January of 2014 I received a phone call that represents every children’s pastor’s worst nightmare. “Jory, it has just been discovered that one of your male pre-school volunteers has been sexually molesting his 5-year-old daughter.” I gasped for air in utter horror and shock. This volunteer and his wife had been a part of my team for over a year at this point. All the “what ifs” came flooding into my head.
Thankfully our senior pastor had laid down some pretty solid rules that I had my team follow religiously. Male volunteers were never permitted to change diapers or take children to the restroom. I had also established a rule that there should always be at least two volunteers in each classroom to provide accountability and protect our volunteers against accusations. I knew right away that it would have been impossible for this male volunteer to abuse any of the children in our ministry, but the thought of him ministering to our children week after week still disturbed me to my core.
1. Katie, as I am sure you know, a lot of people (Christians or not) cover up sexual abuse for their loved ones. You did the opposite! Can you tell us how you got your husband to admit sexually abusing your daughter to the authorities and why you refused to cover it up?
The night of January 5, 2014 (the day after Olivia’s 5th birthday), I walked into my room and witnessed the unthinkable. I kicked him out immediately and went to the police. The SVU (special victims unit) started the investigation and asked me if I would participate in a phone sting (calling him from my phone while it was being recorded). The detective guided me with a pen and paper in the direction she needed the conversation to go. I was completely horrified by what I had to say to get him to admit it. Things like “we can get you help if you are honest with me” and “I love you no matter what, I just need to know the truth.”
After that he admitted to what he did and it was much worse than I had imagined. It went on for over a year. I couldn’t take it anymore and I hung up. They got what they needed.
I refused to cover it up because my first instinct was to protect my little girl. We shouldn’t have to hide behind some “dirty little secret” and shame that wasn’t ours to bear. We did nothing wrong. I always thought, things like this couldn’t happen to my family and I was wrong. It was closer than I could have ever imagined.
2. People often blame victims and I consider you a victim in this abuse as well as your sweet daughter. What would you say to people who say, “Oh how could the mother not have known all those years that she was married to a child abuser?”
There is a difference between knowing and not doing anything and not knowing at all. It’s heartbreaking that people think this way, especially when I truly didn’t know. I had been sleeping on the couch during the majority of my pregnancy with my youngest daughter and I continued to sleep on the couch after she came home from the NICU so we wouldn’t disturb anyone. The second I found out I took action. It is beyond sickening to know that every day he looked me in the eyes and we lived a lie.
3. Turning your husband into the police has dramatically affected your life. You went from being a happy family (or so you thought) to a single mother raising three kids. How has your husband’s actions affected you and your children’s lives now?
Since then, we have been kicked out of military housing because we no longer received his Bah (base allowance for housing) so we had to find an apartment as quickly as possible. We couldn’t leave the area due to the possibility of a trial. The military has given us “transitional compensation” which is less than half of the income he brought home in a month. I am truly grateful for the military and the money that we have been given to survive, but sadly we just received the end of the road with financial assistance from them. Our last pay from them was June 1st and we are losing our insurance and base privileges as well. We have to move to Akron Ohio on June 24th to live with my mom and grandma because we have no where else to go. That is our biggest struggle right now. Other than that the kids are doing great! They have adapted pretty well and they know that they are very loved and safe.
We have been to counseling, which is great, but I really think only time can heal wounds like this. I plan on raising my babies in church and letting them get to know their “real” father. God is good all the time. He will heal us.
5. What do you hope for after all of this trauma? Why do you wake up in the morning?
My hope is to raise awareness about child sexual abuse. This is happening way too much and we need to stop it. We need pedophiles to fear us. The SVU detective told me that she was actually shocked that I turned him in and that 97% of women protect the man over their children. 97%! That is the most sad, insane statistic that I have ever heard. My heart instantly broke for these children stuck in abuse. I then decided that we would turn our pain into hope for others. They are NOT alone. Do not be afraid to speak up for your babies! Children are gifts from God. He trusts us with them. We are to love and protect them and that’s exactly what I did. He cannot hurt her or anyone else ever again!
I wake up in the morning for three reasons: Matthew, Olivia, and Sophia! They need me. I have tried to mask my pain with many things. There are so many emotions. It’s all fine and dandy to have a break down and a pity party, but as soon as I see those kids I put all of that aside and be the best mom that I can be.
Thank you Katie!
As Christians we believe in forgiveness, but we also understand that forgiveness takes lots of time and healing. It was not our church’s job to convince Katie to forgive her husband, but to simply be on her and Olivia’s side. Proverbs 17:15 says it best, “He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous, both of them alike are an abomination to the Lord.”
We know that love covers a multitude of sin (1 Peter 4:8) and we are grateful that the atonement of Jesus Christ justifies even the most wrenched of sinners when they repent, but we are called to speak up for the oppressed and marginalized as Jesus did throughout His entire life here on earth.
To simply pray for victims is not enough and is actually a religious way to hush voices. The Word says, “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed (Proverbs 31:8). A child being abused in any way falls into this category, whether the family is Christian or not. Yes, pray for the victims, but also speak up for them and do something about it.
To say, “The abuser repented, so let it go” is another way of silencing victims. “He is our brother in Christ and he is forgiven” is yet another way of excusing the abuser’s actions and silencing the cries of the abused. We know the repentant abuser is forgiven, but when we keep saying it we shut down an important conversation. This is happening in the Christian Church more than I am comfortable with. We have heard the excuses and we have even sought to empathize with the perpetrators because we are a people group that loves grace, but it is time to let victims speak and it is time for us to actually listen.
It is time for us to show the world that we prioritize the oppressed over the oppressors no matter what their religion is. It is time we put away excuses, admit that we have handled sexual abuse poorly in many circumstances, and humbly allow our brokenness to rise to the surface so we can move towards healing and restoration in the body of Christ.
The world is not looking for perfect Christians; but rather, for men and women who are willing to be authentic, relatable, and vulnerable with their struggles. Injustice is a huge turn off to everyone because we are all created in the image of God who is just in all His ways. Something deep within our souls demands justice. Let us allow the power grace to balance us out. May we fight for justice when dealing with victims, but respond with mercy when we are the victims. Once again, let us walk how Jesus walked, forsaking all other ways.