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Posts for June, 2010

Heterosexual Menace: Church-Sanctioned Rape, Humiliation and Exile

Jim Burroway

June 1st, 2010

In 1997, a teenage girl was raped and impregnated by a fellow churchgoer at Trinity Baptist Church in Concord, New Hampshire. When she complained to her pastor, Chuck Phelps, he reported the rape to state youth officials, but police were never able to find the victim. That’s because  was shipped of to another church member’s home in Colorado, where she was home-schooled and not allowed to have contact with others her age. And all the while, she was told it was her fault she was raped:

The victim said Phelps told her she would be put up for “church discipline,” where parishioners go before the congregation to apologize for their sins. She asked why. “Pastor Phelps then said that (Willis) may have been 99 percent responsible, but I needed to confess my 1 percent guilt in the situation,” the victim told the police.

“He told me that I should be happy that I didn’t live in Old Testament times because I would have been stoned.”

Fran Earle, the church’s former clerk, witnessed the punishment session. At a night meeting of the church’s fellowship in 1997, Phelps invited Willis to the front of the room. Willis apologized to the group for not being faithful to his wife, Earle said.

“I can remember saying to my husband, I don’t understand it’s any of our business why this is being brought up,” Earle said. Phelps then told parishioners a second matter was at hand; he invited the victim to apologize for getting pregnant.

“I can still see the little girl standing up there with this smile on her face trying to get through this,” Earle said.