Update: Anne Marie Miller’s Response on the Aderholt Indictment plus SBC and IMB Responses

On Mr. Aderholt’s Indictment:

It has been a while since I’ve updated what’s been happening with Mr. Aderholt on my site. On December 19, the Tarrant County, Texas, Grand Jury met and indicted Mr. Aderholt on four felony charges: three charges of indecency with a child under 17 and one charge of sexual assault of a child under 17. I do feel the need to clarify the word “assault” here. Never was my abuse violent. He did not rape me, as the name suggests. I’ve never been comfortable with explaining the details publicly, so if you’re inclined to go and look at Texas Penal Code and find out what that means, by all means, it’s a free internet. But one thing I’ve always wanted is transparency and to speak with clarity when it comes to the things I am sure of and disclosure when there is confusion.

His next date is a court date on January 15 where he will enter his plea. We expect it will go all the way to a trial setting. Having to share the details of this trauma publicly gives me a lot of anxiety, but if Mr. Aderholt continues to deny the facts of what happened and maintains his innocence, that’s what will have to happen. I have full confidence in the Tarrant County DA’s office and there already has been so much evidence presented. Not only did the IMB conclude in 2007 that abuse occurred (though they called it an inappropriate relationship and not abuse) after I reported it to authorities in Spring 2018, they conducted a several-months-long investigation that concluded there was enough evidence for his arrest. From his arrest, the DA’s office further gathered evidence and presented it to a grand jury. I was told that because of my age at the time (16) many grand jurors think that’s close enough to 17, which is the age of consent in Texas, so I was given a 50/50 probability for his indictment. When he was indicted for more charges than he was originally arrested for, it was encouraging to know these folks saw the full extent of what happened and realized the gravity of the crime.

On my personal response:

The range of emotions after his indictment are all over the place. I’m happy because the truth is being heard and actionable steps are being taken by the criminal justice system. I’m grieved because of the messages I’ve received from people who know Mr. Aderholt that also range from denial to confirmation; some say it’s something he could never do and others say they weren’t surprised. I cannot imagine what his family is going through and from the day I knew he and his wife married as he told me they would, I hurt for her. I regret not emailing her back in 1997 because maybe all of this could have been prevented. His kids are old enough to understand and the consequences for what he’s done can realistically separate his family for a long time. Knowing the love I have for my daughter and how being away at work stirs in me a longing and a missing like no other, how much uncertainty and anxiety they must be experiencing. I grieve for them the most; I am not the only victim. I pray for them, and Mark, daily. I’ve also felt incredibly supported online and with friends and most family.

On the International Mission Board (IMB)’s response:

The IMB (who knew about the abuse in 2007 and failed to report it) has hired a law firm to conduct an investigation into how they handle misconduct. It seems to be entirely a self-serving action rather than a victim-serving one. They want to keep their “staff and their families safe”” overseas and no mention is made about past victims or the responsibility to protect the very vulnerable with whom they work. Someone from the firm contacted me but it was before the Grand Jury hearing so I wasn’t at liberty to speak with them. I am now, and will keep you posted on those conversations.

On the SBC’s response:

As far as the SBC response, after many emails asking for specific help-help outside of summits and study groups-I received this email back from JD Greear.*

Dear Anne,

Thanks so much for reaching out. I continue to grieve over all that has happened, to the degree that I find myself unsure what to do or say other than to pray and to do everything in my power to get this right. I do understand what you are saying: committees and study groups by themselves are not enough. And I agree. As you know, my authority as Southern Baptist Convention President is limited, but we must insist churches (and institutions) act in ways that help survivors and deter predators, and do all we can to educate them with the means to do so. That is the purpose of my initiatives in this. My heart’s desire is to do everything I can to explore tangible action steps that can make a difference from this point forward, and that’s what I am doing. I know that this was a big week, and I continue to pray for healing and justice for you. –JDG

I replied with some very specific struggles (a very absent faith and hope and trusting God in a spiritual desert) and specific suggestions: connecting me with some pastors or counseling resources in DFW for instance (it’s been over 3 years since I’ve been to church). Surely his “limited authority” as president of the SBC” can connect me to a few local places for help. I have not heard back and it’s been over two weeks.**

On the reality of it all

I am learning to put no hope into institutional or organizational entities. I will never, ever see the help or receive the support I need from the people who should be and are held accountable for this. Instead, I continue to take refuge in my little family, in school, and at work and knowing that I will be able to serve families of trauma victims so they will not have to live with decades of trauma hiding in their bodies. I apply to upper-level nursing school this summer and I’m so excited.

On the book, Healing Together: A Guide for Helping Sexual Abuse Survivors

Also, with the holidays, moving into a new house, and starting a new job, I haven’t had an iota of time to work on “Healing Together” or to update the Patreon page for that matter.

BUT HERE’S A BIG THING: I have decided to make Healing Together: A Guide for Helping Sexual Abuse Survivors COMPLETELY FREE as an eBook/PDF and make the paperback as inexpensive as I can using Amazon’s Createspace which I used to self publish the reprint of Mad Church Disease, Beating Burnout, and my Advent book.

I don’t want people to think I am capitalizing on my–or anybody else’s–trauma. I don’t want to make money on a book. I don’t want money to get in the way of people finding help and healing. The whole “Christian” publishing industry burned me out so badly with its expectations and that is why I bought back my last book contract. I didn’t want to write, and I had nothing to say to the world through that medium.

If you do pray, please pray for me as I write and that book and hopefully, through Patreon, we can get our very basic costs of doing business (web hosting, design, editing) taken care of. ANY and ALL extra funds will go to help SURVIVORS. PERIOD. All of it. Tim’s and my jobs provide our income. This project is not about padding the Millers’ bank account. I’ll talk more about Patreon next time I write and share how you can contribute to the basic business costs of me self-publishing this book (and how to give more if you want to give to survivor funds).

As always, thank you for your love, prayers, faith, and kind words. They matter. And you matter too.

Anne Miller

*&**: I’ve updated this to reflect an email I received this evening after posting this. In my original post, I made a snarky comment that Mr. Greear only emailed me after the Star-Telegram wrote about the absence of communication from the SBC. In my initial response to him, I told him that I found the timing curious but would choose to believe the best. My earlier post did not reflect me “believing the best” and for that I apologize. I was wrong. Since posting this, I received another email from Mr. Greear following up with me on tangible way he is trying to support me/us. I am grateful for his reply.

Sexual Abuse Survivor Update: Mark Aderholt, International Mission Board & Southern Baptist Convention

It has been over four months since Mark Aderholt, the man who sexually abused me in 1996 and 1997, when I was 16 years old, was arrested and charged with three felonies: two counts of Indecency with a Child–Sexual Contact and one count of Sexual Assault of a Child under the age of 17.

This arrest made headlines because the Southern Baptist Convention’s mission arm, the International Mission Board, knew about the abuse, found it to be credible after an internal investigation in 2007, and did not report it to authorities or within the SBC, citing they could potentially face legal issues if they had let Aderholt’s future employers know that he sexually abused a teenager when he was a student at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. That’s why he was able to get a job pastoring in an SBC church two months after he resigned from the IMB, and climbed the ranks into a state convention executive position.

Even after his arrest, the IMB held defensive ground until their then-president, David Platt, returned from remote Africa and found out about the “extremely disturbing” situation. He and Dr. Russell Moore, president of the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberties Commission (ERLC), called to apologize and asked what I wanted them to do. I said I wanted them to open up my case and others to make sure any sexual abuse or misconduct that was criminal was reported to authorities and to make sure there were no other victims during Aderholt’s tenure overseas. Platt went over his public statement to make sure it addressed everything I wished and that night, released it. The following day, SBC president J.D. Greear, who was also aware of the incident, announced the SBC was launching a sexual abuse study group which was funded $250,000 in September.

I wanted to issue this update to address questions I’ve received since all this happened.

  • Mr. Aderholt will be facing the Tarrant County grand jury very soon–within the next few weeks from what I understand. I am meeting with the ADA and prosecutor for this case this week. If he is indicted, he will have the chance to enter his plea (guilty/not guilty/etc.)
  • I emailed the IMB to get an update and received a reply from the current interim president, Clyde Meador. Mr. Meador was aware of my abuse in 2007 and was one of the people I spoke to from the IMB about it back then. He said I should expect to hear from the third party investigators (I do not know who this group is) in fall. I have yet to hear from them.
  • I have not been contacted by anybody in the SBC about the sexual abuse study group and from what I have been able to see in my brief glances on social media, it appears relatively obscure as far as any actionable details.
  • There have been a few public panels put on by the ERLC and other SBC entities, but unfortunately, I have not seen any true action taking place that is any different than before.
  • I do not see anything new that helps prevent abuse, that is looking into past credible abuse, or that is offering support to known survivors of abuse within the SBC. At a minimum, I absolutely think there should be a fund to help survivors receive trauma-informed therapeutic help.
  • I’ve decided I need to do what I can to help other survivors. I’m writing and self-publishing a book called Healing Together: A Guide for Helping Sexual Abuse Survivors that will be out as soon as I can get it done. I am hoping by the end of the year at the latest. Following me on social media is probably the best way to find out about it if you’re interested. (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram)

It may appear the SBC has a mountain of a task to climb and in many ways it does; that’s what happens when you allow crime and sin to dirty up under your rugs for so long.

At the same time, it’s really not that difficult.

How? They could be in contact with survivors to by writing a short email or a dialing up a quick phone call. Any words of, “How are you? How can we pray? How is your family?” from the powers-that-be who have made promises to reconcile these wounds would actually make a huge difference, at least to me.

I have communicated my personal wishes and clearly stated that hearing nothing from the SBC would be painful. In a majority of the places where I stated this, those requests have gone unanswered. And as I predicted, the silence is painful. They know and yet they do not act.

I was hopeful this summer when these big statements were made. That hope, however, has been tempered by silence and relative inaction. In my case, instead of closing the gap of mistrust caused by the SBC, it continues to widen…maybe a bit more slowly now, but the stitches are being torn apart and the wound is still raw and open.

Lest you think I’m sitting in a puddle of tears, not all is in despair: I am most encouraged and supported by local authorities and law and order. Constant contact, support, sincere inquiries into wellbeing, victim support services, face-to-face meetings, “we want to make this right for you and here is how we are doing it,” and people keeping promises make the criminal side of this ordeal a bit more bearable. Also, a HUGE amount of support from online–other survivors, pastors I don’t know, and people I have met along the way–has also been a great source of encouragement.

Nursing school is going well and we are excited to be in our new home for the holidays, ending what seems to be a constant stream of moving and rentals. Charlotte is 2 1/2 and it’s a fun and crazy age that has us laughing and crying and sometimes visits to urgent care for big bumps on heads. Tim’s work has been incredibly supportive in giving him time off to even financially assisting with some medical bills. Even a VPs Tim’s company of 10K+ employees pulled me aside once to ask how this case is going and how we are doing—he saw it in the local paper here. I was amazed he put the awkwardness away and asked, “how are you?” and it spoke life into my heart.

That’s all I have for now. Don’t give up asking for what is owed. Don’t hesitate to report your abuse. Ask for help. And don’t give up hope, but at the same time, learn not to expect it from the places you think it should come from, like the church.

That’s what I’m learning (again) anyway.

 

[edit: Need to add this to my post: there are 2 leaders who’ve been constant & supportive of me in this situation: Ed Stetzer and Dr. Russell Moore. I understand many people have many different feelings about lots of issues surrounding them, but they have both been very supportive. Worth noting. I also know they hosted 2 of the panels I have mentioned that I’m happy for, but don’t think they (the panels) do much. However, I want to give credit where credit is due and we have been grateful for their prayers and support on many occasion.]

Dear Dr. Christine Blasey Ford: As You Look Kavanaugh in the Eyes, I’m Thinking of You

Dear Dr. Ford:

As you look Brett Kavanaugh in the eyes on Thursday, I’m thinking of you.

I’m a stranger to you, so it may not matter, but I’m proud of you for coming forward in such a high-stakes and public way. The entire country, maybe the entire world, is watching the hearing on Thursday where you and Mr. Kavanaugh will be testifying.

Credit: Democracy Now

You’ve opened up to the most intimate part of your life, released a weight you’ve carried for almost forty years, and in that vulnerability, there is no doubt in my mind you’ve been wounded. I’m not on social media much these days and in my limited reading, I’ve seen the polar and bitter opposites debating your truth, damning your courage, and pruning your life to pieces bit-by-bit, as you were a wounded animal on the side of the road and strangers on social media or in the news are vultures preying on you, shredding you to pieces until all that remains is dry bones.

Dr. Ford, I believe you. And my heart is with you.

Earlier this year, I reported the man who sexually assaulted me to police and a couple of months later, he was arrested and charged with three felonies. He was not a candidate for the United States Supreme Court, but in his own pond, he was a big fish. He is a conservative family man who was well respected in evangelical circles and who had a position of power and authority.

The story made it on the news in a few places, and when it hit TV news in the town where he was a pastor for a really long time, people were shocked. The emails I received that I must be lying because everyone who knew his character knew he could not have committed the crimes he did, sexually assaulting and abusing a sixteen-year-old girl when he was a 25-year-old seminary student and youth pastor. And it happened over the course of several months. If I continued going back to him, why should he be punished for it? Clearly, I was consenting. And of course, why bring it up now, after all these years. I’m exhausted from explaining the answer as I’m sure you are too.

When my story was published as front-page news in a Star-Telegram, I read the man who assaulted me is maintaining his innocence. His lawyer’s comment, “Mark is innocent and this case will be tried in court” sucked the air out of my lungs then, just as it does now as I type it.

It is likely I will have to sit in a court and only a few attorneys away, my abuser will be sitting. He will watch me walk up to the stand and I’ll have to sit in a wooden box with a judge on my right and tell every horrific detail of my abuse to both strangers and the public, all while he is sitting there, fully aware that the light in my truth will bring the darkness of his lies out. Fully aware that this is his reckoning. That the road of his denial over the last 22 years, whether direct or omitted, ends.

While TV and movie courts typically elevate the freedom and justice of a survivor speaking his or her truth, what is left out is the panic-ridden moments that fuel each and every day, stealing life and joy. We play the reel of our court hearings in our minds days, months, even years before they happen. The Hollywood dramas don’t show we feel like we’re going crazy and that every ounce of denial from the person who preyed on us hammers only more shame and guilt and loss deeper and deeper into our cores.

When I learned I will have to sit in a courtroom with the man who sexually assaulted me 22 years ago, and who has denied it ever since, 99% of my will wanted to go back to the detective who worked so fiercely and yet so kindly on my case and tell him I can’t do it. Not because I made it up, but because I am not strong enough to face my abuser. His lies hold a power over me that is pure, unadulterated terror. I don’t even know why.

But you see, and I know you understand, there is this 1%. And this 1% is so violently stronger than then 99% that feels all-consuming. The 1% for me is my daughter and every other little girl, whether she is two-years-old like mine or 91 years old like my grandma, but every – little – girl needs a voice to go before hers.

  • A voice that says I don’t care who you think you are, you have done something evil and you have not yet paid the consequences for it, let alone admitted to it.
  • A voice that says I am worth fighting for and the pain and joy and loss your actions caused in my life deserve to be heard and justified.
  • A voice that says, yes, I’m sorry that many people have been hurt in the wake of this truth coming to light, but you know as much as the next guy that the truth does set you free. Why you didn’t believe this for yourself is on you, and not on me.

Dr. Ford, you have been on my mind and heart since you were first asked to testify in this hearing. When you first said “not yet” I fully understood. When they asked you to do it so soon, my heart raced in fear for what you must be feeling. And when you said yes, my gratitude for your bravery left me speechless.

I know you carry the weight of what this man did to you even now. I know you feel sadness for his family and his friends and the people who feel so completely deceived by him. I carry that weight too, and it is not easy.

But thank you, Dr. Ford. Thank you for going first in this situation where the man who assaulted you completely maintains his innocence. It is a lion’s den not many can say they are thrown into, and yet you willingly jumped in.

When my time comes, I will be carrying the strength you have given us all with me as I look the man who assaulted me into his eyes and speak the truth, one more time, in one more step to freedom.

[AUTHOR’S NOTE: I have received emails about this asking me to defend why I think Dr. Ford is not making this up or to remove this since Kavanaugh was confirmed. The people reading this who wrote those emails do not understand the point of this post.

This is not an op-ed on Dr. Ford; it is a thank you note. We share the same situation: she claims someone assaulted her and he maintains his innocence. I claim someone assaulted me and that man also maintains his innocence.

If all you get from this blog entry is the fact it’s up in spite of his confirmation, you’re missing the point. I’ll be selfish here. This post is about my fear that is brought about by the Kavanaugh hearing. So don’t email me your political thoughts. I immediately delete those emails and I don’t read them. Thank you.]

 

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.