Dear Man in Prison
Last week we posted the story of a former youth pastor who was convicted of statutory rape with a girl in his youth group. After a few days it was clear that the article, while intended to dissuade potential perpetrators of such sexual abuse, was causing an overwhelming amount of pain to victims of sexual abuse. We removed the post. One of those most eloquent in showing us our lapse of judgment in posting that article was Mary Demuth, who posted this after we removed the article. What follows is her letter to the author of the original article.
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.
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