Saturday, January 15, 2011

What is it with Churches that protect rapists?

I planned to write this post last night, but something important came up.

Okay, I can't lie to you guys. "Something important" means my mother called me at work and said "Hey, we are going to your brother's apartment to eat steak and watch funny movies. Want to come?" What can I say *shrug* Killers and Airplane trump blog writing.

Now I'm back though, slept for 8 hours and I'm ready to tackle this post.

This isn't an extremely new article, but it was brought to my attention on a forum that I frequent. There was an argument brewing about whether or not a woman should take some responsibility when she is raped. I never think that a woman is responsible for rape, she can, however, be responsible for putting herself in a bad situation by being reckless.

That's beside the point though and not the true topic of this post and is certainly not what happened to this girl.

The topic is this news article from May 25th of last year. The woman involved finally came forward to tell what happened to her in 1997, at the age of 15, when she was a member of the Trinity Baptist Church in Concord, New Hampshire. Keep that town in mind, it's not exactly a backwater like you would expect from the story that follows.
Tina Anderson, 1997, before her rape.

In 1997 Ernest Willis was an upstanding member of the church, 39 and married and 15 year old Tina Anderson from the church was babysitting his children regularly. He offered to teach her to drive and she accepted the offer.

 While in the parking lot of a Concord business, Willis asked her to pull over to switch seats, she told the police.
But instead he pulled her into the backseat and raped her, according to a statement to the police.

That wasn't the end though.

In the summer of 1997, Willis raped her again, this time while at her home while her mother was out, according to police records.
"I was completely in shock, but too scared to go and tell anyone because I thought I would get blamed for what happened," she said. 

One might ask why she was so afraid? Why did she not tell her mother, her pastor, anyone who could have done anything to help her? That was because this was not the first time she had been molested and she had been silenced previously by the members of her family and church.

Anderson, now 28 and living in Arizona, said Trinity Baptist Church members had told her not to report an earlier case in which she had been molested by a convicted sex offender who was also a member of the congregation, so she expected them to do the same if she told them she had been raped. 

As if that was not despicable enough, she only told them about it after the man who molested her was arrested on another charge when she was 13. That was when they said not to report it.

"They told me that to be a good Christian, I need to forgive, forget and move on in my life," she said. "And they told me that a good Christian doesn't press charges on another good Christian."

My question is, in what fucked up world that they live in does a child molester rate a "good Christian" title?

And the pastor, Chuck Phelps, took her to visit the man in prison and made her FORGIVE him for molesting her.

Oh yes, and this does get worse, let me assure you.

In 1997 when she came forward about her rape at the hands of Ernest Willis she was removed from the church's school because she was a "bad influence" and they were both made to apologize to the church congregation. She had only finally told her mother, because she had realized she was pregnant.

 Phelps read a single-page letter written for Anderson apologizing for allowing herself to get in a compromising situation and getting pregnant. Church members were then asked to come forward to offer their forgiveness, Anderson said. Willis also had to apologize for cheating on his wife. "They said, 'We forgive you for getting pregnant,' " she said. "It felt stupid, it just felt wrong."

Yeah, you read that right. Willis didn't apologize for raping a 15 year old girl, he apologized for not being faithful to his wife. Isn't that just precious? She had to apologize, in true Sharia law fashion, for causing her own rape. "Compromising situation" in church speak, in my experience, means "She seduced me! I couldn't help it! She was asking for it!". I guess she should just be glad she wasn't a Muslim, an apology would be the least of her worries then, at least her church didn't whip or stone her.

Now, in Phelps' defense. There are documented calls to the Concord police department, he did report the rape and an investigation was started. The only problem was, when the police wanted to question the victim...she was no where to be found.
As soon as was humanly possible, Anderson's pastor and family shipped her off to Colorado to live with another family. This was where she stayed until she was a senior in high school. Now who wants to guess who didn't get arrested for rape since there was no victim to testify? That's right, Willis got off and went home to his family. Why did they send her to Colorado? Because the church couldn't let a good, upstanding member of their congregation be convicted of rape! I mean, what would the neighbors say!?

Tina Anderson and her child, 1998
Anderson said that after she moved to Colorado, a minister there asked her to write a letter to Willis's wife, apologizing for abusing her trust by having sex with her husband. Church members there monitored her phone calls and didn't allow her to be with people her own age, she said.
Anderson said two church members were with her when she gave birth in March 1998. At Phelps's urging, Anderson said, she gave her baby girl up for adoption.

She continued to be home-schooled until what would have been her senior year, when she returned to Concord for about six months. She lived with her mother again and attended Trinity, sitting in the same pews as Willis. Anderson's mother remains a member of Trinity today.

The only saving grace here is that Willis is now being charged, 13 years later, with 2 counts of rape and 2 counts of sex with a minor. Who knows if it will hold up in court now, but at least everyone now knows what he did.

Willis isn't the only one who needs to be punished though and Anderson certainly isn't who I'm talking about.

Her pastor is almost as guilty as Willis, he protected the man. Of course he covered his own ass first by reporting it, but then he made it impossible for the charges to stick.

The congregation, who should have reported the man for sleeping with an under-aged girl, whether they were led to believe it was consensual or not.

Her mother, who is STILL goes to that church (how could she?!). She allowed her daughter's rapist to go free, allowed her daughter to be shipped off instead of taking care of her, allowed her daughter to be molested and raped and never, ever stood up for her afterward.

Where was CPS or social services during all of this? Clearly not doing their jobs!

I can almost forgive social services in Colorado for not looking into the adoption of Anderson's baby girl more closely. After all, Colorado is awfully far from New Hampshire and they didn't have any records of a rape investigation. Another reason, I'm sure, as to why Anderson was sent to live so far away. Of course, any person with a brain might have though "The father is 39 and the mother was 15 at time of conception...maybe I should look into this a bit more closely." That would, of course, be assuming that social services has people with brains working for my experience that's not the case.

Who needs to apologize for this situation? Certainly not Tina Anderson, not now and certainly not when she was a 15 year old girl.

Some might call this a cult and say "Well, normal churches are like this."

I say, all churches are cults and if 'normal' churches are not like this then we have an awful lot of abnormal churches out there. Consider how many accusations of rape are coming out of churches, both Protestant and Catholic, these days. This isn't new though and it's not going to go away on it's own. How many other children have to be raped before people start realizing that just being religious doesn't make you a good person? How many more churches are covering up stories like this to save their congregation from shame?

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