We attended a typical church. Wednesday night prayer meeting was almost always the people you knew, and rarely were there visitors. But, after church for choir practice, the 40 choir members were all known by name and were supposed to abide by certain standards in order to be in the choir.
My beautiful 5-year-old child, who was still sleeping in footed pajamas holding his blankie, needed to go to the bathroom during choir practice. It was right around the corner. There was no one I would have termed a stranger in the church. Deacons were in the hallway, because they had had a meeting that night. My child darted off to the bathroom. He was anxious to get back and play with the other kids.
Unknown to us, there was a pervert, a predator, in the choir. He followed my young son to the bathroom. Because he was taking longer than we thought he should, my husband went to find our son. This pervert was in the stall with our son. When my husband called for our son, the twisted man said that he was helping him with his zipper. My husband didn’t think much of it. He is not the suspicious type, and we did know this sick person.
On the way home, our little son piped up, “I didn’t like that man, Daddy.” “What man, Son?” And the story unfolded of a perverted mind using a small child’s body for his own pleasure. He said, “You don’t have yucky hair like that, do you, Daddy?”
We put the children to bed and did the first thing that came to our mind. It wasn’t call the police but call the pastor. We were very respected members and had been attending for some time. The pastor immediately said that the story was true, and he knew it because the man had confessed in a counseling session that he was convicted and had served time in prison for molesting a child in another church.
He called the police for us, because he was familiar with them. The police came to our house and took a report, but they wanted to talk to our small son. So, we had to take him in the next day for them to question him.
This was a sickening experience for us. Neither of us had ever been inside a police station or jail. Our son was excited. He wanted to see the prisoners, and the police officer allowed it. We shuddered, wondering how many other perverts were in those cells watching him with lust.
After our visit to the police station, the next stop was to buy a gun. We no longer felt safe. I was terrified. This monster was loose and knew where we lived. I had never truly understood the meaning of murdering someone in your heart. But, after this, I did understand. I wanted this animal dead, gone, out of our world. I could not think of him as a person, a human needing forgiveness. To me, there was no humanity in someone who could do such a thing.
Over time, I have come to realize that men can be very evil and that God still loves them and can forgive. However, I also believe that God has some harsh words for people who hurt children. Matthew 18:6, “Whosoever shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea”–I don’t think that the Lord is speaking metaphorically here.
I also do not think that Matthew 5:29-30 is a metaphor: “And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.” Becoming a eunuch for the sake of the children seems little enough to ask.
After two sleepless nights and the police questioning, I became very ill with a 105-degree temperature. I called the doctor and begged him to call in a prescription, but he wouldn’t. So, somehow I clothed my body and tied a bandana around my head. My husband drove me to the doctor and stayed in the car with the kids. He looked pretty bad himself, unshaven and bleary-eyed.
I managed to drag myself inside and lie down on the exam table with tears rolling down my cheeks. The doctor came in and wanted to know what was wrong. I was in no shape to field questions and finally I blurted out, “Someone has hurt my son and they haven’t even put him in jail.” He didn’t charge me for the visit. Not that it mattered to me at the time. I was too sick and in too much pain to care. We go home, lock the doors, and collapse into bed. The gun is under my pillow.
A 5-year-old’s testimony is not enough to arrest or convict someone, even though the person is a convicted molester. Because this pervert lived some distance from the area, the police decided to wait until he came back to church on Sunday and confront him then. Can you imagine our horror knowing that this was going on during a Sunday morning service with our whole family present?
When confronted, this evil person refused to confess and left the church. We were afraid this would happen and had hired someone to follow him. We wanted to know where he lived. But what happened shocked us to the core. He drove directly from our church to another Baptist church about 30 minutes away. Church was letting out, but he went inside for an hour or so.
We wanted to know what happened. Our pastor called this pastor. And do you know what this monster had done? He had gone to this new pastor and “confessed” and asked for forgiveness. This was the same technique he had used at our church. He had “confessed” to our pastor and used confidentiality to prevent the pastor from telling anyone. He was setting himself up to prey on more children.
We wanted this new pastor to testify at the hearing so that our son would not have to. He refused, citing confidentiality. This infuriated us. We were angry that this pastor, even knowing what had happened that very week, was going to follow the same path of keeping confidentiality and allow this preying wolf in his fold.
My husband told our pastor that if this man refused to testify we considered him to be complicit in the sin and as much at fault as the pervert. We talked of putting flyers on the cars in the church parking lot so that the parishioners would know that there was a dangerous wolf in their midst.
It was hard to understand that we seemed to care more for these little unknown lambs than their shepherd who fed them each week. Does the God of Light and Truth want His choice servants to keep such dangerous, harmful secrets?
Another 9-year-old boy had been going on overnight camping trips with the convicted child molester. The single mother was delighted to have a male influence in her son’s life. The pastor did not reveal what this pervert had told him, but he did try to warn her that he didn’t think this man was a good person for her to allow her son to be around. She didn’t understand the unspoken warning and kept allowing her son to be in this sick person’s care. Why, he was bringing her son nice gifts. He must be a nice person. He had attended a Christian college. Surely, he was a good person.
We decided to take the kids on a trip to the seashore. We wanted to feel clean again, to feel whole and safe. The ocean breezes would dry the tears that kept welling up in my eyes. I watched the most beautiful sight in the world, my children, against the backdrop of God’s majestic beauty and my mind cried, “Why? Why, God, why? Why when we were serving you? Why our child and not us? Why not allow the unthinkable to happen to us, not to this helpless, little, innocent son?” The waves lapped the shore. The children laughed and exclaimed in wonder. And I wondered at the evil in this beautiful world.
This predator eventually pled guilty in our case and was sentenced to eight years in prison. It was not nearly enough, though nothing would ever give us back what we lost.
We sat in the sentencing hearing and listened to cases before ours with horror, dismay and disgust. The defense attorneys and prosecutor were laughing and joking about these serious child-abuse cases. In every case that we saw being decided before our case came up, a family member was involved; and in every case, the lawyers and the judge sent them for counseling. It was sickening.
No one laughed when it came to our case. We had written a letter asking for the maximum penalty. It was obvious that we were very upset. He received the maximum penalty, and we left trembling and sick. Our lives were forever changed. And the only good that came from what we did was that the pedophile would not prey on children for a long time.
Our pastor was much loved by us, but after this we could no longer look at him the same way. We knew that he didn’t mean to hurt our child, though it was apparent that he KNEW that children would be in danger from this convicted felon. He told the pervert, “I will be watching you,” which is a good indication that he knew that the danger was there.
Well, watching him was inadequate. Obviously, he couldn’t watch him all the time. He wasn’t allowed to work in the Sunday school or Vacation Bible School or Wednesday-night classes, but that didn’t stop him. He was allowed in the choir, because children are not in the choir. However, choir members have children, and they are there.
Pedophiles are brazen, bold and unrepentant. Their compulsion overrides even common sense and a fear of being caught. We felt like our pastor had betrayed our trust and, at best, been incredibly stupid. We felt that his children were protected by his knowledge while ours and all the others were not. There was no going back to the way we felt before. We no longer had the immense amount of respect that we had before. My mind asked the question “Why? How could he know and not tell us?” over and over again.
We found a counselor who specialized in this sort of thing. He reassured us, saying that because of our son’s young age, the one-time occurrence and his stable family life, he felt there was very little chance that this would adversely affect him. We discussed how to answer his questions like, “Why did the bad man do this, Mommy?”
I still feel this murderous rage. I question God, “Is this wrong? I don’t think I can stop myself. Didn’t you give me this protective instinct for this child you gave me to raise?”
If you take a walk in the woods, you know that there are snakes. Snakes are part of nature, part of life. But, if someone is walking the path ahead of you spots a snake, yet walks on by without hollering back a warning to you, is that the right thing to do?
Our children deserve our protection and commitment to preserving a safe environment for them to grow and learn. Pedophiles have no place on the staff of a church in ANY capacity. The danger is too great. If a known pedophile is allowed in a building with children, he should be accompanied at all times by someone who is aware of the danger he poses.
People who protect pedophiles should not be given any position of authority. They need training in the basics of human depravity and a crash course in the results of such actions.
Rachel Ramah is a pseudonym referring to Matthew 2:18, “A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children; and she refused to be comforted, because they were no more,” about Herod’s slaughter of the innocents. Originally submitted as an e-mail to David Brown, coordinator of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) in Memphis and West Tennessee, it is edited and used here with permission.