Woman Raped as a Teen By Church Member Finally Getting Justice

Janelle Harris

ChurchIt’s a man’s world, and that isn’t limited to the secular section: the church is owned by Jesus, but operated by individuals who think the thing hanging in between their legs makes them the closest things to God on earth.

So as a female in the faith, your issues may not be taken seriously. That’s what happened to Tina Anderson who, as a 16-year-old girl, was forced to stand in front of her congregation and confess her sin of becoming pregnant. It was part of her “discipline” as a member of the Independent Fundamental Baptist Church. What she wasn’t allowed to say during her public humiliation was that she was raped by a man twice her age who was a member of the congregation. That was 13 years ago, and Anderson is just now getting justice for the assault that rocked her young life. 

This isn’t just any case of sad circumstances: that her attacker was a grown man who was a fellow follower is disgusting. That he attacked her twice — once in her own home — and that one of those instances produced a baby is heart-wrenching. I can’t even begin to imagine the anguish she went through as a teenage girl forced to deal with the emotional and psychological scarring from a sexual assault while also being forced to carry an unwanted child conceived as a result of the ordeal. The physical reminder had to be just as overwhelming as the mental.

But instead of being helped, comforted, loved, and protected, as she should have been by the church — heck, whether the child was conceived from a moment of bad judgment or an agonizing personal attack — pastor and company shipped her to another state where she could be hidden until the adoption of her unborn baby was complete. That gave her alleged rapist, Ernest Willis, over a decade to live life without being brought to justice to ‘fess up to his grimy deed. Interestingly enough, it didn’t take the rapist to pressure Anderson into silence. She had been intimidated into believing that she was the one at fault by the church.

In fact, some churches have done a good job of making women caught up in turmoil feel like the villain instead of the victim. Just ask a lady who’s been battered by domestic violence or sexually molested only to be told that what she had been wearing was the catalyst for the crime, or that having a baby out of wedlock was more of a no-no for the mother of the unborn child than it is for the man who helped create it.

In a place where people are encouraged to be free and liberated in the love of the Lord, women are still oppressed. Ignored. Objectified. Her experience changed her life 13 years ago, but best believe as we shop and work and play and go about our daily routines of living, there is another Tina Anderson silencing herself in a church pew, enduring emotional, physical, and psychological pain but feeling powerless, even as her faith is supposed to make her feel empowered.

The church is comprised of imperfect people ostensibly working to make their lives and the communities around them better, in the name of Jesus. But if our children aren’t protected, if a teenage girl is made to feel like she’s the one who committed a mortal sin after she turns up pregnant, if she’s too intimidated by church logistics to reveal that she’s been the victim of rape, what good is the body of the church?

How is it a help to the souls who worship in it if we sweep crimes against women and children under the proverbial rug?  

Image via raman..exploring myself../Flickr

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