Surviving Childhood Sexual Abuse

ATTENTION!!!! If you were a victim of abuse at Victory Church, it’s not too late, please! consider joining these most recent victims who are bravely speaking up. You are not alone. The Sheriff’s Office encourages other possible victims to come forward. They may do so by calling 9-1-1 or calling the Monroe County Sheriffs office directly at (585) 753-4400. 

NEW, RELATED POST: Former Sr. Pastor of Victory Church in Henrietta NY (Joe Burress Sr.) has plead guilty to sexually abusing children

Since the inception of this blog (January 2015), I have been faithfully writing on a daily basis, with blog posts written on my “good days” and scheduled in advance, to ensure seamless content being published. Unfortunately, around the beginning of Lent I started to struggle again, both emotionally and physically. It would be putting it lightly to say the last couple months, especially the month of April, have been extremely tough for me.

While I strive to be transparent in my writing, I don’t usually get too personal with my blog posts. Today’s post will break that trend. This month the Lord has put it on my heart to dig deep and share in a way that I am super uncomfortable. Even if there is only one of you out there that can identify, I know it’s worth making myself vulnerable. If you find yourself relating as you read along, this blog post was probably meant for you!

April marks the end of Lent and celebration of Easter. Here in New York, flowers begin to break ground and the Birds return, waking us with their beautiful song.

April is a month that points to new life and new beginnings. I was born in April. I’m an April Fool’s baby.

April is also Sexual Assault Awareness Month and I am a survivor of Childhood Sexual Abuse.

“Sometimes God redeems your story by surrounding you with people who need to hear about your past, so it doesn’t become their future.” ~Jon Acuff

I don’t remember much from my childhood, but I remember a man in my church who befriended kids. He was probably in his mid to late 30’s at the time and married to a woman named Sharyn. They both lived with Sharyn’s mom, Grace, in Honeoye Falls, NY. He was a tall, charismatic man who wore suits that looked like they were from the 60’s. Powdered pink. Baby blue. His hair was dark, parted to the right, and slicked back, like Ward Cleaver from Leave it to Beaver. He had a smile that would rival Mr. Rogers’. Most of the adults in the church seemed to really like and respect him. Steve Erickson. The name of my first abuser. He had his favorites and I was one of them.

When I turned eleven the repeated sexual abuse I experienced at the hands of this man finally stopped. The pastor’s son caught him trying to grope me in the back hallway of our church and confronted him. He told Steve to leave me alone or he would tell everyone what he had been doing.

It wasn’t long after this confrontation that the pastor’s daughter befriended me. She invited me over for a sleepover. It was the first time I had ever spent the night away from home.

One night when I was sleeping over, her brother, the same boy who had saved me from my first abuser, snuck into her bedroom. We were both asleep. He woke me up with an ugly goblin looking puppet (Boglin) and motioned for me to be quiet so as not to wake up anyone else.

He proceeded to touch me as I lay in his sister’s bed.

He had saved me from my first abuser, so I trusted him.

He told me he liked me.

I was too young to realize he was abusing me too.

For the next five years this abuse continued on and off, only at the time I thought I was in love. I would do anything this boy asked me to and he would use our little secret to control me. Our “relationship” continued until he finally went away to bible college.

It was the month of April when I saw this boy again. Only he was no longer a boy. He was now married.  More than five years had passed. He and his wife had moved back to New York after attending bible college in Missouri. His father, the pastor at the time, had recruited them to run a young adult group for the church.

His life seemed to be going so well, while my life was falling apart. I was twenty-one and a single mom at the time. I had just moved in with a my boyfriend who was a drug dealer and ex-convict. I had turned from the church and the things of God long before his return.

This man and his wife started to call me at home. I remember dodging their calls for months. I had heard through the grapevine they were trying to recruit young adults to attend their new church group and I had no interest in joining. When things between my live-in boyfriend and I started to get rocky (ex: he was physically and emotionally abusive), I finally gave in and revisited my childhood church.

Despite being married, the pastor’s son (my childhood “hero” and “first love”) took special interest in me. He convinced me to break things off with my boyfriend and even recruited a bunch of men from the church to move me back into my parent’s home.

It didn’t take long for him to find ways to spend time alone with me. He convinced his wife to get a part time job as a waitress and to take on ballroom dance lessons.

I am ashamed to admit that up to this point I had never read the bible on my own. I was ruled by my emotions and easily believed his lies. It didn’t take long for him to convince me to take part in an adulterous affair.

He made me believe he loved me and would have married me, but that his father forced him to get married to this woman because they were having premarital sex.

He would use bible verses to deceive me into believing that in God’s eyes WE were married first because of the sexual things he had done to me as a kid.

He would use manipulative tactics to make me feel sorry for him, stating his wife didn’t love him and that she had already cheated on him.

He told me she made him wife swap with another couple when they lived in Missouri and that’s why they had to move back to New York (please see comments section below where it’s clarified that it was actually him that convinced her to take part in this).

He used scripture to imply that in God’s eyes they were already divorced.

He bought me jewelry and told me that it was “our little secret.”

He made up stories for me to tell about where I got the jewelry, how I was spending my time, and instructed me to repeat the stories to anyone that asked.

Within six months of moving back home, he and his wife divorced.

It didn’t take long for members of the church to start hearing rumors about the pastor’s son and his ex-wife. His father, the pastor, approached me privately. He made me aware of a deacon meeting that was going to be held to vote as to whether or not his son should step down from leadership.

The pastor convinced me to rally the troops to protest this decision. He asked me to get all the young adults in our church group to write up a testimony about how his son had helped them grow in the Lord since his return to New york. I was naive and eager to earn his respect, so I agreed to take part in his.

The deacon board voted and it was agreed that his son could stay on staff as the young adult leader.

There was a huge split within our church and those that opposed his staying on staff ended up leaving the church.

Shortly after, the pastor’s son and I ended up dating publicly, but the relationship didn’t last.  I started to study the bible for myself, and he quickly became physically abusive any time I challenged his manipulative and sinful ways. I resorted to coping behaviors I had learned while he was away at college.

One time he caught me out drinking alone. He was livid. He forced me to ride home with him to my parents house where I was still living. On the way we got into an argument and I tried to jump out of the vehicle as it approached  a red light. He caught me by the hair and pulled me back into the vehicle and proceeded to choke me out (the rear naked choke hold he used is a blood choke hold he practiced in his Mixed Martial Arts).

I wish I could say I wised up and left him after this incident, but I didn’t. I broke things off for a while, but he was relentless with his apologies and in pursuing me. I was eventually lured back into the relationship. It took yet another altercation where he knocked me out cold in front of my two year old daughter before I attempted to seek help.

That April, I wrote a letter to the director of counseling of the church and explained everything that had transpired over the last year, including how the relationship began in adultery and details of the physical abuse I endured.

What I didn’t know at the time was that I was not the only women the pastor’s son had been grooming. While he went on to publicly date me for the first time, he was seeing another women behind the scenes. The neighbor of his divorce attorney. Three months after I broke things off with him, he went on to marry her.

That didn’t stop him from attempting to pursue me again several times after his second marriage, and even after I was married myself.

At my husbands suggestion, I reached out to the director of counseling, again, to make him aware. The counselor was (and still is) good friends with the pastor and his son. I realize now this individual was more concerned with the church image and protecting the pastor and his family because nothing was done to address anything that I reported to him.

My first abuser went on to adopt a little girl. She is currently sixteen. I can’t fathom the heinous things that poor girl has faced at the hands of her adoptive father. My childhood church could have engaged law enforcement when I finally came forward about him, but they chose to handle the claim internally within the church instead.

My second abuser, the pastor’s son, went on to allegedly abuse a sixteen year old girl, a German foreign exchange student who was living with him and his wife at the time. A young man and his wife’s sisters had previously come forward to say they had been sexually abused by him too. Despite media attention surrounding these “sexual abuse allegations” he was promoted to head pastor and continues to maintain his innocence.

It has taken years of counseling for me to realize how deeply the grooming of these two abusers affected me. To this day I have night terrors, panic attacks, severe social anxiety, and issues trusting people in authority.

Some days are tougher than others. On the days I find myself struggling, I use that energy to pray for my abusers and for others like me.

I am a survivor.

I am not perfect.

I am not without sin.

The same God who sent His son to die on the cross as payment for my sins died for my abuser’s sins too.

If you are a survivor of sexual assault or abuse and have remained silent, I want to encourage you to speak out.

I lived in fear and silence for years… No more!

Those who abused me no longer have power over me. Their lies no longer control me. I refuse to allow my past to master me.

God is faithful and promises to bring truth into the light.

“For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open (Luke 8:17).”

Please, Lord, protect the hearts of those closest to this story and comfort those who may still be hurting.  I know you allowed for even the darkest moments of my life to draw others and myself closer to you. Thank you for the heart of compassion you have given me, especially for survivors of sexual assault and abuse. Thank you for being a shelter for the weak, and refuge for the oppressed. I pray those reading this who are still seeking will put their hope and trust in you. I pray this all for your glory, Lord, in Jesus name, Amen!

*RELATED POST – We Have This Hope: My Story of Sexual Abuse & Salvation

*updated July 3, 2017 to include a ping back to Brent Brookhouse with Vox Media’s investigative article on Victory Church and make timeline corrections regarding German foreign exchange student reporting timeline, as per her own account in the comment section below. Please also note, Paul Burress was fired from Victory Church in June 2017 after additional allegations were made. His father, Joe Burress Sr. was reinstated as head pastor in the interim.

**September 11, 2017 – update:
Paul Burress was arrested on Friday and faces two counts of forcible touching (source: Democrat & Chronicle, USA Today).

***September 12, 2017 – update:
local tv news station reporting (13WHAM video)
local radio interview with recent accuser (Radio 95.1 video)

****September 15, 2017 – update:
local tv news station interviews a second accuser where explicit allegations are revealed (13WHAM)
two additional charges – additional victims come forward (Democrat & Chronicle, 13WHAM)

****September 19, 2017 – update:
Paul Burress – Criminal Complaint
pleads not guilty to forcible touching (Democrat & Chronicle, 13WHAM)

****October 26, 2017 – update:
According to the DA’s office, “nothing of substance happened in court tonight and the case was adjourned to November 27.”

****November 27, 2017 – update:
According to a representative with the Hentietta Town Court, nothing of substance happened in court and the case was adjourned (again) to January 18, 2018.

****January 18, 2018 – update: According to a Henrietta Town Court Representative, (they still could not come to a plea deal or the lawyer in the case requested more time, so) court was adjourned until February 26 @ 5pm.

****February 26, 2018 – update: I spoke to a Henrietta Town Court Representative who advised court was adjourned (again) until March 14 @ 5pm.  Prayer Warriors: Please continue to pray for all of those affected by this!!!!

Update #2:  A source present at court last night let me know that there is a plea deal on the table that would involve one year probation (laughable), sex offender status (unfortunately NOT a level that requires registry), and an order of protection for the victims (which actually has already been in place since around the time the charges were filed).

***March 14, 2018 – update: Paul Burress, Henrietta Fight Church Pastor who faced four counts of forcible touching, accepted a plea deal in Henrietta, NY town court tonight (B Misdemeanor, Sexual Abuse 3rd. One year probation as a sex offender. On his record permanently (13WHAM, Democrat & ChronicleChristian Post)).

Paul is scheduled to return to court for sentencng on May 29th (13WHAM).

June 4, 2021 NEW, RELATED POST: Former Sr. Pastor of Victory Church in Henrietta NY (Joe Burress Sr.) has plead guilty to sexually abusing children

ATTENTION!!!! If you were a victim of abuse at Victory Church, it’s not too late, please! consider joining these most recent victims who are bravely speaking up. You are not alone. T
he Sheriff’s Office encourages other possible victims to come forward. They may do so by calling 9-1-1 or calling the Monroe County Sheriffs office directly at (585) 753-4400.












51 thoughts on “Surviving Childhood Sexual Abuse”

  1. Tina, I am so sorry. I had no idea about any of this during my time at Victory Baptist. I’m so sorry and so pissed off. I’m ashamed for being blinded by those “leaders”. I don’t have words right now, I’m shocked. So, so sorry you had to endure that.

    1. My heart breaks for you KJ! I knew your sisters (L & L) and one of your brothers (B) growing up at Victory. I always wondered about you and your other brother (J). I am so sorry for what you experienced at the hands of this man who calls himself a Christain, and for the lingering pain it must have caused in your life. I read your message last night and broke down in tears and prayer for you. Words seem too small. You deserved to be heard and believed and protected. Especially within the church. I don’t know if you ever told anyone about your experience at Victory or with this man. You were not the only one. His actions were being covered over. His ex-wife reached out to me back in September. I spoke to his current wife about these claims last month. What happened to you is not your fault. You did not deserve this. I am so very sorry you were not protected!

      1. Yes, Pastor Joe Burress knew and his answer to the abuse of me and others was to get Donna Ashton to marry him. Until she figured out what he was., they are divorced and he is remarried with daughters.
        I was petrified to talk about details but I was also asked “what did I do to have him do this” and “well, he didn’t rape you” and why where you alone with him”
        all statements that blame the victim.
        HE drove me home from church. He sexually assaulted me and I could not get away as he was much bigger than me and heavier than me.
        I can only HOPE & PRAY this gets on tv so everyone can know!!!
        Thank you for your kind words.

  2. So I keep checking your page cuz I see that you’re updating it about all the court dates do you know why they keep extending the day so and what exactly is going on because there’s nothing in the news so I was very interested? We used to be a part of Victory Church and I had an issue with my marriage with my husband that I went to Paul about and he was such a complete jerk to me and threw it in my face that I wasn’t going to church enough and that was the reason for everything so of course as soon as I found out about this all the things that he has done up to I tried texting him to ask him what his reasons were since he’s at church every Sunday and live such a Godly life and of course I didn’t get any response but this whole thing just disgusts me

    1. Shannon,

      I am sorry it took so long for me to reply back to you. I wanted to be prayerful and careful about my words when responding.

      With that being said, I am heartbroken to hear of the way you were treated when you sought out help with your marriage. I hope that you know your right standing with the Lord has absolutely nothing to do with how often you attend church, tithe, participate in a church ministry, or any other “good” or “christian” act that we would expect a believer to do as an overflow of saving faith. Your salvation and right standing with God is a gift and is based solely on Christ’s completed work on the cross (Ephesians 2:9).

      With that being said, I hope it’s clear to you now that going to church less often than someone else expects of you does not equate the reason you are/were having problems in your marriage. Sin is at the root of all brokenness and marital conflicts. Two naturally self-centered, imperfect, sinful individuals are united as one flesh when they make a covenant before God and are married. In 16 years of being with my husband, the Lord has taught me that it takes two people being fully committed to following Christ to make a marriage work. And, it takes two imperfect people willing to repent of wrong doing when conflicts arise. I wish that when you were brave enough to seek counsel you were reminded of the character of God, His love for you, and what was accomplished in Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection instead of made to feel guilt or shame for what was perceived to be irregular church attendance. 🙁

      When my husband and I were still attending this church and were having problems in our marriage, he sought out help for porn addiction and I needed counseling for the way I was sinning in reaction to the hurt it caused when I found out (I started seeking the attention of another man). The pastor at the time told my husband to do pushups when he was tempted. Then, the music director asked him to step down from the music ministry. He played bass guitar in the church band and was told that he needed to get his house in order before he could continue in church ministry.

      Now, this same music director also acted as a care pastor on occasion, and my husband and I started to counsel with him at the suggestion of the pastor. In one session when I finally opened up about my sin, he implied I was lying about the things that I shared with him because I couldn’t prove how things went down between this other man and I. It was said to my husband by the pastor that “she’s known to make up stories like this” and implied that I was just seeking attention (despite the fact that another girl in the church had made similar accusations against this same man). The gospel message should have been the focus as a path to restoration. Instead of reminding us of how big and holy and just and faithful our God is, and gently pointing out the fact that both of us were losing sight of this, we were given a how-to list to avoid sin (which kinda waters down the need for repentance and the whole awesome fact that God came down to earth in human form to die in our place as payment for our sins).

      It’s been a long journey since these encounters with this church (almost a decade now), but we finally began the path to healing in God-centered community and discipleship. My husband, by the grace of God, has found freedom from his addiction (going on five years now), and we both use what the Lord has taught us in these darker seasons of marriage to minister to others who are facing similar struggles. I pray you and your husband have found/can find similar healing!


      PS: CLICK HERE to read a really great article about a book I’d highly recommend by Matt and Lauren Chandler called Mingling of Souls.

  3. Tina,
    Thank you for your bravery and sharing your story. I’m so grateful you have come forward and pray for your strength and continued healing.
    I attended victory during my teen years from 1977-1984 under Pastor Joe Burress. I was close with their family at the time and even babysat on several occasions for their kids. Unfortunately, this church has a long history of manipulating and controlling its members with the “Word of God” and overstepping their role as spiritual leaders. My former husband was a music director and deacon at victory and had similar allegations. He had been forcing himself on several of the teen girls in the youth group. At 14, I was very much encouraged by pastor Joe Burress to date this man. I was unaware at the time of our dating what had been going on with other girls in the church. Had the situation been brought to my attention or at least to the attention of some of the parents of these girls, I may never have married this man and later put my own daughters at risk. He is also a predator.
    Tina- I’m so sorry you were not protected in the one place you should have felt safe. I applaud the strong woman you’ve become.

    1. My heart is breaking for you Donna! I can’t imagine the betrayal and hurt you must feel, and all the old wounds this must open. I. Am. So. Sorry! :'( I would highly encourage you to report this crime to the police (585-753-4400). It may be well beyond the statue of limitations, but it will put it on record that this is so much bigger than the current allegations against PB. Trust me when I say I don’t think you would be the only one reaching out to do so. More importantly, speaking out through the proper channels can be so healing!

      With that being said, a childhood friend shared this link with me yesterday. It was an answer to prayer. A reminder of the gospel message; The good news I started to lose sight of. I think sharing it here is helpful, because it points to the only hope we have as we navigate through this broken, sinful world. A reminder to forgive like we were forgiven (over and over again). A reminder that WE ALL need Jesus!


      1. Hi Tina- I’d like to connect with you for a brief conversation. I attended Victory from 1977-1983 (age 12-18). The Music Director (predator) left the church in 1983 and came back for a couple of years around 2008. My number is 585-XXX-XXXX. Thank you.

  4. This is infuriating to read. I’m so sorry. I’ve always known Victory was a church in Henrietta, and knew a few people who went, but never heard anything about this, even after some sports websites posted some of the allegations (which I’m now seeing).

    Equal horrifying, is the fact the Erickson was able to adopt a daughter. Do you know her? Have you been in contact with her at all? My heart breaks for her. Do they still go to Victory?

    1. Tim,
      I have never formerly met Steve Erickson’s adopted daughter, [edit#2: her name has been removed from this comment at her request], but my own daughter is the same age as her (19 now) and has mutual friends. I found her on social media about 4-5 months ago and attempted to reach out to her, but it didn’t exactly go down the way I had hoped. She is either still very much in denial about him abusing her (which is most likely the case being that it can take decades for the mind to heal enough to make sense of what happened, let alone feel brave enough to admit that it happened and report it), or he genuinely did not touch her and my reaching out “caused [her] to lose faith in the only person who was ever good to [her].” And no, the Erickson family does not attend Victory any longer. Steve was asked to leave back in 1998/1999ish after word of his sexual abuse spread through church leadership (aka the church leaders I originally reported his abuse to), but sadly his actions were never reported to police. 🙁

      (edited for clarity)

  5. I received this message via facebook just now and thought it was important to share:

    “I don’t know you and you don’t know me but I did know Paul and his first wife Sara when they lived in Missouri. I was in their youth department. I just read your blog and I am sure you know this but I wanted to tell you that what Paul told you about his first wife was all a lie. He made her participate in things that she didn’t want to do with people outside of their marriage. She had no knowledge of him doing the same until their marriage was coming to an end. I only say this to you because she was and is a wonderful woman who much like you was taken advantage of by a man who knew he could. I didn’t know these things until many years later because it was and still is painful for her to talk about but I needed clarification about some things for myself as well. You seem like a woman seeking Godly healing and I wish you the best I just wanted mention my friend. Best of luck to you.”

  6. Tina,
    My wife and I were attending Victory at this time. We were there when the split happened and we absolutely had no clue about what was happening. From our perspective it was all very hush hush. We left Victory about 11 years ago, seeing the corruption in the leadership. It wasn’t until years later that I randomly stumbled across the allegations against PB in an article on Facebook. I was floored. It really made me sick to my stomach.
    I am really sorry for all of the abuse that you suffered. It is terrible. Thank you for sharing even though it’s painful. May God bless you and continue to bring healing.

    1. Kurt,
      I am so sorry you found out the way you did and thank you for your words of kindness and grace! The healing process is a funny thing… there is no making it go away forever. Just small steps forward, an easier day, and faith in what will be.
      God bless you and your family,

  7. Tina,

    As a former deacon at VBC back when the first of these violations against you came to light, I cannot find the right words to say to tell you how sorry I am that so much more abuse was heaped upon you. Speaking only for myself, I had no idea back then what we were to do next. I knew that the perpetrator had to leave and I believed that more would have been done. With that as my belief, though, I should have done more to help right this wrong when no further action was taken. I had a responsibility as a leader and a deacon to know what to do in this situation but I was unprepared and, because of that, my inaction contributed to more harm being inflicted upon you later. Until reading this post I had no idea so much more abuse was to follow, I can barely comprehend it.
    I know the pain of sexual assault. I and other close family members were abused by strangers when we were very young. The days and nights when those events happened, though so long ago, are still seared in my memory. They will never go away.
    I take no pride in saying this, but I and my family were the first to leave when knowledge of Paul’s exploits with his first wife and their divorce were revealed back in 2001. I confronted the pastor and the board of deacons imploring them to adhere to the biblical standard expected of pastors as husbands and fathers but my objections to Paul’s remaining on staff were rejected.
    With knowledge and experience, I now realize that my service as a deacon during those years was one of the most tragic errors of my life. I was young in the faith and had no business being a deacon. I had no training, no insight and, most tragically, little objectivity to know when to confront the pastors when they were wrong. My time on the board of deacons is a scar on my soul, a grim reminder that I served as a pawn in a cruel, unbiblical game.
    I will never allow myself to be in such a situation again.
    May God help us all to be wise in His Word and not fearful when sinful behavior must be confronted. I pray that the God of all comfort will continue to guide you and heal you as you walk with Him. May He bless you and keep you by his Word.

    1. John 13:7 came to mind as I read your words, Steve. I have so much I want to say in response , but all I can seem to string together right now (through tears) is THANK YOU!!

      Resting in the truth of Jeremiah 29:11,

      1. Tina,

        Thank you for so gracious a response to my post, I was unsure of whether it would serve any good.

        Feel free to contact me via email, DM on Facebook, or Twitter, I am easy to find. It would be an honor to hear from you and your family.

  8. Hi Tina, I also attended VBC and I remember you and your family. We left the church in 1991 because I increasingly felt that it was a spiritually toxic environment. I’m very sorry you were victimized by some of those people and by the subsequent cover-up to protect the church’s “reputation.” I see via the church website that, despite the reports on the internet, PB is still in charge with his father teaching elder adult Sunday School. Anyone who still goes there has their head buried in the sand.

    1. For health related reasons, I’ve been very inactive with blogging and only now seeing your comment. Thank you for taking the time to stop by, read, and reply!

      And please, be in prayer for those affected by all of this.

      Thank you & God bless!

  9. I am very frustrated. Nobody at Victory Church knows that Paul Burress is a sexual predator because they covered it all up. Since then, Paul has gone to teen camp, ridden his motorcycle with women, and had access to hundreds of possible victims.

    Is there nothing more that can be done to prevent him from striking again? Everybody knows that predators that get away with it do it again. There will be somebody else whose story is exactly the same as the sad one Tina tells here if something isn’t done.

    Would victims be willing to go to the news? Or call individual deacons? Is there nothing else that can be done? Do we have to sit back and watch while Burress strikes again?

    1. The people that knew about Paul have all left, feeling helpless to do anything or, are there and hoping to change things from within. It was all kept very quiet and secret, even from the newer deacons that voted him in. Those deacons that knew about it did not know it’s true depth. The deacons have no power to change it back. It’s in the by laws.
      There are 2 ways to remove him from the very powerful position he is in;
      1) A victim must come forward and call the police. There was an open investigation with the Monroe County Sheriffs. Investigator Steve Peglow at 585.753.4722.
      2) The membership at Victory can vote him out. If they stop supporting him and ask for him to leave, he will have to. A new pastor would need to be found from outside the church. Those on the current staff are just as corrupt. There are plenty of good, solid pastors out there that would be happy to reform the leadership and the church could grow greatly from the new blood. I know it is a scary thing to change leadership, but God is in control, if you let Him do it.
      I was there myself when everything went down. I was helpless to fight it alone. It takes a group effort. One person cannot do it. They would find a way to make them go away. Every day I think about what is happening there and feel so bad for the people there that are unaware and for the victims of this man, both past and future.

  10. Much of what I would say has been said in the comments so many have posted. I was molested as a child and for many years even to this day have struggled with the thought that maybe I deserved being treated like I was…my value as a person was degraded and I thought maybe I did something to bring on or encourage the behavior. I now realize that this is exactly what abusers do to those they abuse. I was at the church you are talking about for 25 years and remember both you and your daughter as well as your parents. What is heartbreaking to me aside from all of what has happened to you (as if that is not enough) and to the other victims is how the congregation can be blinded to the truth and manipulated into believing lies. I was one who stayed throughout the first split. I believed whole heartedly that I was making the right decision to stay. I believe there are so many people who are trapped within this tangled web of evil. The people in leadership are using their knowledge of scripture to twist and use half-truths and smokescreens in order to maintain power and control. Somehow the attention has switched from the real victims to the pastor’s son. He has now become the victim of abuse and all others are trying to stop God’s work from moving forward. Any people who stand up and voice their concerns are unforgiving, gossips, who are out to cast stones. God’s word should never be used to promote or allow sin to continue unchecked. God has used this situation to bring me closer to Him and I can see He has done the same for you! However, I have this never ending dread that this behavior will continue and there are and will be more victims. A predator becomes more daring when they get away with behavior. He is now in a position of power greater than he was when he used that power over you and at least four others, not to mention his two wives. This behavior will continue. I’m glad this is on the internet…I’m glad many people have been warned…but I’m fearful that it is not enough. Please prayerfully consider pressing charges. There are many who believe you and many others who will believe you in time. God bless and care for you. What ever your decision, you are far braver than many people who have gone before you. God fill you with His Holy Spirit…bless and encourage you…and lead you in the way He would have you go.

    1. “A grand deception is achieved when offenders convince others that those who refuse to “forgive & move on” are the actual perpetrators.” -Boz Tchividjian

      This quote sums up my feelings regarding the twisting of scripture you spoke of. The same manipulation tactics were used against me. I felt like I was doing the honorable thing keeping silent all these years. I guess I just wanted to prove I could be loyal and forgiving. 🙁

      With that being said, no, I have no intention on pressing charges. My sister attempted to work with local police last year regarding the abuse she also experienced at Victory. I was present when the investigators visited. They were extremely dismissive and even went to the extreme of victim blaming. It saddens me how little our society thinks of victims of abuse and how quick they are to protect the abusers. Statute of limitations is up for both of us. The only thing we can do is speak out and hope that others come forward.

      At the root of all this evil is sin. The bible clearly tells us that we are all sinners. We all fall short. Not one of us deserves God’s grace (that includes me and my abusers too). Praise God, He offers it freely just the same to those who repent and believe. These Truths are what keep me moving and looking forward and I am blessed to have a husband who reminds me of them each day.

      I’m so sorry for all that you have been through, Brenda! I know how hard it can be to experience abuse. It breaks your trust in people, and if your heart is left untreated, that lack of trust can overflow and poison your view of self and God too.

      Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts with me. I will be praying for you and your family.

      God bless,

      1. You are very courageous speaking out about this, and I am so sorry you and the others went through that. It truly makes my blood boil.

        With that said though, I strongly recommend you pursue legal action if charges cannot be brought. While the perpetrators will not serve any jail time (they should), you will at least have effectively limited, or if all goes well, eliminated the pool from which they draw victims . That place is not a church anymore, it is a hunting ground for a predator who is protected by the others in charge. There are many women and girls currently trusting these “men” who have no idea. Short of legal action or media coverage, they never will.

        Please strongly consider it.

  11. Hey Tina,
    I just wanted to let you know that the boy and his sisters in law came forward before the German girl (myself) did. I would never have come forward if noone had asked and told me that others had come forward first. It was a very hard time for me as many ppl believed me – just not the ones in charge. It was due to the fact that I had feared noone would believe me that I had kept everything that he had done to me a secret for years. And one I hd come forward that is exactly what happened. Ppl did not believe me and covered everything up. Even my other host family, who I had lived with after moving out of the pastors home, did not believe me. My host mom said things like: “well I wasn’t there” and “he just is a little touchy, maybe you interpreted it wrong”…. some ppl said the letter I had written (it contained my whole story) must have been written by someone else who wanted bad things to happen to the oh so innocent pastor. They said a German would not have been able to write such good English…

    Thanks for sharing Tina! You are a very strong, courageous woman. I will pray for god to comfort you. Stay strong!

    Love and hugs.

    1. Someone close to the situation actually shared with me the letter you wrote to Victory Church’s leadership. It broke my heart to read. Your words could have been taken out of a page from my childhood diary. He said and did very similar things to me when he was abusing me (I’ll spare you the specifics because I don’t want to trigger you).

      I am grateful for your courage in speaking out. If I had not read your letter I would still believe the lie that what happened to me was an isolated incident, a temporary lapse in judgement. Your words made me realize the pattern of behavior on both the abuser’s and church leadership’s part.

      I am so very sorry you experienced abuse at the hands of someone who was charged with protecting and spiritually leading you. I want you to know that what happened to you was not your fault. You are a brave woman for sharing your story (regardless if it was you or the others who initially spoke out first).

      Thank you for reaching out, hon! I only wish we had connected sooner and under better circumstances. Know that you have been in my prayers often over the last year and that I will continue to pray for you. You are a child of the one true king. I am confident that He will work all things out for your good and His glory.

      Hugs & blessings,

      1. Hi Tina,

        I was a friend of Paul’s in high school and I attended Victory for about a year and a half. I left because I thought it had an unhealthy authoritarian vibe. I am so sorry about what Paul put you through. I had no idea, and neither did any of his other friends (that I am aware of) during 1991 and 1992.
        You are very brave and it is good to see you put this information out to help yourself and others heal. I read the account of his arrest on facebook and I hope the truth will come out in a legal setting. Stay well.


  12. Oh Tina, first of all, thank you. Thank you for going here. Thank you for putting your worst lived nightmare online. Thank you for speaking light to what happened in the dark. More people resonate with this story than you will ever know. More people are encouraged by this than you will ever know. I am deeply sorry for these horrible things that happened to you. I wish I could rewind time and save you, but you have so much of a greater Savior than I could ever be. I love you deeply and just know my heart is reached out to yours and is extending a gigantic hug. Keep speaking truth and light and freedom. Don’t let the enemy get in. Cheering you on from the #RaRalinkup on Purposeful Faith.

    1. Your support and encouragement is a blessing, Kelly! Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts. Blessings, Tina

  13. Wow, thank you Tina for your bravery. You are helping many. Sexual abuse is a bigger problem among church leaders than most realize. We have a friend who only counsels pastors in crisis. I pray that you continue to heal as God uses you to heal others.

  14. Tina, as so many others have said– you are beautifully courageous and brave to share your story. I am so grateful to hear how the Lord is weaving the pain you have experienced into a platform for you to love on others. Blessings to you as you walk this path.

    1. Thank you for your encouraging words, Aundi. God is so good! I’m humbled and amazed by His faithfulness each and every day.

  15. Tina, my heart broke with each word you wrote. I pray God redeems your broken pieces as you share your story so that both you and others will find healing in His arms.
    Thank you, Tina, for bravely sharing your heart at #IntentionalTuesday on Intentionally Pursuing. : )

    1. Thank you so much for hosting #IntentionalTuesday, Crystal. The connections made have been a blessing. And, Thank you for your prayers and heart of encouragement too!

  16. Hi Tina, I’m stopping over from the linkup. As the other comments have already said, your vulnerability and transparency provide such a fertile ground for healing & ministry, not just for you, but for those who’ve gone through a similar experience. I’m saying a prayer right now that God will restore what’s been stolen. I love that regardless of our backgrounds or experiences, God’s pursuit of us remains the same.

  17. Tina,
    Thank you so much for your transparency and vulnerability. Thank you for trusting God with us, to share about this part of your life. You are a strong woman of God and I pray that God continues to use this for your good and His glory.
    Blessings to you sister,
    P.S. I was born in Upstate NY and grew up in Northern NJ. 🙂

    1. I’m blessed by your connection and encouraging words, Stacey. Thank you! To God be the glory. 🙂

      PS: Small world!

  18. Thank you for being willing to share your story. I am so sorry for what you have endured, but I admire your bravery. I am sure God will use your testimony to help others that might be going through something similar. Visiting you from the Intentional Tuesday Link Up.

  19. Thank you for sharing your story. May God use you to speak truth into the hearts of women who have faced abuse time and again. Press on, sweet sister!

    1. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment, Stephanie! I am blessed by our recent connection and your words of encouragement. 🙂

  20. Your bravery and transparency today is exactly what another woman needs to hear. God will use your story to begin the process if healing for others.

    My heart aches for the devastation of the abuse and the manipulation of the abusers. I will be praying for you and others who are experiencing the same things. Blessings!

    1. Prayers are always appreciated, Mary. Thank you! And, Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts. God bless you, Tina

  21. I’m so sorry you had to go through all that, and at the hands of those who called themselves Christians. I think it happens more often than we realize. You are brave to tell your story. Maybe if more are willing to do that, they will finally be heard. What I keep hearing is that the victims are not believed and those who do the abusing go free in so many instances. This is so not right. Much love to you and may God bring healing to you and use your story to help others. I pray God will bless you richly!

    1. You are definitely right, Gayl. I can’t count the amount of women I have recently connected with that have similar stories to tell. I have found healing in bringing the truth to light and by encouraging others to break their silence as well. God has used these moments to teach and strengthen me and I wouldn’t change that for the world. Blessed as always by your encouragement, God bless, Tina.

      1. Tina,
        May God continue to encourage and strengthen you. It is never too late to press charges to stop this if they are hurting others.
        Have a blessed day!

        1. Thank you for your encouraging words, Monica.

          I heard statute of limitations is 5 years from the last incident of abuse or at age 23 if it occurred prior to the victim being 18. That means for me personally, I cannot pursue legal action unless I sued the church directly for knowingly covering up the abuse and enabling it to continue by keeping abusers in a position to abuse. I’ve opted to show grace and forgiveness and use the power of the internet to break the silence about what took place.

          Ultimately, I know God is in control and He is faithful to bring truth to light. I trust His means and timing and I’m blessed to know He shows me the same grace He has shown my abusers.

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