The International Mission Board’s Response to Anne Marie Miller’s Sexual Assault

Over the last week, after my story of sexual assault was published in the Star-Telegram, the response (both spoken and silent) from the International Mission Board has spurred me to further clarify my position.

The fact that this has become a heated online debate detracts from the major issue at hand–a man credibly accused of sexual assault and indecency with a child under seventeen years old by contact–was allowed to serve for over a decade after the largest arm of the Southern Baptist Convention knew of this abuse. This man is currently facing three felonies in Tarrant County, Texas. 

My response online (despite my best efforts to stay offline) has been emotional. It’s emotional because I am the one who endured this abuse and have carried its weight for over two decades. It’s emotional because I was deceived by an organization who implied they were protecting me. It’s emotional because there are other people at risk and it is not being addressed.

If my emotions have gone awry and offended or hurt anyone in the process, please accept my apology and I ask for your forgiveness. If I have misspoken or in my emotions unintentionally misled anyone in any way, please contact me so I can rectify what is wrong and accept my apology and I ask for your forgiveness.

However, I am not apologizing for being angry at this. This whole situation is horrible and every ounce of it grieves heaven. I do believe this is a “cover-up.” Yes, that’s a dramatic word, and whether it is IMB’s intent or not, it’s what happened. The definition fits: an attempt to prevent people’s discovering the truth about a serious mistake or crime.

I thought I would make a short list to help clarify what about the situation with the IMB causes this anger and pain, and what I would like–and I think is warranted–to happen, not only for me but for every vulnerable person in their care.

  • The IMB should never internally investigate crimes of this nature. It should have been reported to law enforcement the moment they knew of it.
  • Since there was an investigation, I will say it was thorough. I do appreciate and value that they did take it seriously enough to look into it. At times, their questioning was inappropriate. My past or future relationships and sexual activity is irrelevant to the crime committed against me.
  • At 27 years old, I did not know what the mandatory reporting laws were in Texas. I did not understand the statute of limitations. I was trusting this large organization who was acting in the place of authority to guide me through this process. Yes, I could have reported it, but I was emotionally raw from their investigation. Yes, other people could have reported it, and those people have acknowledged and apologized to me for not doing so (the IMB has not). I needed guidance and support to do that and I did not receive that.
  • I was led to believe Mr. Aderholt was terminated by the IMB. I was told their conclusions would be presented to the Board of Trustees. The next email I received, a couple of months later, only said Mr. Aderholt was no longer employed by the IMB.
  • Because of this, the fact he continued to work in positions of authority within the SBC never made sense to me. I asked the IMB over the next few years how that could happen when “he was terminated for such a serious offense.” I never received a reply to that, nor did the IMB ever clarify he was not terminated. I was allowed to continue to believe he was terminated.
  • When I found out that he resigned and that in fact, it never was reported, I chose to report it. I believe I would have done this earlier if I would have been given the correct counsel and support to do it.

These are important questions:

  • Why did the IMB not immediately report this to law enforcement?
  • Why did they choose to conduct an internal investigation?
  • Why did they not encourage me to report this to law enforcement?
  • Why did the IMB not provide any counseling assistance or offers of tangible support?
  • Why did the IMB use the word’s “inappropriate sexual relationship” instead of “sexual abuse?” Did they consider this a moral failing and not a crime?
  • Why did the IMB insinuate Mark was terminated and allow me to believe this even when I directly asked?
  • Did Mark sign a “release” that allowed the IMB to discuss his employment with others?
  • Mark’s wife was invited to speak at an IMB women’s event overseas in 2016. How was this possible given what they knew?
  • Did any of Mark’s future employers ask the IMB for a reference and if so, what did they report?
  • Did the IMB conduct a third-party investigation into the ministry Mark had overseas when he worked directly with sex-trafficking victims and in other vulnerable people groups?
  • What did the IMB do with their findings?
  • The IMB is protected under civil rights acts to not share anything about any of their employees conduct as a reference. They have no legal obligation to do so. But, as an organization charged with caring for others in the name of Christ, do they not have a moral and spiritual obligation to do so?
  • The education system across America has faced similar issues (sans the spiritual obligation). Laws have been passed in the last decade that require some states to disclose credible accusations to future employers. Why can’t our religious organizations follow suit? This needs to be seriously explored.

Finally, I thank you for the support and grace you have shown me and other victims during this time. This is a new era for all of us, and I’m hopeful as we walk in it together.

 

 

 

 

 

Anne Marie Miller’s Statement on Her Sexual Abuse Story and the International Mission Board Cover Up

The Missions Organization of Southern Baptist Convention Did Not Report Credible Sexual Assault Accusations to Law Enforcement and Knowingly Did Not Communicate to Other SBC Entities as the Offender Was Promoted Within the Convention

When I signed off my blog in May 2017, I never thought I’d be writing on this platform again. I definitely didn’t expect a year later, in between my daughter’s diaper changes and first steps, I would be meeting with detectives and going back into inpatient trauma treatment.

I didn’t know I would learn Mark Aderholt, the man who sexually abused me when I was sixteen years old–whom I reported to the International Mission Board in 2007–was not reported to local authorities (contrary to their policy mentioned in a recent statement). I didn’t know I would learn he had an opportunity to resign instead of being terminated (also contrary to their recent statement). Here is an email from the IMB’s General Counsel, stating Aderholt was not terminated from his role and was not reported to authorities.

The collision of learning about Aderholt’s upward mobility and increased responsibility within the SBC, potential access to vulnerable people groups with his travels, and the IMB’s failure to report both to authorities and within the SBC spurred me to make a personally difficult and necessary decision: reporting him to law enforcement.

Because of the overwhelming evidence of this crime, the Crimes Against Children unit of the Arlington, Texas Police Department quickly accepted, investigated, and when deemed credible, passed the case along to the Tarrant County District Attorney who then issued warrants for this man’s arrest. He was arrested, jailed, and released on bond–all within three months of my original police report.

If there was one statement I could delete from human language in regard to sexual abuse reporting, it would be, “Why did he/she wait so long to report? Why now?” and I would like to address that in this post.

  • First and foremost, sexual trauma is brutal. The pain, shame, and confusion that happens when someone is violated on a physically intimate and in my case, a spiritual level destroys a person. It is more common than not that people do not immediately recognize or report sexual trauma. There are evidence-based studies that confirm this. To expect an abuse survivor to head over to the police soon after he or she was violated is insensitive, ill-informed, and without compassion.
  • For me, I did not recognize my abuse as abuse until I was my abuser’s age in 2005. When I was serving in student ministry at the age of 25, one night at a coworker’s 25th birthday party, I had a realization of how inappropriate a sexual relationship between a 25-year-old and a 16-year-old is. Serendipitously the following day, I saw a television program on the grooming process most predators use and it mirrored my experience. I was forever changed. The next day, I went to a counselor in my church to discuss it. I still didn’t realize what occurred was an actual crime. She was not well versed in mandatory reporting and did not know she needed to report this either.
  • Two years later in 2007, in my process of healing, I continued to realize the gravity of what happened. My abuser was a missionary overseas with the IMB and when a friend who was a pastor learned of my abuse, he immediately went to the IMB to report it. The IMB conducted an internal investigation after the abuser denied it, and they unanimously determined the abuse happened. They asked me if I wanted to report it to law enforcement. I said I didn’t think I could emotionally handle it. In my mind, if a criminal investigation was anything like the IMB investigation, I knew I couldn’t handle it. They inappropriately crossed boundaries with their questions that had nothing to do with why we all were there, which was humiliating, and while they respected my request, they also broke the law by not reporting it. The correct answer is “We’re sorry you don’t feel like you can report it. We have to, regardless. Let us walk you through this and help you with any psychological trauma that may result.” This team was not trauma-informed and the pain that was caused directly and significantly affected my physical and emotional health over the past ten years. After opening my deepest wound, they left me with no care plan or any offer of any help for my activated emotional state. I had one, off-the-record conversation with the IMB psychologist who reassured me it was normal for me to not remember every detail of my abuse—a common trauma response that disturbed me greatly. That was the only tangible psychological care I was offered or received. The financial cost for both physical and mental health treatment has always been a struggle too, and there is no way to seek any relief nor has any financial assistance been offered at any point in time despite knowing of my various hospitalizations. This is contrary to their policy to provide compassionate care to abuse survivors.
  • In my former career as an author and speaker in the evangelical world (2008-2016), I spoke generically but freely about my abuse. It’s mentioned in old blogs, each of my books (though when it was written or spoken about, I changed minor details to protect my abuser’s and the IMB’s identity, at the IMB’s request (link), and because general publishing rules require it).

So, while it initially took me almost a decade to recognize it as abuse, immediately after I did, I took action on it.

I have been speaking about my abuse since 2005.

It is well documented by the IMB itself that they have known about my abuse since 2007. However, on July 10, 2018, they said: “The IMB learned about the charges against [Aderholt] from the Star-Telegram’s July 9 report.” (Update: They say they specifically meant “the criminal charges” in this instance.)

They have ignored my question of “how can he still serve within the SBC?” (copy of an email I sent the IMB in 2011) and have told me to “let it go” when I wanted answers about the investigation (copy of an email I received from the IMB in 2007).

The question isn’t why did I not report it (because I did) but why did the IMB not report it eleven years ago or at any time in the last ten years that I have brought my questions up to them.

Over the last couple of weeks, as I continued to realize the amount of ignorance in regard to sexual abuse demonstrated by many of those within SBC churches and entities, I saw the power in sharing my story grow more necessary and I could no longer in good conscience keep silent about the inaction of the IMB.

It is necessary for me to publicly come out with my story because I have been speaking about my abuse for so long, both privately in the IMB investigation and publicly in my past career, the question, “why now?”–although NEVER should apply in any sexual misconduct–definitely does not apply in my story.

My hope in sharing my story is four-fold:

  • It is my hope that by coming forward publicly, those with similar stories who have felt unheard or who have not felt safe enough to report their abuse can and will come forward and find freedom. It is a freedom that is painful and terrifying to walk into, but it is freedom nonetheless. If you are a survivor of abuse and do not know your next steps, please email me. I could not have walked down this road without support from others who know the law and who have walked down this road in their own life. It’s time for me to pass this on. You are not alone. Please. Email me.
  • It is my hope that by coming forward publicly, the SBC will see that there is a systemic problem and there are intentional efforts to cover up sexual abuse within not only its churches but within its peripheral entities and finally, once and for all, change this. The idol of autonomy within the SBC hurts people and protects the people who hurt them. This cannot happen anymore and because of the well-documented inaction in my case, to argue otherwise is impossible.
  • It is my hope that by coming forward publicly, I am letting the SBC formally know I am personally willing and passionately interested in helping develop systems to create change and am open to that conversation.  I am a woman who is gifted in communication, system development, and I possess a deep understanding of and empathy for abuse survivors. I am hopeful about this, SBC. Reach out to me. Please let me and other people help you. You can no longer hide under autonomous systems (or lack thereof) that have been proven over time to be inefficient and/or non-existent. You must take responsibility for changing this and the time to do so is now. 
  • Finally, it is my hope that by coming forward publicly, whether you are a survivor, an abuser, the loved one of a survivor or abuser, or simply a bystander to all this, that we all will know the hope, love, freedom, and joy that is found through a saving relationship in Christ. It is through this relationship that I have the hope, love, freedom, and joy that I have and these things fuel each and every imperfect step I take.

Be kind to others, and gentle with yourself.

With love and gratitude,

anne-sig

 

 

 

 

 

Anne Marie Miller


PLEASE NOTE: This is my formal statement on the reports that have been published today. If there is something that was not answered here that is both appropriate and relevant, please email me at anne@annemariemiller.com. 

To clarify, my abuse was never violent or forced.

I may not be able to respond to all emails and I may have a friend assist me in answering, but know your email will be read and I will pray for you if you request. If you need assistance with reporting sexual abuse and don’t know where to go, please email me and I will help you.

Due to a recent accident, I am having several invasive procedures this week so I may not be able to respond immediately depending on if I am in surgery/recovery. Thank you for your patience and understanding.

Also, thank you for your respect for mine and my family’s privacy. It’s still incredibly raw and not easy to speak about, so your grace is appreciated. Please be kind in your responses publicly, and show love to those who show pain or ignorance. Believe the best. It’s the only way we can move forward together.

Finding True Justice and True Grace in a #MeToo #ChurchToo Culture

As we enter into this new climate of finding freedom from abuse that happened to us, let us not use this freedom as an opportunity to cause harm to others in the name of seeking justice.

Several times over the last ten years, I found myself in the city where the man who sexually abused me as a child lived. Most of the time I was terrified to accidentally run into him. Sometimes I became full of rage and fantasized seeing him at a gas station and attacking him. And other times I would get caught off guard by my grief and sit in my car weeping outside the hotel where I was staying.

As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, the myriad of emotions I experienced changed as naturally as the Texas sky in springtime. Sometimes I’d feel guilty about the complexity. Other times I wouldn’t.

I learned that each emotion had its place.

In March of this year, when I found out the man who abused me was never reported to law enforcement, a strong desire for justice gave me the extra courage I needed to walk forward. I felt validated knowing the criminal justice system would handle what the Southern Baptist Convention would not–and could not–handle. I felt a sweeping loss as my mental health suffered. I burned with indignation as this man, who already has taken so much of my life by his actions, consumed more: I lost sleep, I lost time with my daughter and my husband, and lost the easy joy I generally danced in.

There were parts of me that wanted to destroy him. There were parts of me that wanted to destroy myself.

And again, each emotion had its place.

As I worked with law enforcement, my detective encouraged me to not share the name of the man who abused me publicly until they had everything in order for the criminal case they’re working on. They understood this man’s current role and his access to vulnerable people, including children. Yet the benefits of not coming out with his name publicly outweighed the risks in regard to the integrity of the criminal investigation. I respected their wishes then and I respect them now.

Somehow this felt right and good and okay. Even though the only thing that remained between me exposing the man who did this to me was a “publish” button, I have yet to have peace about sharing my story in such a public way, most likely because of the condition of my heart. Some people have gone public and done it in a way that glorifies God while respecting the criminal process. I would have shared out of a place of vengeance.

I’m glad I had a little extra space to reconsider going public because, for me, it was not the right choice to make at the time.

have courage and be kind

Since I’ve been offline for most of the last two years, I guess I forgot how ruthless the voices on social media are…myself included. In the last month, since I shared my story online (without identifying my abuser), I’ve clicked on enough hashtags and read enough fodder to lose a little bit of faith in the world (and in myself).

Don’t mishear: there are some pretty awful people who have done some pretty awful things. Many well-respected men and women, especially within the SBC, have had their skeletons come out and be displayed for all the world to see.

In the court of public opinion, most are starting to pay a hefty price for their sins and for their crimes. I want to reiterate that the people who commit these horrid acts–and the ones who cover them up–are ultimately responsible for whatever consequences come their way.

But in all of this, there is something I just can’t get my spirit to shake off:

This court of public opinion–social media, newspapers, blogs–is not and should not be the final destination of justice. However, it seems as if most of us treat it as the highest court of all, damning those who have lied, cheated, stolen, raped, abused, and covered up to a man-made hell of Twitter firestorms, petty insults, unnecessary commentary, and misplaced desires to have the final word.

I understand as survivors of abuse we feel like we have no voice and now we can say whatever we want, when we want, to whomever we want. There is power in rediscovering our voice.

We cannot neglect our responsibility to be like Christ and we cannot evade the call to exercise wisdom with how we discuss these things, especially in public forums.

Justice and grace are not mutually exclusive.

Does the man who abused me, who stole so much of my life from me as a sixteen-year-old and over the last 22 years deserve the justice coming his way? Yes.

Does he deserve grace? No.

But here’s the thing: I don’t deserve that grace either.

I don’t write this in a self-deprecating manner.

I don’t intend to minimize what has happened to me or to the countless number of women and men, boys and girls, who have been abused in the worst possible ways, and in the name of Jesus.

The humbling reality we are faced with in this and in every part of our life is the very basic tenet of the Gospel: God so loved the world that He gave his only son to die for my sins, for your sins, and for the sins of the man who abused me.

This includes his sin of abusing me.

It is a grace none of us deserve but all of us can freely receive.

I’m afraid that the beauty of this grace is being buried alive by the permission we now have to speak freely. Life and death are in the power of the tongue, and in our attempt to bring the light into darkness, we are inadvertently suffocating out the Life the world needs to survive.

As we enter into this new climate of finding freedom from abuse that happened to us, let us not use this freedom as an opportunity to cause harm to others in the name of seeking justice.

Let us recognize the same God who sought us out and asked us, “Where are you?” seeks out all of us, even the criminals hanging on the cross.

When reconciliation plays out here on earth, may we remember the love of God that has reconciled us is also available to those who have hurt us.

May we give thanks that all of our brokenness is healed through the same holy man on the same holy cross. This man is near to us when we are brokenhearted and he is near to those who have hurt us when they are brokenhearted. He grieves for us when we are far from Him and he grieves for the world when they are far from him.

As justice begins to shine like the noon-day sun, may our hearts also shine with hope and grace for ourselves, for others, and for the world to come.

Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

 

A Letter to My Daughter on My Darkest, Brightest Night

(Would you consider helping me pay for my hospital stay? You can do that here.)

Dear Baby Girl,

First, you’re not really much of a baby now, are you? I can’t believe you’re almost two years old. So big, yet so small. So fiercely loving even though you don’t even know how big of a heart you have or how much this world needs it.

Even though we’ll talk about it when you’re older, I wanted to write a few things down while I was living them live, in real time.

Last night when I put you down in your bed, prayed our prayer, and stepped out of the room, I started weeping because it was the last time I will get to see your face for the next month. Those closest to me know the heartbreak that comes in saying goodbye, even when it’s for a good thing. I’m afraid my absence will damage your heart or your mind. I’m afraid you will think I am gone forever. Or that I left you and don’t love you. Or that you did something wrong to make me leave.

My girl, none of those things are true.

Ever since the moment I knew you existed inside me, since the day when your dad and I saw your jumping tadpole body on the ultrasound, I have loved you with a love that only grows stronger with each day. The amount of gratitude I have for you feels like taking a deep breath of the purest oxygen and I feel my chest rise with gladness, the molecules of thankfulness penetrating each one of my cells.

It seems you grow up every night we put you to bed and you’re impossibly more beautiful, more lovely, more smart, more curious, and more surprising than the day you were born. I don’t know how this is possible, but with close to 22 months under our belt, it’s safe to say the research has been consistent.

Fear consumes me when I think about what could happen to you out in the world, whether by accident or on purpose. Part of me (most of me) dreams of a world where you do not fight the mental demons your father and I fight. That you trust fully but wisely. That no harm falls on you. That your heart never breaks.

Even if, baby, even if…

  • If your brain tells you lies, you’ll know the truth.
  • If someone breaks your trust, it won’t break you.
  • If harm falls on you, it won’t bury you deep.
  • If your heart breaks, it won’t always bleed.

And should you feel like the lies, the breaking, the burying, and the bleeding become too much, look all around you because you are so loved. Ask for help when you need it and you’ll have an army already by your side.

So, my sweetest girl, I want you to know that it’s all worth fighting for.

That’s why I’m gone for now.

I’m out fighting for me, for you, and in a way, for others so that maybe I can be hope to them too.

  • My brain tells me lies, so I’m fighting for the truth.
  • Someone broke my trust I’m fighting to be made new.
  • Harm fell on me so I’m fighting out of the heap.
  • My heart is broken and I’m fighting to be free.

I love you, baby. I love you.

Mama

(Would you consider helping me pay for my hospital stay? You can do that here.)

Statement on Abuse in the Church

I only break my social media silence for very important things. With the spotlight on the SBC and abuses of all kinds, I can’t stay silent. People within the church and within the SBC have sexually and emotionally abused me and many I love. The cover-ups by the church and the SBC specifically further perpetuate this abuse.

If you have been abused by anyone, report it to authorities in law enforcement. Do NOT go to your church to report abuse in an effort to “keep the peace.” Go to the authorities. It is not the church’s job to investigate and penalize criminals. It is not man’s duty to protect the church. God can do that just fine on his own. He has his work cut out for him and it could only take God to bring good out of the egocentric tarnishing that continues to happen as people use his name for their own advances and to cover up their fears of being found out for what we all are—human—and for what some are—criminal. Being human is not a mistake.

Being a criminal is and criminals need to be held accountable for their crimes.