By Amy Violette
In September 2012, we drove to Mississippi for the trial. We arrived the day before it started and met the district attorney at the courthouse around 4:00 in the afternoon. Courtrooms are built to be intimidating, and I didn’t want my first day in court to be the day I testified. I spent two hours walking the gallery, sitting in the witness chair, and speaking into the microphone. As we were standing by the elevator about to leave, I said, “I want to see my tape.”
The district attorney laughed and said, “I thought you might.”
We followed him across the street to his office. He let me sit in his chair, behind his desk, as he turned on his computer. On the desktop was my video. With two clicks it started.
It had been a year since I found out that I was a victim. The trial date had been delayed several times, and the process of wanting to move on and for it all to “just be over” had begun. But when I saw Pastor Johnny walk into the bathroom, turn on the camera, adjust it to my height, and then two minutes later I walked into the frame; it all came back.
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On trial day, I woke up calm. A supernatural calm because I knew I had so many people praying for me. Along with twelve other women, I testified about how Johnny’s voyeurism had impacted my life. I talked about how it hurt my marriage, how as a person in seminary it made me doubt my calling, and how it made me question if I even wanted to be a pastor anymore.
After I testified, one of the other victim’s father, a Southern Baptist pastor, asked if he could speak to me. I thought, “Oh great! Of all the days, here we go. Another lecture on why someone thinks women should not be pastors.”
“I’m Katie’s Dad,” he said, “and I just wanted to tell you, please don’t quit. The world needs more pastors like you.”
I was speechless.
CNN and other news outlets were in the back filming when the verdict was read.
Johnny was found guilty of thirteen felony counts of video voyeurism. He was sentenced to ten years in prison. I will never forget the sound of handcuffs being put on him or the sight of him being led away by the police officer.
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The next seven years of my life are rich enough to be pitched to any Hollywood director as a Netflix series but the highlights are as follows:
In 2014, my marriage ended.
In 2015, Johnny’s attorney found a loophole and the State Supreme Court could not determine without a shadow of a doubt the day and time the videos were transferred to Johnny’s new computer. So my count and nine others were thrown out.
In January 2016, I moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico. Six months later I accepted an adjunct teaching position at Belmont University teaching Understanding the Bible and co-teaching Preaching.
In August 2016, I graduated with a Master of Divinity degree in ministry leadership from Truett Seminary at Baylor University.
In September 2016, I began working in TV/Film on a little show no one knew about called Godless.
In April 2017, I got serious about my side handbag business and got them into my first retail store.
In August 2017, I was ordained to the gospel ministry at First Baptist Church Decatur, Georgia.
In September 2017, I started a church in Nashville, Tennessee.
In 2019, I co-founded Resolana Farms 501(c)(3), a thirty-seven acre working horse farm in northern New Mexico, which provides land-based creative residencies and spiritual retreats. My goal is to have two survivor retreats there this year.
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Though my pulpit changes, my message does not. I’m a pastor through and through. If I can heal, so can you. The road is long but worth the journey. The view from the other side is beautiful.
For more information on my coaching for survivors, Resolana Farms, or to inquire about me speaking at your church. Please visit http://amyviolette.com. Also, my book Resilient: A Memoir of Hope comes out in the spring of 2020.
Thanks for listening. I hope it helped.
Love you all.
Rev. Amy Violette, M.Div, is the co-Founder and director of Resolana Farms, a thirty-seven acre working horse farm, which provides land-based creative residencies and spiritual retreats in northern New Mexico. She is a graduate of Baylor University and Belmont University.
This post is part 3 of a 3-part series (read part 1 here, part 2 here) 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