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Reform Magazine | May 19, 2019

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I am… a survivor of sexual abuse in church

I am… a survivor of sexual abuse in church

A survivor of sexual abuse in church tells his story

I met my abuser for the first time when I was 12. He was student minister in my church. When my parents divorced, I moved in with my mum and she was concerned about the new friends I made, so I met with him regularly to talk about being a Christian and to keep away from their bad influence. Looking back with the benefit if counselling, I realise he was isolating me from my peers. He was a mentor to me, and then a father. He took me to football matches and a car show.

The first thing that seemed odd was rubbing noses, which he explained was an Eskimo greeting. I wasn’t especially keen, but whatever. Things progressed from there, until it started properly when I was 14 or 15. He said: ‘If you need some sexual release then I can do something about that, as an expression of love.’ It seemed plausible. It seemed like a gay relationship rather than abuse. It continued when his wife was in the house – he said he was going in the bathroom to put something on my back for acne. At first, I think she thought it was odd I was around there so much, but she seemed to get used to it. Did she not see it? Did she choose not to see it?

He moved away when he qualified as a minister, and I would stay with him and his wife some weekends. That isolated me more from my family and church and minister. My grandfather told my abuser: ‘The way you’re pulling him away doesn’t seem right.’ He was spot on, but at the time I said: ‘This is what I want,’ and it harmed our relationship in the short term. My mother spent time helping a woman from church who was struggling – possibly this was a response to the fact that I wasn’t around, but I felt it as a rejection. I felt almost pushed towards my abuser. I didn’t see my father, I had no siblings. It was a perfect storm. …

The contributor is a member of the United Reformed Church’s reference group of adult survivors of abuse

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This is an extract from an article that was published in the May 2019 edition of Reform

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