Tenancingo: Home Grown Sexual Abusers

Trucking had always been a dream of mine. I’ve always liked operating heavy machinery and traveling, so trucking was a natural fit. I drove truck coast to coast for one year in between college and seminary, while I was still single. My first time across the Rockies was in a bad snow storm. Dropping down a hill in a semi truck from 11,000 feet when it’s hammering snow is quite an experience! What makes it more adventurous is looking down and seeing other tractor trailers that have careened off the interstate to the bottom of ravines from years past. It’s an eerie feeling to see multiple unrecovered trucks at the bottom of a mountain. Once a truck has fallen so far, it’s impossible to tow it back up to the top of a mountain, so many of them end up being left there permanently.

I believe evil is the same way. Once someone has fallen so far down, it becomes impossible to tow them back to the top. I had a Bible professor who has another helpful analogy called the “chained dog” theory. Evil is like a dog that’s chained up. It has boundaries set by God. Evil still exists, but the chain restricts evil’s reach. We can either stay outside of evil’s reach, or we can taunt it and risk it latching on to us and dragging us deeper into its territory. Have any of you ever been to a place that is so dark, you can “feel” the evil?
chained dog

God warned the Israelites, “But be sure to fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you. Yet if you persist in doing evil, both you and your king will be swept away” (1 Samuel 12:24-25 NIV). Romans 12:21 says, “Do not be overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good.” The Bible mentions evil and its variants (evils, evildoer, etc.) just shy of 500 times. There is a consistent message throughout the Bible that many Christians deny. . . there is a level of evil that creates a suction point, a trap, a point of no return.

The small town of Tenancingo, Mexico is one of these places. It is the breeding ground for a major pedophile ring and sex trafficking to the United States. Young children are saying that they want to be like their dads and sell women for sex. There is no remorse, and darkness plagues the town. Psychologists are divided on what “makes” a perpetrator act out on very young children. Is it psychological factors, environmental, genetic, addictions to pornography, etc.? To be fair, nobody really knows for sure. If we are honest, we would admit that there are many hidden factors, both in the brain and in the home, that we will probably never figure out as far as causality. But one thing we can probably all agree on is that perpetrators who sexually act out on children are committing an evil. And once you begin messing with the dog, eventually it’s going to bite. And in Tenancingo, the dog has claimed its territory and is dragging people all over the place. I highly recommend watching this documentary on Tanancingo’s trafficking of sex slaves to the US. It is worth every minute.
****WARNING: We need people to watch this and raise awareness that this stuff happens all the time****

So what’s my point? Or rather, what’s God’s point? At the top of the list, remember the old saying, “If you play with fire you’re bound to get burned?” Well, if you play with evil, you’re bound to get bit. According to Scripture, we’ve all done evil. But it’s the perpetual toying with it that leads to the point of no return. There is, however, great news in all of this. For those who struggle with pedophilic thoughts at a younger age, rehabilitation is quite successful. I’d encourage parents who have allegations come against their children to not be so quick to defend them. Rather, get them the help they need.

I’ve received several phone calls with similar scenarios–a 13-15 year old boy was inappropriately saying things, doing things, or was infatuated with young children. And in all the cases (so far), the parents or guardians defended the perpetrator, not the alleged victims. Folks, if you see your child getting too close to a chained dog, don’t tell everyone else to buzz off. Help pull your child from that evil. Seek professional guidance from a sex-specific therapist. Help your child get out before it is too late. The more children learn to keep this a secret, the more they will be emboldened to act out. Help them get out. Help them find a way to deal with their attraction and aggression toward younger children. Love does not defend evil. It helps pull people from it before they become so debased that they cannot stop.

Child Sex Trafficking In the Church

Amber Lyon did a great documentary a few years back called Child Sex Trafficking on the Internet–“Selling the Girl Next Door.” Take time to watch it. This is a must watch. She talks firsthand with the Johns who were caught buying underage girls for sex. She also speaks with young girls being trafficked. Underage girls are being sold for sex every day by the thousands on backpage.com. I’ve checked out backpage.com myself and there is no hiding it. It took me less than 30 seconds to find hundreds of young girls for sale.

The internet has accelerated the sex slave industry in more than a few ways. First of all, instant accessibility to thousands of children being sold online has made it too easy for predators to offend. In the documentary, Amber posted a picture of her in her 2 piece when she was 14 along with an ad for sex. Within 4 minutes of posting the ad she began getting bombarded with calls from men wanting sex, knowing she was (though only posing as) underage. Second, social networking has provided unlimited access of public pictures of young children, allowing predators to troll for the children of their choice so that they can feed their fantasy. See my Facebook: Playground for Pedophiles to see how prevalent this is. Finally, the internet provides an “escape,” a place where people can hide dirty little secrets and remain completely anonymous.

In Amber’s documentary, you’ll find what should be common sense to us all–prostitutes don’t enjoy doing what they do! As she interviews hookers at the Moonlite Bunny Ranch brothel in Nevada, it becomes apparent through the tears that it’s a less than desirable “job.” As one prostitute weeps, she recounts her childhood molestation, “Virginity wasn’t an option where I came from. It was taken from me. When you get in the game and someone wants to sleep with you for money, and you’ve already lost your virginity, it’s like, ‘Why not?. . . Why not?’. . . . . Sex is not as sacred as it once was.” Dennis Hof, owner of the brothel, tells Amber why pimps seek young children to be trafficked–“They’re easily manipulated.” I interviewed former porn star Crissy Moran last year and asked her if she believed that the statistics are true that up to 90% of women in the sex industry have been sexually abused as children. Crissy said, “I definitely believe it’s true. The women in this industry are very broken.” Crissy herself had been sexually abused multiple times as a very young child. Living in a Christian home, virginity was idolized. When that was taken from Crissy at a young age, she too thought this of the idea of selling her body for money–“Why not?”

The maddening thing for me is that many of (if not the majority of) these women who were sexually abused as children were abused by trusted church members. This makes church one of the largest sex trafficking vehicles in the country. You may think I’m exaggerating, but everywhere I travel I’m told countless stories from survivors whose virginity was stolen from them at a young, young age. Heck, I don’t even have to travel to hear stories of sex abuse in the church. Several of my friends locally tell me story after story of sex abuse that has happened in their churches. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to make people fearful of churches or paint the idea that Christians are creeps. I’m a minister myself and I believe it’s the faith community that should be stepping up to turn this problem around. But to live in denial is the best way to ensure that the church’s trafficking of children continues. I can’t emphasize enough how prevalent abuse is in the church. And believe me, it’s not just Catholics.

I hope that I can shed a light on this atrocious evil that is being done in secret in the name of God. It’s not funny. It’s not something that happens every once in a while. It’s not something to take lightly. I leave in 2 days to conduct a seminar on abuse at a church in Michigan. I’ve already heard stories of saddening abuse from people who will be there and I will hear several more from people in my audience. It happens everywhere I speak. It is our job as Christians to “have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible” (Ephesians 5:11-14 NIV). Folks, it’s time we get out the spotlights! Tell your church leaders that this problem is real, that it happens all the time, and that we won’t stand for the church being silent on the sex trafficking of our young children.

Be sure to check out Amber’s video:

Exploited Children in Churches and How Our Denial Fuels Abuse

Surprisingly, I had never heard of the televangelist sensation Todd Bentley until a friend of mine showed me an outrageous Youtube video (thanks, John!). Known as the “BAM, BAM, BAM” faith healer with hundreds of thousands of followers”1, Todd is known for outrageous claims and violence on stage.

Though I believe that Todd is an embarrassment to Christianity and everything that Jesus stands for, the purpose of this blog is not to poke fun at Pentecostals. There are plenty of genuine Pentecostal/Charismatic believers who openly distance themselves from Todd and others. The purpose is, however, to generally demonstrate how easy it is for people to be blinded, manipulated, and groomed into believing the unbelievable while denying the reality of sexual abuse.

I admit that I am, as millions of other viewers are, intrigued with Todd Bentley. It is easy to get sucked into his videos because of the entertainment and shock value. But I have a tendency to profile nearly everyone and the more I watched Mr. Bentley, the more I began to see major red flags common to pedophiles–narcissism, the ability to quickly groom a crowd and gain trust, intentionally and unapologetically crossing boundaries (there is a video of Todd kicking a man with stage 4 colon cancer in the gut and the man falls over in pain), offering unwanted rewards, too helpful, too eager to be around children, too aggressive when confronted, too good to be true, etc.

It didn’t take but a few minutes to find that Todd has a dark past and has spent time in prison as a juvenile for sexually assaulting a 7 year old boy. “They were sexual crimes,” Bentley admits. “I was involved in a sexual assault ring. I turned around and did what happened to me. I was assaulted too.” “I don’t like to talk about it publicly because it would hurt [my ministry],” he concedes. “I don’t whip it out in the newspapers or on TV because people will go ‘Whaaa?’ I’ll say ‘I was in prison, period. Let’s move on.’”2 It is subtle and most people miss it, but narcissists begin most statements with “I.” Not only that, but when Todd speaks, the focus is all about Todd. “I” don’t like to talk about it. It would hurt “my” ministry. Sounds like a repentant sinner. . . or does it? Contrast him with King David, a truly remorseful sinner: “For I am ready to fall, and my pain is ever before me. I confess my iniquity; I am sorry for my sin” (Psalm 38:17-18 ESV). Never mind, though, that a 7 year old boy has to live the rest of his days with the shame and guilt that “you” placed on him Mr. Bentley. We wouldn’t want that to get in the way of your ministry.

The fact that Todd admits “I turned around and did what happened to me” would turn the head of every professional psychologist who works with pedophiles, and it should church leaders as well. That fact is vital for public disclosure, since adult pedophiles, who were themselves molested as children more than 50 times, begin assaulting others at a much younger age (Todd Bentley was 14 when he assaulted the 7 year old) and they commit well over 100 more acts of abuse as non-abused molesters (Gene Abel, The Stop Child Molestation Book, pg. 321). Todd admits that he was part of a sexual assault ring, which implies this was not a one time event that happened to him. If Todd was abused more than 50 times, and if he had objective testing by a sex-specific therapist showing that he is sexually attracted to children, he is by clinical definitions a potential lethal weapon to children. But he will never submit to testing, nor will any church demand he be tested. Mr. Bentley, who divorced his wife in 2008 following an inappropriate relationship with his current wife, says that the subject of his past sexual assaults on children is “dead and buried to me.”3

Surely this stance is unacceptable to people who look up to Todd, right? When pastor Denny Cline of Albany, OR, who happens to consider himself a “spiritual son” of Todd Bentley, was asked about Todd’s past abuse with children, he replied, “I don’t think he told me that, but it wouldn’t have mattered anyway. It wouldn’t have mattered in regards to what he is doing now, and the person that he is now…If he’s paid his debt to society and God’s forgiven him of everything, then who am I not to forgive?” “4

It wouldn’t have mattered anyway? To who? To the multiple young boys I’ve seen in Youtube videos with Bentley wrapping his grubby arms around them on stage as he nonchalantly caresses their shoulders? Should it matter to their parents who either blindly, like pastor Cline and God TV 5, ignore the fact that Bentley has a past of sexual assaults on a young boy, or who don’t know because Bentley insists on hiding it?

We parents and church leaders further exploit children by denying that abuse is going on in the churches. Children are extremely susceptible to suggestion, vulnerable, and malleable. Before blindly shoving our children into the hands of trusted church leaders, we ought to ask very hard questions and demand transparency. I close with a disturbing clip of Chris Harvey, a friend of Todd Bentley who put on quite the show when visiting Bentley at a Florida revival, tapping into the susceptibility of very young children. Shame on us when people like this go unquestioned by others:

How Should Christians Treat Repentant Pedophiles?

On September 13, 2009 a small church in Louisville ordained a registered sex offender as a minister of the Gospel. The man was a “changed man,” they demanded. I personally think this was a foolish decision, for a host of reasons. But questions abound on the internet from churches asking what to do with registered sex offenders who wind up on their steps and in their pews. It’s a fair question. I live in a small town with two (yes, two!) state prisons and believe me, we do get released prisoners to show up, desperate for any help they can get. If you have followed my blog at all, you’ll know that pedophiles are just like you and me on the outside–they are educated, religious, productive, sophisticated, warm, and trustworthy. But what lies beneath the skin is a genuine sexual attraction to children. Because we cannot see this attraction, we tend to listen to the kind, charismatic words and see the gentleness they exude. We view these people for what we see at face value–as the kind old man who is warm and nice to our kids at church. We don’t want to fathom that someone could ever think of a child in that way, let alone act out on it. But they do. Ask my friend Les Ferguson. He describes his son’s molester as a kind family friend. A kind man who did unimaginable things behind closed doors and then murdered Les’ wife and son.

I’m currently reading Jaycee Dugard’s memoir A Stolen Life. If you have not read it, get it today and read it. I mean it. Get. The. Book. Enter into the bedroom of a victim before rushing to embrace the “repentant” pedophile. The psychological abuse always accompanies the sexual abuse. God bless Jaycee. She holds nothing back. What I read last night made it difficult for me to fall asleep. Unimaginable. I am still haunted by the things this “nice man,” as she describes him in the book,” named Philip Garrido did to her–for 18 hellish years. I’m haunted by the things my dad, whom I always trusted and respected, did to young children. I still can’t wrap my mind around it all.

I admire churches who trust that people have truly repented, I really do. But pedophilia is a very complex issue and even the greatest professional people in the field of psychology have been repeatedly fooled. One area that churches need to become familiar with is recidivism (relapse) rates among pedophiles, because you can rest assured that they will use the statistical data to help their case. There are a number of common actuarial instruments currently used that gage risk in incarcerated sex offenders. The Stable and Static99 are 2 common instruments that are used. Without getting too technical, these instruments are touted as being wonderful guides to tell us whether “reformed” pedophiles will reoffend. Despite what you will hear from people who administer the tests, they are definitely not reliable for predicting whether a sex offender will reoffend. In fact, Dr. Anna Salter says this: “They do not measure the risk of reoffending; they measure the likelihood of getting caught. No instruments are able to measure the risk of reoffending, because there is no access to offenders who continue to offend but who do not get caught” (annasalter.com, “What Does Static99 Really Measure?).

The recidivism rate among registered sex offenders is lower than most other crimes, at less than 10%. So most people get a false sense that, because the recidivism rates are low, sex offenders really have an epiphany of sorts and have “learned their lesson” from spending hard time in prison. This couldn’t be further from the truth. I spoke with Dr. Salter directly and asked her what her thoughts were on why recidivism rates were so low among sex offenders (she is highly respected in the field of treating pedophiles, is a Harvard PhD, and has been in the field for over 30 years). She told me that several studies show that sex offenders have about a 3% chance of ever getting caught for any one offense against a child. She told me, “In my experience, that number (3%) is probably high. They just don’t get caught.” Reassuring, isn’t it?

Before churches swing open their doors and criticize people for standing in the way of repentant sinners, remember that there is no other sin in this category of such deep secrecy. It is the most successfully hidden secret and should be treated as such. Simply because someone says they don’t offend kids anymore doesn’t mean they aren’t actually doing it. One site asked the question (I can’t remember the source), “If a pilot told you that the plane previously had mechanical problems but they’re pretty sure there’s now only a 40% chance that there will be an immediate mechanical failure, would you feel comfortable flying?” Let’s factor in what we know about Gene Abel’s study and Anna Salter’s experience–that pedophiles only have a 3% chance of getting caught for any one offense. Here’s what that would look like:

“Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain. We just spotted some thugs dressed in black masks with a mechanic’s bag running from underneath the plane. According to our instruments, there’s a 97% chance that they secretly sabotaged this plane and badly damaged major components in the hydraulics and main computer. We should be cleared for takeoff in about 3 minutes, so make sure your seatbelts are fastened and enjoy the ride.” Any normal person would be jumping out the window to get off that plane.

So, when we know what we know about recidivism rates, when we know what we know about pedophiles avoiding getting caught at all costs, when we know that there is no cure for pedophilia, and when we know that it is extremely difficult to control pedophiles even after years of therapy, that should change our perspective on repentance. We should now be the passengers on the plane saying, “Something doesn’t feel right; it’s not safe to fly.” Paul preached all over that people should “perform deeds in keeping with their repentance” (Acts 26:20 ESV).

Repentance needs to be proved. A repentant pedophile will perform deeds by demanding that he not be near children again. A repentant pedophile doesn’t ask for pictures (no matter how innocent they seem) of any children. A repentant pedophile will renounce any internet use for the rest of his life, since pornography and fantasy drive them to their core. A repentant pedophile will not happily accept a role as minister where people now look to him as a spiritual leader of old and, yes even very young, people. A repentant pedophile will make sure that his presence is not traumatizing to survivors of child sex abuse in the congregation. And if it is, he will gladly find another church and not put up a fight. A repentant pedophile will not ask church members if he can babysit their kids. Please beware of these things and let’s work together to make our churches safe.

There’s a Pedophile In My Church: What Now?

This is a question that is not uncommon for me to get. Minister friends of mine desperately ask what they should do when a known pedophile is in their congregation. One friend told me, “We have two known pedophiles in our small church and we have a very real threat of several families leaving as a result. What do we do?” To compound the problem, I ask the question: “What should we do about the unknown pedophiles in our churches?” The real threat is not whether those families will leave the church. No, the real threat is that the church, if no policy to protect children is in place, is at great risk of having children sexually assaulted. The statistics are alarming, no matter which study you look at. People who molest only have about a 3% chance of ever getting caught (Dr. Gene Abel). They are hiding (quite well) and offending in our churches. And there are lots of them. But wouldn’t a victim tell if he was being abused by a trusted church member? Most likely not. A 2005 study (London et al.) which surveyed 10 other studies shows that only 12%-18% of sexual abuse is ever reported to authorities. Of those 12%-18% cases that are reported, most will never be investigated.

At any rate, what of the pedophiles, rare as it may be, who repent of their sins and ask for forgiveness? Isn’t that enough? Doesn’t the Bible simply tell us to forgive and move on? Why dwell on the sins of the past? When leaders are faced with this issue, should the pedophile stay or should he go? Too many well-intentioned church leaders have been conned into believing that pedophilia is as benign as dropping the occasional “f-bomb.” Or they have a significant deficit of knowledge and experience in understanding how serious pedophilia is. They simplistically view it as a “wrong vs. right” issue, as if they were dealing with someone who cut another off in traffic. And when the offender asks for (or sometimes demands) forgiveness, it’s suddenly treated as an issue that’s as simple as asking the offender to not commit that sin anymore. This is most notable with known offending priests who are put into sex rehab then transferred to the next diocese and given more unguarded access to children. It’s strange to me when strong sympathies lie with the offender instead of the victim. I once had a therapist tell me how pedophiles get a bad wrap, and to a large degree this is true but they also have worked very hard to get themselves there. He went on to tell me that they are mistreated by having to register as sex offenders, marking them for life. “Pedophiles,” he lamented to me, “are not welcome in churches either.”

But what about the victims, I thought? In my entire conversation with him, ironically he never mentioned how bad of a wrap victims of abuse have it. He never mentioned that they are marked for life, and that many victims of child sex abuse often become victims of teen and adult rape, prostitution, drug abuse, depression, PTSD, guilt, sexual displeasure or dissociation during sex, shame, failed marriages, or worse. He never mentioned that many victims are plagued with affective flashbacks–where a trigger such as a certain smell, noise, or touch on the shoulder can inadvertently cause them to remember their young bodies being violated as if they were actually experiencing it in that moment. Affective flashbacks can happen at any time–at the dentist’s office (a dentist opening the mouth often triggers affective flashbacks for victims who were repeatedly forced to perform oral sex), in the shower, at church–and most often the survivor doesn’t even know why she is having vivid and grotesque images of her childhood abuse. There is no controlling it. There is no “snapping out of it.” There is no “just getting over it.” It just happens. And it haunts the mind. Victims and survivors of abuse are the forgotten souls. To be sure, since my father’s arrest and subsequent sentence of 30-60 years, I’ve had many concerned people ask me, “How’s your dad doing?” Oddly, I’ve been asked once, “How are your dad’s victims doing?”

Worse, still, are the stories I hear of churches quoting Matthew 5:39 to victims of abuse: “But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.” The minister goes on: “Young lady, God says that to the measure you forgive you will be forgiven.” One pedophile bragged online of his biological daughter, “She loved it (the stimulation of her genitals) so much that her face turned blood red! She looked like she was about to pop!” His daughter was 2 years old. How, church leaders, do we expect survivors of abuse to sing “God Is So Good” while we tower over them and demand that God will judge them if they don’t “forgive and forget” their abuser?

So what do we do when a known pedophile is in our congregation? It depends. I’m talking here of pedophiles who make it known, or it becomes known by some other source, that they have already been investigated or convicted. Should an accusation come up about a suspected pedophile in the church, always report it to authorities for them to investigate the allegation. It’s the law. Never do an internal investigation. But in dealing with already-convicted pedophiles who find their way to your church, this is a deep theological question that cannot be reduced to a few bullet points. I’m still wrestling with finding proper tension between the abuser and the abused. Each congregation is different, but the one constant that should remain the same is this: Do what is in the best interest of victims and/or adult survivors of sexual abuse in your congregation. If they are able to speak, listen to their voices. Learn from them. Try to understand what they have been through and that many of them may have been severely traumatized. This was not a slap on the cheek. It was abuse. Gross abuse of the worst kind. And it probably didn’t happen just once. Victims in our congregations need to hear from the pulpit that we preachers don’t stand for abuse and that they are safe in our congregations.

Second, have a clear safety policy in place. Should the known pedophile stay, absolute conditions need to be placed upon him unapologetically. Pedophilia does not go away simply because one has publicly repented. There is no cure for it. Pedophilia can be controlled. It can never be cured. There need to be crystal clear boundaries. The pedophile should never have any access to any children whatsoever–this includes outside church activities as well. And this is for the remainder of his life. One friend told me that at their church they have designated men who escort a known pedophile anywhere he goes in the church building. He is not allowed to sit in a pew with children or have any physical contact with children. This is a good policy, and one that first takes the protection of children into consideration. Other people may judge this as overkill, but other people have not had their children brutally violated either. Churches are very high risk places for sexual abuse because most people are trusting and would never dream of someone abusing a child in broad daylight, especially at church.

Third, assemble a group or committee to research abuse. Know the signs to look for in an abuser. Know the signs to look for in a victim. Education is a great beginning because we cannot be vigilant if we don’t know what we are watching for. I’ve read about 30 books and countless articles on the subject so far and have listed some of the most helpful books in my resources page. This would be a great starting place.

Finally, never mistake forgiveness with trust. Forgiveness should never be demanded of victims of abuse. They have been to hell and back and it may take years and years until they are ready to begin forgiving. If others in the church can forgive an offender, they should never equate forgiveness with trust. They are two different things altogether. And the one who can forgive (especially a non-victim) should never expect a victim to forgive just because he was able to. To do so will only lead to revictimization.