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.]

It’s Never Too Late to Begin!

5 Things Every Parent Needs to Know About Their Kids & Sex is Here!

5-things-every-parent-anne-miller

Yesterday was a big day. 5 Things Every Parent Needs to Know About Their Kids and Sex is finally here! Yes, talking to your kids about sex and porn and social media can be awkward, but it is SO necessary.

5ThingsMed

While we’re waiting, our kids are getting their questions answered and their perceptions of sex and sexuality formed elsewhere–through online searches and a daily diet of mainstream and social media that may shock you. With 5 Things, it’s my goal to educate, encourage and equip parents (and youth leaders, friends, family, anyone, really!) to have these meaningful conversations that will forever change the landscape of the messed up messages the media communicates to us.

  • order-nowEquips parents to take control of the narrative their children are receiving about sex.
  • Shows how to have meaningful and age-appropriate conversations about sex, pornography, and sexual abuse.
  • Helps parents how to keep the lines of communication open so kids will trust their parents with their fears, struggles and questions.

It’s never too late to begin. You can purchase 5 Things today –paperback or eBook–from the following bookstores:

In my online webstore: $11.25*
*Use the code “HELP” when you check out and the book will cost $11.25

Amazon.com: Currently $12.50

Baker Books: Currently $15.99

Books-A-Million: Currently $15.99

Barnes & Noble: Currently 12.37

Family Christian: Currently $15.99

Overstock.com: Currently $12.41

Walmart.com: Currently $12.63

Apps Every Parent Needs to Know About: Whisper

Anonymous Sharing, Chatting and Location-Based Feeds

5 Things Every Parent Needs to Know About Their Kids & Sex Ships Next Week!

Get it in your mailbox (or on your e-reading device) next Tuesday, May 17!

Pre-order my book Five Things Every Parent Needs to Know About Their Kids and Sex

pre-order-freebie-5-things-every-parent-needs-to-know

Don’t forget to grab your copy before the release date (May 17!), and get some great freebies that will help you talk to your kids about sex.


Today’s App Every Parent Needs to Know About (full series here) is Whisper. It’s made the rounds in media and has received some bad press–maybe rightfully so, as it’s another app that allows users to anonymously post pictures, secrets, confessions, questions, and chat privately with others and share their location or only look at Whispers that are nearby.


parents-apps-whisper

Whisper’s Purpose (according to their app store description):

“Ever wondered what the people around you are really thinking? Whisper is an online community where millions of people around the world share real thoughts, trade advice, and get the inside scoop. See what people are thinking at the places you visit, like your school. Chat directly with other Whisper users – it’s a great way to meet new people. Join the 30 million+ people who use Whisper every month; it will change the way you see the world.”


Terms of Service/App Rating: Whisper is rated 17+ in the app store for:

  • Frequent/Intense Mature/Suggestive Themes
  • Infrequent/Mild Profanity or Crude Humor
  • Infrequent/Mild Alcohol, Tobacco, or Drug Use or References

In the Terms of Service, Whisper is very clear that the intended audience is 17+. Even still, their messaging is confusing as they say in the fine print, “If you are between 13 and 18 years of age, you may use the services provided with the consent and under the supervision of a parent or guardian, who are obliged to abide by these terms,” and the age you can claim within the app begins at the age of 15.

So, I’m guessing they really don’t care how old you are. Parents, it’s your responsibility to limit which apps your kids download (or have access to download). On that note, Whisper offers parents advice on how to enable restrictions on their kid’s phones and tablets.

They lay out their community guidelines simply:

Do not be Mean, Do not be Gross, and Do Not Use Whisper to Break the Law: Do not defame, impersonate or abuse another person. Do not share personal information of another person, including address or telephone number. Hate speech directed at any group of people will be removed from our services. This includes hate speech on gender, sexuality, race, religion and ethnicity. You can use your own photos on Whisper, but do not allow images that are filthy, violent or pornographic. Do not use Whisper to promote illegal behavior like selling controlled substances or solicitations. If you solicit minors for any reason or post sexually explicit images of minors, we will suspend your account and report it to the National Center for Missing Children. Do not make threats of violence. We may share your IP, location and other information with the police if we think you are a threat to the safety of others. We are required by law to disclose your information if we receive a subpoena, court order or warrant.”


Privacy & Parental Controls: Whisper keeps the standard amount of information that other apps keep: cookies and pixels (that track your use), geolocation (if location services are on) and does provide that information to advertisers and some third parties.

Some notable comments, mostly in regard to Whisper’s location services–as you can see from my screenshots, it tells the user approximately how far another user is away in distance. If kids use the service and reveal any personal information (name, a photo of something outside that’s identifiable), they can be easily found.


whisper-8The Good:

  • Compared to other apps, Whisper had the least amount of sexually explicit content. It’s not void of it completely, but there was a considerable difference.
  • You can turn location services off, but it limits how the app functions.
  • If someone is mature enough and knows how to process the mature topics or photos that do populate feeds, it could be a great place to encourage people who are going through tough times.
  • Reporting posts, users, and blocking chats is quick and easy.
  • Users can enable a NSFW (Not Safe For Work) filter which filters out some mature content.
  • Within the app settings, users can visit “Your Voice” which shares videos from users who struggle with various issues, sorted by issue (mental health, sexuality, suicide, etc.). Users can also share their own stories, which are moderated before being shared.

The Bad: 

  • Content is user-generated, which means even if something is reported, users can view inappropriate content simply by using the app.
  • After you type in your Whisper, based on what words you use, the app suggests “related” photos to accompany it. Some of these photos are hard PG13 or rated R.
  • Location features allow for users to be easily identified if not cautious.whisper-11
  • The “My School” section is has only basic protection: anyone on campus (even across the street) from a school can log in to that school’s feed and communicate with minors.
  • Although the TOS says feeds are actively monitored for suicidal/self-harming/eating disorders/threatening posts, it’s easy to find and suggested images from the app support inappropriate messages.
  • One report I read online said users who post suicidal/self-harming/eating disordered posts are directed to help. I posted about “wishing to be dead” and “starving myself” and was not redirected to help. Instead, I was shown similar confessions from others. (see side photo)
  • Users can also add a personal PIN so that if the app is accessed, the feeds remain but personal chats and Whispers are not shown unless the PIN is entered, which can prevent parents from checking the app.
  • In my experience, as a 15-17 year old female persona in the app, in less than 24 hours, I was by a male adult in my city where I live and what school I go to.


What you need to know: 

One of the most concerning features of Whisper is the location-sharing element, and within that, the ease in which one can sign into a local school’s “private” feed. Unlike After School, where your ID has to be verified through Facebook and/or a state-issued ID, anyone can get on or really close to a school campus and have access to that feed without having to do anything else. 

Like I did in After School, I chose a nearby school. To verify myself, I drove to the parking lot of the school and logged in. I pretended to be a 15-17 year old high school student and easily started chatting with other high school students, both receiving chats and sending them (I sent mine as anonymous encouragements, the ones I received were a mix of positive and sexual).

Because there can be such a high emotional element to sharing secrets or confessions, predators can engage in conversations under the guise of being a peer and in worst-case situations, can schedule a meet up  to “help” their new friend out.


Conversation Starter:

I have to admit: Whisper was not as “bad” as I’ve heard. Maybe people in Iowa don’t post a lot of explicit content (or maybe users of the Whisper app compared to the After School app are toned down.) While it wasn’t completely teen-friendly, more mature teens could use this app with extreme caution and could be a source of encouragement for others.

Chances are, if you have a junior high or high school student, they know about the Whisper app. What are your child’s app settings? Are they restricted from downloading certain content (like 12+ or 17+)?

  • Have you heard of the app Whisper? Tell me about it.
  • Have you ever shared something on Whisper or read someone else’s secret?
  • Has someone you don’t know tried to start a private chat with you? What did/would you do?
  • What would you do if you saw on Whisper that someone wanted to hurt themselves or others?
  • What are some ways you might accidentally share your location? (i.e., geographically identifying pictures, using photos in public places that other can see)

5ThingsMedEducating, Encouraging and Equipping Parents

Nervous about talking to your kids about sex? Anxiety over having “the talk” often means we avoid it as long as we can. While we’re waiting, our kids are getting their questions answered and their perceptions of sex and sexuality formed elsewhere–through online searches and a daily diet of mainstream and social media that may shock you. In this immensely practical and well-researched book, Anne Marie Miller:

  • Equips parents to take control of the narrative their children are receiving about sex.order-now
  • Shows how to have meaningful and age-appropriate conversations about sex, pornography, and sexual abuse.
  • Helps parents keep the lines of communication open so kids will trust them with fears, struggles and questions.

Apps Every Parent Needs to Know About: Instagram

Sharing Photos and Videos (And Just a Few Clicks Away from Porn)

Quick Reminder: Have you pre-ordered my book Five Things Every Parent Needs to Know About Their Kids and Sex?

pre-order-freebie-5-things-every-parent-needs-to-know

Don’t forget to grab your copy before the release date, and get some great freebies that will help you talk to your kids about sex.


apps-every-parent-needs-to-know-instagramToday’s App Every Parent Needs to Know About (full series here) is one of the most popular social media apps around. More than likely, you have it on your phone. More than likely, your kids might too.

It’s the photo (and video) sharing app: Instagram.

Instagram is one of the classic apps, making its debut in late 2010. They’ve managed to stay relevant and widely-used. Unlike my other social media channels (Twitter, Facebook), I follow a small group of people–mostly friends and family–and a few celebrities or organizations. I engage with the app most days, and use it to keep track of what’s happening in the lives of friends.

Because Instagram’s content is user-generated, I knew there had to be sexual content on it, but it rarely appears to me due to Instagram’s algorithms, which shows you content you’d likely enjoy the most (so in my “What’s Popular” feed, there are lots of pregnancy posts, puppies, and food/drink pictures…which is pretty customized to the things with which I naturally interact).

However, Instagram’s innocence disappears with only a few clicks.

Instagram’s Purpose (according to their app description):

“Instagram is a simple way to capture and share the world’s moments. Transform your everyday photos and videos into works of art and share them with your family and friends.”


Terms of Service/App Rating: Instagram is rated 12+ in the app store for:

  • Infrequent/Mild Alcohol, Tobacco, or Drug Use or References
  • Infrequent/Mild Sexual Content and Nudity
  • Infrequent/Mild Profanity or Crude Humor
  • Infrequent/Mild Mature/Suggestive Themes

In their Terms of Service, Instagram is very clear that the intended audience is 13+ and they also state:

You may not post violent, nude, partially nude, discriminatory, unlawful, infringing, hateful, pornographic or sexually suggestive photos or other content; You must not defame, stalk, bully, abuse, harass, threaten, impersonate or intimidate people or entities and you must not post private or confidential information via the Service, including, without limitation, your or any other person’s credit card information, social security or alternate national identity numbers, non-public phone numbers or non-public email addresses.”


Privacy: Instagram keeps the standard amount of information that other apps keep: cookies and pixels (that track your use), geolocation (if location services are on) and does provide that information to advertisers and some third parties. As far as parental controls and user privacy, there are only a few options:

  1. Don’t post your location if you don’t want people to know where you are.
  2. Keep your account “private,” which removes any public access.

Instagram says,

“Any information or content that you voluntarily disclose for posting to the Service, such as User Content, becomes available to the public, as controlled by any applicable privacy settings that you set. To change your privacy settings on the Service, please change your profile setting. Once you have shared User Content or made it public, that User Content may be re-shared by others.”


instagram-5

Reporting is Easy

The Good:

  • If a user doesn’t wander outside his or her feed or click any hashtags, the probability of viewing something unwanted or inappropriate is relatively low (unless someone a user follows directly posts something inappropriate or is hacked).
  • Users can keep their accounts private, which blocks any public searches and sharing of information.
  • Instagram automatically blocks obvious inappropriate hashtags–for example, if you searched for #sex, nothing will show up.
  • Instagram makes reporting and blocking posts or accounts that violate their Terms of Service really easy, just by clicking “Report” and choosing the reason.

The Bad: Anything outside of a user’s feed is only a few clicks away from trouble.

  • Accounts who post inappropriate material often use common, innocent hashtags to have their posts show up to larger audiences, i.e, you can click on the hashtag #dogsofinstagram because you want to see more pictures of dogs, but an explicit photo or video will find its way into that feed because the user tagged it #dogsofinstagram.
  • Curious users who want to find inappropriate material don’t have to try very hard. Whereas #sex may not have any results, simply turn the word into #sexy and you have millions of posts, most which violate Instagram’s terms, right at your fingertips.
  • It’s also super popular to follow celebrities on Instagram. I don’t want to pick on Kim Kardashian, but she’s always made infamous headlines for posting some mostly-nude photos (which, based on Instagram’s TOS, I do not understand why they are still up–see example below).
  • Celebrities can post explicit material, and project what someone is “supposed” to look like (skinny, sexy, wearing certain items, not wearing certain items; essentially they can be negative role models for body image and online behaviors).
  • Users can tag their location and publicize where they live, go to school, work, etc.

What you need to know: 

Although Instagram has a straight forward TOS and privacy settings, beyond that, there are no parental controls available. It would be awesome if they could implement a rating system for users and, at the very least, try to have more control over who sees what. Public users are also allowed to send private messages to other public users, unless they are blocked. And even if a user is set as “private,” someone can always take a screen shot of his or her post and repost it publicly. You wouldn’t believe the number of phone numbers I see on junior high and high school students’ private posts that have been shared. Also, Instagram allows a user to clear searches, so hiding the history is easy to do.


Conversation Starter:

It’s likely you and members of your family use Instagram. I realize that by sharing some of these “shortcuts,” it may open pandora’s box, so to speak. Maybe your kids would never think about searching for #sexy on Instagram. Then again, maybe they already have, or have clicked an innocent hashtag, or have been followed by an explicit account.

The real question here is do you know?

Instead of sheltering, open up to your kids and let them know you’re sharing this because you care about what they see online. You don’t have to give them an instruction book for how to find content they shouldn’t see, but by asking them questions, you can move forward in this conversation in a productive and appropriate way.

  • Do you use Instagram? What do you like about it? What don’t you like?
  • Is your account set to private? Who follows you? Who do you follow? Why?
  • What are some funny things you’ve seen on Instagram? Have you ever seen anything inappropriate? (Note: if they answer yes, don’t freak out. Engage them!)
  • Do you know how to report things that shouldn’t be on Instagram?
  • Tell me what you know about hashtags…how do people use them?

Educating, Encouraging and Equipping Parents

5ThingsMedNervous about talking to your kids about sex? Anxiety over having “the talk” often means we avoid it as long as we can. While we’re waiting, our kids are getting their questions answered and their perceptions of sex and sexuality formed elsewhere–through online searches and a daily diet of mainstream and social media that may shock you. In this immensely practical and well-researched book, Anne Marie Miller:

  • order-nowEquips parents to take control of the narrative their children are receiving about sex.
  • Shows how to have meaningful and age-appropriate conversations about sex, pornography, and sexual abuse.
  • Helps parents how to keep the lines of communication open so kids will trust their parents with their fears, struggles and questions.

 

Tons of Freebies!

Have you pre-ordered Five Things Every Parent Needs to Know About Their Kids and Sex yet? Have you been thinking about it? 

Oh, happy day! It’s time to get rewarded for your eagerness!

pre-order-freebie-5-things-every-parent-needs-to-know

The book ships on May 17–just a couple weeks from now. And to thank you for pre-ordering the book, I made up a nice little package of freebies for you. Now, I wish I could throw in some cookies or a new puppy, but unfortunately, neither of those ship really well. Instead, if you pre-order Five Things by May 17, email me a copy of your receipt or order confirmation and I’ll send you:

  • A 35 minute audio file of a Q&A my husband Tim and I did with parents that covers their questions on sex, porn and social media.
  • A 30 page eBook containing everything from my series on Apps Every Parent Needs to Know About so you can easily reference information and share it with your friends. You’ll also get an updated file every time we add a new app!
  • A free trial of the Internet accountability and filtering software, Covenant Eyes. Sign up using the code I’ll give you and you’ll get to try this amazing software (which Tim and I use on all our devices) for free!

How do you get all this? It’s super easy!

  1. Pre-order the book (you can find all the retailers at 5ThingsBook.com – Bonus: You can get the first 30 pages of the book there for free)
  2. Send me the copy of your receipt or confirmation number to freebies@annemariemiller.com
  3. I’ll send you a link to download all these wonderful freebies to help your family begin redeeming the conversation about sex!

Now, I can’t make any promises, but it’s been the norm in my experience that people who pre-order books actually receive them before their official ship date. I have no control over this, but you may even get the book a bit earlier than if you waited until it officially released.

Questions? Comments? Just shoot me an email and let me know!

Lots of love,

Anne Marie