It’s Our Problem, Too: Sexual Abuse in the Evangelical Church

Featured, Social Justice — By on December 3, 2010 at 8:00 am

The Boys of Plank Road

In October four young men accused Atlanta bishop Eddie Long of sexual abuse. The men’s sworn statements, which said that Bishop Long insisted they call him “daddy” while using them for sex, is disturbing. If he is guilty of what they are charging, then Bishop Long needs to spend many years in jail.

The American church has a problem that is getting worse and has not been addressed effectively – that problem is preachers having sex with boys. Protestants, especially Evangelicals, talk easily about the Catholic priests who molest kids, but three major insurance companies say they receive 260 reports each year of minors being sexually abused by Protestant clergy, staff, or other church-related relationships. While researching this article I found this list of protestant ministers arrested for sexual crimes, over half of them with boys, and Wikipedia’s list of Evangelical church scandals, which contains several high profile evangelicals who have been accused of sexual relationships with boys or other men. Most of these men contend that they are not gay; they have wives, and even after being caught, or after a victim passes a polygraph test, they maintain that they are heterosexual.

I was shocked the first time I saw the boys, dressed as women, standing on the corners of Plank Road. I had been doing street outreach to prostitutes and pimps for a couple years, but I had never seen the “Hollywood” street walker scene. You know, the prostitutes decked out in heavy make up, sexy clothes, and high heels, leaning into a car window talking to a potential john. That wasn’t how it was here in south Louisiana. Prostitutes walked alone, never wore heels, and they looked like anyone else walking on the street, except usually thinner and more drugged-out looking. So seeing the boys of Plank Road in full drag, decked out in heels, spandex, wigs, bathing suits, full make up, standing in groups of three to five – that was shocking. Of course as we approached them we had no idea they were all men. Some of them you could tell, but most you couldn’t. We handed them a Hygiene bag and they took it very suspiciously. Over the last year we have had many different reactions from them. Some say they are coming to church. I make sure they know they can come just as they are. Others are cold toward us, many of them ask for condoms. One night their madam (yes, a lady, who looks like a mom next door, not like a madam) got upset with us because we didn’t have condoms. She wouldn’t let us approach the boys.

Working in the neighborhoods around where the boys prostitute, I have found out where they live and how old they are. Most of them are between 15 and 17 years old. We have gone by their house several times during the day with snacks, drinks and invites to a free cafe.

The boys are out every night of the week. I have seen them working the corner at 1 a.m. on a Tuesday night. I’ve watched older men in nice vehicles pick up one of the boys for sex. When the corners are empty, or just a few are out, it’s because the others are off in a car servicing a man. They stay busy. Who is it that keeps them so busy every night of the week? Who are the john’s that are purchasing sex from these boys?

Lets be real: cute little girls who are being sexually abused break our hearts. Delicate teenage girls or young women who are being abused by ministers cause us to get angry and do something,  as we should. But a six foot tall black teenage boy dressed as a woman doesn’t exactly make us feel as sorry for them. Eddie Long’s accusers are being treated like they are trying to extort money from a “man of God’. That is one reason why this continues in our churches. Male teenage victims of sexual abuse are shunned rather then helped, because the church doesn’t know how to deal with it. Preachers who are involved in same sex relationships or encounters know they can’t say they struggle with same sex attraction or temptation. They certainly can’t confess to engaging in a same sex encounter because they know they would lose everything and be labeled as homosexual. So they continue to have sexual encounters with boys and men in secret, the allegations continue to surface,  more lives are destroyed, and the church shoves its head deeper into the sand.

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  • Ines says:

    This breaks my heart. Thank you for bringing awareness about this issue.

  • EmilyTimbol says:

    This was a great piece, & I agree that too many times peoples sympathies are blinded by gender. However, I think we need to be very careful not to imply that any man who “struggles” with same sex attraction is attracted to young boys. That’s not homosexuality, it’s pedophilia, and the two are not related.

  • I believe that many things contribute to this behavior. First, pornography, second, most Johns don’t know that they boy they are getting sex from is underage, the boys tell the john whatever age they want to hear. Third, any married preacher, Christian leader, etc that struggles with any sexual issue, same sex, porn, whatever, is not free to talk about it in church, secrets eat us from the inside out and cause actions we would never think we were capable of and in this case, maybe it leads to renting boys for sex.

    • Edmund Dantes says:

      I couldn’t disagree more with attributing this sort of behavior with pornography. Porn has a laundry list of problems, but it is a symptom as well, not a cause in and of itself. Porn for these sorts of things grows out of the same desires that the actual action does, but that correlation does not equal causation.

      Again, not justifying porn, there are a great number of problems with it, but American porn consumption is great and a great number of those consuming it do not go out to purchase underage prostitutes.

      I cannot stress enough: correlation does not equal causation.

  • Edmund, in my experience working with prostitutes, pimps and people in the sex trade industry, you are very incorrect.

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