To My Fellow Southern Baptists:
My name is Jessica Alldredge. I am a survivor of sexual abuse within the SBC. My situation as a survivor is a bit different from some of the other stories you have heard. So many of my brothers and sisters suffered abuse and then faced terrible treatment by those in the SBC when they tried to report what happened to them.
However, I never needed to report. My mom was paying attention, she could tell something was off and kept her guard up. She ended up catching the perpetrator, Dennis Hale, in the act of abuse. Because my mom was aware, she was able to heroically rescue my sister and I, and prevent us from receiving further harm. My Mom and Dad created a safe place for us as we recovered. They shielded us and then proceeded to fight for us.
My parents reported the abuser to the police, and various leaders in the SBC. Then, they were attacked for their efforts. Leaders accused them of wanting money and bringing a black eye on Jesus. Hale admitted to my Dad that after 26 years of ministry he never went a year without harming a child. All my parents wanted was for children to be protected. My Mom and Dad were broken and battered, and 30 years later they still bear the scars.
I was protected by my parents. They shielded me from the attacks by the SBC and I didn’t know about the vitriol until years later when I became an adult. My Mom and Dad were the church for me. They discipled me and led me to faith while at the same time they protected me from the wolves in sheep’s clothing. My parents never abandoned their faith, but the church abandoned them.
Fellow Southern Baptists, James 1:27 says, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” The church is called to care for the vulnerable, not protect their assets. My parents showed me this and they tried to advocate for others who were vulnerable as well.
If you haven’t read the Guidepost report, please do so. Please take the time to consider the recommendations for correcting the blight of sexual abuse in the SBC. Now that you cannot ignore the truth, you have a new opportunity to right the wrongs. It is because of the love and example of my parents that I have an understanding of how good Jesus is. When the church fails to stand up for the abused they communicate a lie about our Savior and those who need his love are pushed away from his open arms.
I hope all of the recommendations are put in place. However, I have one opinion that differs from the other survivors. As I watched the reactions on Twitter, within the survivor community, I noticed that many of them really like the recommendation of establishing a memorial at the SBC headquarters in Nashville. This would be created to honor those who have been sexually abused. Personally, I’m not a fan of memorials. I would rather see the names of those involved in perpetuating this crisis removed from all SBC buildings, programs, etc. Patterson was one of the individuals who failed to protect me. Last summer I had to take an Ethics class in a building that bears his name, it was a painful reminder. Please do not allow this harmful legacy to continue.
The SBC can recover and move forward. In reality, many of these wrongs cannot be repaired, the damage has been done. However, it is possible for the future to be different. As things stand I’m hesitant to trust you with my own children. Please do the right thing and make the SBC safe.