But don’t give up.  There are children, children who were victimized, and children who need to be kept safe from future predations, children who need strong advocates for what is right.

{1} http://jimmyhinton.org/churchtoo-why-leaders-respond-so-poorly/
{2} http://prospect.org/article/next-christian-sex-abuse-scandal
{3} http://thewartburgwatch.com/2018/07/13/did-the-southern-baptist-conventions-international-missions-board-decide-not-to-report-sexual-assault-they-knew-about-for-years/

Jimmy Hinton’s mother blogs about her horrible experience being unknowingly married to a pedophile, here: http://www.findingahealingplace.com/chosen-to-be-a-child-molesters-enabler-the-beginning-of-my-story/

Her story also gives insight into how predators work and how they groom their victims.

 

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5 Comments

  1. Lisa Beth W.
    Posted July 31, 2018 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

    I have read Mrs. Hinton’s blog all the way through, much of it a while ago. I have learned so much and not only have such an ache in my heart for all those affected by this type of criminality, but I think I will never be naive about this again. I have changed things about who my children are allowed alone with and am much more vigilant in talking to others about our church’s practices, for example.

    • Headmistress
      Posted August 1, 2018 at 2:05 am | Permalink

      This is great to hear.

  2. Sherry Adams
    Posted August 1, 2018 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

    I discovered in 2006 that my oldest son molested my daughters. I turned this son of mine in to authorities as soon as I discovered the truth (against my then husband’s wishes…we are now divorced). God brought my children through hell and back; yet, my son was not prosecuted due to the young age of my daughters and the situation my daughters were in with not being able to make it through the court process, and of course there were other reasons that I cannot exactly understand fully. That son has not spoken to me in over 10 years; yet, as painful as that is I know that I would go back and do the right thing all over again, as I would never allow a child to be without support through such a crime.

    I was most certainly left alone to deal with this in my church. I still suffer the cost of turning-in my own son…but I suffer it gladly. I was a foster parent and had my foster license taken. I still cannot serve in nursing homes or our church because I lost my foster license when I turned my son into the authorities.

    My four children from the previous marriage are now all adults. Only one of my children still keeps in tough with me. I lost all of my friends from those years, mostly due to the divorce. But, I discovered my then husband was responsible for the pornography use by that son, as well as allowing that son to have his Zoloft medication. I had been through marriage counseling due to infidelity on my then husband’s part, and the refusal to turn in my son for sexual abuse of our daughters was the last straw, so to speak. That did not sit well with my church and those Christians in my community. Too bad!!!

    My life is different now, but blessed. I have a second marriage and two biological children under age five…and I am pushing fifty!

    Now, I trust no one person with my children and I keep them with me. Plus, considering that I cannot serve in the nursery or children’s classes at church my children only attend regular church services with me. I am considered strange by most and only a few people know the details, the pastor is one who knows, but I still feel the odd person out.

    Yes, I know very well how the church treats the victims.

    When I was in the middle of the police investigation into my son’s crimes, I went to see a Christian lawyer for some advice. Instead of advice he blamed me for the sins of my son. He blamed homeschooling. Now, my son was not a mama’s boy in the least. He worked 40 hours a week volunteering at a local police explorer’s program and in a nursing home. He was going through the process with a recruiter to join the Army. He was not “unsocialized”. He was going to marry his girlfriend. He was 19 years old. He could have passed any background check.

    So, I tell you the Christian community has a long way to go before it can ever boast of supporting victims. I received more support from social workers than I did from anyone at church.

    I sound bitter to some people, but the the situation of going through such a trial without church support is very painful. God never left me or my children and HE brought healing to us in so many ways, but I do still feel the pinch of life never being the same again for me in church. I used to teach Awana and Sunday School and other children’s ministries; volunteering at the local nursing home. All of this has changed and I wear mark upon me by DSHS.

    Know the signs to look for, as that is why I found out about the abuse. If you suspect something then take action and look into the situation, as again, that is what I did and it saved my daughters from any more harm.

    I will never allow an older son to be alone in the home with a daughter again. I will always keep my daughter with me and take care of her myself. This is not easy, but I see no other course after all that has happened to my family.

    I can completely relate to your post on this subject and then some. I hope other people will be helped by your post and that they will find needed information on such a very heartbreaking subject.

    God’s blessing to you.

    • Tamara
      Posted August 15, 2018 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

      I am so sorry to hear your story and how the church failed to support you.

      The ironic thing is, depending on the pastor and if the education situation was different, you’d likely have been blamed for having your son in public school.

      • Headmistress
        Posted August 16, 2018 at 3:06 am | Permalink

        That isn’t really irony at all. That’s just a different story about a different set of circumstances that aren’t hers. Churches and pastors fail to support wounded people in a variety of circumstances. Children are molested at home by parents and in churches by pastors and priests and in schools by teachers and counselors and in doctor’s offices by doctors and on sports teams by coaches. People involved in the institutions where that happens respond badly, respond to protect the institution, respond without compassion.

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