Debbie McNulty Was 11 Years Old When She Was Assaulted by Steve Dahl at Calvary Gospel Church, WI. She Was Called a *Hussy* and the Church Did Nothing.


Debbie at age11 when the abuse started.

“I keep wondering how to explain the experience of child abuse from the inside. I’m going to try to explain what my world was like when I was sexually abused. The thing you have to remember is that this was the thinking of a child”. Robin Quivers


Fr background into the United Pentecostal Church beliefs and culture, please read: Child Sex Abuse Allegations Raised Against United Pentecostal’s Calvary Gospel Church, Wisconsin #metoo #churchtoo


 

The following story is important for those who want to understand why people walk away from the church. This was something on my mind when I started this blog.

Recently, there have been some comments on social media written by a survivor who appeared to be scornful of those who left the faith due to abuse because she did not. Perhaps this survivor believes she is superior to those who struggle or to those who have left the faith. Perhaps she believes that God somehow favors her over those who are on the outside.

Jesus was born amongst outcasts and chose to spend his ministry with those who had been let down by the religious leaders. He had a penchant for telling off those particular Pharisees who lorded their superiority over those who struggled.

I know the TWW readers will be sensitive in this matter.


Debbie’s Story

{ ed.}This post is told in Debbie’s own words. I may break in from time to time to make a comment but that will be made clear.

Over the last few days, I have been taking part in #churchtoo, which is like the #metoo movement, but specifically sheds light on sexual assault in churches. It has brought some dark memories to the front of mind, things I have not thought about since they happened. I have debated with myself over and over about whether I should tell my story. The thing is, my story is like a poison in my guts that is seeping into everything, and so I am making the choice to talk about what happened to me.

As a younger child, she had been assaulted twice prior to her assaults at the church.

I was an early bloomer. Before I reached age ten, I had already been assaulted twice. The first man was a babysitter’s husband. He groped me while I watched television on his lap, I was eight or nine years old. I told my mother and she confronted his wife. The wife became angry with my mother and I no longer went over there. As a teen when I asked my father why he never told the police about what happened to me his reply was that he did not want to ruin an old man’s life. At that moment I knew my value was not the same as that old man.

The second incident happened when I was around ten years old. I was playing in my favorite arcade at the mall. My dad was sitting just outside talking with some other adults. A man came up behind me and grabbed my breasts while I was playing a game. I shook myself free and the man ran out of the arcade. With my heart in my chest, I ran out and told my father. He went inside the arcade and alerted the manager. I don’t think the guy was ever caught but the damage was done. I paid a price for my early development. I learned that men saw me as prey and I had to be extra careful.

Her mother settled on Calvary Gospel Church and took Debbie out of public school so she could attend the church’s private school.

{ed. This is the beginning of Debbie’s total immersion into the Calvary Gospel Church’s insulated culture.}

My mother always had trouble finding a church she liked. She finally settled on a United Pentecostal Church, which is like evangelicalism only far more extreme fundamentalist with lots of speaking in tongues. When I was in the sixth grade my parents took me out of public school and put me into the private school our church ran. This meant I was at the church all day every day. It was a very insulated experience. I was a very active young person. I was captain of my Bible quiz team and very involved in various church ministries. My home life was hard, so I tried to stay busy and out of the house as much as I could. As a young girl, my dreams were to go to Bible college and major in music. I loved to sing and took any opportunity I could to learn more about music.

Her parents were not regular attendees of the church.

My parents did not attend church regularly. My mother would attend in fits and starts. That being said, they were both in favor of my being there whenever the church doors were open. I would often get rides to and from activities by other adults in the congregation. This is where the trouble began.

Adults tended to treat Debbie like an adult even though she was only 11.

I was a very bright child and many of the adults treated me like another adult. My parents had always done the same thing. I was accustomed to adults treating me more like an adult than a child. This often left me open to inappropriate situations. I think my parents used my intelligence to discharge them of their parenting responsibilities.

Enter Steve Dahl, 29 years old, who was married and well liked at the church. He offered to give her rides home. He demonstrated an ease with the grooming process which indicates to me that he could have done this before.

{ Ed.The church apparently had no problem with adults being alone with children in cars. This is a predator’s dream situation.}

One afternoon on a day just like any other day I met Steve Dahl. I was standing amongst a group of adults and I asked if one of them could give me a ride home. I was eleven and in the sixth grade. I knew all of these adults very well except for Steve. He volunteered which seemed totally normal to me.  I knew he had recently joined the church and was married there, I just had not been formally introduced.

She saw him in the beginning, as a father figure.

Once we were in his car he asked me if I needed to be home right away. I said no, my mother was preoccupied most of the time and so my being gone wouldn’t be an issue. We stopped and got ice cream and drove around. We chatted and all seemed fine until it wasn’t. At one point he reached over and grasped my hand and held it like it was the most natural thing in the world. At this point in my life, my father was never around. He would show up when it was convenient for him, mostly when he was between women. I was happy to have a man acting like a father figure and so I said nothing. He was thirty-one and I was eleven.

The grooming became intense as he began to take her with him when he took pictures for church directories when he worked for Olan Mills.

Things snowballed from there. His job was selling church pictorial directories for Olan Mills and he was often on the road. I became friends with his wife and she and I hung out often. He asked my parents if he could take me along on his long day trips to keep him company and to get me out of the house. We often did not have electricity and so there wasn’t much for me to do around the house. None of the adults around me thought this arrangement was odd. I mean a better solution would have been for the church to help my mother with our electric bills or for some of the women to mentor me.

Graphic Warning  and Trigger Warning for next three paragraphs. He confided in her, saying his marriage was unhappy. Remember, this is a child who is experiencing pain at home as her parents divorce and money was tight.

Things escalated. He began to tell me how unhappy he was in his marriage and other things. I was ill-equipped to understand or help with. At times he acted like a kind uncle who took me for ice cream and spent time with me. And other times he treated me like a lover. Those were the bad times. He took so much from me from me. My first kiss, my first almost everything.

He tried to have intercourse with me but he could not do it, it was physically not possible. He acted as though I was some experienced woman and would say things to me that I did not understand. He laughed at my inexperience like he could not believe how naive I was. Somehow in his haze, the fact that I was eleven and knew nothing about sex escaped him. At other times he seemed in awe at how mature my body was for my age. He would repent at the altar and then tell me how sorry he was for what he had done and how he would never do it again, but he always came back for more.

I became attached to him as other parts of my world fell apart. My parents divorced, my mother struggled to keep us in food and being in the Christian school turned out to not be what I thought it would be. I started to disassociate and I felt trapped in a life that I did not want and did not know how to escape. Plus there was the all present worry about hell and the rapture. Yep, I grew up always fearing hell and the wrath of an angry god. After he would touch me I would go home and beg god to forgive me. I felt like my very body was a sin, a trap for men to fall into. I thought that something I was doing or saying must have made him do these things. Usually, when I was with him I would try to make myself small., I liked him and wanted him to want to be my friend, but I knew the other stuff he was doing was wrong.

Debbie became friends with Steve’s sister in law who Steve would later marry.(This is a correction to an erroneous header that was my fault.?

He was very popular. He played the trumpet in our church band. He was friends with all of the adults in my life. Then his wife’s sister came to live with Steve and his wife. She and I were friends. We would mail each other letters like pen pals and I really liked her. I was eleven and so it was all scented pens and stickers. We were kids. When I found out she was moving here I was super excited! But once she moved to Madison she became cold to me and I did not know why. She was about three years older than me. She was very quiet and shy. She came to Madison so she could attend our church school, or that was what I was told. I have no idea if Steve had a plan bringing her to Madison or if things happened between them only after she came here.

Debbie confided in her pastor after two years of abuse. He promised to get back to her but he didn’t.

After things had been going on for about two years I finally went and told my pastor. I’m not sure why I was afraid of him. He was a big man and preached fire-and-brimstone so that might have something to do with it. I thought he was imposing. I told him and he recorded it. I did not tell him everything because I could barely speak I was so afraid of what was going to happen to me. So he asked me questions and I answered “yes” or “no.” He knew what happened, just not the details. He said he would get back to me and I left his office.

He never got back to me.

Her mother called her a *hussy* when she told her. No counseling, no police reports….

He never said anything at all. I waited for the next shoe to fall. When my mother found out she called me a hussy and was mad at me for a long time. I received no counseling, support, or justice. The police were never called nor social services. I was told by some adult that we should handle things within the church so that we would not bring shame, reporters, or cops to the church doorstep.

Steve Dahl was found in bed with his teenaged sister in law and had to leave town.

The order of things become foggy at this point, probably due to trauma. Within days Steve phoned me and told me he had to leave town and it was not my fault. That was it, that was all he said. Soon after I found out that right after I went to the pastor Steve’s wife came home and found him in bed with her little sister, who was fifteen years old. Steve fled to Vegas and I have no idea where she went. I imagine back with her parents.

Steve’s wife at the time berated Debbie for *cheating with her husband.*

At the next midweek service, I was confronted by Steve’s wife. She came close to me and said that I had to talk with her after the service. I was scared out of my mind! I went with her into the church basement and into one of the school classrooms. She told me she was so disappointed in me for cheating with her husband. She said she trusted me with him. I said nothing but “I’m sorry.” Then she insisted that we pray together for my soul and repentance. All I remember about that was how she loudly spoke in tongues next to me. She didn’t talk to me much anymore after that.

Steve was reportedly sent to another church for restoration. He divorced his wife and married his teenaged sister in law. What a guy!

Here is what I have pieced together since then. Steve was sent to another church for restoration. He and his wife divorced. She was allowed a divorce by the church because of adultery. This is where things get really nuts! He then married his ex-wife’s sister, the one who was fifteen when they were caught together. I was told that her parents let her go out to Vegas to be with him.

They are still married and he is pastoring a church in Wisconsin.

{Ed. I plan to followup with both Calvary and Dahl’s current church.}

Years later, Debbie bumped into Dahl at an SBC church where he came to do picture directories.

I have spoken to him once. Remember he sold church directories? As an adult, I went to a Southern Baptist church and he came by to sell us a directory. My stepmother was helping with the directory and when she saw who it was she alerted me. I was in my early twenties.

Dahl attended a meeting with an SBC elder and Debbie. It did not go well.

{Ed. Steve met with her and am SBC church elder. Claimed he had been forgiven and that Debbie was a very mature 11 year old child.}

I went to my church elder and told him about Steve. He said he thought we should talk so I could get closure. He bullied Steve into talking with me but closure was harder to get than I thought. In the elder’s office, the three of us sat. Steve explained to me that I was a very mature eleven-year-old. He said he thought I wasn’t really angry with him but that I was angry with how the church responded to me. He told me all about how Christ had forgiven him and restored him. He told me how my childhood pastor has embraced him with forgiveness. I don’t remember much about what I said. I think I fell under his spell like I was a kid again

After he left, the elder said that he felt Steve did not take any responsibility. I wish I could have that moment with him back.

Debbie now understands that Steve was a pedophile but it took her many years to get to this point.

It took me until I was in my late twenties to discover feminism. At twenty-eight I left the church and blossomed into the woman I am now. If I had that moment back I would call him what he is. He is a pedophile. I would want to rage at him for all he took from me. He is pastoring a church in northern Wisconsin. He has a Facebook page where he posts about his church. His church has a YouTube channel where you can watch him preach. In the bio part of his church’s website, there is no mention of what he did to me or the fact that he married his wife’s sister. He has children and I have to wonder if he ever abused them or anyone else.

Debbie went from Calvary to an SBC church. Her first husband began to abuse her and she divorced him, She left the SBC church because they told her divorce was a sin.

I left the UPC church at sixteen. Eventually, I landed in a Southern Baptist church. I left that church when I was twenty-eight. I left because they told me that it would be a sin to divorce my husband. He was physically violent towards me along with being mentally and emotionally abusive. I felt I had to go to protect my kids. They told me that I could separate from him, but not divorce.

In order to get the help I needed from the state, like benefits, I needed to be divorced. Plus he was threatening me all the time and I knew he would not just get better. We had been together for twelve years. At this point, I decided that if god was going to send me to hell for protecting myself and my kids, then I would pay that price. Hell seemed better than where I was. I tried other churches and just couldn’t stomach it anymore. I stopped believing. I turned towards history and tried to understand how the Bible came about and how women were treated because of it.

As Debbie looked back at her abuse in the church, she realized that church members viewed her as a slut and an adulterer and she was left alone to deal with her pain.

{Ed. This is downright despicable.}

What Steve did to me ruined my adolescence. I think the adults in the church viewed me as a slut and adulteress. Some of them avoided me and others gave me evil looks. People have said to me why not just reveal who all of these people are. My question is who do I include in this crime? My parents, who were too enmeshed in their own crap to look out for me? The man who did it? The pastor who did not call the police? The wife of that perv, or any of the other adults who knew about it?  No one ever checked in with me to see how I was doing. I was met with knowing silence. Later at about fifteen, I would see Steve again, at our church’s family camp. I was sitting in a pew with my puppy-love boyfriend and Steve just shows up like nothing happened. Was he removed? Nope, he was forgiven. He sat in the back but I knew he was there.

Debbie has walked away from god and I understand why. Do you?

I can tell you that The United Pentecostal Church had a sex problem. I know of other cases where older men helped themselves to the young and I know of young people forced to marry at fifteen or sixteen years old due to having sex together. Don’t come at me and say I should forgive and come back to god. I have a god and she doesn’t require that of me.

Sexual abuse in the UPCI

Debbie believes that the UPCI has a problem with sex abuse problem. After understanding her story and then seeing the UPCI manual which no set responses to child sex abuse, I believe we will be hearing more and more about abuse in this religious sect. UPCI, it’s time to speak uo.

Here is a post and website that deal with this.The United Pentecostal Church and Sexual Abuse

Two more Calvary Gospel Church sex abuse stories planned for the next couple of posts.

Debbie: Thank you for your courage in so honestly telling your story. I believe your story will help many more victims who have yet to come forward. I only wish I could have been there when you were 11. As I look at your sweet picture at the top of. this post, it makes me cry. I am so sorry.


Comments

Debbie McNulty Was 11 Years Old When She Was Assaulted by Steve Dahl at Calvary Gospel Church, WI. She Was Called a *Hussy* and the Church Did Nothing. — 87 Comments

  1. She is so very brave!!

    Scorn should only be aimed at those who are complicit in this horrific story…

    Sex abuse survivors,, of whom I am one, should only be praised and comforted in their distress. To survive at all involves great strength…

    No victim should be judged on what their journey to healing looks like to someone else on the outside.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  2. Re:
    “Recently, there have been some comments on social media written by a survivor who appeared to be scornful of those who left the faith due to abuse because she did not. Perhaps this survivor believes she is superior to those who struggle or to those who have left the faith.”
    –//–

    There was an article or a study that came out about three, four years ago on empathy.

    It said that while the expectation would be that someone who went through something similar as you would be more empathetic to you, the opposite was usually true.

    What the research found is that some people who undergo some kind of bad ordeal think that because they survived it,
    that if the same thing happens to you after them, and you go to them crying, they will tell you to get over it already.
    Their attitude is, because they endured the same thing and are doing OK now, you should not have any problems either, and you are just being a big, whiny cry-baby.

    My older sister is very much like that in out-look.

    My sister always has expected me to cheer her up and give her emotional support when she is under-going a trial,
    but months later, if I’m the one in a trial or stressful situation, especially if it’s similar to one she went through, she tells me I should just get over it already and shut up about it – zero empathy from her.

    But anyway, that study I read about said this is a ‘thing.’
    The people you’d expect to have more empathy for you will actually have less and be MORE judgmental than those who haven’t undergone the same trial.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  3. Daisy,

    This might be the page I was thinking of:

    It’s Harder to Empathize with People If You’ve Been in Their Shoes
    https://hbr.org/2015/10/its-harder-to-empathize-with-people-if-youve-been-in-their-shoes

    October 2015
    by Rachel Ruttan, Mary-Hunter McDonnell, and
    Loran Nordgren

    …In a series of recent experiments, we found that people who endured challenges in the past (like divorce or being skipped over for a promotion) were less likely to show compassion for someone facing the same struggle, compared with people with no experience in that particular situation.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  4. Daisy,

    The frontal lobe of the brain can get overridden by the part of the brain where the fight or flee response is located. The nervous system, adapting to the persons abusive environment as a child, can become destructive as an adult.

    When my neurophy became worse, being unable to work and doing any physical tasks around my home my siblings turned on me. I’m the oldest.

    They considered me lazy, grouchy, and accused me of taking advantage of our Mom. In 2017, when I was in the hospital for major surgery, my sister was arguing with our Mom because she was at the hospital with me.

    It doesn’t excuse their behavior one bit. They attend church regularly. Still, it doesn’t get their attention in regards to their behavior.

    I just love them from a distance.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  5. I get why a person would walk away. If God is omniscient and omnipotent then he was there when the abuse occurred and did nothing.

    I don’t understand that any more than I understand the Trinity.

    It’s the human condition to suffer and maybe that’s why the Calvinists believe it’s all ordained for his glory.

    I could never reconcile it in my mind even when I was a believer.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  6. Where does all this blaming the young teenager for the adults actions?

    Raping the 15 year old so their can be a forced marriage makes them look like backwards hicks. It also gives me the creeps because this doesn’t seem to be an isolated thought. Others like the FLDS, members of the Louisiana legislature seem to think the same way.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  7. Daisy,

    Interesting article. One other issue that could be at play in this phenomenon as it relates to abuse and other painful experiences is the desire to avoid getting in touch with one’s pain again. Those who have experienced such trauma may subconsciously deal with it by distancing themselves from those in similar circumstances, perhaps even taking on an attitude of superiority. If this is the case it obviously would not serve either party well, but might give additional insight into their behavior.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  8. If you live in the state of Wisconsin you can help us put an end to some of this. There are two bills right now, one closes the clergy mandatory reporting loophole and the other ends the statute of limitations for child sexual assault victims. You can call your reps here in Wisconsin and ask them to support these bills. Part of the work I am doing now as an advocate is trying to make things better for the next little girl.

    I have also started a support group for the survivors of Calvary Gospel Church. I am the oldest but not the only one.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  9. Debbie, you are one brave soul.

    What a power trip for the predator to project his evil desires on a virtuous God-seeking child who innocently has no idea what is going on. And the church enablers chime in to add fuel to the fire of evil seeking to destroy her chaste life. Nevertheless, the child remains the pure one while the predator + enablers are swimming in a toxic soup of #ChurchToo.

    God bless you, Debbie, and may God, the DOJ, and the righteous remnant deal mightily with this evil. Wake up, church people. If we are not part of the solution, we are the problem.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  10. Jack: I get why a person would walk away. If God is omniscient and omnipotent then he was there when the abuse occurred and did nothing.

    A lot of survivors have a gut reaction that’s even deeper than the cry from the heart about why God let abuse happen. Walking into a church sends a lot of survivors into a tailspin. Reactions can look defiant or crazy to others, and even irrational to survivors themselves. Healing happens slowly. Everyone has a unique path.

    I’m just adding a thought; I don’t know your experience of this, and am not challenging your insight in any way.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  11. Jack:
    I get why a person would walk away. If God is omniscient and omnipotent then he was there when the abuse occurred and did nothing.

    I don’t understand that any more than I understand the Trinity.

    It’s the human condition to suffer and maybe that’s why the Calvinists believe it’s all ordained for his glory.

    I could never reconcile it in my mind even when I was a believer.

    Jack, I think it all has to do with libertine freewill, if you don’t hold to Calvinism ( I don’t) .
    Then humans have freewill, sadly people have the freewill to abuse one another
    God is responsible for FACTS of freedom but not the ACTS of freedom.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  12. First of all, i’m so sorry to Debbie that this happened.

    Second, Married SIL and pastoring a church? Oh my Word! This is terrible. It’s ringing an awful bell, i think i read this story before maybe?

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  13. Brian: Where does all this blaming the young teenager for the adults actions?

    1. I’m not sure an eleven year old even counts as a teenager. That’s more ‘pre teen’.

    2. Would they blame an 11 year old boy? I think many would not. So that’s a tell. As an adult, i’m really side eyeing all these ‘this teenage girl came onto me, an adult man!’ stories i recall floating around…

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  14. Friend: I’m just adding a thought; I don’t know your experience of this, and am not challenging your insight in any way

    Even if it was a challenge, it’s a fair one.
    I’ve never experienced abuse of this magnitude. It is a unique path for everyone.
    The belief spectrum is very wide. There is no correct answer. Having gone through deconversion, I get why a person would walk away.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  15. Benn: God is responsible for FACTS of freedom but not the ACTS of freedom.

    This is something where I will just say I’m in respectful disagreement.

    If the bible is taken at face value, there has been divine intervention. Healings, seas opening, food from the sky, talking animals.

    Very arbitrary.

    It’s never been fully explained and I don’t think it can be.

    I get walking away, and stand by those who do so. I don’t think faith is simple. It’s a spectrum and for those who’ve been hurt by it or disappointed or whatever, they are not dysfunctional and they are not going to heck. They are perfectly normal (as much as any of us are).

    It’s ok to walk away. It’s ok to build something new.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  16. Ava Aaronson,

    I was hoping that my blog might reach some gentle soul within Calvary Gospel but all I’ve found is folks who have hardened their hearts. They have an almost worship like devotion to the church. This means protecting it at all costs, even when the cost is victims of sexual assault.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  17. Friend,

    I have complex ptsd from my church experiences. Because of this it is very hard for me to enter any church. This makes all sorts of things difficult like funerals and weddings. Religious iconography can trigger me out of nowhere. When I go into Barnes and Noble and they are playing songs that I recognize from church on Sunday afternoon I get triggered. Often times I find that people don’t realize the severe after effects. I suffer from trauma due to my church experience and it has caused me sleep disorder, anxiety, hypervigilance, nightmares, and so much more. I have worked my entire adult life to get to where I am now in my healing journey but I am not at the end of that road yet.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  18. Lea,

    It is possible that you read the story before because I wrote it on my blog in December 2017. I have continued to tell my story since then wherever I can. I’m trying to raise awareness so that others don’t get hurt.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  19. Lea,

    I think my age at the time of abuse does make my case a little bit different from any of the ones I read about online. I was in my first year of middle school when he started molesting me so the sixth grade. I really was a child when I look back at the things I was doing at that age they are all kid activities. One of my favorite things to do at that time was to stand in front of my mirror and seeing Amy Grant song with my hairbrush as a pretend microphone. So still very much a little girl.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  20. Jack,

    You know I always feel like I need to explain myself with regards to why I left Christianity. I was raised in a church where I was led to believe that they were the only ones who really have the truth and that if I ever attended anywhere else I was being deceived. This is something that many people I know, people I grew up with, struggle with. They feel they cannot go back to the church where they were so badly abused but then they also feel they can’t go anywhere else. So they exist in this guilty limbo. It can be hard to find a peace. I think many of them would like to be in relation with the Christian God but they feel caught in this trap that they can’t get out of. Once I got to the age where I had my own children and I felt like I needed to bring them up as Christians so I started to try to attend different churches but none of them ever felt right. I attended a Methodist church for a little while and then I became very deeply involved in the Southern Baptist church. It was the closest thing to feeling right of anything that I was able to find. The problem is I married a very abusive man who beat me and was a danger to my children. When I went to my elders for help I was told that I could not divorce him because he had not committed adultery. He was regularly throwing hammers at me choking me and other things all in full view of my children. I made the choice at that point that I could no longer go to church or even believe in the Christian God. I was exhausted I was fighting for my life and fighting for the lives of my children and then being told that I had to stay put or God would reject me. I’m not making excuses but I am trying to explain that my decision to leave the church was not an easy decision. It was not a decision that was made out of anger but self-preservation. Even after everything that happened to me with my abuser I continued to try to be the best Christian I could be while at the same time being gossiped about and wearing the scarlet letter. Even after all of that pain I continue to try to find a church and I continue to try to do what I felt was right. I just reached a point where it felt more like torture than anything else.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  21. Debbie: “So still very much a little girl.”

    Absolutely! There is an enormous difference between 11 and 15 in development. (not saying it’s ok for adults to go after 15 yo’s either mind you!).

    I probably did read your story on your blog at some point. The details stood out to me. I’m glad you’re sharing them, especially since this man is pastoring and likely still a danger. People should know.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  22. Debbie McNulty,

    I am glad that you realize that not all “Christians” are like the cult members of the churches that you came out of. Dee has a conscience and so do the Christians that comment here. Not everyone who does calls themselves a Christian. I have had to deal more than once in similar situations with men claiming to be Christians doing scandalous acts like this. It has never been right in my book nor in the Book I try my best to follow. These evils exist everywhere in every type of religion and non-religion. I am so sorry that you had these experiences. And I pray that justice will be done in all cases wherever and whenever they occur. I know healing can happen but it is a long, and difficult, journey.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  23. Lea,

    I also think it is important for people to understand how this organization works. If you take your children there and something happens to them I want people to know how it will be handled.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  24. That Steve Dahl guy is a sicko….. he 32, she 11???

    And, the “fire and brimstone” pastor is a wimp…
    i do not care what a little girl has “done” at that age….. all of the mean labels thrown her way are “adult” concepts….. she was a little girl!!

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  25. Debbie wrote, “He is pastoring a church”.
    There’s something about the job of “pastor” that is irresistible to perps and former perps. In fact, there are many things. They’re drawn to it like flies to doggie doo. The best thing churches can do is eliminate the position. Have evangelists or teachers. Maybe prophets or apostles if you think they’re for today. But pastors have had over 500 years. Who says we need them? Fewer pastors may mean fewer coverups for job security and fewer perps with easy access to victims.
    I live in Idaho and just picked up an old fashioned newspaper while waiting for a bus. On the front page? https://www.idahostatesman.com/news/local/article234186447.html

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  26. Dave A A,

    From the linked article “Welty (the alleged perp) confessed to having “struggled with such behaviors before” but never with someone as young as the victim, according to court documents.”
    So not one qualm about being a pastor or having a girl stay at his house, despite prior struggles.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  27. Debbie McNulty: When I went to my elders for help I was told that I could not divorce him because he had not committed adultery.

    Debbie, The part of your story of how your church handled your abusive marriage situation is very similar to that of my daughter. In her case, she had a certain amount of evidence that he had committed adultery, along with the 14 years of abuse, but the church leaders said he was “repentant” and she had to forgive him and stay. When she left him against their advice, she was told she was in rebellion against their authority and she was excommunicated. All those people who had been acting like they loved her then turned against her. She also tried to attend other churches for awhile, mostly for the sake of her children, but so many things triggered her and she eventually gave it up completely and does not even call herself a Christian anymore. It makes me very sad, as a mother, because I believe she could find a lot of healing in God’s love and acceptance of her, if she could only separate it out from the church.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  28. Debbie McNulty: I was hoping that my blog might reach some gentle soul within Calvary Gospel but all I’ve found is folks who have hardened their hearts. They have an almost worship like devotion to the church. This means protecting it at all costs, even when the cost is victims of sexual assault.

    Do you think it’s possible that those with empathetic, kind hearts are less likely to stay in a belief system like this? I just wonder, when you have a rigid, legalistic system if it tends to attract and keep those with personality disorders and other emotional issues.

    Thank you for telling your story, Debbie. It is only through the courageous actions of people like you that anything will change. When I look at that sweet photo of you at 11 years old, the idea that anyone could blame you for what happened is mind boggling. I am so sorry for all that happened to you. I do not blame you, or anyone else, for walking away from church. On the contrary, it is the only thing that makes any sense to me.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  29. Mary27: She also tried to attend other churches for awhile, mostly for the sake of her children, but so many things triggered her and she eventually gave it up completely and does not even call herself a Christian anymore. It makes me very sad, as a mother, because I believe she could find a lot of healing in God’s love and acceptance of her, if she could only separate it out from the church.

    One day I was sitting in church suffering when a message came to my mind in the words, “you do not have to subject yourself to this, you know.” It was an unexpected epiphany. I felt like a huge weight lifted off of me and I left, feeling free for the first time in many, many years.

    I did not suffer as extreme of abuse as Debbie and these others did but church was still a place where I sustained a lot of damage and lost my trust in other people.

    Even after that, once I had a chance to recover, I tried to find another church. I would visit a church for a while and then take some time off again. I found that my mind and body would not allow me to feel comfortable in church again. I saw the red flags, every place I tried. There are group dynamics that operate in all of them. I tried but I couldn’t do it again. I finally realized, it’s okay to not have a church. It’s not the end of the world.

    The human psyche is kind of amazing. We can be so convinced that something is what we are supposed to be doing that we ignore all evidence to the contrary. We can keep knocking our head against a brick wall for a lifetime. Once you come out of it, you feel like you’ve woken from some kind of dream. You’re free to see things as they are, you don’t have to keep making rationalizations and excuses, trying to explain what makes no sense.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  30. Thank you, Debbie, for speaking out as you have. I have a well-developed very mature 10 year old daughter, and this reminds me to keep encouraging her that absolutely no one has a right to touch her or talk to her in any way that is inappropriate. Sadly, she has already had to endure mocking from her own father and his new wife, and I worry about his dirty mind and the fact she has to see him on visitation on a regular basis.

    I also am one of many here who does not attend church, in my case because the church (an independent Baptist church) chose the abuser over the victims. Whether I ever will attend a brick and mortar church again, I do not know. And I struggle with my faith as I read these stories and see what my children have to go through and wonder why as my heart aches and the tears roll.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  31. SiteSeer: That man has some cold, hard eyes.

    That he does! He was apparently some 20 years attending mega church Calvary Chapel— formerly home of disgraced pastors Abedini and Caldwell. One must wonder if the alleged perp had any “struggles” while there which got swept under the rug.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  32. Mary27: It makes me very sad, as a mother, because I believe she could find a lot of healing in God’s love and acceptance of her, if she could only separate it out from the church.

    Mary, you touch on something that happens time and again. There are many who have been so badly hurt and mistreated in a church that they cannot seem to separate those things from how a believer is actually supposed to be. They often have developed a very warped view of God that they cannot shake. I used to be in contact with a UPC PK who, while he could see the various errors in what the organization taught and did after he left, he couldn’t separate their actions/teachings from God and still considered God to be this harsh unloving taskmaster, ready to pounce upon and take revenge on anyone who broke the smallest of ‘rules.’ These churches have helped to push people away from a belief in God all while they claim they have the ‘whole Gospel’.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  33. SiteSeer: Do you think it’s possible that those with empathetic, kind hearts are less likely to stay in a belief system like this? I just wonder, when you have a rigid, legalistic system if it tends to attract and keep those with personality disorders and other emotional issues.

    While such churches attract those people, they also pull in those who are very sincere and want to know God. Over time, due to the repeated sermons and teachings, those people often change- many become judgmental and don’t even realize what happened to them. Then there is the mindset that has been instilled into them that you believe the pastor, if the pastor does anything wrong you leave it in God’s hands and don’t take action yourself. Add to those things the powerful motivating factor that you are the ones with ‘the truth’ and the ‘whole Gospel’ and that outside those walls you will be lost, it causes people to rationalize away things that happened and creates the us vrs. them mentality. Even if you feel someone was done wrong who left, chances are you won’t contact and reach out to them. When I was in, even though at one place I disagreed with the pastor and sided with a couple who left, I remained with the church for many more years.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  34. I thought complementarians say that complementarianism makes women SAFER?
    (Women are usually the victims in these sex scandals):

    Headline from Houston Chronicle:

    Unearthed Tapes, Letters Show Southern Baptist Leaders’ Support for Pastor Who Faced Sex Scandal

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  35. Mr. Jesperson: not all “Christians” are like the cult members of the churches that you came out of. Dee has a conscience and so do the Christians that comment here. Not everyone who does calls themselves a Christian. I have had to deal more than once in similar situations with men claiming to be Christians doing scandalous acts like this. … These evils exist everywhere in every type of religion and non-religion.

    Hope you don’t mind some gentle pushback, as your comment has a whiff of “no true Scotsman.” These days I take people at their word. If people say, “I’m a Christian,” I believe them. Now, they might be completely odious, but that’s a different matter from the religion they declare. And salvation is up to God.

    I also don’t believe abuse happens everywhere. People rob banks because that’s where the money is. Predators seek prey where it is abounds.

    Some churches offer predators an ideal environment: concentrated power, secrecy, bullying, a lack of accountability, a “trust me” message from the top, instant forgiveness for offenders, constant denial, and a steady supply of children. Most other types of organizations have moved away from such a culture and structure.

    Churches can and should do far more to protect children, if we want anyone to be a Christian in future.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  36. Mary27,

    My stepfather was cheating on my Mom while he was abusing all of us at home, in one way or another. It was one of my sisters, years later, that finally spoke up about it.

    I wonder if anyone has compiled the data to see if committing adultery is one of regular activities of abusers?

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  37. Debbie I am absolutely horrified by your story, I work with young people, mostly 11-19 yrs old. I don’t care how ‘well developed’ they are – & I have worked with 11 yr old girls who are 6 feet tall, 13 yr old girls who look 19, & 14 year old boys who are 6’2″ & 14 stone & are growing beards – the fact is they are still their real age. It’s disgusting behaviour from any adult to a) molest, & b) blame it on the child. The law here in the UK draws a distinction between young people under 13 who are always considered unable to consent to any kind of sexual activity, & those over 13 who are considered able to give age appropriate consent to sexual activity with another young person of a similar age, & over 13. Steve Dahl is just a plain old paedophile – he continued to prey on underage girls, & he probably still does, marriage normally doesn’t change that.

    He is a disgusting pig that deserves every bit of exposure you bring to him – good for you. More power to you. You may well save other young girls from being abused by him.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  38. Lea,

    I can confirm that you actually have to be between 13 & 19 to be a teenager. Prior that you are an older child/pre-teen/tweenager, & after that you are a young adult. Weirdly an 18/19 year old is both a teenager & an adult, though if you know any, you’ll know how true that is in practise.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  39. Brian: My stepfather was cheating on my Mom while he was abusing all of us at home, in one way or another. It was one of my sisters, years later, that finally spoke up about it.

    I wonder if anyone has compiled the data to see if committing adultery is one of regular activities of abusers?

    Abuse is being able to control and manipulate other people… so adultery gives them another person to dominate. Also, I believe they get a “high” from living a double life and getting away with it.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  40. Debbie,
    Thank you for speaking up. You are courageous and brave. I sobbed reading your story with all kinds of nasty words for the abuser and people who sided with the abuser.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  41. SiteSeer,

    “I found that my mind and body would not allow me to feel comfortable in church again. I saw the red flags, every place I tried. There are group dynamics that operate in all of them.”
    ++++++++++++++++++

    hi, SiteSeer.

    Could you describe the group dynamics you observe operating in every church you attend? (i see some, too — just wanting to hear how you articulate it)

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  42. Debbie McNulty: I continued to try to be the best Christian I could be while at the same time being gossiped about and wearing the scarlet letter. Even after all of that pain I continue to try to find a church and I continue to try to do what I felt was right. I just reached a point where it felt more like torture than anything else.

    In some ways this is Christianity’s Achilles heel. Do for others, give, forgive and so on.
    But there comes a time when it is ok to look out for yourself. In times of personal crisis it becomes imperative to do so in order to ensure we can continue to provide for those who depend on us, like our children or aged parents.
    An analogy would be what’s taught on airliners. When the plane decompresses, they tell you to put your oxygen mask on first before your child. Without that oxygen, you will not be capable of saving his/her life.
    I believe there many ways to the truth. No religion has lock on it. You can do the right thing simply because it’s the right thing to do without need for reward and without fear of punishment.
    You can be spiritual without religion.
    Wishing you all the best. Peace.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  43. Friend,

    Abuse does happen everywhere. I worked in a school with great preventive education for staff, students, and parents, windows in every room, and abuse occurred via cellphone. People bent on abusing still abuse even when circumstances make it more difficult.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  44. Linn: Abuse does happen everywhere. I worked in a school with great preventive education for staff, students, and parents, windows in every room, and abuse occurred via cellphone. People bent on abusing still abuse even when circumstances make it more difficult.

    Oh, I’m sorry to see that. I think we’re saying roughly the same thing, though. Abuse can happen anywhere, no matter how good the safeguards. But some environments are much worse than others. Would you agree? Do you think your school’s precautions helped at all, or did abuse just move from real life to phones?

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  45. Friend: Abuse can happen anywhere, no matter how good the safeguards. But some environments are much worse than others.

    Absolutely. I think risk in general is always a continuum. You can reduce it but never eliminate. What we want with churches is to create an environment where it doesn’t thrive, and where when it is seen it is dealt with. So much of this is believing victims, and acting on their information to protect others.

    I think of this in personal terms too, you could reduce your risks of being hurt in various ways significantly but at a certain point there are so many tradeoffs you can’t live your life and your risk is still not zero. So, pick a place on the continuum you can live with and keep your eyes open.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  46. Daisy: Headline from Houston Chronicle:

    Unearthed Tapes, Letters Show Southern Baptist Leaders’ Support for Pastor Who Faced Sex Scandal

    https://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/investigations/article/Unearthed-tapes-letters-show-Southern-Baptist-14300738.php

    Whew! A disturbing account of Darrell Gilyard’s extensive sexual misconduct “during his meteoric rise in the SBC” and the protection/cover-up of his sins at the highest levels in SBC. The denomination had a spiritual leadership crisis long before King Mohler and the aberrations of New Calvinism hit its ranks.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  47. Linn:
    Friend,

    Abuse does happen everywhere. I worked in a school with great preventive education for staff, students, and parents, windows in every room, and abuse occurred via cellphone. People bent on abusing still abuse even when circumstances make it more difficult.

    Sometimes the best you can do is to make the abuser work harder to get his fix.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  48. Mary27: Abuse is being able to control and manipulate other people… so adultery gives them another person to dominate. Also, I believe they get a “high” from living a double life and getting away with it.

    Gotta get that Dopamine surge.
    Even if (like Guest’s father/abuser) you get it from the pain and misery of others.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  49. Dave A A: He was apparently some 20 years attending mega church Calvary Chapel— formerly home of disgraced pastors Abedini and Caldwell.

    Both Muff and I live near Ground Zero of Calvary Chapel. SoCal is to Calvary Chapel what Salt Lake City is to Mormons, and the intensity and attitude of both increases the closer you get to Ground Zero.

    Calvary Chapel used to dominate the Christianese AM airwaves here. In churches and para-churches, “Non-Denominational” or “Bible-Believing” or “Christian” without modifiers meant “Calvary Chapel Clone” instead of “Southern Baptist/IFB Clone”. (Maybe “metastasize” would be a better word than “cloning”.)

    And I have always gotten an uneasy vibe from encountering actual Calvary Chapelites. (Or should that be “CC Bots”?) Nothing I could put my finger on and say “AHA!”, but a general vibe of Something Wrong. Like the CC model and doctrine distills down and concentrates every way American Evangelicalism can go Wrong.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  50. Lois: Mary, you touch on something that happens time and again. There are many who have been so badly hurt and mistreated in a church that they cannot seem to separate those things from how a believer is actually supposed to be. They often have developed a very warped view of God that they cannot shake.

    Once you have been Assimilated by the Church of Borg, it takes a LONG time to detach.
    (Ask captain Picard and Seven of Nine.)

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  51. SiteSeer: That man has some cold, hard eyes.

    An intense “Predator’s Stare”, like you see in photos of Charles Manson and David Miscavage?

    “It’s the eyes. Stone Cold Psychopath.”
    — comment about official photos of the latter in a Scientology expose

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  52. Max,

    Wow, just read that article and also watched the video of Patterson and Gilyard. I’ve watched pastors my whole life willfully hear-no-evil from conmen like Darrell. It’s so obvious to us who have experienced the fake contriteness of supposedly repentant malignant narcissists, only to watch them carry on as usual. Gilyard’s resignation act was classic; no need to actually know this guy. He is not as brilliant as Patterson said he is. What disturbs me to no end is how Patterson and his kind of egocentric leadership love to lesson the weight of guilt by gossiping and slandering the victims. Not that Paige could have made any difference in the future behavior of a con like Gilyard, but offering his blame sharing sentiment was a kind of justification for his “son.” Any iota of justification we perceive will only ensure a repeat of our crimes, even if we are not egomaniacs. Furthermore, when Patterson types divide rations of guilt, it is an open admission that if the circumstances were the same, especially if they were so lucky to be as magnetic as a Darrell Gilyard, if they had the same kind of opportunity to indulge their evil power pleasures, they would, if they haven’t already. At any rate, they cannot be trusted either.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  53. Patti: fake contriteness of supposedly repentant malignant narcissists

    I recently received a series of apologies from someone, and my friend pointed out that most of them were all about him…hello narcissist! They are so transparent sometimes.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  54. Whilst the various running themes here in Wartburg add to the charm of the community, there are some threads on which I hesitate to post (for instance) cricket news. This is one of them. That said, just briefly, Australia retained the Ashes today with another crushing victory, this time in the Third Test. This is because, if the series is drawn, the current holders retain the urn; and Australia are 2-0 up with two Tests remaining.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  55. Jeffrey Chalmers:
    Why is the girl victim in this story called a “Hussie”, etc, and the 33 year old male not publicallycalled a “pedo”?Inquiringminds want to know!

    Because, disgustingly, male leader perpetrator versus female child victim.

    However, Jesus says something very different about those who do harm to children.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  56. Its mid-2019 and proverbial church moral morons are apparently reportable predictably stridently on the loose with little or no deracinate reprobative repercussions. If you should decide to attend 501c3 worship services anywhere, please do your homework diligently, and protect your azimuth. Your future sanity, spirituallity, value to others, and even your physical health may very well depend upon it. Don’t be another horrendously vulgar statistic. Many victims of sexual abusive assault never fully recover. Be on your guard. Many tears may be avoided.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  57. Jeffrey Chalmers: Why is the girl victim in this story called a “Hussie”, etc, and the 33 year old male not publically called a “pedo”? Inquiring minds want to know!

    Well, you see, he made “mistakes”- but, praise God! he stopped drinking, using drugs and smoking! How come a woman can be shunned because she doesn’t abide by one or more of the standards and yet current UPCI ministers stay in contact with Steve, preach at his church and he at theirs? It’s mind boggling. http://blogs.spiritualabuse.org/2018/03/18/upci-ministers-embrace-alleged-pedophile-part-2/

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  58. “I know of multiple men who go on being accepted while the women they abused are labeled liars and troublemakers…They are not behaving Biblically or in accordance with their own UPC rules…” -Debbie McNulty

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  59. Two comments not approved because the commenter wrote it in a different language. Since I happen to know that this commenter, Sopy, regularly speaks English and I believe that it is his first language. I should not be accused of cultural insensitivity from this decision.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

  60. Jeffrey Chalmers:
    Why is the girl victim in this story called a “Hussie”, etc, and the 33 year old male not publically called a “pedo”?Inquiringminds want to know!

    Well, there are some trying to redress the balance as far as they can; most of this thread, for instance (that’s not to argue with you – I know what you meant). It was as true in this case as in any like it: an adult male sexually attacking an 11-year-old is a paedophile, and the person he targets has no meaningful power or choice in the matter and is blameless.

    I think it demonstrates many things when people choose to blame a women or children for violent and self-gratifying actions of a man. For one thing, it harks back to Adam’s first prayer after he disobeyed God’s command to him. (“The woman you gave me…”) It was her fault, and God’s, but not Adam’s. I suppose they think God was fooled by that. Maybe deep down, God feels guilty and ashamed for the part he played in making people sin against him. That would explain a lot. Well, a lot of theology, anyway.

      (Quote selected text)  (Reply)

Leave a comment - Click here for our commenting rules

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *