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.

A Brief Timeline of Sex Abuse at Calvary Gospel Church

This story is circulating on social media right now. There are a lot of moving parts, so I have put them all in one place. Links are below.

Circa 1980 – Debbie McNulty was eleven when a married man at church began grooming her. He quickly escalated from ice cream cones and hand-holding to sexual molestation and rape. Debbie told her pastor, asking for help and protection. She received none. The senior pastor did not go to the authorities, but he did blame Debbie. She was branded a slut and left the church as a teenager.

In 2017, during the #MeToo/#ChurchToo movement, Debbie began writing about her experiences at Calvary Gospel Church. Other victims came forward with similar stories, some publicly, some anonymously. Pedophiles never abuse just one child, especially not when they are getting away with it.

In 2019, Debbie wrote an open letter on her blog to the current leadership of her former church asking for acknowledgment, an apology, and reasonable policy changes. Soon after, the Facebook threats began.

This summer – Debbie and the other victims filed reports with their local police department and worked with the Wisconsin state legislature to present bills to close the clergy loophole and to get rid the statute of limitations for sexual abuse. They also told their story to a reporter at the local newspaper.

Yesterday – Now that the story is public, Calvary Gospel Church has circled the wagons to protect their own. The senior pastor received a standing ovation from the congregation in light of these recent attacks on his reputation.

He covered up the rape of little girls.

This is the very definition of rape culture.

Link list:

Debbie McNulty’s original blog post

Debbie’s open letter to Calvary Gospel

The Cap Times newspaper report

The press conference about the bills

Calvary Gospel applauds pedophile protector

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

Sex Abuse in the UPCI Hits the Media

I am just going to leave this right here. Follow the link to read the whole story in The Cap Times.

Stolen childhoods: Women allege they were sexually abused as kids at Calvary Gospel Church in Madison

Women (Not) Supporting Women

Women were property since before the beginning of recorded history. How did it start? Because of differences in physical strength or because of chemical differences in the brain? Whatever the reason(s) we got owned. Religion and politics combined to use that power to keep women as possessions and make us believe we belonged there. We were bought, sold, and traded along with children and livestock.

Like trapped rats, we turned on each other as we competed for men, protection, for resources for ourselves, and for our children.

We have a little bit of power now. A little bit of a voice. The separation of church and state, laws allowing women to own property and to vote are relatively new phenomenon. We are still fighting for bodily autonomy. We are still fighting to be heard and believed.  In Ohio, where I currently live, marital rape is not illegal. We still have so far to go.

My question is, what are the white evangelical women who vote against themselves (and the rest of us) thinking? Every vote for a conservative white male, every moment of disinterest, every shrug at the expense of other women is action taken in favor of our own oppression. Is there any way to throw open the doors to sisterhood and consider women first? To see the larger picture of bringing us all along together?

If we do not support each other, we are choosing to maintain the web of power, secrecy, and rape that allows men like Jeffrey Epstein to have a Pedophile Island at his disposal. For billionaires and politicians around the globe to satisfy their sick, perverted whims at the expense of little girls.*

Having more women in power puts a chink in the web of male protection that is currently in place. Every single female in office, or in any position of power, rips a hole in that web. In the web of smug winks, nudges, and open secrets. The web in which little girls are raped.

It is time, it is way past time, for women to stand together to burn down the web of protection that exists for the benefit of men.

It is time, it is way past time, for good men who would never participate in such things to understand how they benefit from the status quo.

It is time, it is way past time, for white women to understand how we benefit from siding with the money, power, and security supplied to us by our relationships with white men. We have hidden behind them, cloaked ourselves in comfort. Quoted scriptures to justify our betrayal. We are no longer silenced by branks. We are no longer burned at the stake for speaking out. We cannot pretend we do not see institutional racism, poverty, sexual assault, and bigotry.

We cannot pretend the balance of power is not within our grasp.

Vote like your life depends on it because someones does.

vote

*Epstein was assisted by at least one woman, Ghislaine Maxwell. She is evil, too.

 

Slacking

Rumor has it I have been slacking with the blog posting situation. It is true. I have taken a giant step away from social media lately in order to enjoy my school break and to relish the completion of my book launch. I have been hanging out with the hubby, the dog, my daughter, reading, going to yoga, and breathing. Whew.

Here are some things I have learned during my first year in Ohio:

Midwesterners are kind.

Gentle landscapes are just as beautiful as dramatic scenery.

Wildlife is completely different-giant groundhog things and muskrats, cardinals and yellow finches. No whales.

It takes time to relax into love.

And trust.

The sharp pointy edges of emotional armor require conscious effort to dismantle and set aside. Taking them off is merely the first freeing, weightless step. Then comes inching away from the weapon pile. Letting them gather dust and rust. Wandering so far away you can’t remember where they are or how you ever got them on.

Thunderstorms rock.

 

The Uncomfortable Confessions Of a Preacher’s Kid is available now.