“Childhood should be carefree, playing in the sun; not living a nightmare in the darkness of the soul.” ― Dave Pelzer, A Child Called “It”
The purpose of this post is to show the bravery of one victim who wants to protect other children from experiencing the trauma she endure as a child.
Since the alleged abuser was a teen when this happened, I am redacting his name and the name of the local church in which he serves.
Letter sent to The Church of the Brethren.
Note: Susan was 10-11 years old and her abuser was 15-16 years old. Here’s what happened.
The following letter was sent to a local Church of the Brethren where the alleged abuser now serves as a pastor. This letter was then forwarded on to William Wenger who is the District Executive for the Western PA Church of the Brethren. According to the local church, the District is the appropriate authority to deal with accusations of this nature. For those of you unfamiliar with this denomination, here is a link to their denominations “about us” page.
I have left the letter largely intact with some minor changes to make the letter understandable to those unfamiliar with the situation.
September 25, 2018To all this concerns, especially parents of children,My name is Susan M. Ankney and I have recently learned thru a family social media group that you have a new ordained preacher,********** I am compelled to inform all members of your church my personal experience with **** so proper procedures can be made to protect/prevent all kids from the same experience. Feb. 19, 1977 is when his dad had passed it is also the time frame of my abuse by **** and my age would have been 10-11. His mother and my mother are sisters and after my uncle’s passing, my mom had spent much time with ****mom.(ed: **** was Susan’s first cousin.)I’d be left to be babysat as our moms did whatever they did. First time of the abuse, was when they lived on a farm and I was exploring the barn. I was told not to go in the barn. **** approached me in the barn saying don’t be scared I’m not going to tell, do you want to play Doctor? We did with normal kid issues, then **** wanted me to be the doctor.He walked away and came back with his pants down saying his penis was hurt. My face must have been horrid as he asked you never seen a penis? Do you want to touch it? NO NO! Well how can you fix it if you don’t touch it? I started to walk away and **** said “If you don’t do what I say I’m going to have to tell that you were in the barn.” Confused, scared, sick I went back and did everything **** told me to do. Each time after when babysitting **** used the same tactic if you don’t go into the barn and do as I say I’ll have to tell that you don’t listen and were bad.In time they moved to away and **** had just got his (driving) license, not sure how old he was when he got his license. His mom was so proud that he got his license and wanted him to pick us up and he took our mothers somewhere. Afterward he took me to the a junk yard. This was the first he penetrated me in rape. There were not many times after this as I begged my mom that I was old enough to be alone and promised I’d be good.This information is to protect any kids today from the same abuse **** is capable of. Had I never seen the post made by his wife (ed. Susan saw a post on Facebook by **** current wife) I may of never spoke up. However knowing what **** is capable of and his new role (ed: pastor of a church) and him being totally exposed to kids, I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t speak up and another was harmed that could have been prevented. I am doing my part and this letter is being forwarded to others to show I’ve done my part, the rest is up to you.Jimmy Hinton does seminars to help churches identify and prevent abuse within their own church. I encourage you to reach out to him for guidance on this matter. JimmyHinton.orgSincerely, with children’s welfare in mind,Susan M. Ankney
My observations of the letter
- It is odd to see a teen boy (15-16) take an interest in a 10-11 child. They are more usually noticing girls their own age at this time. This is NOT a situation in which two teen kids on a date got carried away.
- It is also odd that he would take an interest in a close family relation: first cousin.
- He was older than her and there is a power dynamic involved. She was not to be in the barn so he held that over her head. He told her not to talk about it. He continued to put himself into situations in which he would be alone with her which would point to his intent to continue this behavior.
- I have some doubts about this being a *first time* for the alleged abuser. It is possible that he had developed a paraphilia. If so, unless it is treated, there can be lifelong implications.
- Susan stated her purpose in this letter. She wishes to protect other children. In other words, her intent is not malicious.
Can a teen be a molester?
I have included just one article in this section but read about 10 others. Although there is some disagreement about the effectiveness of treatment and recidivism, all articles agree that teens molest and, in particular, teens who show interest in a much younger child (like in this case) may have developed a serious problem. Juvenile Sex Offenders: When Your Teenager Is the Offender.
Sexual interest in much younger teens or even younger children is a red flag, says Ballantyne.
The concern here is not with typical teenage romances, even if there is some age difference or one party is under the age of consent (which is at least 16 in every state). It’s more about age differences that suggest a developmental and power differential, like a 16-year-old showing interest in a 12-year-old.
“That would send up red flags,” says Ballantyne. “For one thing, if there is any follow-through, that is clearly illegal. If we’re talking about a 16-year-old and a 12-year-old, that’s a really concerning age span.
“Those who feel powerless [in other areas of their lives] may try to gain power in ways that are not acceptable, and included in that would be sexual activity with somebody much younger.”
How did the local church respond?
Susan first sent the above letter to a local church. I made two phone calls to the District office stating my intent to write about this situation. They have not responded so I am going ahead since I am in possession of some emails that seem to indicate their thinking on the matter.
The first email she received was from a local pastor. I have highlighted statements of particular interest to me.
—– Forwarded Message —–
From: Susan Ankney
To: email@example.com <firstname.lastname@example.org> (ed. Susan scent this copy to Jimmy Hinton)
Sent: Wednesday, November 14, 2018, 9:10:05 PM EST
Subject: Fw: With concern and seriousness—– Forwarded Message —–
To: Susan Ankney
Sent: Tuesday, October 2, 2018, 8:44:47 AM MDT
Subject: With concern and seriousness
I have discussed this with the Chairman of our Ministry commission and It is with a heavy heart that we respond to your email from last night. We are very sorry for any pain that this has caused you and we will keep you in our prayers as we work through this situation. After a night, and morning of thought and prayer, we are compelled to try and find a direction that will be best for all those involved. I understand that this happened when you were both very young and according to your letter, was more than 40 years ago. Since we were unaware of any behavior such as this, it comes as a bit of shock, but also because of the amount of time that has lapsed, it also begs the question as to whether this was something that happened a long time ago, or is it something that has continued throughout his life? We have no knowledge of any other incidents as nobody else has come forward so we feel it is important to find that out. We want to be clear that we are not going to try and minimize what has happened but we also are obligated to keep it in perspective as well.
Before we come to Jesus, there are many things that we could all be ashamed of and surely regret that we have done. The question is, does this disqualify this person to serve as a pastor or hold any positions in the church? More importantly, is this person a danger to children? That is the accusation that was made and that is a very serious one at that! As you stated in your letter and your email, you want to make sure everyone knows about this and if it is truly in the interest of protecting children because there is imminent danger, we will shout it from the rooftops. However, we have to be very careful because it would be just as detrimental if this was an isolated incident and never happened again. It is very difficult to deal with these types of situations because a mans life and reputation are at stake. If he has a pattern of behavior as an adult, as he did as a child or youth, that is something that cannot be ignored or accepted. If this is something that happened as a minor, and did not become a lifestyle, to ruin his reputation and damage his ministry would be just as wrong.
In the interest of fairness, we will be discussing this with **** and we would also like the opportunity to meet in person with you as well. Again, we can’t stress enough the seriousness of this and for the protection of your own reputation and privacy, we would urge you to limit your exposure of this until we have a chance to meet with everyone involved. If we feel in anyway that he could be a danger to anyone, we will immediately inform the District Executive and anyone else that needs to get involved at that point.
One only has to turn on the news to see where so called “men of the cloth” abuse their position to take advantage of children. We need to be certain that is the case before we make that accusation and we can assure you that if that is found to be the case, we will approach it with zero tolerance and we will do everything in our power to have him removed as an ordained minister for the Church of the Brethren. On the other hand, in fairness to all, if we were to remove every pastor or church servant who did something in their youth they are ashamed of or regret, we would probably have no ministers at all. Praise God for Jesus who gives us a new life when we turn ours over to him!
We will look forward to your immediate response.
My observations on the local email: Not so good.
- He notes that 40 years have passed. The passage of 40 years doesn’t make this any less of a crime. It is a crime that cannot be prosecuted due to the Statute of Limitations. Is this pastor posing a question as to why she took so long to report this? I don’t know but as an advocate for victims I can assure him that many people live a life time before reporting this. I recently saw a video of a 79 Y.O. man in the UK, speaking for the first time of the sexual abuse he endured as a child in a boarding school. He cried so hard he could barely speak.
- He claims he doesn’t want to minimize the pain she has but at the same time he claims he wishes to *put it in perspective.* What perspective? That 40 years have passed and maybe nothing else has happened? So if a man murders 10 people 40 years ago and never does it again, we should put it in perspective? Or is murder a worse crime than sexually abusing a 10 year old girl over period of time?
- I was glad he said he would treat this seriously.
- Does he understand the possibility that this alleged abuser has been able to keep his behavior a secret? Does he understand that, if this is a paraphilia, it is likely he still struggles with it?
- Does he understand that the vast majority of sex abusers are never caught?
- He blows it in the last two sentences. He claims this is simply something someone did in his youth and they would have no pastors if they held everyone to this standard. Good night, pastor! Are you saying that the COB has a number of pastors who molested kids in their youth? Please assure me that this is not so. You do know that molestation is a form of paraphilia, a problem that can last a lifetime, right?
Or are you saying that molestation is no different than a 16 Y.O. boy having sex with his 16 Y.O. girlfriend in the back of his car? If this is what you believe then you have not been educated in the dynamics of sexual abuse and molestation.
- Does the Church of the Brethren offer intensive training for their pastors on the subject of sex abuse? This letter demonstrates a possible lack of eduction on the matter. For example, he seems to imply that *if we come to Jesus* somehow this will take care of the problem. It’s only a matter of a forgiveable shame, not a potential psychiatric disorder. This is a naivety in this statement.
The correspondence from the District Office
Let me be clear. They wanted her to come and meet with them. She lives far away from this location. Also, given the response in the first letter, I do not believe it would be advisable for her to be in a room alone with these folks. My understanding is that Jimmy Hinton listened in on one of the conversations. I’m so grateful he did.
First email to Susan
—– Forwarded Message —–From: Bill Wenger <BWenger@brethren.org>To:Sent: Tuesday, October 2, 2018, 2:27:12 PM EDTSubject: letter about *********
Hello. I want to let you know what actions will be taken regarding your letter about ********.
I will contact our Western PA District Pastor/Parish Ministry Team chairperson, and we will form an Assessment Team to research the facts of this case.
I ask you to not share your letter with any other people. It is not helpful to widen the scope of this beyond those personally involved.
Also, (ed. Local Church and pastor) will not be handling this case. The Church of the Brethren policies are such that it is the District Office that does so.
I will be in contact with you as this process unfolds. I would like to talk to you by telephone. Please call me at **********
William Wenger District Executive Western PA COB
“This is the day that the LORD has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it!”
Observations on this letter
- Never, ever tell a victim who is trying to deal with her/his abuse not to contact anyone else. They are trying to be heard. Respond as one who is listening, not one who is demanding. It can also seem , even if it is not so, that one is trying to silence the victim
- Be careful with a redundant Bible verse on your correspondence. This woman is talking to you about her abuse. This is not the time to share *let’s rejoice* passages.
- Glad to hear about the assessment team.
Susan makes it clear she is not going to travel across the country to meet with the Assessment Team but will participate in a conference call. She asked who was on the team.
From: Bill Wenger <BWenger@brethren.org>
To: Susan Ankney
Sent: Tuesday, October 23, 2018, 9:24:53 AM EDT
Subject: Re: conference call
Hello. There will be two ladies – one who is a social worked and clinical counselor and the other who works with family needs for the county welfare office – plus myself.
Observation on Email 2
Did Wenger attach the bios on those participating in the convo?
A conference call ensued with Jimmy Hinton as a witness for Susan….Yay, Jimmy!
Susan was asked during the conference call, witnessed by Jimmy Hinton, is she knew anyone who could corroborate her story. She was under pressure and responded soon after in an email with some names. It is also my understanding that the alleged abuser was also offered counseling (2 sessions or something like that.)
From: Bill Wenger <BWenger@brethren.org>To: Susan AnkneySent: Tuesday, November 13, 2018, 2:22:16 PM MSTSubject: Assessment team decision
Our Assessment Team has concluded that our work has led us to a “he said-she said” situation where we have no ability to truly know what happened between you and ****. Your account and **** account differ widely, and we have no way of discerning the actual facts.
Therefore, we have decided to offer to pay for 4 sessions of counselling for you with a counselor of your choice.
By doing so, we want to show you support and care. We hope that these counselling sessions might be something that can be of help to you at this time. The fees for the 4 sessions will be paid directly to the counselor.
Please let me know if this is something you would like to do.
William Wenger District Executive Western PA COB.
“This is the day that the LORD has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it!”
Observations on Email 3
- This email was short, leaving me with lots of questions.
- Unless someone was in the room during the molestation and took a picture, there would be no *facts.* So what did the assessment team hope to *prove?* They are not a court. I think they begged the question.
- Who did they believe?
- Did they contact the witnesses?
- Who has the most to lose here?
- Why would a woman expose herself to intrusive questions?
- What safety measures do they have in place at the pastor in question’s local church?
- Stop with the inappropriate Bible verse.
During my contacts with Susan, she repeatedly said to me “I’m doing this to protect the kids. I have held this secret for too long.” I believe her.
Susan-you have put the onus on the COB denomination to protect the kids in that church. If anything happens, it will come back to haunt them. Thank you for your bravery in coming forward. The COB needs to answer the question…Why would anyone put up with going through this unless they had a greater cause?
Here is a Bible verses that is appropriate for this situation. Maybe Wenger should consider using it.
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
Psalm 32:18 NIV