Saturday, July 26, 2008

Kudos to Ben!

SNAP members handed out flyers at a Virginia courthouse yesterday, urging a stiff sentence for admitted Baptist preacher-predator George Lowe. (That’s them in the photo, with SNAP-Virginia leader Becky Ianni second from right.)

Ben Marsh is the courageous man who brought Lowe to justice. (Ben is at the far right.)

Lowe molested Ben two decades ago when Ben was a 15-year-old church boy who had gone to Lowe for counseling.

Several years later, when Ben reported the incidents to a church deacon, he was quoted scripture about Christians not taking other Christians to court.

Then, when he was about 20, Ben contacted the police. But no charges were filed.

Time went by, and Ben struggled with the psychological fall-out from what was done to him by that Baptist minister. It had a profound impact on his life, as clergy abuse does with most people.

Last year, Ben again contacted police. This time, they put a wire on him and Ben went to Lowe’s office to discuss the things that happened years ago.

Lowe’s recorded statements gave police the evidence they needed for indictments. (And Virginia has a better statute of limitations than many states.)

Lowe pleaded guilty to two counts of taking indecent liberties with a child. My guess is that he pleaded guilty in order to avoid prosecution on 7 more counts that were initially charged.

Lowe now faces a possible penalty of 10 years in prison. Sentencing is set for August 25.

The people of Virginia owe Ben Marsh a debt of gratitude. It wasn’t church leaders who worked to protect their kids. It wasn’t Baptist officials who worked to protect their kids. It was a brave and persistent clergy abuse survivor named Ben Marsh.

Kudos to Ben!

See Ben’s picture as a kid in the school band, and read Ben’s own survivor story here.

Write to the judge and urge the maximum sentence for child molester George Lowe: Judge Gordon Willis, Circuit Court, P.O. Box 69, Stafford, Virginia 22555.

Update 9/2/2008: George Lowe was sentenced to 5 years in prison.


gmommy said...

You are the man, Ben!!!
Thank you for having the tenacity and guts to see this thru. You saved other kids from experiencing the trauma this person caused you.

I'm proud for you and so grateful!

Danni said...

May I copy please, Christa?

Christa Brown said...

Danni: Yes, please do.

Anonymous said...

As much as i a non-victim want to help it takes heroes like Ben to make the changes happen. The Christian community has a new victim/saint - Ben!

gmommy said...

Yes John...Ben IS a hero!

Ben's supporters in Memphis will be writing to encourage the judge to make the sentence for this perp count!

Junkster said...

Is the church where Lowe was pastor (Mount Hope Baptist) a Southern Baptist Church? I searched the Internet several ways looking for a denominational affiliation for the church but didn't come across anything definite. Just wondering if the state or national SB conventions claim this guy as one of their ministers and if they have given any response to the situation.

Christa Brown said...

Junkster: As best I can tell, Mount Hope is not an SBC-affiliated church. I think it's affiliated with the Baptist General Convention of Virginia.

Lindon said...

Thank you, Ben. Your actions will protect more children from these monsters who call themselves Christians.

Let's hope he repents behind bars. And stays there.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Christa for posting this. Thank you Ben for your heroic act of courage.

Anonymous said...

I am happy for Ben and what he is able to accomplish--which will ultimately, I am sure, save some kids the horrific experience that is child molestation. However, I am a bit jealous that I have been working for years on a similar issue and have been unable to see the same results.

This is not a slam on Ben, or anyone else who has been successful at getting results. It is just a comment relating to the fact that we have much work left to do. I have realized that I can't kid myself in saying "I've given up" when there is still work to do. I have never given up on anything in my life.

Nevertheless, successes, even in small doses, are still successes and I thank Ben for his tenacity. I pray that God will help me, and all those who are seeking justice in each of our lifetimes.

John Doe

gmommy said...

I appreciate the emotions you have expressed. I think I really understand.
I want to encourage you that you do make a difference by speaking the truth about what happened to you even if you never get to see "justice" done while on this earth.
Your story may keep someone else from thinking they are worthless, or not able to make it another day.
It may open the eyes of a parent or teen or adult. Someone may deal with the secret they've kept inside because you spoke the truth.

All we can do is all we can do.
We really can't be responsible for making sure everyone acts the way we know they should.
You have encouraged me just by what you have posted here.

We can never do the wrong thing by sharing the truth about the devastation of sexual abuse especially and specifically by clergy.
Keep the faith, John. If only one person is helped or protected or encouraged by you...that's really a wonderful thing.
Big hug from your sister in the Relentless Radicals for sharing the truth club!:)

gmommy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Christa Brown said...

John Doe: Please don't feel any guilt about feeling "a bit jealous." It's something I hear often, and it's understandable. For example, I hear from MANY Baptist abuse survivors who express envy of Catholic survivors. Why? Because most U.S. dioceses now have lay-person review boards that facilitate the reporting of abuse. So, they see that those perps are brought into the light of day, and meanwhile, no one seems to give a hoot about the abuse reports of Baptist survivors.

Generally, what the public winds up hearing about are cases that are criminally prosecuted, pursued in a civil lawsuit, or determined by an ecclesiological or denominational process. This is what reporters find easiest to write about, but it's the tip of the iceberg, as you know. Regardless of faith group - whether it's Catholic, Episcoplian, or Presybterian - most cases CANNOT be criminally prosecuted or civilly pursued because of statute of limitations hurdles. But for abuse in other faith groups, reporters are still able to write about the determinations of review boards... which serves to bring those perpetrators into the light of day. That third possibility doesn't exist for Baptists. By refusing to institute the same sorts of review boards that other faith groups have, Baptists essentially assure that most Baptist clergy perpetrators will be able to stay under the radar and that people will not find out about them.

I'm not sure "jealous" is quite the right word. I think it's more a matter of having seen and understood the nature and extent of the problem, and having seen the possibilities of how other faith groups address it. If that's "jealousy" - so be it. But why shouldn't we feel "jealous" and desirous of the same sorts of accountability systems that exist in other faith groups? Baptist survivors struggle and struggle and struggle, and for most of them, their perps stay in the pulpit.

Another reason I hear that many Baptist survivors feel jealous of Catholic survivors is because most Catholic dioceses now provide counseling costs for clergy abuse survivors. But I wind up hearing from people who have literally driven themselves into bankruptcy to pay for their counseling. No one in the faith community helps them. To the contrary, by the time abuse survivors have attempted to deal with the Baptist faith community, they often need even more counseling because they have had so much more hatefulness inflicted on them. I don't think wanting the sort of counseling assistance that other faith groups provide constitutes "jealousy" either. I think it's a matter of self-esteem and of beginning to realize that we, as abuse survivors, are worthy of being treated decently by the faith community instead of being kicked in the teeth. And we've seen that other faith communities are beginning to do that. Why not Baptists?

Danni said...

And just to be completely clear, jealousy is not always a bad trait. God is a jealous God. It depends on what we are jealous of. God is jealous of what is rightfully His. If we are jealous of what is right and righteous - I don't think that's a bad thing.

-- Danni

Anonymous said...

gmommy, Christa, and Danni..

Thank you for yor comments..

The use of the word 'jealous' related to the fact that Ben got results after an apparent lengthy struggle to bring his perpetrator to justice. I want this also.

One of my perpetrators (there were 3 total over a 12-year span--2 sexual, 1 physical/emotional/neglect) was a 42-year southern baptist minister (the one Christa wrote about in March, 2008). When I told my local prosecutor (also a strong southern baptist) the story of this 'preacher', he told me that, based on his experience in prosecuting these type cases for many years that he had NO DOUBT that Emmett Hayslip (my perp) had victimized as many as 100 children, or more, over his lifetime.

Yeah, "jealous".. That is the exact word..

The only punishment this 42-year wolf-in-sheep's-clothing received was termination from his position as Missions Director and he was also stripped of his southern baptist ordination! Nothing else--No charges filed, no conviction, no prison sentence.

He is free to roam, or to hunt. He is free to start a new congregation (which he has). He is free to become the President of the concerned citizens group in his hometown (which he is).. The irony for the latter is that the citizens should be concerned about him... but they aren't.

Oh yeah, he was shunned by a handful of people in his local community when he was fired nearly 12 years ago but those people are few and far between. For most of those who know him, they don't believe he is what he's been accused of..

In fact, it is I who is the pariah in the local community as I should have "kept my mouth shut and not spoke about such things outside the family." This is a small town, mind you--How dare I open my mouth!

It may seem I dwell on these things but I don't. Yet it is there in the recesses of my mind.

I am a funtional survivor... a professional person managing millions of budget dollars and a large staff not to mention the problems of thousands of other people. Does my success make it all go away? No... but I manage.

There need to be many more "Ben" stories yet, unfortunately, the law protects the guilty and the "Ben" stories are few and far between. The end result is that more and more innocent children become victimized. Where is the justice in that?

Thanks for listening..

John Doe

Christa Brown said...

John Doe is talking about this posting from March 2008: "Two letters in a file." I think the saddest part of John Doe's story is how hard he tried, repeatedly over the course of a decade, to get help from the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. He met with Dr. Anthony Jordan, executive director of the BGCO, and he repeatedly wrote to Dr. Jordan. But ultimately, the person who tries to get something done and protect others is the victim himself, John Doe. It's a tragic pattern that we've seen far too often: Baptist high-honchos protect their coffers and their images while the wounded victims try to protect people.

Anonymous said...

John Doe
I am a retired SBC pastor. I now live in NW Arkansas. I am sending you my e-mail address so if there is anything I can do to help you, support you, or go somewhere with you please let me know. I stand with you and ready to assist in any way you suggest.

Anonymous said...

Ben, remember that you are going where many others cannot go because, for various reasons, they cannot get cases into the court system. I'm glad you have succeeded. Thanks so much for your courage.

This month I had the opportunity to go to the national SNAP conference in Chicago. I was very sorry that Christa could not be there to see her name, picture, and accomplishments of this past year--all flashed on the big screen. I wish that all of the Southern Baptist survivors I've heard from through the years could have been there with me. Unfortunately, to my knowledge, only 3 other non-Catholics attended (no Baptists).

HOWEVER, I have written extensive notes from some of the fine speeches at the conference. Posted them on my own blog for all to see. Look for the dates from July 12 and continue reading through Aug. 21 to see the coverage that's reflected there. Also, Ben, you and anyone else is most welcome to contact me. I've been working as a "messenger" to the SBC in this work since 1993 and have just recently had a lengthy article (due out in October) that's being published by Christian Ethics Today on my reaction to the speech made by Chapman at this year's Convention.

Kudos to Ben and everyone on this intergenerational work that can be so rewarding in spite of the discouragement.

Anonymous said...

Good job Ben!! Immediate civil restraint still works better. We need to understand that those who can't restrain themselves need to be under civil restraint. If some thinks that one should "judge not lest", they need to understand the Sermon on the Mount again as it relates to the Torah. Also, he spoke to an audience as a whole.

Anonymous said...

Also Ben should recieve much financial compensation for the trauma ove rthe last twenty years for what Lowe put him through.