Open letter to Southern Baptists by sexual abuse ‘overcomer’
By Jane Brown
Special to TAB Media
EDITOR’S NOTE — After following the news of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee’s ongoing discussions in relation to the Sexual Abuse Task Force and its investigation, Jane Brown, a retired Alabama Baptist music minister, reached out to TAB Media to share her story.
“Perhaps I have waited to tell my story ‘for such a time as this,’” said Brown, who lives in Mobile.
“I have chosen not to let a very hurtful time in my life define who I am. Rather, I want my relationship with Jesus to be what defines my life, not as a ‘survivor,’ but rather an overcomer.”
Jane’s letter reads in part:
I find myself writing this letter with a plethora of emotions. In 2019, a friend sent me a link to the series the Houston Chronicle published on “Abuse of Faith.” This friend had no knowledge of my own past experience.
As I sat reading and sobbing, the flow of tears now blurring the words, my own story began playing on the screen of my mind.
Nearly 60 years ago
The article states, “In the past 20 years, a disturbing number of Southern Baptists with formal church roles have engaged in sexual misconduct.” But my story says NO. This pattern began long before that … when I was a 15-year-old in 1962 … at the hands of a trustee serving on one of our SBC entity boards.
My heart was crying for those 700 girls who had suffered in silence thinking the same thing. But even greater than the sorrow was the righteous indignation that if what happened to me had not been … buried … in the name of “protecting the testimony of the church,” how many women would have been spared?
Instead, they are forever living with those memories not only to protect the church, but more importantly to leaders of the past … and the name of … the SBC.
I write in hopes of helping you understand that because my abuse involved an SBC leader … who served in other high-profile positions, there was no accountability, and immunity was freely given.
As my parents and I navigated the legal system behind secretive closed doors, we learned there was another victim. This same man had molested another teenage girl 17 years earlier, who was quietly relocated with her family to another state.
Meanwhile, my abuser’s positions continued to grow. This man (now deceased) was the husband of my [Girls in Action] leader at the prominent church in Nashville where we were members. He began his abuse at a GA sleepover and continued for several months, even once taking me to another state. He threatened me if I told anyone.
When my abuse came to light, my family found ourselves in a legal conference room where mediation was to be “worked out.” I sat in total fear and amazement as my abuser tried to weave his story to be my fault. However, after that meeting, he stalked my home. … Nothing was ever reported, and the police did nothing to protect me.
Three months later I turned 16, took an early entrance exam to college and moved to Birmingham to start school. … On several occasions … he drove from Nashville to intimidate me. The police in Birmingham were willing to grant a restraining order against him.
As a result, he asked for forgiveness for becoming a victim and secured immediate restoration at church, the same church that 17 years earlier had stood by him rather than his victim. He also continued in all of his SBC-related roles.
Family asked to leave
My family lost our church home. My parents were never able to find a church that felt like home again, haunted by the embarrassment and heartache that accompanied our experience. A number of years later, the pastor at the time of my abuse visited my father and apologized for what he had been told to do.
I truly want to see our great denomination be willing to confront this issue and accept the responsibility of the shame and blame put on me and all these precious young victims that have come since. I want to see us move forward to do whatever possible to protect our children and youth from the hurt and pain Satan is constantly seeking to inflict.
For the first time … I have hope in regards to this issue. I pray God’s wisdom and blessings on you as you work to solve this problem.