Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Voice of an FBC-Benton Survivor

With former Southern Baptist minister David Pierce now up for parole, and with the parole board hearing closed to the press, I thought it was important to put in print the voice of one of the boys of Benton. Posted with the permission of a courageous survivor, here are his own words.

It’s a bittersweet thing, being able to remember in all the gory detail the exact moment your life went from normal, middle class suburban WASP to something far from normal. Everything. The car (or in this case, the truck), the spot in town we were driving, the questions being asked (including that one fateful question that would begin a downward spiral that would change my life forever). Everything was so benign up to that point that the shock I experienced from hearing that question uttered aloud, at hearing what would be the first of hundreds of prying questions (and looks, and measurements and suggestions), made me completely unable to respond with anything but the truth.

Of all the many moments in my life since then that I wish I could change, this is the one I keep coming back to. The only words I’ve never been able to get out of my head, but always wanted so desperately to forget. I still hear him flippantly ask (as if wanting to know my favorite football team or my opinion on the designated hitter) “you masturbate much?” I was a 13 year-old boy. What did he think the answer to that question was? Still, looking back, he didn’t care about the answer. It wasn’t the specific words that were important. For the first and only time in my life, I passed a test I shouldn’t have.

I was such a typical kid. Especially in the Bible Belt. I grew up in church, taught from an early age to regard ministers with the utmost respect, adoration, and awe. I wasn’t a loner, nor was I one of the “cool kids.” I was smart, musically gifted, and spiritually devout. I was one of those kids that adults loved. Overall, I was a happy kid and have generally fond memories of growing up. At age eight, I started piano lessons, and in doing so found one of the only things I’d ever truly excel at. And, of course, one of the many things he would eventually steal from me.

Growing up at the largest church in a small southern suburb, my family was at church every time the doors opened. I participated in children’s choir because it was a gateway to something bigger and better. Youth choir. But not just any youth choir. One of the largest, most talented, and well-disciplined youth choirs in the state. I couldn’t wait. A place where musical ability was fostered, encouraged, and celebrated. A place where I would finally be in my element. And even better, the chance to work with one of the most respected ministers and choir directors in the Southern Baptist Community.

Anyone who didn’t grow up in the Bible Belt will never understand the pedestal even below-average ministers are placed on. The “good” ones? Forget about it. These aren’t just men who made religion a job. These are men anointed by the very right hand of God. Men whose every action, every word is approved and ordained by the big man himself. Questioning these men out loud is complete and utter blasphemy. Thinking it in your head is reason enough to pray for forgiveness.

At the end of the 7th grade there was a “retreat” for new incoming youth choir members. It was great! We hung out with the older kids (most of them officers in the choir), we sang (sometimes as a group, sometimes in a room alone with him). Looking back, it’s so obvious now (as are many other things) that this was the beginning. This was where he picked his special guys. See, men like David Pierce are many things. Sick, twisted, perverse, evil? Yup. Ignorant? No. Remember, the actions of these “men of God” were not to be called into question, especially when they had a viable Biblical explanation for what would, outside of the church, be such suspect behavior. Like Christ, David always had 3 “disciples” he was closer with. Unlike Christ, David’s top 3 “disciples” just happened to always be 13-18 year old boys.

I often think about what it was that made David identify me as an easy target. I don’t have a good answer. Looking back at some of the other victims, there are some common traits and themes. All were devout Christians. Most had some musical ability. Most did not come from single parent households. Many of us, at one point or another at First Baptist, would commit ourselves to enter the ministry. These are the young boys that would worry about impressing someone like David Pierce.

Looking at many of those same young boys as men now, you see the exact opposite trends. Broken marriages, drug and alcohol abuse, atheism, etc. The wake that is left by a predator of this nature is one of destruction, desolation, and despair. It’s no different for me now, ten plus years later, than it’s been for any other victim. Am I an alcoholic? No. But I certainly have my addictions. My marriage is still intact (some days more than others). I am not an atheist, although I would not call myself a Christian (or a man of faith) either. I am, however, a completely different person than I was during my adolescence. A completely different person than anyone, including myself, thought I would be.

In high school, by all outward appearances, I was that guy. Never cussed, never ever drank. Kind, caring, joyful. Obviously, the time I spent with David had quite a bit to do with the way others perceived me. Anyone that spends that much time in “discipleship” with such a great man of God must truly have a great relationship with Christ, right? I surrendered myself to the ministry the summer after my sophomore year of high school. Initially I wanted to go into music ministry, just like my mentor. Slowly, the more I was able to detach myself from David, the more that changed, until now I am not even a church go-er, let alone a minister. But that’s touching on the end of my story. The beginning is back at that 7th grade youth retreat. David’s personal meat market.

I firmly believe David began grooming me and 2 other boys that very night. Stroking our musical egos, telling us what potential we had to be something special. That part, at least, was completely true. The three of us had the musical potential to be something special. Like so many other things, however, that was snatched from us by a monster.

The individual attention started that week. Time spent at the church during the day, lunches, long truck rides. After David felt his grooming was adequate, the “test”. From that point forward, everything changed. The questions. The places we went. Looking back, it should’ve been so obvious what David’s motivations were. But if I’d been able to recognize that then, David would’ve never chosen me.

One of David’s most frequently used tools was our accountability time. Under the veil of (yet again) a healthy, growing relationship with Christ, we had at least weekly accountability time with David. This was mostly comprised of the 4 s’es. Each one was a specific part of our lives, the whole encompassing our entire walk with God. It was the same every time. “How are you doing spiritually?” Get that one over with first. Who wants to talk about Jesus when you can talk about sex with a 14 year old? “How are you doing scholastically?” Right, because David obviously, genuinely cared about my grades. “How are you doing socially?” Or, are you getting too close to anyone that might figure out our dirty little secret? And finally, the best for last. “How are you doing sexually?” Always last because it took the longest and was the most detailed. Of course, at the beginning the focus was on thoughts (impure thoughts, lust, etc). Because these things are evil and should never ever enter our mind. Well, at first. But then, David’s special three learned that there are exceptions. Porn in the music minister’s office? That’s ok.

It was around this time that each individual child involved learned that 2 of their closest friends also had the good fortune to be one of the chosen few. David had no issues with disclosing information from one boy to another. Comparisons in measurements (David always had us ranked mentally in terms of penis size), how far someone had ventured sexually with a girlfriend, a special masturbation technique used by another. There have been very few things to come out over the last several years that have come as a surprise to me. That was part of the way David kept us from thinking what we were doing was wrong. If it was wrong, surely he wouldn’t have told us about what he did with other guys.

Eventually, like so many other things, sharing information turned into something else. There would be fishing trips where two of us or sometimes all three of us would go. We always went to Goober Heaven. It was a place of shallow shoals, half submerged logs, and large boulders in the Saline River. David often espoused the sexual benefits of Goober Heaven. Generally he brought along his special little kit on fishing trips. It had a seamstress tape and a bottle of lubrication of some sort. It didn’t matter if it was just me and him, or all three of us and him, measurements were taken and we masturbated.

Related posts:
"Benton, Arkansas: Minister's parole hearing is closed to press," 2/1/11
"Truth and reconciliation needed," 1/22/11
"Remember the boys of Benton," 9/13/09

Update: "Pierce parole delayed, for now," Benton Courier, 2/2/11


SNAP network said...

I have a musically talented fourteen year old son who is “one of those kids that adults love.” The thought that someone, especially a cleric, might sexually violate him just sends shivers down my spine.

I am grateful to this wounded young man for being so honest and courageous. I desperately hope his bravery is rewarded by a justice system that keeps a dangerous man like Price locked up for a long, long time.

David Clohessy, Director, SNAP, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, (7234 Arsenal Street, St. Louis MO 63143), 314 566 9790 cell (

Valarie said...

A friend who has a heart for those wounded by sexual abuse sent me the lyrics to this song by Skillet.
I almost think another verse is needed but it's a good message from those who have been abused to the perps. Thinking of how this sick minister manipulated the minds of so many innocent boys for years and how he rationalized and minimized his crime to himself and to others.
Seeing support for the abuser is so confusing and harmful to victims. Sometimes we have to tell was never our fault. A child never shares in the responsible or blame of sexual abuse. It is never OK on any level for an adult to use his position of authority to take advantage of the vulnerable.

It's You
Let's get the story straight
You were a poison
You flooded through my veins
You left me broken

You tried to make me think
That the blame was all on me
With the pain you put me through
And now I know that

It's not me, it's you, it's not me, it's you
Always has been you
All the lies and stupid things
You say and do
It's you.

Valarie said...

Broken hearted for this young man and the others who have suffered at the hands of this sick freak pretending to be a minister. David Pierce wanted to be clear that he never actually did anything sexual to the kids. What a lie from hell. Exactly where this man hell. It's the least he should have to endure.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the kind words. Obviously, this is an incomplete writing. I just felt like it was time to get out some of what was inside. I'm 30 years old was past time.

On another note, it was announced today that Davids parole would be delayed for 12-24 months. He will be back up for parole after completing a rehab program for sexual offenders. Why is it that everyone outside of the prison system knows that there is no rehab for habitual sexual offenders, but the justice system seems to have forgotten it? I guess it was all the support from the fine citizens of Benton that David received.

Link to the story:

Miguel Prats said...

Thanks for creating a place for Baptist survivors. It's not just a Catholic problem. An even bigger thanks to the survivor who told his story. For the past 9 years I have dealt w/my own case and shared in too many other's stories
of abuse. The affects are exactly as he described but there's one thing he didn't mention as far as I know. And that is suicide. Clergy abuse or abuse by someone in authority destroys the soul. If the survivor doesn't kill themself quickly they usually try to do it slowly. I know I did. Thankfully, SNAP and God were there for me and I survived. I'm on disability for PTSD but know I'm one of the lucky ones, I survived. Many didn't. Bless survivors. Thay are as courageous as any soldier in Iraq or Afghanistan. They face different dangers but physical or emotional death is the end result for far too many. I pray the perp in this case is never freed. He WILL abuse again. If you don't believe it I wonder if you would let your child be alone w/this monster if he's ever released?

Wendy said...

Reading this man's story is heart-wrenching. Thank you for your courage to share part of your story and horrific nightmare. I'm so sorry you went through this unspeakable abuse.

David Pierce is an evil, self-serving monster. Sadly and tragically, the legal system served more justice and helped the victims more than FBC-Benton did. And yet, the legal system hasn't served enough of it. Nonetheless, David Pierce has got justice coming to him. I have no doubt about it.

I am praying that, eventually, you can regain some hope and that you are able to heal from the wounds that this "minister" inflicted upon you.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, survivor, for sharing your story. We need to know how these evil men operate.

Phyllis Gregory said...

Thank you, sir, for sharing your story. It breaks my heart to read your words and yet I relate. My story is different but it's the same. All of us who were good church kids yet were abused by the very people we adored and looked up to, "Christian" parents, Sunday School teachers, deacons, whatever. We all know the feeling of betrayal and total devastation in and to our very soul. It's awful. Thank you for sharing. My prayers go with you and your family as they go with all sexual abuse survivors. Take care.

Lynn said...

"Chrysler Workers Causing Trouble in Detroit Again" is a video that shows how a company cleaning house can make the company look good. So why can't the SBC make itself look good by throwing out all the child predators just like they throw out the women preachers or churches friendly to gays? I mean if you have to decide which evils you must protect the SBC from, wouldn't child predators top the other two??
I saw the video on Fox news.