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.