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.

 

The Miracle of Patience: A Letter to Our First Child

Virgin Mary Consoles Eve by Sister Grace Remington

Virgin Mary Consoles Eve by Sister Grace Remington

Dearest One,

Your conception was a miracle. Ten months after our first miscarriage, six months after our second, and one week after I was simultaneously searching for a surgeon to perform a radical hysterectomy while being prayed over by friends and strangers because of a debilitating condition that affected my fertility, you were conceived.

It shouldn’t have even happened then. I ovulated a week early from an ovary that had no fallopian tube connecting it to my womb. But somehow, in some way, the other tube found you floating around, swept you up, and planted you into my innermost part.

Five weeks later, I was so tired, exhausted by an unmistakable fatigue I have only experienced twice in my life–once ten months before and once four months after that. Could it be? Could I be?

My cycle was a week late, so the next time I was at the market, I picked up a box of two tests. It was on sale and cheaper than the single. I followed the instructions. Waited two minutes. Only one line appeared. I wasn’t pregnant.

The tiredness continued throughout the week, but I chalked it up to Thanksgiving festivities and the new cold weather and grey skies. I woke up on Black Friday with the sun, and made my way to the guest bath, as not to disturb my sleeping husband (or the two dogs, who would start howling for the breakfast).

In a basket next to the sink, I saw the second test. Would five days make a difference? I gave in to the white, plastic temptation. Followed the instructions. Waited two minutes.

Two. Lines.

Immediately, two bold lines.

Just five days beforehand, I told Tim that I wasn’t pregnant, and our lives went on as normal. But now?

I went back into the bedroom and quietly sat by him with the test. I showed him. We held each other, dogs vying for our attention, unaware of the angels who were undoubtedly rejoicing with us.

A blood test and ultrasound first showed you–well, the small, almond-sized sac you were living in. We couldn’t see you just yet. A few weeks went by, and we first saw your plump head and your flickering heartbeat.

Now, here we are a third of the way in our journey to meeting you. I wish I could say the miracle of you was enough to remind me to be joyful and grateful at all times (as it should be), but I have not been the perfect carrier of life. I’ve been angry when I’m sick, or tired, or in pain. I’ve been upset at the way all the changing hormones in my body cause strange things to happen. Now that my old pants don’t fit and my body is slowly growing into something I don’t recognize, it’s been hard for my broken mind to adjust.

It’s almost like you know when I need a reminder. Just the other night after poking on my unfamiliar rounding belly, you leapt in my womb. It was such a strange and lovely feeling; a feeling I know will become normal over time. And soon, you’ll enter the world, and you will yawn and cry and pee and poop and spit up all over everything. And you will wrap your tiny fingers around one of mine or one of Tim’s. And you’ll change before our eyes and we won’t be able to remember every headache, cramp, or sleepless night.

Your presence is teaching me a patience far beyond anything I’ve ever experienced. In a world where I can get almost anything I need or want almost instantly, nine months seems like a terribly long time to wait for something. At times, it seems like July is an eternity away. But with each slow moment that passes, my mind is as equally slow to change to cherish every moment with you now–every non-repeated, hard, holy moment. It is a rhythm of grace I am happy to relinquish my fast, predictable pace to.

As a Christian for almost 36 years, I’ve been well versed in the miracle of the birth of Jesus. How a small, humble baby came to change the world; how he came to change me.

Sweet child, you are a miracle to me. You are changing me, silently now. As your fingernails form and your legs lengthen, my heart is reforming and my hope lengthens.

Sweet child, yes, I can’t wait to meet you. But I’m perfectly thankful for where you are now.

 

When God Gives You a Miracle

Even if God has given me a miracle only for today, it is a miracle nonetheless.

I’ve always struggled with faith.

Not my belief in God (though sometimes, I have).

But my belief in what God can do.

And more specifically, what God can do in and through me.

I’m a pragmatist, even as emotional as I can be. I’m rational. I’m realistic.

In regard to healing, I’ve seen God heal others of much, and me of much.

I’ve also seen Him not heal, at least in the way people prayed. (True, they were “healed the other side of heaven,” but sometimes things just don’t make sense on this side.)

For twenty years, I’ve battled a painful fight with endometriosis, a disorder in which tissue that normally lines the uterus grows outside the uterus. It sounds weird, but essentially once a month, this tissue causes much inflammation, lesions, bleeding, and curl-up-in-a-ball-and-cry kinds of pain. It affects fertility and when it’s happening, I’m essentially useless for two or three days. It hurts to walk. To eat. To watch TV.

I’ve had surgery to have it removed, but as long as there are hormones in my body, it will always come back. The only true “cure” is a radical hysterectomy, removing all reproductive parts, and staying off estrogen therapy, which causes early, surgical menopause – a much faster, more intense process than the normal “change of life.”

It would also mean ending any chance Tim and I have of biologically conceiving our own baby, without going to extreme measures.

Sunday night and into Monday, it felt like a fire was ripping through my abdomen, down my legs, up to my shoulders, into my knees. Tim and I were supposed to go to a movie premiere for a movie about healing, Holy Ghost Reborn​, but thought it would be best if I stayed home instead and he went.

I started looking for an OBGYN in Iowa to discuss options, including a radical hysterectomy. I fell asleep. I woke up and asked Tim if they had started praying after the movie yet, and if not, if he could go up there to pray with someone about this.

As my text made it through to him, he was already on his way for prayer.

A woman named Anne (yep), met him in the front and asked what she could pray for. He explained our situation.

The other Anne also suffered from endometriosis.

The other Anne said my faith has made me well (important to note: this was also the passage we studied at church on Sunday, which I shouldn’t have heard because I was supposed to work in the nursery, but someone else really wanted to work in there instead, so I was able to be in the service).

The other Anne said we’d have many kids (I’m hoping not any more fur babies; two dogs are enough, thanks).

And when I received the texts from Tim telling me this, I began weeping in bed, still grieving the miscarriages from this year, afraid that it could be true, that I could be healed, afraid that it wasn’t true, that I could not be healed.

Screen Shot 2015-10-20 at 11.48.17 AM

Because God doesn’t always heal people like we think.

Tim got home, told me to put my jeans back on and believe the T-shirt I was wearing. “What t-shirt?” I had dressed for bed in the dark. I looked down and was wearing the “Jesus Loves You” t-shirt Tim’s friend made. We were going to go back to the movie theatre and get more prayer.

A few minutes later, we pulled in.

Nobody was there.

My Doubting Thomas said, “See? see? This healing isn’t for you!”

Tim calls our pastor, Dan.

“Can you guys pray over Anne?”

Ten minutes later, late at night, we arrived at Dan’s house. I waddled in, hunched over in pain, still crying, still confused, still angry, still grieving, and still hopeful. I was honest. I said I don’t believe God always heals, so I should have no right to expect it. I don’t want to get my hopes up and be let down. My faith is already so small.

Dan and his wife Sarah prayed over us. My body felt numb and I didn’t know why. Pain meds? All the crying and emotions and it was late? An hour later we walked out, exhausted. I went straight to bed when we got home, my eyes swollen and painful from crying.

I slept through the night, only rising when a dog kicked me in the ribs. My eyes were still sore, but I wandered into the kitchen for some water. Looking out the window, over the bluffs and allowing my eyes adjust to the new light of day, I realized something.

I felt…different.

I wasn’t in pain.

If you know anything about endometriosis, the pain doesn’t just suddenly stop, especially in the middle of an episode. It may lessen or come and go, but it doesn’t stop.

But more than the lack of pain, something in my heart–that hole that was left by knowing how broken my insides are–the grief that has been weighing on me for most of this year…it was gone.

It was removed.

I tiptoed around the apartment getting ready to run to the grocery store, afraid if I made too much noise, somehow the pain, both the physical and emotional pain, would wake up and come back.

But it didn’t.

I told friends who were praying for me, fighting for me, waging war in the heavens for me, what happened. I confessed to Sarah my fear that it was surreal, and reality would set in soon. She wrote back:

“There was an old African village lady God healed in the movie, a witch doctor, but she did not smile. The guy explained that the older generation always had a saying…’don’t smile today because tomorrow you will cry.’

The pastor that healed her (who had a crazy story) said, ‘I smile today because I don’t care about tomorrow!’ Meaning he was thankful for the miracles today held, and he fully trusted God for whatever tomorrow held. Eventually they got this old lady who had been healed to smile and even dance. It was precious. Enjoy your miracle today!”

Do I know what will happen tomorrow? At this time next month? In a year? Will I have a baby, or a radical hysterectomy? Will I be sidelined with pain or dancing in new healing?

I don’t.

But as my friend Sarah says, I will enjoy my miracle today.

After I returned from the grocery store, Tim asked how I felt. Being a non-verbal processor, I wasn’t quite sure how to put into words what happened. Honestly? A part of me was afraid to say, “I think I’m healed.” But the words slowly made it out of my mouth.

He sat in the orange chair across from the sectional, ADD getting the best of him, and while celebrating with me, noticed a weird reflection on our ceiling.

“What’s that reflection coming from?” I looked up and saw some red.

“Oh, it’s probably that red bottle on the window sill.”

He moved it, the reflection didn’t change.

“Are you kidding me? Look how big it is!” A full array of colors, a rainbow, displayed over me on the ceiling. Tim looked out the window and noticed the sunrise was shining on a No Parking sign down on the street, five floors down.

The sign was reflecting that rainbow all the way into our apartment window, directly over me, at that very moment.

“It’s God’s promise to you.” Tim said.

This does not feel normal to me. It does not feel comfortable. The devil and the angel on my shoulders are still playing a game of tug-of-war. But I have been surrounded by prayer, covered in promises, and so I will walk in faith. I will take up my mat and tell, I will sing, I will dance, and I will smile about what God has done.

Even if God has given me a miracle only for today, it is a miracle nonetheless.

And to Him be the glory for the things He has done.

To Not Hurt is To Not Be Human

Dear friends,

I hesitated posting this publicly, but I need an army surrounding me now. And I don’t want hate or lies to win. I also don’t want the person who was the impetus behind this post to know that his words hurt–not because they were truth spoken in love–but because he could not be further from the truth.

But hateful things will not win. It is always my goal to bring light to darkness, so here I am, asking for your prayers.

In the last few days, I have been really down as I realized we would be just a couple months away from meeting our baby … I would be 7 months pregnant if we didn’t have the miscarriage back in April.

Now, these thoughts come and go and I know I can feel the sadness and the joy of her life and the other myriad of emotions and I talk to Tim and friends about them and it’s okay.

And it’s okay to not be okay.

Last night, after feeling this sadness consistently for a few days, I got a random comment from a stranger on my site essentially telling me the miscarriage was God punishing me for the mistakes of my past, and the consequences of the actions of others that have affected my life circumstances.

I deleted the comment and blocked the person from leaving comments, but he still sent an email that was not very kind. Or true. In any way.

They are lies, and even though I recognize them as such, still sting. I rarely have an emotional response to “hate mail” after ten years of doing this, but when you say that our baby died because of these things, well, it really really sucks. (That’s the most appropriate word I feel as if I can or want to use, but there are other words that come to mind in my human nature).

I know that (sadly) in my experience, the closer to a book launch I get, the more haters come out. They spew lies, ridiculous lies, and yet with that knowledge, to not be hurt by them would be to not be human.

It is resistance in its purest form.

Thanks for letting me share this with you guys.

My heart could use some prayers.

And I know I need to pray for those who hurt me, and let it go. (So, in the chance that the person who sent those hurtful and untrue comments and emails into the anonymity of the Internet, I am praying for you, and forgiving you too, by God’s grace and God’s grace alone).

Much love,
Anne