A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

A letter of confession which a victim would really want to receive

If only Andy Savage had written this to Jules Woodson, but he didn’t. This fictional letter is what Dr Julia Dahl thinks Andy Savage should have written to Jules.

Although it’s only a made-up letter, I believe our readers will find it helpful in their own journey of recovery. While reading it I felt how very different it is from the ‘apologies’ I have received over the years from my abusers and their enablers. Julia has kindly allowed us to re-post the letter.

On twitter Julia Dahl gives her profile as follows:
General Surgical Pathologist, GI/Liver, placenta & IHC. Microbiome metagenome molecular fascinated. Assoc Director MLabs Michigan Medicine.   Jesus.

The letter

Jules,

For over twenty years, I have wronged you.

I wronged you when you were only fourteen years old and I, at nineteen, offered you a certain type of attention that was intended not for you, but to encourage you to look up to me, to trust me and to become emotionally dependent on me – rather than Jesus.

I wanted your attention because it made me feel important. I’ve wronged you every time I treated myself as being more important than you.

I wronged you by giving you special attention and flirting with you openly at church events. This was wrong not only because it was inappropriate for me to show feelings for you in this way, but also because I can see now that doing this gave other people the perception that you were being singled out.

I wronged you every single time I could see people begin to gossip about you – because of the way I treated you – I wronged you by remaining silent and allowing the gossip to continue instead of protecting you and the people gossiping about you by putting an end to all the gossip.

I wronged you by pretending to have feelings about you that I did not actually have. I can see now that I did this so that you would trust me. I wronged you by giving you a false sense of security that you could trust me. I was not then, and am not now, someone you should have trusted with your secrets. I wronged you by encouraging you to divulge your secrets to me. I did this so that you would know that I knew something about you that could be disclosed to others, which would cause you shame. This was a reprehensible thing for me to do – in effect buying your silence under the fear of shame.

I wronged you, Jules, by using my position of a youth pastor to build a sense that you could trust me and that I would protect you. I wronged you, Jules, by abusing my position of authority over you to led you astray while pretending that I was in fact a Godly man.

I wronged you and others by being so visibly committed to Biblical purity – preaching Biblical purity – while knowing that I was then and am now a hypocrite. I wronged you by purposely causing you confusion: saying I was committed to Biblical purity and yet flirting with you. I wronged you by teaching True Love Waits and then encouraging you to flirt with me while I flirted with you.

I wronged you by giving you the impression that I could possibly have been in love with you, when I was not.

I wronged you, Jules, by looking for opportunities to be alone with you. I wronged you when I secluded you in a bedroom of the home in which I was staying and tested your boundaries by tickling you. I already knew your pain at having been treated badly by another man at that point. It was despicable of me to touch you and to give the impression to the family that I stayed with that you were “that kind of girl.”

I wronged you and failed in my role as a Youth Pastor to protect YOUR relationship with God, your virtue and your emotional health.

I wronged you, Jules, by driving you to a secluded location and exposing myself to you. I wronged you by requiring that in your confused emotional state you touch me for both my sexual pleasure and for my ego satisfaction of having gotten you to do what I wanted.

I wronged you, Jules, by asking you to expose yourself so that I could see and touch your body; that was absolutely wrong. I was not your husband and I did that for purely selfish reasons.

I wronged you Jules by putting you at risk for facing legal action for what and when and where I did to you what I did to you. I put you at risk for being cited for Indecent Exposure, for being an accomplice to my indecent exposure when I exposed my penis to you in a public place. I wronged you when I put you at risk for facing legal action when I led you into sexual activity in a public place, where we both could be cited for public lewdness.

Jules I wronged you – risked all these things and put you in this position not for you – but because I was completely selfish in all of my motives.

Jules I wronged you in my fake apology and demanding that you stay silent. That was a horrible thing to do – to place YOUR reconciliation with God over any sexual sin you were led into far beneath my own confession and repentance for abusing my authority over you.

Andy Savage

~~

Update added by Barb Roberts 27 March

Perhaps I didn’t make it clear enough that Julia Dahl’s letter was only Part 1 of what she initially thought would be a 2-Part letter. She has not written Part 2 yet, but may do so soon.

Part 2 was going to be his confession for all the damage he did to Jules in the 20 years after assaulting her. The 20 years in which he did NOT report himself to the police for sexually assualting Jules. The way he let the initial church cover for him and make it look like he just ‘left the church’ rather than putting him under discipline and expelling him from his pastoral position and from the church. The 20 years in which he went on being a pastor in other churches, maintaining that cover-up lie. The way he ignored Jules’ email to him. The way once Jules’ story went public he kept on spinning his story to Highpoint and to the wider Christian community. The way he seduced the Highpoint congregation into giving him a standing ovation. The lies and spin he told on Ben Ferguson’s radio program. Topped off by a full confession of all the evil tactics he use in his weasel-worded statement of resignation which is published at Highpoint’s website.

I think if Julia Dahl writes Part 2, her tone might be more brutally honest there.

While the crime of sexual abuse is heinous, the crime of conspiring to cover up sexual abuse is in my view at least as heinous… and it sometimes can be more damaging to the victims than the original crime…. not to mention how damaging it is to all the other people in the community who are <em>also</em> victims of crime…

***

Andy Savage made a statement on the stage at Highpoint when he was exposed by The Warthburg Watch and Watchkeep blogs.  Julia Dahl did an infographic analysis of that statement. Here is my cropped version:

Cropped version of Julia Dahl’s analysis of the statement Andy Savage made on stage at HighPoint Church Memphis for which he receive a standing ovation from the congregation.

And here is the un-cropped version:

Full version of Julia Dahls analysis of Savage’s statement on the stage at Highpoint Memphis.

Savage was put on fully paid leave for two and a half months during which the church paid MinistrySafe to do an investigation. The upshot? Andy Savage has now resigned. Highpoint Church made a brief statement and announced MinistrySafe’s Investigation Conclusion.

Julia Dahl’s infographic analysis of Andy Savage’s resignation statement can be found here.

Other infographics by Julia Dahla are at the end of this post.

Related posts

Let him who is without sin cast the first stone. And how Highpoint Church Memphis twisted it to defend Andy Savage.

Position, Position, Position — Why the Habitual Liar Lies

10 Comments

  1. Helovesme

    Her breakdown of the so-called apology/statement was brilliant. It’s amazing how twisted and manipulative abusers can be, and how they can give out minimal or misinformation in order to protect themselves. And provide enough uncertainty to allow the hearers to throw the victim under the bus. It is what abusers aim to do, and they do it so well. Apologies like this are well drafted, and they not come from the heart.

    I enjoyed the letter immensely. It took FULL responsibility for how he groomed and seduced her for his own gain and his own pleasure. He earned her trust only to abuse it.

    I might be too harsh in saying this, but I would have liked the letter to use stronger language towards himself. This is IMO.

    The letter used the word “hypocrite” which was fitting, but I also would have added labels like: liar, manipulator, intentionally evil and wicked in his heart and mind. Because grooming a victim as he did is all those things and more. He knew what he was doing from start to finish. I would have also used the words “bad shepherd” because NO pastor (youth or otherwise) preys on a sheep as he did. The words in the letter described his actions as all those things, but I think it needed to use those labels as well.

    And all he cared about was protecting himself from legal action and ruining his career as a pastor, author and whatever other ways he could promote and prosper himself.

    I would have also liked the letter to acknowledge the long term trauma he caused her. It alluded to the fact she was gossiped about (short term trauma) but for 20 years he also caused her plenty of harm to her and her family. It should have acknowledged that there’s nothing he can do to undo that, and that he caused it. And that he’s responsible. Abuse messes with your mind and heart and body for years. A person is never the same afterwards.

    Again, I might be nit picky or too harsh or overly dramatic, but this is just IMO.

    • JD

      For clarification, Part 1 was difficult to write because it names most of the injuries that were actually occurring to Jules Woodson during the three years that Andy Savage groomed her, and then the assault. It is written from the perspective of what Andy Savage might have said to Jules Woodson in 1998 if he actually experienced the weight of the sin he had committed, allowed truth to be revealed to him about the depth of his injuries and then might have felt relief begin as repentance began. It is written from the perspective of imagined repentance at the time of the assault.

      Part 2 is much more difficult to write. Writing from the perspective of a person who has disregarded the pain they caused another person with sexual assault, then deceived and manipulated others to gain the relative fame of a megachurch pulpit – exposing all of that is deeply distressing. Part 1 was likely triggering for many readers, but my prayer in writing it was that the confession and apology became cathartic for the reader.

      Part 2 contains different kinds of triggers. Allowing the words to come to balance those triggers with healing is what I am waiting for to write it.

      Thank you for your feedback on the letter.

      Julia

  2. Anonymous

    I’m thankful there was an analysis of what Savage said. Excellent job. Abusers are so slick and crafty in what they say, most especially when crafting a written statement like this.

    The apology is great because it illustrates what took place and what a truly repentant person would be saying to his victim (vs. the well-crafted, weaselly public statement he gave when his ignoring couldn’t cover it anymore).

    So upsetting. I feel really badly for Jules. There is a reason why a pastor is supposed to be a non-predator. How wounding and life-long damaging it was for Savage to do what he did. It’s bad enough for anyone to be violated, coerced, groomed, etc., but when it involves pastors, that’s enough to kill a person. Look how many children victims of Roman Catholic pedophile priests are very publicly atheists after having been molested by priests as altar boys, etc.

    Savage is a predator. To do what he did at 19-22 (or 23?)….. what if Jules had never said anything? That took tremendous courage and strength for her to have said anything then, and continue to say something now. Yay for Jules. (or something supportive — can’t think of the right words right now)

    • Perhaps I didn’t make it clear enough that Julia Dahl’s letter was only Part 1 of what she initially thought would be a 2-Part letter. She has not written Part 2 yet, but may do so soon.

      Part 2 was going to be his confession for all the damage he did to Jules in the 20 years after assaulting her. The 20 years in which he did NOT report himself to the police for sexually assualting Jules. The way he let the initial church cover for him and make it look like he just ‘left the church’ rather than putting him under discipline and expelling him from his pastoral position and from the church. The 20 years in which he went on being a pastor in other churches, maintaining that cover-up lie. The way he ignored Jules’ email to him. The way once Jule’s story went public he kept on spinning his story to Highpoint and to the wider Christian community. The way he seduced the Highpoint congregation into giving him a standing ovation. The lies and spin he told on Ben Ferguson’s radio program. Topped off by a full confession of all the evil tactics he use in his weasel-worded Statement of Resignation which is published at Highpoint’s website.

      I think if Julia Dahl writes Part 2, her tone might be more brutally honest there.

      While the crime of sexual abuse is heinous, the crime of conspiring to cover up sexual abuse is in my view at least as heinous… and it sometimes can be more damaging to the victims than the original crime…. not to mention how damaging it is to all the other people in the community who are also victims of crime…

  3. Anonymous

    I agree with others the language used to represent the Savage could have been more brutally true than it was. Yet, isn’t this just like a victim to maintain this undertone of grace and mercy even though the fallout of Andy’s choices have wounded and shredded so many of God’s daughter’s confidence in God’s justice and His care. Spiritual abuse is the worst abuse because a child of God will question herself and be merciless to herself. The self blame is excruciating. It is like being buried underneath the rubble, the ruins of the total collapse of all that a young girl thinks is good, kind and real.

    Andy Savage should have told the WHOLE truth.

    Dear Jules,

    I wronged you by being an imposter. I am a wolf donning sheep’s clothing. If not for this utter public humiliation I never would have even considered resigning from being a pastor at Highpoint.

    I wronged you by pretending I was a follower of Christ when in fact, I am a child of the devil who walks in darkness. I am the worst kind of hypocrite. I am a whitewashed tomb, a Pharisee of the most despicable kind. It’s too bad you saw through me.

    Thank you for your bravery in the face of harrowing circumstances of me raping your heart and mind, of causing you to question God’s very goodness. I deserve hellfire. I am a fraud but try to put on a “Pastor’s” suit to fool everyone that I’m nothing more than an over-glorified sexual abuser.

    You, Jules are more discerning between good and evil than I ever will be. I am a predator but you saw right through my fake repentance and manipulation. You saw through my pathetic attempts at blame shifting. I am not sorry but let that be our little secret.

    Sadly, for me, you saw through it. And, really we both know, I am NOT sorry for your sake but only for my own ego. I’m sorry I got caught. I guess it’s back to the abusers’ manual to up my game. Really, it is true I am enraged that you dared to expose me to the world.

    I am an unrepentant man who is on the slippery slope of being given over to a reprobate mind – eternally. I deserve nothing but eternal separation from Christ. What an extremely rare occurrence that would be if I actually got right with God! As of now, I am destined for destruction.

    If not for your courage in the face of evil and love for God’s holy precepts you could have been swallowed up by MY evil ways – I CHOOSE to walk in. If not for your light shining into my darkness, pulling the covers on my lies, many more people would have fallen prey to my treachery and misrepresenting Jesus Christ by my own hostility toward the truth. I am a liar. Liars are reserved for the Lake of Fire.

    I will be damned unless there is some shred of redemption left for me. You, Jules are the light cutting through the darkness to expose the hypocrite I am. I can only hope there is nothing but vindication for you as God deals with me ever so severely. I need to allow God to give me godly sorrow and empathy for how I crushed your spirit. As of yet, I have no such understanding of the fear of the Lord. Keep sounding the alarm, Jules, because I’m hiding behind the facade the duped brethren have erected for me.

    My only hope is for someone I actually care about to out me once and for all.

    • Thanks for writing another version that was even more brutally honest in naming and describing the abuser’s sins!

    • Helovesme

      Anonymous I thank you as well. That was brilliantly written.

  4. Anonymous Grandma

    From the Investigation Conclusion page on the Highpoint website:

    “Highpoint leadership has come to recognize that it was defensive rather than empathetic in its initial reaction to Ms. Jules Woodson’s communication concerning the abuse she experienced…”

    Highpoint wasn’t just defensive, it was offensive, in both senses of the word.

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