I have finally been connecting the dots on an issue that has caused me great distress since I first heard of it. Early this year I was on faculty at a Christian writer’s conference where they had faculty sign a document that outlined appropriate behavior. Some of the requirements were so extreme that I was shocked we had to be told not to do them.
Come to find out the reason the document was created was because each of the unacceptable behaviors had been displayed and conferees had been victimized at Christian writers’ conferences across the country.
What saddens me is that some of the sexual predators exposed have been those I’ve respected and even spoken highly of. How can that be? How could I be so blind to the true characters of some of these peers?
Chatting with another faculty member this morning who’s experienced some of this abusive behavior, she asked if I’d seen the similarity in the predatory behavior that’s coming to light with my own spiritual abuse and betrayal. I’m so glad she suggested the connection as it provided me an opportunity to see the parallel and begin to process.
The trait in these abusers is one that dates to my time in the cult with evil leaders who were cunningly adept at quoting scripture out of context to make sure you never questioned or challenged them. At the same time, they surrounded themselves with those who never saw their dark side. These “shills” were Christians who loved God and endeavored to walk out the Word of God. They gave the abusers credibility. And they defended them when they were exposed.
The definition of “shill” from Dictionary.com is:
A person who publicizes or praises something or someone for reasons of self-interest, personal profit, or friendship or loyalty.
Being manipulated in this way by someone with evil intent is the height of betrayal. To realize that I praised some of these abusers has been a real trigger for me and I’m still dealing with the emotions.
Lord, how can we protect ourselves against sexual predators who would hide within Christian circles, surround themselves with credible people, and take advantage of vulnerable women?
What red flags are there that we should watch out for?
Having just attended two Christian Writers conferences in the past two months, I am shocked at this realization. How sad that you must sign a legal document to confirm you will not participate in such wrongful acts. As sad as it is, I am glad you have exposed this hidden truth. I also continue to pray that victims you know will have the courage to speak the truth with rallying support. If one speaks, then others will likely follow. Hey, you should let me know next time you are in Birmingham. That’s my stomping grounds. I’m wondering what brought you here all the way from Washington.
Thanks Karen. The #MeToo movement has definitely helped raise the courage needed for many to break their silence. Too bad the church didn’t lead that movement towards truth, but followed the world, somewhat slowly and begrudgingly!
We were in Birmingham for the GridIron Men’s Conference, part of the Women of Joy tour!
I’m with you, Athena. We all expect to be treated with respect at Christian events. Some people are master decievers and, in a Christian environment, we are vulnerable because we don’t think of abuse as a possibility.
Unfortunately, Christians are easily drawn into sin when we pull away from God as our source of strength. Because of this, we all need to be aware and careful where ever we are.
Amen Sherry. When we are duped into believing a human holds our publishing future in their hands, we become vulnerable to deception and abuse!
Ego, pride, and narcissistic tendencies. People’s conversations also give them away–their off-color and sexual comments. You can also tell when someone honors and respects others. They have a servant’s heart that is reflected in humility and a natural tendency toward healthy boundaries that protect others. Unfortunately, I’m far too familiar with many of the circumstances you reference from Christian writer’s conferences. Heartbreaking. Thank you for speaking out, Athena.
You nailed it, Shelly! Christians want so much to believe the best about people and be forgiving that they make it easy for predators to make their way in and go undetected. Lord, give us discernment and then the courage to speak up!