Clergy sex abuse victim gives perspective on recent Southern Baptist Convention scandal
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The shocking news released this week of hundreds of Baptist church leaders and officials named in sexual abuse cases across the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) sent ripples through the faith community.
The self-help group Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) spoke to us Sunday to give their perspective and also inform the public on resources available to victims.
“We’re not upset with the faithful in any denomination. It’s the leaders that SNAP has an issue with,” said David Brown.
Brown is a Tennessee SNAP representative who has his own experience with sex abuse.
“I was abused by a Catholic priest in Nashville from ‘61-’62,” Brown said. “I was a 15-year-old skinny, pimple faced kid. No one was going to believe me.”
He said he repressed those memories and remained silent for 35 years, and still his trauma was felt well-into adulthood.
“Once my memory came back, I started having nightmares, and I would wake up with a sensation of this priest raping me again,” Brown said.
The news of a SBC scandal did not surprise him but more so disappointed him with how things were handled by convention leaders.
“They did not act like men of God,” said Brown. “They acted like CEOs. You go back and you read that 288-page report, that’s exactly how the executive committee and their attorney acted. They acted like CEOs trying to protect their assets and not get sued.”
Current SBC President Pastor Ed Litton has gone on record this week to say he’s glad the investigation took place and what it could mean for the future of SBC.
“We need to make changes, systemic changes in the SBC that make sure our churches are safe places for people, and that we deal rightly and justly with those who have been victimized,” Litton said in an interview with NBC-affiliate WPMI in Mobile, AL.
As far as victims, Brown and SNAP estimate that number within SBC churches is close to 25,000.
The list of 700+ church officials, compiled by the third party investigation group Guidepost Solutions, notes in the beginning that it is not complete, and Brown firmly believes this investigation is only scratching the surface of illegal sexual activity taking place behind the scenes.
“(Victims) want to know one thing. Why? Why did this person they trusted violate them the way they did? That’s the answer we all seek and we don’t really get,” Brown said.
He’s hopeful more people will become aware of the help that’s available to victims and that more will feel empowered to speak out against future abuse.
“There’s help out there to get them to begin to grow and to understand what’s going on,” said Brown.
As Brown points out, Tennessee, as well as Mississippi and Arkansas, are mandatory reporting states, meaning any person with reasonable cause to believe a child is being abused is to immediately contact local law enforcement.
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