DEAR ABBY: I read with interest the letter from "Fallen and Wants to Get Up." She's the woman who had an affair with her pastor and quit his church in an attempt to end it, but he wouldn't leave her alone. She also mentioned he pockets some of the tithe money.
Your advice to her was right on. She should report the "Pastard" (kudos for the nickname!); however, there is more going on than an affair. "Fallen" has been sexually exploited by that slimeball. The emotional damage experienced by these victims is devastating. Many of them become suicidal. They don't understand what happened to them.
We are taught to place unquestionable trust in professionals in the helping professions. When ethical boundaries are crossed or nonexistent, these victims are severely damaged. This is a subject no one wants to talk about. Sexual misconduct and/or exploitation by a professional -- be it a pastor, doctor, psychiatrist, psychologist, teacher, lawyer, firefighter or policeman -- is a criminal offense in 24 states.
Allow me to direct your attention to www.advocateweb.org. We provide support, resources and a community of survivors for these victims. We understand how "Fallen" feels. We educate the public as well as offending professionals. We will help her and others to understand and heal from this gross violation. -- CINDY BOLING, VICE PRESIDENT, ADVOCATEWEB
DEAR CINDY: I'm pleased to help. "Fallen's" letter brought in a flood of mail. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: Your response to "Fallen" was a good start, but it didn't go far enough. In addition to being a thief and a hypocrite, Pastor Jones is also a sexual predator. It is always the pastor's responsibility to set the boundaries, just as it is with any other professional.
"Fallen" should contact the FaithTrust Institute (www.faithtrustinstitute.org) for support on her journey of healing from this insidious form of abuse. -- SEMINARY STUDENT IN INDIANA
DEAR SEMINARY STUDENT: Thank you for wanting to help. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: Having been on the staff of two large churches and on the executive leadership board of my former church, I predict that church membership, its staff and the larger church body will do nothing -- or, if pushed, will do everything in their power to deflect blame to the weakest person.
Pastors and many church members are well-connected in the community. Maintaining the image of the church is more important to them than disciplining their own or caring for a repentant member. "Fallen" does not appear to be strong enough to see her husband, her lover and her church turn into enemies. -- NO NAME, NO CHURCH
DEAR NO NAME: Don't bet on it! All she needs is God on her side, a good lawyer, and to understand the extent to which she has been victimized.
DEAR ABBY: Your response to the fallen wife and mother was on the mark. However, I take exception to the "Pastard" remark. We have enough foul language in this world without your adding to it. -- C.F. IN FRESNO, CALIF.
DEAR C.F.: I have received both castigation and congratulation for my remark. I don't regret coining the term. The B-word is more accurate, but this is a family newspaper.