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 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.