Saturday, October 30, 2010

A victim's voice is heard

Earlier this month, North Carolina authorities charged an assistant pastor at New Manna Baptist Church with child sex abuse. Now, a prior victim of abuse within the same church has chosen to speak out.

Kudos to Casie Rumfelt!

Here are excerpts from Casie’s story, as written by reporter Richelle Bailey and reported in The McDowell News on October 29.

“Casie Rumfelt wanted someone to love her. One of her church officials honed in on that, she stated, preyed on her vulnerability and was eventually convicted of molesting her. . . . She was 14 and 15 at the time of the offenses, and he was 25 and 26, was married and had a little girl.

The suspect was charged in March 2004 and pleaded guilty in February 2005 to taking indecent liberties with a child. He was sentenced to 1 ½ years behind bars and is still registered as a sex offender today. . . .

Rumfelt is choosing to speak out, tell her story and hopefully keep this from happening again.

‘I just want to help somebody,’ she stated. ‘It’s OK to come forward. It will be rough, but you will get through it.’ . . . .

She admits that she wanted someone to love her. That’s where this man came in.

One day, after a church function, Rumfelt had no ride home, so he volunteered to take her. He said he had to make a quick stop by his house first, and he invited her inside.

‘He told me how pretty I was,’ she stated. ‘I had never had anybody pay that much attention to me. He told me he knew I was going through some hard times and that he was here for me.’
The same routine continued over and over and over. . . . but what started as telling her she was pretty advanced to kissing then to fondling then to sexual intercourse, according to Rumfelt.

‘I was 14 and I was naïve,’ she said. ‘Yes, I had a choice of saying yes or no to that man, but no 13-, 14- or 15-year-old should have to make that choice. He was supposed to be a leader in the church, a mentor and someone to look out for me, but, in his eyes, I was just a young, vulnerable girl that could be part of his sick, twisted life. He took something from me that I could never get back.’ . . . .

He became ever more obsessive and possessive. She was required to call him at certain hours, wasn’t allowed to spend time with her friends and was forced to be everywhere he was.

‘The people at New Manna had to know something was going on,’ she stated.

He became verbally abusive, said Rumfelt, and would berate her over the smallest things. She had had enough and wanted it to stop.

Rumfelt gathered enough nerve to go to Tony Shirley, the church’s pastor and the school’s principal . . . but she never expected his response.

‘I told Mr. Shirley that I was in a sexual relationship with a married man,’ she said. ‘He asked me a lot of questions, but he told me he didn’t want to know who it was. He told me I really needed to think before I identified him because I would ruin his life.’

Shirley, Rumfelt contends, forced her to go home and tell her grandparents what she had done.

‘More or less, I was punished for coming forward,’ she stated. . . .

Rumfelt spent much of her time at her best friend’s house. . . . During one of Rumfelt’s mandated calls… her best friend’s mom picked up the phone and heard him scolding the teen. That raised enough red flags that the woman questioned Rumfelt and she came clean about the relationship.

She took the teen to the Sheriff’s Office and an investigation ensued.

‘If she hadn’t taken me to the Sheriff’s Office, I would never have told because I tried to tell someone earlier and I was told not to ruin his life,’ Rumfelt stated. . . .

Next came the suspect’s arrest. But that meant a lot of the teen’s problems were just beginning. . . .

‘As if my world wasn’t turned upside down enough, by me coming forward, I was kicked out of the Christian school I had attended since the third grade and banned from all church activities,’ she said. . . .

‘You would think that after the leaders and members of that congregation found out the things that happened, they would find (the perpetrator in her abuse) at fault, but that was not the case,’ said Rumfelt. ‘The blame was placed on me. I was the bad guy instead of the victim.’

She was shunned by many of the church-goers.

‘Not one of the leaders in that church asked me if I was OK or bothered to come and visit,’ she said. ‘I was born and raised in that church, but because I wasn’t ‘a man of God’ my well being didn’t matter. The whole time it was ‘We need to pray for that man and his family. They are really going through it right now.’ Well, what about me? What was I going through?’ . . . .

Rumfelt no longer attends New Manna Baptist Church but did visit on one occasion in October on an invite from a friend.

It just happened to be the evening that [pastor] Shirley stood up in front of the congregation and announced that police had arrested Michael Eugene Pearson, 30, of Marion on charges related to a sexual relationship with an underage female relative. Pearson was the bus director at New Manna and also an assistant pastor. . . .

‘Mr. Shirley kept asking everyone to pray for Michael and his family, but he never once mentioned the victim,’ she stated. ‘It infuriated me, so I decided I wasn’t going to let it happen again. It’s not her fault.’

For Rumfelt, it was déjà vu. She said she left the church that night and made the decision that she would no longer keep quiet.

‘They are cowards and hypocrites,’ she added. ‘They preach that you are not to sin then they do it. You can’t be godly and a pedophile at the same time.’

New Manna’s problems will continue, Rumfelt contends, until the leaders take a stand.

‘The leadership needs to step up and say ‘Something’s not right,’ instead of ‘This is the devil’s work,’’ she stated. ‘If the proper precautions had been taken with my situation then it would have been stopped earlier and Michael’s situation wouldn’t have happened.’

Rumfelt knows the victim in Pearson’s case and has talked to her via e-mail.

‘Don’t back down, don’t let anyone talk you into giving up and don’t ever think this is your fault,’ she advises the teen. ‘I didn’t ask for this and neither did you. The members of this community don’t need to let this get swept under the rug like it’s not a big deal because it is.'"


Anonymous said...

I think in the minds of the church people, the predator is the victim. I think there are lots of reasons for that type of thinking.

Is there any way to change that type of thinking?

My sympathies are with the true victims.

Wendy said...

Holding the victim responsible or partially responsible is a chief problem. There is a myth that children or teens who are exploited and abused somehow caused it or kept it going. They seduced the predator with their dress or they flirted with the predator or they didn't jump up and run away from the predator screaming, "I'M BEING SEXUALLY ABUSED!!!!!" The victim is NEVER, EVER, EVER responsible. The predator is ALWAYS responsible, due to age differences, authority, abuse of power, etc. A victim responds to their predator's behaviors out of fear, shame, and guilt - and just to survive and get through the abuse. Even if the victim responds positively to the predator or seems to enjoy the attention at first, this is not the victim's fault. This is the PREDATOR'S fault for exploiting and abusing those human needs for love and significance. I agree with you, Lynn. I wish we could change this type of thinking.