Saturday, August 29, 2009

Basically brainwashing

Last Thursday, the longtime music minister of First Baptist Church of Benton, Arkansas, was convicted of sexual indecency with children. One of David Pierce’s many victims, now in his late 20s, shared his story publicly. His words are eloquent. With slight editing for length, I am posting them nearly in their entirety, as they were reported in the Benton Courier.

“David started showing an interest in me and a couple of my friends. He always had a group of three guys he was pretty close to. He told us Jesus had the 12 disciples, but there were three he was closest to ... that was his justification for choosing three.”

This was how Pierce “sold it,” the victim said. “It was a cool deal to have this person you looked up to spiritually and musically showing special interest in you. We started going to lunch and going on drives. It was all innocent at first.

“Then we started having what he called accountability time together,” he said. “David called it ‘the four S’s.’ He would check us spiritually, scholastically, socially and sexually.

“The longer this went on, the more attention he paid to us sexually,” he said. “The questions became more pointed and much more detailed as things progressed. This led to pretty detailed conversations about masturbation, which evolved into some of the more inappropriate things. ...

“This was a very systematic process and was basically brainwashing. ...

It was probably ninth grade when it started to really get inappropriate, such as the ‘charting’ thing. This started innocently — he would measure our height and weight, just to see how we had grown and matured — and he would record it just to compare us as we got older and against each other. This developed into measuring our private parts, which led to a kind of mutual masturbation.

“He would say things like ‘We’ve already done this. I can measure you, and we might as well finish. He would watch us and then he would do his thing.”

While this activity was taking place, pornography was displayed on the church computer, the man said.

“Once this started, this went on for years. Even after I was out of high school, it continued to occur. We would take fishing trips on the river — sometimes just David and me or sometimes him with two of us or sometimes with all three of us.

“I knew at the time there were both younger and older guys involved, too, because of the charting and things he would say.

“We’ll never know how many guys were affected — dozens, maybe triple digits — some who either don’t want to talk about it or can’t.”

Ironically, the man said, Pierce never told any of the boys not to tell anybody. “He never had to. He was so good at what he did. I honestly believe the guy is a sociopath.

At the time [the man] married . . . he hadn’t dealt with the problem. “I don’t think I was allowing myself to deal with it. ... When I was older, it finally hit me, but then it took me a couple of years of internally realizing that something wasn’t right before I could come forward.”

By that time, the incidents had passed the prosecutorial statute of limitations.

“It’s affected every facet of my life, especially the last two or thee years, and more especially the last nine months have been really difficult.

“I was always very involved in church. Everybody that David chose was involved in church. He chose leaders in youth group, young people involved in the spiritual community of Saline County and at school, which was a pretty devious plan on his part. He knew that we wouldn’t say anything about what happened to us. ...

“My wife and I went to First Baptist for several years. She didn’t know why I didn’t want to go ... or why I was miserable when I did go. She didn’t know that I was having to look at this guy up on the stage leading the music and knowing what he did to me. ... It had a big negative effect on my spiritual life.” …

Though he’s currently taking a break from counseling, he says it will resume. “I think it will probably continue for the rest of my life.”

He said there’s no way to accurately describe the effects of his abusive relationship with Pierce.

“Every single relationship you have is affected: relationships with your family, with co-workers, the ability to do your job . . . . You relive it every time something new happens. ... Different people deal with this kind of thing in different ways — some choose substance abuse; some have failed marriages; some will move away.

“I’ve been lucky,” he said. “There’s been no substance abuse, no failed marriage . . . but that doesn’t mean there haven’t been other issues. It’s like putting it away in a filing cabinet. ... I didn’t want to allow anyone to get close to me. . . . and it’s hard to have good relationships when you can’t be a caring person.

“My wife and I are working through it and probably will be for the rest of our lives. Everyone has issues. ... Unfortunately, some of us, because of David Pierce, have bigger issues to deal with.”

He acknowledged that there are people outside the local community who don’t understand how Pierce could have victimized so many boys for so long.

“They don’t realize that David was not only a pillar of the church but also a pillar of Saline County. He was probably among the top 10 of the most-respected people here.”

People also wonder how the abuse went on so long without anyone finding out, he said. “They ask why the parents didn’t tell their children this behavior was wrong. ... Well, yes, they did. People would be very surprised at some of the families we come from. They’re some of the most educated, well-respected people around, and some are well off. They’re all good parents who taught their children that things like this were wrong, but when you’re dealing with someone of David Pierce’s stature, all bets are off. There’s no way to raise a child to deal with someone like that. ...

As far as the man knows, most of the boys chosen by Pierce were abused for years.

“There may have been some guys stronger, who were able to put a stop to it sooner, but most couldn’t. For me, it’s been a long, drawn-out process.”

He said he doesn’t blame people who have defended Pierce. “It’s easy to be on the outside looking in. Some of them say the punishment is harsh, it’s too much, it’s going overboard, that we should forgive and forget and move on. ... But I would urge those people to consider that there are those of us that don’t have the luxury of being on the outside looking in.

“What they don’t realize is that for the rest of our lives when we hear of a case involving a minister or priest who has sexually abused children, these memories will come flooding back. Ideally, we’ll get better at it with time. ...

He said he doesn’t know how this tragedy could have been prevented.

“I don’t think it could have other than somebody coming forward sooner. Sometimes you hear that there were incidents reported and a congregation didn’t do anything about it for years. ... For me, I can’t allow myself to believe somebody in authority knew something before now and said nothing.

“Background checks are important, but that wouldn’t have stopped David Pierce,” the victim said. “David’s background check wouldn’t have shown anything.”

I sympathize greatly with this survivor’s statement that “I can’t allow myself to believe somebody in authority knew something before now and said nothing.” That is a reality that no one ever wants to believe, not even the victims themselves. Why? Because it feels far safer to believe in the reality of a single individual who did terrible things than to believe in the reality of other trusted people who turned a blind eye. Unfortunately, in this case, I have information that the uglier reality is indeed the true one -- i.e., that church leaders had been informed in person of allegations against Pierce for many months prior to Pierce’s arrest.


Dr. Bill Loney said...

The feller stated in a letter to the church: “I feel that it is important for you to know that while I fully acknowledge the sinfulness and immorality of my past behavior, I did not engage in actual sexual contact (Specifically oral sex, intercourse or masturbating another individual) with any person, nor do I believe that in recent conversation with legal counsel that I have violated criminal or civil law.”

This is the kinda stuff that'll jumpstart a good vomit....
if he really knowed the wicked depths of what he did, he wouldn't have tried to absolve hisself with clinton-esque legal parsings...and when his prison brethren find out what he done and what he is, they ain't gonna care about his hair splittin...god might have mercy on him, they won't

Lydia said...

It is important to publish this stuff even if uncomfortable. We must warn our children of the tactics these criminal pervert pastors use.

We must know the strategies these perverts are using to suck our children into their perversion and be ruined.

May the judges lock them up and throw away the key. They can be forgiven behind bars

John said...

This type of information is of tremendous value to parents. i think it needs to be printe in a simple format and made available to parents. I intend to print a copy, if it allowed, and give to my children who still have children at home.
I cannot imagine the courage it took to tell this story. The psin must be great but I believe the ultimate good should be greater.

Anonymous said...

He probably said the same thing to pastor Grant - "I did not engage in actual sexual contact" - and Grant probably believed him and said something like "Oh well, that's not good, but just apologize." Or maybe Grant did like Gaines at Bellevue and said it would all be "under the blood."

Anonymous said...

Benton needs to answer some real question for sure:
I was not shocked but angry, when I read that now Gregg Kirksey whom was basically fired for marrying a two-time divorcee as well as lived unwed to one man in the town of Benton about two years after his wife died of breast cancer.
I was angry due to the fact that these pastors with degrees are to know the facts of Biblical means’ of the law of God. Jesus makes it very clear, about how he feels about anyone who harms a child. This seems to be about religion and politics not truly know the Lord and having the Holy Spirit guild and direct you. To have Rick Grant hide his head in the sand, is clearly giving a message 9I am worried about MY Job and MY money) not (the people of this church and the young vulnerable children)
These churches as well as these so-called pastors need to be checked out and some questions need to be asked about these so-called leaders! Like where do want to lead the people of your church? In to the hands of a child molester while you cash your checks at the bank?