It’s Our Problem, Too: Sexual Abuse in the Evangelical ChurchFeatured, Social Justice — By Carole Smith Turner on December 3, 2010 at 8:00 am
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.