Monday, May 6, 2013

Why I do this

Sammy Nuckolls
Last fall, Southern Baptist pastor Sammy Nuckolls was convicted on more than a dozen counts of video voyeurism and sentenced to 10 years in prison. Nuckolls used concealed cameras, including pen cameras, to surreptitiously film women showering and in bathrooms. Nuckolls was convicted in Mississippi, but he was also arrested in two counties in Arkansas, and additional allegations were made against him in Virginia and Texas.

Investigators found numerous videos on Nuckolls’ computer and identified 21 victims on the videos they recovered. However, investigators believe Nuckolls made hundreds of such videos over the past 15 years, and so it is likely that hundreds more women and girls may have been victimized. Between 2003 and 2011, Nuckolls worked as a camp pastor for summer youth camps sponsored by the Southern Baptist Convention’s Lifeway Christian Resources.

Just a couple weeks ago, a Texas woman whom I’ll call Connie wrote to me. She describes some of the evidence that came out at Nuckolls’ sentencing hearing, including his use of a spycam pen in the spine of his bible. But what Connie talks about the most is how she was treated by her church. She describes the church-provided counseling as having “a Cesare Borgia quality” – that’s a way of saying it was cunningly cruel – and she says that she and other victims were “curb-stomped” – another powerful metaphor of brutality.

What is obvious is that Connie’s wounds derive not only from the perverse deeds of Sammy Nuckolls but also – and perhaps even more so – from others whom she believes covered up for Nuckolls, who blamed the victims, and who minimized the harm. I’ve heard these kinds of stories too many times, but it’s people like Connie who remind me of why I keep doing this. Thank you, Connie.

Dear Christa,

As a victim of a Southern Baptist sexual predator, traveling youth pastor Sammy Nuckolls, I cannot begin to tell you how important your blog is to those suffering. . . .  Sammy probably taped hundreds of girls as he was the …camp pastor for Lifeway-Centrifuge Camps all over the South and Southeastern U.S. from 2003-2011. He preached to over 100,000 kids ages 11-17 years old during this 8-9 year span of time.

Police investigating the case said that they were 100% sure that Sammy had sold and/or traded his films although they declined to pursue any investigation or effort to remove the tapes from voyeur websites. So for us victims, the devastation continues as we wait for the day someone we know sees our videos.
Although not every single church involved -- and there are plenty -- supported Sammy or helped him out in sentencing, I can say that every single church involved ignored, covered up and/or spurned the victims of his many crimes. Every. Single. One. 

That is why your blog is so bloody important . . . . What you write is one of the few things that helps to set against all of this evil and corporate misconduct. We used to go to [a megachurch in Texas] . . . . I cannot tell you what it feels like to have your entire world yanked out from underneath you like a cheap rug, because almost all of our friends and people we thought of as family all go to [the church]. And all we can do now is sit alone in stunned silence.

That is why your work is so very important. You are the voice for all of the rest of us who won't ever be heard. You are the tiny piece of justice for all the rest of us denied. Texas is filing NO charges whatsoever. Sammy and his accomplices .. . are, therefore, not going to face any justice for the horrors of what they did here . . . .

But [this church’s leaders]… told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and the Dallas Morning News that Sammy only spoke 3 - 6 times total at [this church] and the pastors decided to not notify anyone because they conducted their own investigation and found no wrong-doing. And yes, they knew fully well the number of confirmed victims. We personally attended every Wednesday night youth group . . . and we can document, independently, over two dozen times Sammy was paid to preach to the kids . . . . 

[The church’s] message is simple -- if you ever say anything remotely negative, we will shoot you down using a skilled professional . . . . One of their Executive Senior Pastors called and BLAMED US (since we were at the youth services every Wed night) and tried to make us stay silent citing the guilt we ought to feel for not "seeing any red flags" sooner as if it was our fault. They also continued to bully us even after leaving, calling to tell us that we should not testify in person or in writing against Sammy at his Mississippi sentencing hearing. He actually referred to Sammy's 13 felony sex crime CONVICTIONS as a "goofy situation" but would only admit that Sammy "might have crossed a few lines" (there were 7 weeks in between the convictions and his sentencing hearing . . . so the issue of guilt was not in question at this time.)

Hopefully you can see from this that it is people like you who are the only hope for the many people like us, that anyone might ever be held remotely accountable for their bad actions or at least feel like they can't hide as easily with your flashlight of truth shining in their filthy basements of deceit and cover-ups.

Thank you again, from the bottom of my heart, for what you are doing. I sincerely hope that you will continue this mighty work. May God continue to bless you for doing what others cannot or will not do.
For another view on how churches inflict so much additional harm when their minister is accused of sexual abuse, see this recent story, also out of Texas: "The second-worst church in the world," 5/2/2013