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.]

 

Legal Vs. Moral Obligations on Sexual Abuse Reporting and Disclosure

Where I apologize to the International Mission Board and Others

Something I try to live by is the rule “be quick to say you’re sorry when you’re wrong.”

Legally, it’s grey whether or not the International Mission Board did not need to report my case as a crime since I was an adult at the time I came forward. There’s a part of the law that says unless there are children at immediate risk, it does not have to be reported.

Personally, I understood this piece of law to mean since Mr. Aderholt was still working in ministry and indirectly with children, they should have reported it.

But it’s not as clear-cut as I first believed or communicated. I am sorry.

The Star-Telegram has a great paragraph about this.

Scott Fredricks, a Fort Worth lawyer who’s worked child abuse cases, said the laws have changed over the years. He said they would have been looser in 2007 regarding reporting requirements, especially in the case of an adult. The statute in place now, he said, has language about disclosure if the information is necessary to protect another child, which could apply if the alleged perpetrator were still working with children.

“For practical purposes,” he said, “I would always counsel someone to make the report.”

I do want to make something abundantly clear: While there is no legal consequence for the IMB not reporting it, I 100% believe there is and was a moral obligation for them to report it.

The IMB claims legal protection in not disclosing these accusations to future employers. Many state school systems have implemented laws that have harsh penalties for school employees and administrators that do not report suspected abuse.

I wish our churches and religious organizations could lead the way in creating and supporting laws that protect the most vulnerable among us.

The International Mission Board’s Response to Anne Marie Miller’s Sexual Assault

Over the last week, after my story of sexual assault was published in the Star-Telegram, the response (both spoken and silent) from the International Mission Board has spurred me to further clarify my position.

The fact that this has become a heated online debate detracts from the major issue at hand–a man credibly accused of sexual assault and indecency with a child under seventeen years old by contact–was allowed to serve for over a decade after the largest arm of the Southern Baptist Convention knew of this abuse. This man is currently facing three felonies in Tarrant County, Texas. 

My response online (despite my best efforts to stay offline) has been emotional. It’s emotional because I am the one who endured this abuse and have carried its weight for over two decades. It’s emotional because I was deceived by an organization who implied they were protecting me. It’s emotional because there are other people at risk and it is not being addressed.

If my emotions have gone awry and offended or hurt anyone in the process, please accept my apology and I ask for your forgiveness. If I have misspoken or in my emotions unintentionally misled anyone in any way, please contact me so I can rectify what is wrong and accept my apology and I ask for your forgiveness.

However, I am not apologizing for being angry at this. This whole situation is horrible and every ounce of it grieves heaven. I do believe this is a “cover-up.” Yes, that’s a dramatic word, and whether it is IMB’s intent or not, it’s what happened. The definition fits: an attempt to prevent people’s discovering the truth about a serious mistake or crime.

I thought I would make a short list to help clarify what about the situation with the IMB causes this anger and pain, and what I would like–and I think is warranted–to happen, not only for me but for every vulnerable person in their care.

  • The IMB should never internally investigate crimes of this nature. It should have been reported to law enforcement the moment they knew of it.
  • Since there was an investigation, I will say it was thorough. I do appreciate and value that they did take it seriously enough to look into it. At times, their questioning was inappropriate. My past or future relationships and sexual activity is irrelevant to the crime committed against me.
  • At 27 years old, I did not know what the mandatory reporting laws were in Texas. I did not understand the statute of limitations. I was trusting this large organization who was acting in the place of authority to guide me through this process. Yes, I could have reported it, but I was emotionally raw from their investigation. Yes, other people could have reported it, and those people have acknowledged and apologized to me for not doing so (the IMB has not). I needed guidance and support to do that and I did not receive that.
  • I was led to believe Mr. Aderholt was terminated by the IMB. I was told their conclusions would be presented to the Board of Trustees. The next email I received, a couple of months later, only said Mr. Aderholt was no longer employed by the IMB.
  • Because of this, the fact he continued to work in positions of authority within the SBC never made sense to me. I asked the IMB over the next few years how that could happen when “he was terminated for such a serious offense.” I never received a reply to that, nor did the IMB ever clarify he was not terminated. I was allowed to continue to believe he was terminated.
  • When I found out that he resigned and that in fact, it never was reported, I chose to report it. I believe I would have done this earlier if I would have been given the correct counsel and support to do it.

These are important questions:

  • Why did the IMB not immediately report this to law enforcement?
  • Why did they choose to conduct an internal investigation?
  • Why did they not encourage me to report this to law enforcement?
  • Why did the IMB not provide any counseling assistance or offers of tangible support?
  • Why did the IMB use the word’s “inappropriate sexual relationship” instead of “sexual abuse?” Did they consider this a moral failing and not a crime?
  • Why did the IMB insinuate Mark was terminated and allow me to believe this even when I directly asked?
  • Did Mark sign a “release” that allowed the IMB to discuss his employment with others?
  • Mark’s wife was invited to speak at an IMB women’s event overseas in 2016. How was this possible given what they knew?
  • Did any of Mark’s future employers ask the IMB for a reference and if so, what did they report?
  • Did the IMB conduct a third-party investigation into the ministry Mark had overseas when he worked directly with sex-trafficking victims and in other vulnerable people groups?
  • What did the IMB do with their findings?
  • The IMB is protected under civil rights acts to not share anything about any of their employees conduct as a reference. They have no legal obligation to do so. But, as an organization charged with caring for others in the name of Christ, do they not have a moral and spiritual obligation to do so?
  • The education system across America has faced similar issues (sans the spiritual obligation). Laws have been passed in the last decade that require some states to disclose credible accusations to future employers. Why can’t our religious organizations follow suit? This needs to be seriously explored.

Finally, I thank you for the support and grace you have shown me and other victims during this time. This is a new era for all of us, and I’m hopeful as we walk in it together.