Interview of a sex offender

(warning: some sexual abuse content, by a sexual offender)

Last week I published a blog that said I want to try to damage my reputation more.

Actually I just noted that Jesus hung out with the sort of people that constantly damaged his rep, and I thought, that probably means I should be doing more of that.

So in that spirit, I reached out to a friend of mine that went to prison for viewing child pornography and I asked if I could feature him on my blog.

I interviewed him and was stunned by his story.

I met Robert (he goes by Bob) when I lived in a little town outside of Wichita, Kansas. He showed up at our church with his wife and step daughter, who I knew because I helped with the youth group. As Bob and I got to know each other better he started to try and share some stuff that was very heavy on his heart about his marriage and some sexual things that were haunting him. But before I could help much, my job moved me away to Atlanta. I didn’t know how to help. A few months later he was arrested for looking at child pornography and was sent to prison. It was a big deal in the town.

Someone from the church went to visit him in prison to ask if it was true. Bob said it was true and they didn’t come back. He felt like they didn’t want anything to do with him after that.

Bob wrote me letters from prison. We corresponded for the time he was in jail and we have stayed in touch for most of the time since then. He is the friend who is MOST consistent with checking in with me. Most mornings I get a text from him that asks how I’m doing. And he’s done that faithfully for the past six years or so. He has been a very good friend to me in that way. Thank you, Bob.

In prison he went through classes and met with Jehovah’s Witnesses that came to minister to the inmates. And this is where he “found himself,” found restoration, and turned things over to God. When he got out of prison he found another Christian church in Wichita that welcomed him. The pastor forgave his crime because Bob was sorry and regretted what he had done. He integrated Bob into community, while being smart in the ways he separated him from children’s ministries. It was a very difficult uphill struggle finding a job with the sex offender title on his record. Finally, with the help from the new church he was able to land a job and even eventually found a really sweet wife. Now he lives a quiet life as a truck driver in Kansas.

I remember when I was talking to him on the phone one time, after he was out of jail. He mentioned to me that he had been molested when he was young. So, for this interview, I finally asked him more about it.

He said that when he was 13 an adult neighbor gave him a carton of cigarettes, and offered him alcohol to get him inside. A pair of brothers who were older than him were there and the man made them both rape 13-year-old Bob. Then the man made Bob rape their ten year old sister.

Bob remembers she just screamed and pleaded with him to stop and Bob just kept saying he was sorry. The man was much stronger than the kids. He threatened that he would kill their parents if they said anything. This happened over and over for months and months. Eventually after being forced into it for years Bob and the girl thought it must be okay so they just started doing it for fun. All of this lasted from when Bob was 13, until he was 16, at which point he ran away. He said he didn’t even know if his parents would be safe when he ran away.

Then, one day, while looking at adult pornography, a bit of child pornography popped up. He didn’t know it was wrong because of what had happened. So he got in the habit of looking at it.

Thus prison years later.

I asked what he had to say to anybody who might be in a similar abuse situation. He says, tell someone. Find someone to talk about it with. A pastor. A friend. He says that while he was holding everything inside, he went through deep depression and became suicidal, partly because he felt it was hit fault. He says, to anyone listening out there who has gone through abuse, it may feel like it’s your fault, but it’s not.

Thank you for your story Bob. I’m so sorry for what happened to you and the effect it had on your life. I’m sorry for making assumptions and not trying to understand more of your story earlier. And thank you for your committed friendship to me. Of all my friends, you have probably been the most consistent, frequent, and faithful.

I’m honored to be your brother in Christ.

Raw Spoon, 10-16-16

2 Responses to Interview of a sex offender

  1. Mike Sloan says:

    Hello Ross, I saw your post and listened to the entire interview with great interest. I am a pastor who trains churches in abuse dynamics and I am an advocate for victims of child sexual abuse. I did want to respond to a few things in your post and the interview. I appreciate your intentions behind this, but I also felt compelled to offer the following thoughts and cautions in response to those who listened.
    – Churches should not invite offenders into their church without seeking out the wisdom of experts. Experts can actually help them evaluate his repentance and also what supervision requirements are necessary to keep kids safe. If we were kids in a church with an offender, would we want the leaders to do their due diligence to keep us safe? Of course we would. This is simply an issue of loving your neighbor as yourself.
    – Abusers have often suffered abuse, but this never justifies abusive behavior. Many who are abused never abuse others.
    – Churches who keep their distance from offenders are often doing something very wise for the sake of their children. The New Testament is clear there are people who are to be avoided and even placed out of the church. A common element in these passages is someone who is being deceptive. Offenders are characterized by their use of deception to offend and in my experience most offenders who approach churches are deceptive, but the church never checks his words.
    – The sad reality is 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys in the church will be sexually abused before they turn 18. Churches are woefully prepared as a whole to prevent abuse and respond to it when it occurs. Again, I believe you had the very best of intentions, but this interview is not contributing toward improving the situation in our churches. I would encourage you and any others reading this to humbly seek out resources to get more educated on these matters. The website of G.R.A.C.E. (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment) is a great place to start to find a wealth of helpful resources by top experts –
    Jesus did hang out with people who damaged his rep, but typically these were people who were powerless, vulnerable, and exploited, not those who had exploited others. When it was someone who exploited others (like Zacchaeus), there was no minimization of sin, but rather words of repentance backed up by actions and accountability.

    • raw spoon says:

      Hey Mike, thanks for these really great resources. I think they would help not only churches and victims, but also help perpetrators to be healed. I hope that Bob’s church was well informed and educated on how they dealt with his situation. I wasn’t a part of it.
      The purpose of this interview was to hear his story and love him in the ways that I am able to. He was the victim of a lot of horrible sexual trauma. Of course that doesn’t excuse his conviction.
      It is not my position to treat him as less than myself, or less than any of the other people I interview. His story is no less valuable than the others I have interviewed who have killed, cheated, or stolen, and may do it again. I treat all of them with respect and compassion and don’t judge them for their crimes. I just listen. It is not my role shun them for his past sins, lest I be judged for my sins (for which I haven’t experienced jail, castigation, or public shame). I’m doing my best to love and restore with the ways I know how. And you’ve given us some great resources for restoration from sexual abuse. Your advice has made it more helpful to my readers. Thanks for your insight, Mike! (I removed some parts of Mike’s response because they were better to be communicated in private, between he and I)