Rape Culture: What the pedophilia cover-up at Calvary Gospel Church has in common with the Jeffrey Epstein case

We see it over and over in the news-priests in the Catholic Church, the Southern Baptist scandal, Michigan State University, countless youth ministers in Christian churches… the list is endless. Adults rape children while other adults actively cover-up the abuse to protect their institution.

How can this be?

The short answer is that we live in a world wherein rape culture thrives. Rape culture is defined as follows, just so we are all on the same page:

Rape culture is a sociological concept for a setting in which rape is pervasive and normalized due to societal attitudes about gender and sexuality. Behaviors commonly associated with rape culture include victim blaming, slut-shaming, sexual objectification, trivializing rape, denial of widespread rape, refusing to acknowledge the harm caused by sexual violence, or some combination of these.

Pedophilia is a subset of rape culture, when the descriptions above are targeted at children. Because, honestly, if the bodily autonomy of anyone, man or woman, is not respected, it’s a short downhill slide to minors. What’s a year or two or three when you’re already depraved?

Children are generally more easily manipulated than adults. Kids who are poor, hungry, and lonely are most often the victims of sexual abuse. We see this in every story that comes to light. It’s the kids no one is keeping track of, the kids whose parents aren’t paying attention, and don’t have the resources to sue anyway. These kids have needs and when they are offered comfort, often don’t see the erect penis coming at them from behind the ice cream cone.

If they object or tell, they are shamed, blamed, and threatened. When Debbie McNulty told her pastor at Calvary Gospel about her molestation by a man in the church she was sent away with an “I’ll get back to you.” He didn’t, but somehow everyone in the church found out and blamed Debbie, who was branded a slut at eleven. Even the molester’s wife blamed her. Debbie’s molester was moved around, forgiven, and still pastors a church.

When Jeffrey Epstein ran an international sex trafficking ring for billionaires, a whole community of people knew: recruiters, pilots, housemaids, neighbors, etc. His victims, poor kids who needed money for food and clothes, were threatened to prevent them from speaking about their abuse. His joke of a prosecution chalked it up to soliciting prostitution, as if the little girls he raped were engaged in an equal exchange of power.

Men in power allowed him to get away with it.  They protected the system in which they control the power dynamic on a global scale. It isn’t one church or university or even government; it’s a world wide web of men. Yes, sometimes women are involved, but let’s be honest, it’s mostly men. Calvary Gospel’s cover-up of pedophilia in their church is a microcosm.

Their response to accusations of abuse is predictable. Accuse the victim of being a slut or a whore, no matter her age, and instantly no one cares about her. Easy-peasy.

She had it coming.

She was asking for it.

She wanted it.

You can’t rape a whore.

What was she wearing?

And there you have it, the men involved were seduced. They couldn’t help themselves. Even women will join in to hurl blame at the victims, so immersed are we in this culture of rape.

A shift is happening now, though. Not quickly enough, but change is coming, after millennia of voicelessness. For all of social media’s flaws, the ability to tell our stories to a wide audience is a pretty big plus. All it takes is one brave soul to go first and then other victims come forward. There are always other victims.

And then accountability begins, because everyone has to pick a side on this subject.

*Eve was framed.

Write It Yourself…

Memoirists often write for understanding, as I did. There is something about seeing your own words on the page that offers tangibility and perspective to experiences. When Dr. Thomas Fudge wrote Heretics and Politics, a book about the history of the United Pentecostal Church and a story that heavily involved my father, I was thrilled to be interviewed. Being asked questions about how I experienced life as his daughter was a first. No one had ever asked before. Why would they? I was long gone from the scene. A footnote.

I read Heretics and Politics avidly when it was released only to discover I was still little more than a footnote and felt unreasonably crushed. What was I expecting? To have my life explained to me or perhaps to have my father explained to me? How could anyone, even the estimable Dr. Fudge, do such a thing?

And then I remembered Toni Morrison’s words:

If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.

And so I did. Thank you, Ms. Morrison, for your words of truth and beauty, and the sharp nudge. Rest in peace.

Do you have a story to tell?

The Uncomfortable Confessions of a Preacher’s Kid

The Process of Leaving and Dealing With Trauma

REQUIRED READING

Trauma lives in our bodies like a chronic disease. I relate to every word of this. Isn’t it a relief when someone is able explain what you carry inside?

The Process of Leaving and Dealing With Trauma

https://survivingchurchandchildhood.wordpress.com/2019/07/10/the-process-of-leaving-and-dealing-with-trauma/
— Read on survivingchurchandchildhood.wordpress.com/2019/07/10/the-process-of-leaving-and-dealing-with-trauma/

Who Loves Cheese?

What is that one thing you always come back to? That one thing you can never not adore? For me, it’s cheese. Cheeeeeese.

I came up with this while playing around with poetry as short-form memoir during Creative Writing class.

Only Love Remains

How did we begin, my one true love? My passion for you endures unabated. I remember in the early days, a hastily ripped cardboard box, frantically searching for the indented foil seam and ripping back the shiny slick casing. Carefully fingering you onto my tongue as that first mouthful dissolved into creamy liquid that slid slowly down my throat. The melting plasticity of Velveeta cheese food product will always take me back to our first time. As Mom swirled Velveeta into hot elbow macaroni noodles in her blackened bottom pot, the liquid gold slithered through the curved tube creating a heavenly goo so runny it had to be eaten with a spoon.

Changing circumstances took their toll on our relationship over the years. An absent father with dark secrets coincided with subtle shifts in refrigerator contents. Slabs of dense government cheese-American, of course, Ronald Reagan’s gift to the Dairy Farmers of America, filled cheap bread several meals a day. My abandoned, anxiety-ridden mother despised my gluttony, hated me fat, but couldn’t stop me from eating. She had enough on her plate. Dad showed up long enough to forbid her from taking charity and then there was no cheese at all.

How I missed you.

Then, the joys of marriage and two modest incomes provided several packages a week where we could hide the knowledge that we had made a colossal mistake. What better way to fill the holes of missing pieces than with grated four cheese Mexican flavored topping.

Inevitably, backlash came in the form of self-imposed hungry years. Fat-free feta and scant sprinklings of parmesan marked by long periods of abstinence. I shunned you, please forgive me.

And now, now that we have reconnected, slim slices of Manchego and pungent veiny Amish bleu, artfully arranged with seasonal fruit and paired with a crisp Rosé fill my palate with undertones of bourgeoisie as we stroll into the sunset. I will never leave you again.

cheese

Mindshift Podcast Interview

A couple of weeks ago Dr. Clint Heacock of Mindshift Podcast interviewed me about The Uncomfortable Confessions Of a Preacher’s Kid.  The interview was a great experience because he put me at ease right away with his thoughtful curiosity and willingness to let our conversation unfold, despite the fact that the husband had to ransack the snack cupboard in the middle of recording!

Here it is:  Interview Link

We talk about growing up fundie, fathers with secrets, making peace with it all, and sex, of course.

Dr. Heacock can be followed on Twitter @MindShift2018 to keep up on the latest conversation regarding deconversion. And of course, follow his blog!

New Review from In Bed With Married Women

Sex blogger Jill Hamilton of In Bed With Married Women writes about all things sex-positive with blunt, hilarious honesty. As it turns out, she also does book reviews! Lucky me! Here’s what she has to say about The Uncomfortable Confessions Of a Preacher’s Kid:

Click here for the review-scroll down the page a bit to get to the review. But then go back and read about her sex toy giveaway.

Or read it here:

The Uncomfortable Confessions of a Preacher’s Kid by Ronna Russell is a wonderfully honest memoir about growing up in an extremely religious household, marrying a not-so great closeted man and, discovering later in life, that her narcissistic, controlling father was dying from AIDS. Just thinking about it, I am now ashamed that I used the word “harrowing” for going to the stinking post office, when this is the real harrowing business of life. But it’s also a hopeful story.  Ronna is strong as hell and finding her way just fine. The Uncomfortable Confessions of a Preacher’s Kid is definitely in the genre of jacked-up childhood/eccentric parent reads like The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls and Educated by Tara Westover.

Also follow Jill on Twitter because she is funny and smart. @Jill_Hamilton