By Amy Violette
It’s been 2,648 days since I found out I was a victim of clergy sexual misconduct. Specifically video voyeurism. I say “found out” because the actual videotaping took place in November 2008, but I was unaware that I was a victim until my abuser was arrested in October 2011.
In July 2008, I met “Pastor Johnny” for the first time when he was my camp pastor at Lifeway’s FUGE Camp at Ridgecrest where I was on summer staff. One month later he was to be a groomsman in my wedding. Johnny was charming, charismatic, and always the life of the party. When he walked into a room, immediately all attention was on him. He commanded the room. He liked that. He was smart. He was loud. He was the kind of person that remembered specific details about you and made you feel special. He said he had a photographic memory. He always called me on my birthday and checked in on random events like the hernia repair surgery I had, a surgery that only family and close friends knew about. “What a great memory he has,” I thought. I now know that he remembered because he secretly videotaped me taking a shower, and my scar was visibly present.
I always felt strange around Johnny. Like something was off about him. Call it a woman’s intuition, sixth sense, or the Holy Spirit, but there was always something off putting about him. The way his eyes scanned a room. The way he was so in tune to high school female students. The way he hugged them. Where he placed his hands. Not completely inappropriate but low enough to make me raise an eyebrow. No one else seemed to see it. “Johnny’s married!” A male pastor from Texas said, “Our girls just love him!”
Johnny always “took care” of you. Do you need an oil change before you head back to Nashville? Johnny’s got a guy, a coupon, and he will take your car into the shop for you. Even pay for it. You need the latest version of Apple’s MAC OS? Johnny’s got the bundle pack with five licenses to share. Johnny was always one step ahead “helping you” so you felt indebted to him. A classic characteristic of a predator “grooming” his victims I have now learned.
So in October 2011, while sitting in a youth ministry class at Truett Seminary, I got a call from the FBI. I had contacted them earlier in the day, saying that I had reason to believe I was on his videotapes. I had seen Johnny’s mugshot on the internet and read several articles about his arrest. One article said “permanent video surveillance” had been removed from his home. During class, my phone rang, and a man’s voice on the other end said:
“Are you the Amy that stayed at Johnny’s house on November 7, 2008?”
“Yes.” I said.
“We’ve been trying to find you.”
I was in complete disbelief.
Rev. Amy Violette, M.Div, is the Co-Founder and Director of Resolana Farms, a 37-acre working horse farm providing land-based creative residencies and spiritual retreats in Northern New Mexico. She is a graduate of Baylor University and Belmont University. www.amyviolette.com + IG @amy.violette + firstname.lastname@example.org This post is part 1 of a 3-part series sponsored by the Clergy Sexual Misconduct Task Force, a joint work of Baptist Women in Ministry and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. For more information and resources, visit www.bwim.info/safechurches