20 years, 700 victims: Southern Baptist sexual abuse spreads as leaders resist reforms

Houston Chronicle | 2/10/2019 | Robert Downen, Lise Olsen, John Tedesco, Houston Chronicle
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Thirty-five years later, Debbie Vasquez's voice trembled as she described her trauma to a group of Southern Baptist leaders.

She was 14, she said, when she was first molested by her pastor in Sanger, a tiny prairie town an hour north of Dallas. It was the first of many assaults that Vasquez said destroyed her teenage years and, at 18, left her pregnant by the Southern Baptist pastor, a married man more than a dozen years older.

June - Way - Indianapolis - Others - Leaders

In June 2008, she paid her way to Indianapolis, where she and others asked leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention and its 47,000 churches to track sexual predators and take action against congregations that harbored or concealed abusers. Vasquez, by then in her 40s, implored them to consider prevention policies like those adopted by faiths that include the Catholic Church.

"Listen to what God has to say," she said, according to audio of the meeting, which she recorded. "... All that evil needs is for good to do nothing. ... Please help me and others that will be hurt."

Days - Southern - Baptist - Leaders - Reform

Days later, Southern Baptist leaders rejected nearly every proposed reform.

The abusers haven't stopped. They've hurt hundreds more.

Prosecutors - Pastors - Assault

Prosecutors, convicted pastors discuss sexual assault.

In the decade since Vasquez's appeal for help, more than 250 people who worked or volunteered in Southern Baptist churches have been charged with sex crimes, an investigation by the Houston Chronicle and the San Antonio Express-News reveals.

Problem - Baptist - Church - Leaders - Volunteers

It's not just a recent problem: In all, since 1998, roughly 380 Southern Baptist church leaders and volunteers have faced allegations of sexual misconduct, the newspapers found. That includes those who were convicted, credibly accused and successfully sued, and those who confessed or resigned. More of them worked in Texas than in any other state.

They left behind more than 700 victims, many of them shunned by their churches, left to...
(Excerpt) Read more at: Houston Chronicle
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