Dear Man in Prison

Dear Man in Prison,

Before you read this I want you to look at my picture. Yes, that’s me as a child, when I was raped. That innocent girl is no more. Though I have experienced bucketsful of healing, I still live hypervigilant. I still struggle with sex. I still have flashbacks. All because of the sinful, unlawful actions of two others.

You wrote your words behind bars to an audience of many, many, many. Did you realize that you would open a deep wound in sexual abuse survivors’ hearts and souls by characterizing the rape of a teen in your youth group as an “affair?” It was no affair. It was a calculated ploy by a person in authority, over a decade older, to a minor who was not old enough to understand the nature of your advances. This was abuse of power. This was molestation. This is why you serve your time in prison. And it is precisely why you will spend your life with the words “sexual predator” as a moniker. This is not a judgment statement, per se, but simply the evidence of a just law.

Your words reflected little remorse other than getting caught and being prosecuted for a crime. Where is your anguish for the victim? For your wife? For your children? For the youth group you pastored? You have not only marred their souls, but warped their view of a loving God. They will struggle with your violation the rest of their lives. They may view God as capricious, unprotective, or non-existent. You cannot undo that kind of soul damage, no matter how many words you write, even if they are cloaked in biblical language.

And when you get to the place where you genuinely do not care about your reputation, where you do not hide behind cliched rhetoric, and you openly state the devastation you caused, I will look forward to your adventure in redemption. Raucous redemption comes on the bedrock of gut honest, sometimes-ugly truth. You absolutely can experience this kind of redemption. I know this because I have experienced it too. Except in a different way.

I, too, was about 12 years younger than those who molested me. I could not say no, did not know I could–not with the threat of death to my parents. And what they did when I was a child has haunted me for 42 years now. It has affected my relationships, my self esteem, my heart, my worth. And I’m one who has doggedly pursued healing since I was a teen. I have chased it, begged for it, hoped for it, all the while struggling against this feeling deep down inside that I was only worthy of violation. Only worthy of being used. Only worthy as long as I looked a certain way.

All this time, all these years, these violators have roamed the earth free. Only they are not truly free. They won’t be until they say the truth, that they, in their utterly self absorbed state, chose to have sex with a young girl for their pleasure. They will have to live with this truth until they dare to humbly admit that what they did was horrific.

That’s my prayer for you. That you would not simply be sorry for being caught, for losing your marriage and ministry and family, but that you would deeply, honestly, truly grieve for that girl you violated, for the trust you obliterated in the youth you were trying to shepherd, for your children and wife who trusted you to act like Jesus. Grieve that. Grieve deeply. Grieve honorably. Grieve quietly outside the limelight.

Jesus bore the weight of your sin against the girl and your family and your church. But He also bore the weight of my grief in the aftermath of rape. He is the sin bearer and the pain bearer. The same Jesus who has beautifully been setting me free (as I have dared to say the truth through tears and scars and worries) is the same Jesus who will audaciously set you free as you dare to say the truth, even when it agonizes you.

You are paying the just penalty for your crime. But Jesus bore the weight of all our sin, though He didn’t deserve to. Let the wow of that sink in. Of course He can forgive you. Of course He can forgive me. But that forgiveness blooms in light of telling it like it is. What you did was not a consensual affair. It was not adultery. It was sexually predatory. Name it. Grieve it. Meet with the victims of your crime and apologize. Repent truly.

I believe that one of Satan’s greatest weapons against the human heart is sexual abuse. And I grieve that you are part of this awful system of sexual aberration. From this point onward, spend your life humbly. Expose the dark lies that reverberate through mankind that say we are simply a sum of our biological parts, and that satisfying our urges for the sake of our pleasure (at the expense of another) is our right.

Is this situation redeemable? Yes, through the costly blood of Jesus. Through good, honest community that calls sin what it is and crimes what they are. Through truth about what really happened between you and the girl charged to your care. From that place, hope and healing can grow.

I am deeply burdened and overwhelmed at your treatise, but I hold out hope that you will understand the gravity of what you did, and that those affected can try to put their lives back together. Unfortunately, there is no magic wand that “cures” the violation of what you did. The hard work of healing for the victims will take time, a lot of time. It is not impossible, but it is excruciating and much longer than I ever expected.

I write these words knowing that I will be misunderstood and possibly maligned. But I cannot be silent any more. I was silent for ten years, and that silence eroded my wherewithal, my hope, my worth. Only in telling my story and standing up for others who have been hurt in similar ways have I begun to see some shred of light. Do you know how many times I asked God why why why this happened? Do you know how many times I thought of hiring a private investigator to find out what became of those two who stole so much from me? Do you know how many tears I’ve wept when the healing journey felt unfair and way too long?

When you understand the breadth of those questions and the similar anguish your victims now wade through (as if through thickened mud), then write a post about it. But until then, shrink away from limelight, seek God on your face, and let Him lead you toward truth.

Mary DeMuth

For those of you totally in the dark about this, I’m referring to this post on Leadership Journal* where a convicted sex offender tells his story of preying upon a girl in his youth group (when he was her youth pastor), calling it adultery and consensual. Since the post went live, many have asked Leadership Journal to take the post down because it gives a platform to a man convicted of a crime who doesn’t seem to understand the gravity of what he did.

They have not taken it down. You will see their clarification at the beginning of the post, and his tacked on disclaimer at the end. The other disturbing thing: there have been at least 75 comments on the post (respectful) including two of mine that have been censored. Right now there are 18 comments. It worries me that a journal dedicated to Christian leadership will not allow for discussion on their post. I truly, truly do not understand this. If you feel this post needs to be pulled, many of us are using the #takedownthatpost hashtag to voice our outrage.

If you’re curious about my story, I’ve written about my own healing from sexual abuse in my latest book Not Marked: Finding Hope and Healing After Sexual Abuse.

It’s my hope and sincere prayer that if you have experienced this kind of violation, that you would find grace and truth and empathy in its pages.

*Note: I have used a link that will not add traffic to Leadership Journal, so they cannot profit (by having more pageviews.)

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  • Patricia Raube

    What a powerful piece. Thank you for opening your soul to show the world the harm that has been done, but also for doing so from a place a deep strength and wisdom.

    • Mary DeMuth

      You are quite welcome, Patricia.

  • Tina Diss

    Thank you so much for speaking out Mary. With my own abuse and especially that of my daughter, truth is what has been absent from the equation. Our/her truth has been met with either silence, or worse, insincere apologies without any consequences or accountability for the perpetrators. Please keep speaking truth, it’s what is so desperately needed, but yet is so sadly missing.

    • Mary DeMuth

      I’m so sorry how you’ve been met. The best way to be met after sexual abuse is COMPASSION and empathy.

  • http://www.pensieve.me/ Robin Dance

    Been offline and hadn’t seen the detail of this story until now. Have mercy. Incredible in the worst of ways.

    Yours is a voice that makes sense and you’ve articulated an informed insight well; I wish you couldn’t :/.

    The article is now down, but I’m afraid the damage is done for many. The redemptive value? That maybe, just maybe, some people have HEARD with new ears and changed their perspective.

    xo to you.

    • Mary DeMuth

      Robin, you are such a delight and an encouragement. Thank you.

  • philosurfer

    I’m sorry for the abuse you have suffered. I can’t imagine what that is like. However…I find it interesting that you worry about your comments on the article being censored, yet your goal is to censor the whole piece. You want to be allowed to be involved in the discussion, yet you want to effectively stop all discussion…and you did…has truth and justice really won?

    • Mary DeMuth

      I believe it has won.

  • Mary DeMuth

    Yes, I am so grateful they have taken the post down.

  • R

    I had posted this comment on another blog but thought it would be pertinent here…mainly because it’s referencing the same article.

    As a male rape victim from when I was a teenager (by an older boy) it
    took me years to come to terms with what happened and accept that I was
    actually raped. I spent years wondering if it was my own fault and my
    mistake that led things to happen.

    The fact that he says he
    “initially considered [it] a consensual relationship” shows he hasn’t
    fully accepted that what he did was actually rape.

    I actually had
    an opportunity to forgive the boy who took advantage of me and he
    apologized and said he wasn’t trying to hurt me or anything. I don’t
    know if he has ever understood what he actually did to me. Thankfully,
    after many years of healing, God has given me peace and freedom from the
    shame and guilt, but it caused issues for years and almost destroyed my
    marriage 10 years after the incident!

    While I understand what
    he’s saying (as warped as it is), i can see that it is coming from the
    mind of someone still living a lie. I had years of healing to break free
    from the lies that held me back and I thought some really messed up
    stuff about myself and others until God set me free.

    I hope he
    will understand and accept his responsibility, and not just the “oh crap
    I got caught and I’m sorry” response that he’s showing now, the deeper,
    fuller acceptance that will take years to come to fruition.

    More
    importantly, I hope the victim in this is getting the love and support
    she deserves. I hope she knows that God doesn’t see her any different,
    she’s not “damaged goods”, it’s not “her fault” that this happened and
    she didn’t do anything wrong.

    I also hope that his family, his
    wife and kid(s), are getting loved and supported. The tragedy that will
    eclipse the actual rape he committed will be if the victim and his
    family are ostracized and pushed away from the very church family that
    is supposed to be pulling close and protecting them.

    • Mary DeMuth

      This is so very brave. Thank you for sharing your story.

  • Anonymous1

    People are routinely deceived by pedophiles, especially we Christians who are extremely gullible. Even though our doctrine tells us that there are going to be people who call themselves Christians but are actually wolves, we want to believe that everyone who repents is sincere and everyone can change. That’s just simply naive.

    Dr. Anna Salter (Harvard) was interviewed by Church Mutual Insurance on the issue of child sexual abuse:

    Church Mutual risk reporter: “Do religious institutions pose a greater opportunity for sexual offenders?”

    Dr. Anna Salter: “Yes, they do, for some very fundamental reasons surrounding faith, as well as some other reasons more indicative of society in general. First,
    religious institutions are built upon a belief that people are
    fundamentally good and there to help others. People are compelled by
    faith to believe that clergy, staff and volunteers at a religious
    institution are there to help in response to some sort of higher
    calling. As one of the offenders I interviewed said, “I consider church
    people easy to fool…they have a trust that comes from being
    Christians.” Second, as a society we tend to believe one of two things
    when it comes to sexual offenses: it won’t happen to me or anyone close
    to me, or as I constantly hear, “I can tell if someone is a sex
    offender.”

    - – - – - – - -
    Harvard Ph.D., Dr. Judith Herman wrote the landmark book on victimization, Trauma and Recovery. She also says:

    “In order to escape accountability for his crimes, the perpetrator does everything in his power to promote forgetting. Secrecy and silence are the perpetrator’s first line of defense. If secrecy fails, the perpetrator attacks the credibility of his victim. If he cannot silence her absolutely, he tries to make sure that no one listens. To this end, he marshals an impressive array of arguments, from the most blatant denials to the most sophisticated and elegant rationalization. After every atrocity one can expect to hear the same predictable apologies: it never happened; the victim lies; the victim exaggerates; the victim brought it upon herself; and in any case it is time to forget the past and move on.”

    Another great line:

    “It is very tempting to take the side of the perpetrator. All the perpetrator asks is that the bystander do nothing.”

    Notice how the man in prison has impressive arguments, blames the victim, downplays the reality of rape? This is common for pedophiles.

    • Mary DeMuth

      Great information here. Thanks for sharing it.

  • melissia

    Thank you, for speaking the truth, and adding your voice.

    • Mary DeMuth

      My pleasure.

  • http://www.tanyamarlow.com/ Tanya Marlow

    I’m glad you were not silent.

    This is important.

    (And I’m disturbed to hear that Leadership Journal have been censoring comments – that is NOT cool.)

    • http://www.tanyamarlow.com/ Tanya Marlow

      Glad to see that Leadership Journal have now taken it down and apologised.

      • Mary DeMuth

        I’m grateful too.

  • Cathering

    As of this morning, the original post has been replaced with an apology from Christianity Today. They do include a link to the Internet archived version, but their explanation is extensive, and they do seem genuinely remorseful (and they also state that any advertising revenues will be given to ministry). That said, their having published it in the first place indicates a significant absence of good judgment about this issue.

    • Mary DeMuth

      Yes, I’m grateful for that.

  • http://www.lawrencewilson.com/p/about-me.html Lawrence W. Wilson

    Mary, thanks for this.

    • Mary DeMuth

      My pleasure, Larry.

  • Karen

    It looks like it’s been removed and they apologized for publishing it. Also any advertising money earned will go to victims of abuse organizations. Bravo, Mary. Thank you for sharing and letting your voice be heard.

    • Mary DeMuth

      Yes, I am so very thankful.

  • Brit Unfurling

    The post has now been taken down and apology written by the editorial team. Thank you Mary and others who have been brave enough to write publicly and to others who have emailed the editors of the journal. I am glad the editors listened but I hope they realise the true impact of their original decision to publish on those of us who are survivors.

    • Mary DeMuth

      I’m grateful for that and for the apology.

  • susan

    Thanks for not staying silent. The post has been taken down and an apology issued. Seems like you and others were heard.

    • Mary DeMuth

      You are so very welcome.

  • Guest

    The hashtag made me read it. A print media enterprise can post or publish items of their choosing within legal constraints, and acceptance of the consequences. This article educated me as to the subtleness of sin, the extent of self deceit, and the anger of Christians, among other things. The hashtag made me read it, which proves your point. The question I have is; does this one article make LJ a platform for sex offenders,rapist, and other criminals or a journal with editors who made a calculated choice that would lead to worthwhile discussion and actions. The hashtag made me read it.

    • Mary DeMuth

      I’m grateful you were part of the conversation, Guest.

  • http://www.edcyzewski.com/ Ed_Cyzewski

    Just a thought… Maybe we shouldn’t publish life advice from people WHO ARE IN PRISON.

    Thank you for boldly speaking up, Mary. This doesn’t end until that post is removed and church leaders get the message loud and clear that the voices and stories of victims must be considered, that the lives of the victims must be mended, and that those who violate others must accept the full weight of their actions.

    • http://www.tanyamarlow.com/ Tanya Marlow

      ^^ what he said

    • Mary DeMuth

      I agree. So very much.

    • Righteous Dragon

      1. That a piece of advice is rendered “bad” based on its source is fallacious reasoning–it is the genetic fallacy

      2. The existence of the original story and the voices of the abused being heard are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Both may be realized and honored even if not given in the same medium.

      3. How has the perp not accepted the full weight of his actions? Perhaps he has only begun to understand them. Can he be given credit for moving in the right direction?

  • Lukewarm Laodicea

    Wonderful post. Thank you for clearly, compassionately and firmly addressing this. It needed to be said and you said it very well
    Thank you,

    LL

    • Mary DeMuth

      Thanks for your kind words.

  • Nana

    I get so mad (rage). I was in partial hospital (psychiatry) and 99% of the people in my groups were survivors and I used to fume at the injustice and destruction caused by this depravity. How dare he!? And how dare CT!?

    • Mary DeMuth

      Yes, this is such a scourge, and I still believe sexual abuse is one of Satan’s greatest weapons.

  • Nana

    I am so disgusted I’m not sure what to do with my self. We have to deal with our struggles and also here crap like this. A bunch of nonsence. He should look in his heart and consider if he ever really knew our Lord. He has no shame!

    • Mary DeMuth

      I pray that my letter will get to him.

  • Pamela Patterson Lake

    I am so disappointed in CT. I pray they have a change of heart.

    • Mary DeMuth

      I’m grateful that they did.

  • linda

    I didn’t read the article you responded to, however I understand the outrage and concern not only in the deception and the lie this man continues in but also the journal for publishing it then censoring comments. How long ago did the enemy start feeding this man the lies? Certainly in his own youth. Is he under church guidance, even while in prison? I’m not sure he would be allowed to lead. Another thought…how many with the same proclivities, or worse, are finding them affirmed by the article? Pray, pray,pray shields of protection around the children, youth and the vulnerable of your families, churches and communities! I didn’t read it due to high sensitivity at this time and feelings of depersonalization and anxiety…

    • Mary DeMuth

      Yes, I believe he must’ve listened to many lies to believe the way he did.

  • Mary DeMuth

    I am tired too.

  • http://mandymianecki.com/ Mandy

    Well-said, Mary. Thank you.

    • Mary DeMuth

      You are welcome, Mandy

  • rhinnie

    For starters, I did not like the article, I just think the author has yet to gain perspective on what he has done and what it means. That being said, although he never states the age of the young woman he had an affair with, if I could assume she was 16 or 17… The determination of whether it was rape comes down to a government law. If this had happened in the UK it would not be considered rape. I think we should avoid viewing this like this through a purely cultural prespective. A lot of what he did was wrong but I think it is important to not totally villianize people.

    • Mary DeMuth

      But in the USA this is a crime. And he knew this girl 6 years, which means he groomed her since she was 11 or 12.

      • rhinnie

        That is a valid point, thanks, I did not remember reading that. :-)
        I’m not saying this not wrong, just playing a bit of devil’s advocate. Stirring some other thinking… scary…

    • Brit Unfurling

      Actually, in the UK this may well be regarded as rape and definitely as a safeguarding issue which needed to be addressed. Unfortunately, in the UK only 3-6% rapists are ever convicted, so he may never have been convicted of this crime here.
      Rhinnie, this is not villainising someone – he is a criminal and was convicted in a court, presumably by a jury. It is not cultural, it is a crime.

      • rhinnie

        Laws are definatly cultural, governmental laws do not exist outside of a time and place. Looking at the past proves this.

      • rhinnie

        Also, my point is that it is weird to think about how something is rape and only a year or two later would not be rape, isn’t that odd. Do our minds somehow change at age 18? Or is it all about the law?

    • rhinnie

      I do think it is right to lump anyone having sex with someone under the age of 18 into the group of “pedophile.” It is not true termonalogy and very different pschyologically.
      Also, just for some more critical thinking excercises, how would this story have been if the genders were reversed.
      I understand I am the only one putting any sort of “other” opinion out there and as such dimissed… but maybe some people will think a little more.

      • rhinnie

        Whoops, “do not think” is what I meant to say.

  • B Livingston

    Ugh. Mary, you are right on with this one! I was infuriated to read “statutory rape.” Rape is rape. Adding a term like “statutory” makes it sound like it was something other then what it was. I don’t know the whole story on this one but as a youth “leader” his actions are held to a much higher standard by God then his sheep’s are.

    • Mary DeMuth

      I hear you and I agree.

  • Mandy

    Thank you for sharing such a dignified and considered response. I appreciate it wasn’t easy for you to consider the issues within this post, praying.

    • Mary DeMuth

      Thank you Mandy.

  • Suzanne Burden

    You are brave and truthful, and I thank God for you and your voice. May you be blessed as you use it, preaching hard and needful words, whether people listen or not. Blessed by you.

    • Mary DeMuth

      Thank you Suzanne.

  • Kerri Stites

    Go YOU!! I am so proud of you for speaking out! Thank you for your courage!

    • Mary DeMuth

      I am happy to do it.

  • Judi G. Reid

    Mary, Thank you for using your Voice, which, uncaged, can never be silenced again!

    • Mary DeMuth

      Amen, that’s my hope.

  • Meadow Rue

    It happened in my church too, only under a different guise. And as long as people are silent and accepting it will continue to happen. Thank you for your courage to use your voice and speak up for those unwilling or unable to speak for themselves.

    • Mary DeMuth

      What a sad thing, Meadow. This should NOT be in church where Jesus dignifies the victim.

    • Amy Sorrells

      Happened at mine too. Quote most used–through buckets of “remorseful” tears–by the pastor (who felt wronged for being convicted as a registered sex offender), “What was I supposed to do? She sat on my lap!”

      • Nana

        Such things should not even be mentioned. This is a result of the notion that victims sre to blame. She sat on your lap. Who was the adult? I’m about to rip my hair out.

    • http://www.edcyzewski.com/ Ed_Cyzewski

      Exactly. This is about the culture of abuse in our churches. It’s not just about one guy writing an article.

  • Marie

    They deleted my comments also… Thanks, Mary, for beautifully articulating what the core issue was here.

    • Mary DeMuth

      Well, we can join the deleted comment club.

  • Melinda Todd

    Tell it like it is, Mary! You go girl! Grace filled words of wisdom. I hope he gets a copy of this letter. At least here, they cannot delete you. We need to remember that sin still has ramifications. Forgiveness, yes. But there are still consequences for sin.

    • Mary DeMuth

      Yes, that’s why I decided to write. I wanted to control what I said, and I know it won’t be deleted.

  • Ari

    This just in, they edited the article to take out the quotes around “friend” (the victim) and to change “we” to “I” when he talks about how “we” tried to stop, “we” gave the devil a foothold. Very disappointing and awful “journalism.”

    • Mary DeMuth

      Wow. But the actual rapist didn’t edit it, so they just committed fraud?

    • Pamela Patterson Lake

      Unbelievable.

  • http://www.thesecondhalf-michelle.blogspot.com/ michelle pope welch

    Praying for you Mary. I know that this is hard on your precious heart. I have struggled with many things I have read in that publication. They seem to enjoy being provocative. I pray they take this post down.

    • Mary DeMuth

      I pray the same.

  • ChoosingGentleness

    As a survivor of molestation, your post resonates with me. I admit to being angered when I realized that this perpetrator is “leading the Christian community” in the jail where he is currently serving a sentence for the rape that he still believes was a consensual affair.
    I believe that God can forgive and restore anyone, for any sin.
    I do not believe that restoration means that rapists should have a platform in a Christian journal to describe grooming and raping a minor.

    • Mary DeMuth

      Yes, Angie, precisely.

    • Amy Sorrells

      This is perfect. Amen.

  • Naomi Hanvey

    This is the best response I’ve read yet. You exhibit both grace and wisdom in your letter. I hope he and the editors at CT read it.

    • Mary DeMuth

      I do so hope the man reads this.

  • Lisetta

    WOW. Thank you. I hope that someone will print this out and take it to the man behind bars, whoever he is, wherever he is.

    • Mary DeMuth

      That’s my hope.

  • http://twitter.com/HeatherCaliri Heather Caliri

    Thank you, Mary. I love how you frame this as a direct letter to this pastor. he is in need of God’s redemption too. He is just not in need of a platform. I pray CT or LJ asks you or another victim to speak to this and that they pull the post. May all of our voices lifted together be heard and heeded.

    • Mary DeMuth

      Amen, so well said.

    • Amy Sorrells

      I hope they ask Mary to write something, too.

  • angie webb

    Great words as always. I am behind you on this Mary. Sword in the ground..

    • Mary DeMuth

      Agreed on the sword, but often when the sword pierces the earth, the critics come. Prayers appreciated.