Questions for Reflection (01:01:29)
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Beth Demme (00:00:03):
Welcome to the Discovering Our Scars podcast.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:00:05):
Where we share personal experiences so we can learn from each other.
Beth Demme (00:00:08):
Our mission is to talk about things you might relate to, but that you don't hear being discussed in other places.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:00:13):
Our hope is that you're encouraged to have honest conversations with people in your own life. I'm Steph.
Beth Demme (00:00:17):
I'm Beth. On today's show we're going to have an honest conversation titled Being Preyed Upon At Church with Sandy. Today we have Sandy Kirkham, the author of Let Me Prey Upon You: Breaking Free From A Minister's Sexual Abuse, the story of how Sandy was abused as a member of her church youth group in the 1970s. Sandy, thank you so much. Welcome to Discovering Our Scars. Thanks for being with us today.
Sandy Kirkham (00:00:39):
Thank you. I'm glad to be here.
Beth Demme (00:00:41):
Thanks for writing this book.
Sandy Kirkham (00:00:42):
It was a little difficult to write, but it was also healing as well.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:00:46):
I did want to acknowledge that we're doing this over Zoom, because we are in Tallahassee, Florida, and where you are located?
Sandy Kirkham (00:00:53):
I'm in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:00:55):
In Ohio. So glad, I love Zoom, that we can do these things from so far away.
Beth Demme (00:01:00):
Zoom makes a lot possible.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:01:01):
I know. I do want to say that Beth and I both read your book. We both really connected to it. I probably connected to it even more, being a sexual abuse survivor myself, from my childhood. I want to say even though our stories are different, they happened at different times in our life, they happened in different places, I definitely really related to your story and felt connected to it. I also just really appreciate the way the story was written. Nothing was too much for someone that has experienced abuse to digest. I thought it was so well written. I really think this book is for anyone. Anyone. Someone that has experienced something like this, someone that has never experienced something like this. I think this book is really just share such a picture that we all need to be aware of and all need to know that this is happening, in all different places, especially in ministry, that is just hiding and we have no idea. Thank you again for writing this book.
Beth Demme (00:02:01):
I for sure think anybody who's involved in a church in any way should read the book to understand how predators work.
Sandy Kirkham (00:02:08):
Exactly. It's important, because if we don't understand the dynamics of clergy abuse, it's not just someone who made a mistake, if we don't understand the dynamics and the issues around it, then we won't respond to it correctly, and we then make mistakes in how we deal with the issue.
Beth Demme (00:02:27):
We're going to get into all of this. One of the big aha moments for me was the difference between an affair and abuse. Of course this was not an affair, this was abuse. I'm jumping ahead. Let me back up.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:02:41):
You start out your story, you actually start out with a bang. I'm not going to get into that, because I think you need to read the book to see where it starts. I think that's a great starting point. You really talk about just loving this church that you start to go to with your neighbors. You just are so drawn to this church. I'm curious, why do you think you were so drawn to the church?
Sandy Kirkham (00:03:02):
My parents weren't involved in the church. My parents were divorced. I was the oldest of five. My mother remarried. She was having children. Then my father remarried and he had children. I was lost in the shuffle a little bit. I had a great childhood as far as most of my childhood, but I felt probably I wasn't getting enough attention. I'm an eight-year-old kid and I'm like, "Where's my mom?" She's with the kids or whatever. When my neighbor asked me, it was just something when I went I fell in love with. I loved vacation bible school. I loved summer camp. It became a social aspect as well as a spiritual part for me. As I got older, I became deep into my faith. It just became a place that I felt safe, I felt secure. I became so involved that I was teaching Sunday school, I was in the choir, I was leading retreats. The adults liked me. It just was a wonderful, wonderful place for me. I loved everything about it.
Beth Demme (00:03:57):
That makes so much sense to me, because as a kid church was a place where I felt I belonged to, and so that sense of connection and belonging and safety is something that really resonated with me, because church should be all of those things.
Sandy Kirkham (00:04:15):
I really always felt a spiritual connection to God. Even as a little kid I liked praying. I was drawn to that initially anyway. Then once I found this church that I thought was just wonderful, everything fell into place. I was baptized when I was 13. Once I was baptized, my spiritual life deepened. I was just all in. I was thrilled to be a member of the body of Christ.
Beth Demme (00:04:41):
Tell us who Jeff is and about the first time you met him.
Sandy Kirkham (00:04:45):
I was very involved in the church with the youth group, but at the time our church decided to hire a new youth pastor. This new youth pastor came, and he was totally different than anyone we'd ever seen before. He was 30. He was married with two children, but he acted more like us. He had cutoff jeans. He had sideburns. He drove a convertible. He liked our music. Everything about him was so different than the previous pastor. We were all excited to have this new, young, vibrant pastor on board.
Sandy Kirkham (00:05:14):
The first time that I met him, the senior pastor made an effort to call me after church service and say to me, "I want you to meet the new youth pastor." He introduced me as one of the fine leaders of our church, "We call her our Miss Sunshine." I'm feeling very good about this, because I'm feeling like I'm special. He's taken me aside to make sure I get to meet this new youth pastor. I remember he introduced himself to me and he said, "You have a beautiful smile." Then he took my hand and he didn't let go of it. I wasn't uncomfortable, but I thought, "I don't know what to do, because he's not letting go of my hand." It was a little strange, but I was just so enthralled to meet this new youth pastor and so grateful that the senior pastor would take time out to introduce me. That was my first introduction to him.
Beth Demme (00:06:01):
How old were you then?
Sandy Kirkham (00:06:03):
I was 16.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:06:04):
16. In the book you talk about how your predator groomed you, which is Jeff. Later on when you were older you found out this approach was really typical and textbook of how predators groom children. You give great detail about this process in the book, but can you give us just a Cliff Notes version of what that grooming looked like?
Sandy Kirkham (00:06:28):
Grooming is a process where the predator will try to influence you in a way that you start to accept boundaries that you would normally not accept. It's a basically way of getting you sucked into them so that you trust them so completely that you don't question behavior that you might question otherwise. An example of that would be he was always praising me and telling me how wonderful I was and how much the church needed me and how much he needed me in his ministry. This is building me up to a point where I'm beginning to really like this attention. I like the positions he's putting me in, in charge of committees and doing things. Again, because I love the church so much, I just saw this as a natural pathway. I didn't recognize that this was his way of pulling me in to get me to trust him completely.
Sandy Kirkham (00:07:18):
Another example would be one time he said, "Do you want to go to the basement? I want to play a song for you." He played Neil Diamond's Brother Love's Traveling Salvation Show. I just thought, "This is really weird. I don't know what he wants me to say or do." Then he sat really close to me, in spite of the fact that there were chairs all around. Again, because he was my pastor, I didn't question it. I just thought, "Okay, I don't know what I'm supposed to do. I'll just sit here." It was just slowly breaking down boundaries.
Sandy Kirkham (00:07:47):
I babysat for the family. His wife worked evenings. That really gave him the perfect opportunity to spend time with me. We'd sit and talk about the Bible. We'd sit and talk about church, how we can get more kids involved. That all seemed so natural to me. His goal was not to help the church. His goal was not to build me up spiritually. His goal was to get me to finally get so close to him and trust him that I wouldn't question any behavior, inappropriate behavior. This lasted for about a year. Grooming process usually takes a very long time, because it's methodical and it's targeted. That whole year he just spent just ... He would hug me. I didn't question it. Think about this. If that had been my 30-year-old neighbor down the street, I'm sure I would've gone home to my mom and said, "This is really weird. Every time I babysit for this family, he doesn't want to take me home, he wants to sit and talk to me." He used the church and my love of the church to get to me.
Beth Demme (00:08:48):
One of the other things that you say in the book about how he was different is he told everybody, "I love you. I love you." He was very effusive and used that word a lot as a way to establish connections with young people, it sounded like.
Sandy Kirkham (00:09:02):
He did that with adults as well. He also hugged people. He wanted us always to hug each other. There again it was a boundary that was broken down, but if a stranger or just one of the other members in the church came up to me and said, "I love you," and hugged me, I would've recoiled. That was his way of breaking down these barriers to get people to be convinced that this was an okay behavior, which then would lead then to eventually he would have sex with me.
Sandy Kirkham (00:09:29):
The first time he kissed me, which I think is important, it was after a youth group meeting in my home. He waited for everyone to leave. He then walked up to me and started telling me how wonderful I was and how much he appreciated all the work I was doing in the church. Of course I'm feeling good about all this. This is making me feel good. I like the attention. I wanted to please him. I was really thrilled that he was pleased with how the meeting had gone. Then he just bent down and he kissed me. He caught me in a moment where he had built me up. The kiss was this quick, innocent kiss, so that it confused me. I didn't know what to do with it. I thought, "This is my pastor. He wouldn't be doing anything he shouldn't be doing." I trusted him, so I thought, "This is just his way of showing how much he appreciates me, just like a hug is." I didn't think anything of it. It really was the only way I could process it, because if I thought in my mind, "He shouldn't be kissing me," I was now going to be accusing my youth pastor of doing something wrong.
Beth Demme (00:10:29):
Your youth pastor who everyone loved, all the kids loved, all the adults loved, all the church leaders loved, because he's bringing all of these-
Sandy Kirkham (00:10:35):
Beth Demme (00:10:35):
... people into the church.
Sandy Kirkham (00:10:37):
He was very, very charismatic. He was dynamic in his sermons. Truly, everyone loved this man. He was almost like a cult leader or a rock star. People just looked up to him. He was. He was doing all these wonderful things in the church. Our church attendance was growing. We were getting these new interactive type services, things that we'd never seen before. We all thought it was wonderful.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:11:04):
I think what you just described really gives a good picture into sexual abuse in general. I remember as a child we really focus on stranger danger, stranger danger, strangers are the danger. Most abuse happens within family and friends, people that you know, people like a youth pastor, somebody that on the surface you're taught is safe, you should trust them. Every action that he did, you justified it in how it was safe and how it was appropriate, but you are a child. You're 16, 17. Your brain is not even fully developed. You're so innocent. You can't understand the ... An adult can't even understand the complexities of what that mind game is, let alone a child that an adult is doing this to. Can you imagine when somebody is praising you and giving you attention? It's like, yeah, doesn't everyone want that? Doesn't everyone want that connection with a human being?
Sandy Kirkham (00:12:00):
You see their actions as pure.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:12:01):
Sandy Kirkham (00:12:02):
You're not questioning their actions. Again, if it'd been my 30-year-old neighbor, I might've thought, "This is weird. Why does he want to sit and talk to me?" You don't question those. Not only do we trust them, but we're taught to obey them.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:12:16):
We're taught to do that. We're taught to trust them. We're taught to hug them. We're taught to do what they tell us to do.
Sandy Kirkham (00:12:22):
As children, as teenagers, and even as women, we tend to be people who want to please. We're also afraid to say no for hurting someone's feelings. All of that plays into why we're unable to first see what's happening to us, and then figuring out how to get out of it once we've been abused.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:12:43):
I think you did a great job at really sharing the process of how it happened, starting with that kiss that happened, and then all of the abuse that happened after that. For years it happened. There was times in the book where I was like, "Why didn't you tell someone?" or, "How is this still going on?" You get there. You get there of why it continued to go on the way it did and how you just were basically, you had almost disassociated with yourself, and you were just there as his tool, and you weren't in control anymore. He was controlling you. You can see that with the process.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:13:20):
It's so important I think to read the book in its entirety, in correct order, not to jump around, because you really get there. There's times when I'm like, "Is she ever going to find out why this, why that?" You get there, and I love that. You spend so much time talking about the recovery part of it and the process you had to follow, because everyone's process is different.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:13:41):
I never confronted my abuser, because I knew that I was not going to get any satisfaction from that. I knew I didn't need them to say anything, because whatever they said, it didn't matter. I was able to forgive them without approaching them. Hats off to you. Hand clap for you for actually confronting him. I was like, "Wow, she did this." I was like, "Go, Sandy."
Beth Demme (00:14:06):
That doesn't happen yet.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:14:07):
Sorry. I know.
Beth Demme (00:14:08):
That happens a long time later. You host this youth party at your house. He has been in the process of grooming you for a while, using manipulation, using gaslighting, alternating praise and criticism. He tells you he doesn't like your laugh. What a stupid thing to say. As a teenage woman, every bit of that matters, and he knows that. You mention that it escalated from words and touching to him actually, I would say that he raped you. I don't know if you would use that word.
Sandy Kirkham (00:14:45):
I've been asked that before. Maybe I'm not quite understanding the definition of rape. I think for me because it wasn't this violent act, he didn't force me in a sense, I don't know that I'd use the word rape, but maybe technically he did. I love your word disassociation, because that's exactly what I did the moment he tried to start having sex with me. In the book if you remember I just focused on reading-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:15:12):
Sandy Kirkham (00:15:12):
... these numbers.
Beth Demme (00:15:12):
A, D, yeah.
Sandy Kirkham (00:15:16):
That may seem odd, but that's why I appreciate you're saying that I told the story in such a way that you can understand why I responded the way I did. Again, I think at that point I was afraid to say no. You got to remember, I did care about this person. He had been helping me. Susan Forward, and I think I talk about this in the book, talks about the acronym FOG. Victims have a fear, they have an obligation, they feel an obligation, and they feel guilt. I was fearful what he would do if I said no. I felt obligated to him, because he had been helping me. He had elevated me to all these positions in the church. I felt guilty, because I might hurt him. Understanding the mind of a victim is important. It's an easy question to say, "Why didn't you say no?" The question's easy, but the answer's complicated. It's much more complex than that. Again, he didn't just do that the first time he met me. He waited until he knew, "Okay, I've got her in a place that I know she's not going to resist. She's not going to resist me."
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:16:19):
You loved the church.
Sandy Kirkham (00:16:20):
I tested her.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:16:21):
You loved the church. You talk really in great detail about that. You loved the church. That was your whole being. That was your connection. You didn't want to ever lose that as well. That was part of it. He knew that. He knew how much you loved the church and that he could make or break you within the church, because he had that power.
Sandy Kirkham (00:16:41):
He was my connection. He was my connection. He would do that several times throughout. He would come to me and say, "I don't want you to serve on this committee anymore," or, "I'm going to have a meeting and you're not invited." That devastated me. I didn't know why. He would never give me a reason. That was to keep me in that yo-yo kind of feeling of up and down, up and down, "Where am I now with him?" I always was constantly trying to make sure I pleased him enough that he wouldn't disconnect me from the one thing I loved the most. He had the power to do that.
Beth Demme (00:17:12):
He used all of that against you by talking about the fruit of his ministry and how, "Oh, but look at how the church is ... " Then he got promoted from youth minister to senior minister, which isn't something that happens in my denomination, so I had to think about it for a second, but I understand how that happens. He actually gets this huge promotion and then the church is growing, and then “do you want to destroy this? Gosh, Sandy.”
Sandy Kirkham (00:17:33):
Beth Demme (00:17:33):
We tell people, "You'll be destroying a lot of people." That's a theme that comes back when you do ultimately confront him.
Sandy Kirkham (00:17:41):
Yes. At this point I'm thinking I'm having an affair with a married man. I don't see it as abuse. I didn't want people to know this about me either. Keep in mind, and Stephanie, you might relate to this, your abusers make it very clear, "Don't ever tell anyone. Don't ever tell anyone." He always would say to me, "If you tell anyone, you'll be responsible for what happens to me." I also understood at that point telling anybody, I wasn't sure they'd believe me, but if they did, this was going to be a bombshell. This was going to destroy so many people's feelings and views of what the church was and how they viewed him. In the end, as you know, once they became aware, they rallied around him. I was blamed.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:18:28):
You were the one to blame. I know. Those were hard parts-
Beth Demme (00:18:32):
That was hard.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:18:33):
... to read, but sadly, not surprising, at all, so sad, because this is-
Sandy Kirkham (00:18:38):
I wish I could say it's changed in the last-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:18:41):
Sandy Kirkham (00:18:41):
... 30-something years, but it hasn't.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:18:43):
I know. That's actually why at the beginning I wanted to make sure Beth said this happened in the '70s, because this could've happened today and been the same story, which is just so sad.
Beth Demme (00:18:55):
The abuse went on for about five years, is that right?
Sandy Kirkham (00:18:58):
Beth Demme (00:18:59):
Then you two were discovered. Someone discovered that the two of you were together at a hotel out of town. They went back to the church elders. The church elders threw him a going-away party and helped him transition to another church, where he could then prey on new people, and then later told you that you needed to leave. Is that right?
Sandy Kirkham (00:19:21):
Yeah. The sequence was that he was called in by the elders, he and his wife. I was never asked any questions. No one talked to me. I was simply told where I was to sit in church, how I was to behave. If I was asked any questions about anything, I had to go to the elders. I was told not to tell my parents. This was all in an effort to keep this under wraps so that he could be moved to the next church. As you know, in churches or any place where there's people congregating, rumors start to fly, people start questioning things. All of a sudden he's leaving. Why is he leaving? There were some people who had some suspicions. Some people began to find out. Again, it was all in an effort to say, "Okay, we're keeping as few people finding out as possible." He eventually, after about two and a half months, he was moved to the next church. Shortly thereafter, I was called in by the elders for the first time through all this that had been going on. Again, no one asked me any questions. No one talked to me. I was called in by the elders in a very short meeting. I was told that because of my behavior I was to leave the church.
Sandy Kirkham (00:20:28):
I was devastated. It brings tears to my eyes even now, because it was a place I loved. I believed everything that had been taught there. I believed that people could be forgiven. I believed that I could be supported. I didn't get that. He was forgiven. He was not to blame. I wasn't forgiven. I was blamed. I have told people many times that while the abuse was horrific, what that church did and how they responded had more of an effect on my spiritual life than his actual abuse did. I've often wondered if I'd been called in by those elders to say, "We support you. What you did was not your fault. What happened was his fault. He should've respected the boundaries of his ministry, and he did not." That's not the response I got.
Sandy Kirkham (00:21:19):
Sadly, as we've talked earlier, this is still the reaction churches will have toward victims, especially when it's an adult woman. I want to make that point clear too. It's not just an abuse of children. It's an abuse of adult women, adult women who are vulnerable in their lives, who are going through an emotional crisis, who are going to their pastor for counseling, deserve to have that pastor respond morally and ethically, and when they don't, they have abused their position. That is an abuse of power as well. When you're a child you don't have the coping skills to deal with abuse. When you're an adult and you're going through an emotional crisis, you don't have those same coping skills either. You respond in a way that you can at the moment. Whether that's a doctor, a counselor, a schoolteacher, they all have that responsibility to help you, not harm you, by having any kind of sexual contact with you. When the church told me I was no longer fit to worship there, I was lost. I was a lost soul.
Beth Demme (00:22:17):
Was there anyone in your life at that time who said to you, "This is not your fault."
Sandy Kirkham (00:22:23):
Absolutely. There were probably about seven or eight people, two of them being my youth group leaders, which I mention in the book. There's four of them actually that I mention in the book. To this day I'm very good friends with them. There were some who tried to be helpful, but revictimized me, and not intentionally, but would come to me and say, "We forgive you for what you've done." I hadn't done anything.
Beth Demme (00:22:47):
You had been the victim.
Sandy Kirkham (00:22:49):
That just reinforced in my own mind that they're right, yes, I had an affair with this married man and I sinned. They were trying to be helpful, but most people ignored me. I had a woman who came right up to me and blamed me. We were losing this wonderful pastor. I had almost destroyed his family. Not thinking, "Did he not do those things? Did he not destroy his family by his own actions?" Again, that was the response overall of the church. There was actually a vote by the elders to try and keep him, even after this was discovered. I was not his first instance. I talk in the book, right after he was hired, a young woman from his first church came forward and accused him of sexually inappropriate behavior. He said, "I'll never do it again. I'm sorry. It was a mistake," blah blah blah blah. They chose to forgive him. They chose to let him remain as our youth pastor without giving any information to the congregation. It was within six months of that accusation he was kissing me in my hallway.
Beth Demme (00:23:52):
What's so interesting to me, when you talk about that in the book, that he didn't deny it. He said, "Oh yeah, I did that, and I'm sorry." Then it was almost like the church felt like they owed it to him to forgive him and let him continue in ministry, which is so misguided that it's hard for me to understand. I really did want to try to understand where they were coming from.
Sandy Kirkham (00:24:16):
My perspective, I think there are a couple things here, one is the church is built on this idea that we should forgive and that everyone should deserve a second chance, that we've all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, and that we shouldn't judge. Keep in mind he's very charismatic. He didn't just flippantly say, "Oh, I'm sorry I did that." I'm sure he cried. I'm sure he begged for forgiveness. He put this act on. I think that added to it. You've also got to remember these are men making these decisions, so there by the grace of God go I, that maybe I could've made this mistake. I think it all plays into this idea somehow that we owe it, like you said, to give them a second chance, because they said they're sorry. I think that idea of we've all sinned and we shouldn't judge plays into that. Most Christians are kindhearted people, so they want to believe and give this man a second chance. I think they feel there's a need, that they need to do that.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:25:21):
During the time that he was preying upon you, he would tell you about other women that he would kiss and do these same things to. You were very aware that you are not the only one that he was doing this to.
Sandy Kirkham (00:25:36):
Of course his line would be, "You know I love you the most."
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:25:39):
Sandy Kirkham (00:25:39):
"You're the only one I really love."
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:25:40):
Sandy Kirkham (00:25:42):
Again, at this point, by that point, this would've probably been three years into the relationship, at that point I was pretty much so sucked in and had resigned myself that this was my life. I knew that I would never get married. I knew I'd never have children, that this was never going to be over until he said it was over, because the few times that I went to him feeling guilty and that I said I couldn't do this anymore ... I was unhappy. This wasn't a life I wanted at the age of 17 and 18. I was sneaking around. He isolated me from my friends. This wasn't a typical teenager's life. I wasn't happy. Although I made sure he thought I was, because I didn't want his anger. I needed to please him.
Sandy Kirkham (00:26:21):
He would respond in one of two ways. One, he would say how much he loved me, he needed me. He'd play the guilt trip, that the church needed me. He told me we were married in God's eyes, this is God's will. The other reaction would be to become violent with me. He would push me against the wall. His eyes would always get so glaring toward me, and his jaw was always clenched, and he'd say to me, "No one's going to ever love you like I can. You're not a virgin anymore, and so no one else is going to want you." Again, this is called the gaslighting. He's telling me these things. In my mind I'm thinking, "I could be loved by someone else." He kept repeating that to me to a point that I believed no one else would really ever love me and that this was the best I could do.
Beth Demme (00:27:02):
There's probably still this part of you that still sees him as your pastor and you still need to trust him, because he's your spiritual leader.
Sandy Kirkham (00:27:12):
When I would get to that edge of feeling like I couldn't take it anymore, he would so pull me back in and start to love me and tell me how wonderful I was. He would then tell me things, "I'm going to let you do this in the church." These men are very good at knowing how far they push their victims so they can pull us back in. They keep us on a continual seesaw of up and down of emotions, that we're so confused that we can't ... I tell people just because there's a way out doesn't mean we see that way out. I didn't see a way out. I felt like I was in a black hole. I didn't feel like I could tell anyone. I didn't feel like he was ever going to let me go and that this was going to be my life. The only way that I could cope was to accept it. That's what I eventually did in the end. I just accepted the relationship.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:27:59):
I think one of the good examples, obviously we knew he's a predator and he did not love you, he is not capable of love, but one of the best examples I thought was that horrible incident that happened when some skeezy guy followed you out of the parking garage into a hotel and was attempting, I assume, to rape you in this hotel. You were able to get away, run to your hotel room, and Jeff didn't care one bit about this. He left you there to walk back to your car. If you needed any evidence that this guy cared zero for you and only cared about himself and his needs, that was an example. I was terrified in that moment and like, "Oh no. Is this about to happen? Oh my gosh." I felt that with you. That was I think a great way of seeing he didn't care.
Sandy Kirkham (00:28:50):
No, but I couldn't see that. I accepted that. That was who he was. It's hard for people to imagine how someone can get so low and feel such low self-esteem and cannot see the reality around them. That's what gaslighting is. They change your perception of reality so that you only see things the way they want you to see them. That's where I was in my life. When the church said I wasn't fit to worship, I thought, "You're right. I'm not. I'm not fit."
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:29:26):
Throughout the story you talk about learning about some of the other youth or young women that Jeff preyed upon. Do you happen to know how many women? Did you ever try to contact them? I know you tried to do so much to recover from this. Did you ever try to make any connection with those women or find out how many victims?
Sandy Kirkham (00:29:49):
I didn't, for this reason, because I know that if someone had come to me and said, "Did Jeff ever do anything to you?" I would've immediately said, "No. No. I don't want anybody to know that he did this." I also knew that if I just would tell my story, if it would resonate with someone, they would come to me, and that's what happened. I had suspicions of a lot of the girls in the youth group. None of them were to the extent, I don't believe, that I was. I don't know that for sure. I believe most of his activity with other women in the church and girls in the church was simply kissing. I shouldn't say simply, but was kissing, hugging, maybe inappropriate touching, just enough that he could feel, "Look what I can do, and they're not going to say anything." It was a power thing with him.
Sandy Kirkham (00:30:38):
At the time he would brag to me, "I had Mrs. So-and-so in my office today and she let me do this." Later on I had a couple women come to me and confess that yes, that happened in the office with him. Then there were a couple girls that I was aware of that came to me. I think there were many more. When I confronted him, I asked him how many women, because I do believe as he got older, he went for younger women. I don't think he was still involved with teenagers. As he got older, his women still were younger, but they were old enough to be over of age. I asked him, I said, "How many women were there?" He said, "Many many. Many many."
Sandy Kirkham (00:31:21):
Predators know, "If I beg forgiveness and I admit all these things ... " People say, "Why would he say that?" Because he's hoping I'll feel sorry for him, and I'll look at him and say, "He's being honest. He's being truthful."
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:31:36):
Sandy Kirkham (00:31:37):
"He's being transparent. He's changed." None of that is true. None of that is true. It's an act that they use. I say to church leadership, "Think about this. He stood up and preached every Sunday morning after having sex with me on Saturday night. He stood in front of that congregation and his whole ministry was a lie. Everything he did was a lie. His relationship with his wife was a lie. Everything was a lie. Why do you think when you confront him he's going to be all of a sudden a truthful individual?" He's going to say and do whatever he thinks is necessary in order to get out of being punished or removed from the ministry, because one of the things he said to me right after he was discovered, his actions were discovered, "If anyone asks you, tell them this has only been going on for a year."
Sandy Kirkham (00:32:24):
People say, "He didn't want people to know how young you were when it started." I think that had a lot to do with it. I think the real reason was this. He knew that if he could say, "Oh, it was a mistake. It only was going on for a year," you can be forgiven for that maybe, but if you have to look at those elders and say, "This has been going on six months after I arrived," it's a little harder to accept that this was just a simple mistake or he didn't mean to do it. Yes, he did mean to do it. He did it for five continuous years. That would've made it harder for them to accept his lies.
Beth Demme (00:32:56):
Another lie that he told was that he didn't know how old you were. He wanted people to think that he thought that you were 18. He was your youth group leader. Of course he knew exactly how old you were.
Sandy Kirkham (00:33:06):
Sure he was. He knew what grade I was in. His idea that, "Oh, I don't remember her being that age," I can prove how old I was. That's the other thing about my story which made it a little bit easier for me to confront him, not that it was easy at all, but I knew he couldn't deny it, which a lot of victims have to suffer through their perpetrator saying, "She was confused," or, "That was just a quick kiss. I didn't mean anything by it. Nothing ever happened again." He couldn't do that. I had documented and I had him on tape confessing. I had letters. I had notes. I had so much information. Again, because he was caught, he couldn't deny it. He couldn't deny it. Yet he was forgiven. It was a clear cut case, and yet he was forgiven and the sympathy was all toward him.
Beth Demme (00:33:59):
There was a big gap of time between when the abuse finally ended and when you finally were able to face the trauma and start to heal from the abuse and start to understand that it was abuse. Walk us through that. What was the first step that you had to take to shift your perspective on that and to begin your healing?
Sandy Kirkham (00:34:24):
I won't give away the first chapter in the book, because Stephanie doesn't want me to give it away, but that's the moment that I had a trigger that sent me to ... I didn't understand what was happening, but I had this overwhelming sense of sadness and hurt and pain. I didn't know what it meant. I wasn't sure. I was having this anxiety attack. He was all around me. All I could think of was what he had done and what did it mean.
Sandy Kirkham (00:34:50):
The first step that I took, I took two weeks just wringing my hands and being in complete anxiety mode almost 24 hours a day. I was trying to hide it from my husband, from my kids, from my friends. I knew that I couldn't just stuff it back down. I knew it wasn't going away. Whatever this was was not going away. The first thing I did is I thought, "I'm going to Google clergy sexual abuse and see what I can find." It was then that I began to see, okay, this is what he did to me, this wasn't a love affair.
Sandy Kirkham (00:35:21):
Probably the biggest step I took was to finally find the courage to finally tell someone. I kept this secret for 27 years. I was going to my grave with this secret. I never wanted anyone to know this. I told my very best friend, and that opened up to a point where telling that truth was the beginning of my healing process. I needed to tell someone so that I could finally let go and say the words, "I was sexually abused by my youth pastor."
Sandy Kirkham (00:35:50):
Now it took me almost two years to believe that. I spent a lot of time going back and forth, "Maybe he did care about me. Maybe he did love me. Maybe I could've done something differently," or, "I did know better. I knew right from wrong. Why didn't I stop it?" I had to keep going back and forth, back and forth, to say no, he was in a position of authority, he was in a position of trust, he was my youth pastor, he preyed upon me. That took a good two years to finally get to that point.
Sandy Kirkham (00:36:22):
That's why I stress so often to victims, you have to keep remembering and reminding yourself he abused you and he never cared about you, because all of us on some level want to believe that no one is going to intentionally hurt us, and that they show that they cared about us, so they must've cared on some level. He never cared about me. He never cared about me.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:36:46):
I recently was having a conversation with a friend of mine. We were in the car. I don't know how this came up. We were talking about when Me Too happened and when victims started coming forward after years and years of abuse had happened. It had been years after. She said, "I just don't know why these women waited so long. If they had just said something right away, it would've been taken care of and done." As a survivor myself, I did not take this so well. I did react maybe a little more than I should to someone driving a car, but I just reacted and was very passionate about how I reacted, because it took me many, many, many years to start to process all of the abuse. I know firsthand what that's like, that it takes time, and that it's not something that it happened and then you go tell someone and then it's taken care of. I know you have done so, so much work with learning about your own, working through your own recovery, but also learning about just victims in general and helping other victims that have had clergy abuse happen. I'm curious, do you know, is there a average time table it takes for someone to actually acknowledge the abuse and to begin to recover from that?
Sandy Kirkham (00:38:13):
The average age for children to come forward is 52. I was 49. That's the average age is 52. I was 49. In adult women, they're more likely to come forward in a shorter period of time, not necessarily right away. It's interesting that you say that you reacted that way to your friend, because that's exactly what started me on writing this book. There was an article on the senator from, I think it was Louisiana. He was accused of having some relationships with teenage girls. Of course he denied it. This was in the '70s, like it happened with me. There was an editorial in the paper about why these women don't come forward and why didn't they come forward sooner. It went on and on about if this had really happened.
Sandy Kirkham (00:39:10):
I'm standing in the kitchen. I was just livid. I grabbed the newspaper and I said to my husband, "I'm going to write an editorial back." He said to me, "You have a bigger forum. You should write a book." I'd never written before. I had no desire to write. I just finally said, "I am." I didn't know if it'd ever get published. I didn't know where it was going to go, but I thought people need to understand why we don't come forward right away.
Sandy Kirkham (00:39:34):
For me, I was embarrassed. We're embarrassed. Even as little children we're taught don't let anyone touch you, so when they touched us and we said no, we automatically assume mom's going to get mad because I didn't do what she told me. We take on the blame. We take on the shame. We're afraid we won't be believed. We're afraid that the perpetrator's going to hurt us or somehow we're going to get in trouble. Even at age 49, the first time I went to someone outside of my circle of trust, I went to the investigator, I remember thinking if I tell him his name, I'm going to get in trouble. I was 49 years old. I was still afraid of getting in trouble. To understand why we wait so long, that's part of it. We want it to be over. That was the other thing. Once it was done, it was like, "I'm not thinking about this anymore. I don't want to talk about it anymore. I'm going to go on with my life." The problem is that doesn't work.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:40:29):
Sandy Kirkham (00:40:29):
It doesn't work.
Beth Demme (00:40:30):
Then with Roy Moore, now he's going to be in this very powerful position. He's a senator from Alabama.
Sandy Kirkham (00:40:38):
It was Roy Moore. That's who I was thinking of.
Beth Demme (00:40:38):
A senator from Alabama.
Sandy Kirkham (00:40:38):
Beth Demme (00:40:38):
All of a sudden it's like he has a lot of power and now I'm reliving this trauma and now I'm going to tell somebody. Then the news media says, "Gosh, you've been holding on to that for a minute."
Sandy Kirkham (00:40:49):
"You're only doing this out of revenge. You're only doing this to hurt him." The victims are always looked at suspiciously. They're always looked at suspiciously. Even when there's proof there's this, "What's your motive?" What's my motive? Why do I have to have a motive?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:41:06):
We never have anything to gain. We never gain anything beyond knowing that we have told the truth and that that truth may help other women. That's all we get.
Sandy Kirkham (00:41:19):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:41:19):
We don't gain anything beyond ... There's a lot of negatives that come with-
Sandy Kirkham (00:41:23):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:41:23):
... coming forward and with sharing these super hard things. That's similar to why I wrote my book as well, because I have had a lot of people say, "Why didn't you do this? Why didn't you do that?" It's not something that you can just answer in a elevator pitch. It's something that it was a process. Everything's a process. Anytime it's this mental mind game, it's such a process. I don't think we have a good understanding as a society of the mental games people play and what that looks like and how ... If you haven't experienced it, I can understand. It's like, "Why did you go along with this? Why'd you do this?" That's why we need stories like yours, to really help us understand things that we might not have experienced in our own lives.
Sandy Kirkham (00:42:12):
It's interesting, the book is about clergy abuse, but I've had several women say to me, "This is my relationship with my husband. This is how he controlled me. This is how he manipulated me." One woman said to me, "I was reading your book in bed," and she'd divorced her first husband, and she was laying in bed with her second husband, who she has a great relationship with. She said, "I took that book, I shoved it in his face, and I said you need to read this chapter, because this is exactly what I suffered." I think the book, like you said, it can be helpful for anyone to understand, because how many times do you think, "Why didn't she just leave?" If it were that easy, we would have left.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:42:49):
Beth Demme (00:42:50):
"Why didn't you leave? Why didn't you tell someone?" You have no idea of the way the abuse was actually impacting the victims.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:42:57):
It's tough. It's tough to hear those things over and over from people. In my experience when people say such ignorant statements, it's really hard. It's hard to continue to be that, "Let me breathe, okay," which is why, as you know, we have to do our own work. We have to work on all of our stuff to be able to answer those questions, those ignorant questions over and over. We have to have done that work. I can tell you've done that work.
Sandy Kirkham (00:43:23):
Maybe it'll be helpful to you. What I finally came to realize was their questions are a way for me to enlighten them, that this is my ministry, this is my goal, and whether I change their mind or not, I've answered their question, because I take their question as this is my opportunity. I'm glad they asked, as stupid as it was. Some people truly just don't get it. They don't. Maybe I wouldn't get it if this hadn't happened to me. Until you've been under the throes of an abusive situation, you truly can't understand. That's true in any situation. I don't know what it's like to lose a child. I can sympathize, but I can't feel that same feeling that that woman has. That's the most important part, as victims we can share with each other and our stories can resonate with each other. Something in your story is going to resonate with a victim that maybe my story won't. We all need to be able to tell our truth and share our stories. Having said that, I understand how hard it is to do that. No victim should be expected to have to tell their story to anyone they don't feel comfortable telling their story to. God gave me the gift of gab, so this is what I'm able to do. Many victims can't do this, and that's okay. That's okay.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:44:43):
In the book you do talk about being told to leave your church, the church you love. You talk about you do go back to church, you do ultimately marry Bill, which sounds like an amazing man.
Beth Demme (00:44:57):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:44:57):
Number 40. I love that.
Beth Demme (00:44:59):
Number 40 on the switchboard.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:44:59):
I love that chapter, by the way, because it's like, "Is this Bill?" but you don't call him Bill until the end of it. I was like, "That's so cute." I really like that chapter.
Sandy Kirkham (00:45:06):
So do I.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:45:09):
I bet Bill does too. Number 40 does too. You're married. You have two kids. You haven't confronted the abuse during this time or started to recover from the abuse. You are going to church during these times, but just because you're phoning it in. I'm curious today where you sit after going through recovery, writing your book. What is your relationship with God like right now?
Sandy Kirkham (00:45:36):
For 27 years I had a total disconnect from God. I was someone who took my Bible to school with me every day. I did devotions. I never prayed for 27 years. One of the saddest things about all of this for me is that my children never had a bedtime prayer with their mother. It's something I'll always regret. I went to church because I wanted my children to have that experience. My husband was Methodist, so that's the church we ended up going to. I had blinders on. Like you said, I phoned it in. I didn't listen to prayers. I would sing the songs, but if it was a song that was a trigger for me, I just closed the book. That's what I did for 27 years.
Sandy Kirkham (00:46:12):
After I began to understand what was done to me, I then began this effort to try and get my spiritual life back. In the chapter Spiritual Wounds I talk about the damage that was done and how I was trying to find my way back. I'm in a very good place spiritually with God right now. I can now pray. I open my Bible and read it. I'm not comfortable in church. Church is still a trigger factor for me. I think it's important for people to understand. We can heal but it doesn't mean there still aren't scars. It doesn't mean there still aren't places and names and people that still give us problems in our lives. At any moment I can be driving down the road and all of a sudden he's back in my mind again, because something triggered it. That doesn't necessarily go away. However, they become less and they are not as intense as they used to be. Now I understand why I have them. Before all of a sudden he would pop into my mind and I'd feel him around me, and I'm thinking, "I can't deal with this. I got to figure out what to do with it." Now I understand why I'm having that trigger factors, so that helps.
Sandy Kirkham (00:47:20):
I have a great relationship with God. I miss that connection to church. I mourn that loss. Some victims are able to go back to church. Some become atheist. This is what clergy sexual abuse does. It contaminates our spiritual life. It taints everything about it. We have to work at getting back to not even necessarily where we were. You can't put the scrambled egg back into the shell again. It goes back in a different way. You can make an omelet out of it. You can make a lot of things out of an egg that's broken, but it doesn't ever go back into the shell again. I think there's hope for victims who have been abused by clergy, but it will be a different view. It'll be probably a different view.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:48:05):
I asked the question specifically this way because I too look at relationship with God different than relationship with church. I think so many people look at that as the same thing. I did not have abuse happen at church at all, but I do have a cloudy view of church, so I don't have a healthy connection to church at the moment, but I do with God. I do like how you said that, because I think those are not one and the same and can be separate and you can have a healthy relationship with God without the church.
Sandy Kirkham (00:48:37):
I would say to you as a spiritual leader, one of the things I try to tell people who are very spiritual, whether they're pastors or not, is that so often church leaders and people in a congregation will approach a victim with the idea of getting them back in the church and not blame God and, "It wasn't God who did this to you. It was this." You got to remember, this man's praying with me as he's having sex with me. Everything becomes muddled and confused for us. I never really blamed God, but I certainly wondered why this was happening to me. I caution people who have a spiritual life to not push things like prayer and to not be offended if a victim were to say, "I'm not sure I believe in God anymore." The best thing you can do for that victim is accept them where they are. They will lead you down that road of where they need to go spiritually. One victim said to me, "I feel terrible, because you know what? I really don't believe in God anymore." I said to her, "That's okay, because you know what?"
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:49:41):
Sandy Kirkham (00:49:42):
"God knows what was done to you and God wept for you that day, and He's a big God, and He's okay with that. He's okay with that." She didn't need me to preach to her why there was a God. That wasn't where she was. That only turns them off.
Beth Demme (00:50:00):
I think it's okay to be angry with God. "Okay, God, you wept over this, but my understanding of you is that you are all knowing and all powerful and everywhere at all times. You could have stopped this." It's okay to take that anger to God. We see that all the time in the Bible. The Psalms are full of it, like, "Come on, God. You could do better here. You could do better by me."
Sandy Kirkham (00:50:22):
The verse that finally probably put me light years ahead for my healing was Jeremiah 23:1, "Woe to the shepherds who are scattering my sheep." I looked up the definition of woe. It's affliction. It's bad. You do not want to have someone woe upon you. To me that said God was just as angry, and he wasn't defending this many in any way, nor would he defend anybody else who did this to one of his sheep. These are wolves in sheep's clothing. They are not the shepherds or the sheep. They're wolves. They pretend to be a shepherd. They have devoured a child of God. That's not in God's plan. Once I could understand that, it helped me to move forward in a way that I couldn't prior to that. I also tell church leaders, "Look, when you give these men a second chance, it's a second chance to reoffend. You're not returning a shepherd. You're returning a wolf who pretended to be a shepherd. It's not the shepherd you're returning. You're risking the lives of those in your congregation. You really don't have a right to do that. You don't have a right to do that."
Beth Demme (00:51:32):
Especially to do it and withhold information.
Sandy Kirkham (00:51:33):
Beth Demme (00:51:33):
Withhold information so that you're protecting the predator. That I think is absolutely unacceptable.
Sandy Kirkham (00:51:43):
They're enablers. They are just as guilty. If you remember in the book, when I confronted him his supervisor was sitting there, and no one in his congregation, not even the elders, were aware of his past, not just with me, but his multiple.
Beth Demme (00:51:58):
The whole pattern.
Sandy Kirkham (00:51:59):
The whole pattern and the fact that he'd been identified as a sexual addict. I don't know if that blew you away, but when he told me that in that meeting, I sat there and I didn't even know what to say. He said, "I've been identified as a sexual addict in counseling." I remember looking at the supervisor thinking, "Are you okay with this? What is this?" He's charismatic. They love him. He's wonderful in the church. It clouds their judgment.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:52:26):
Beth, I'm curious. As we were talking about, you are a pastor.
Beth Demme (00:52:29):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:52:30):
What was that like for you to read this book?
Beth Demme (00:52:32):
I was deeply disappointed in the church, reading the book. Maybe this is a not very gracious response, but I kept thinking, "This is why we need women in church leadership." Come on. This is a bunch of men protecting other men. This is the dark side of the patriarchy at work. I was really sad to see how the church also perpetrated harm in this. It also was helpful to me to know, because I was imagining if I were in church with you and I heard you singing and I would turn around and say, "Oh my gosh, you have an amazing voice. Why don't you sing in the choir?" I would maybe not accept your, "That's not for me," answer. This gave me perspective to go, oh yeah. I often say to people in my congregation, "I can work with a no. Just be honest with me, but I really need to mean that," because there are all these multivalent ... There's this whole lifetime of experience behind those answers. I don't need to know all of that until they're ready to share it with me. That was really helpful.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:53:42):
At the end of the book you mention that many of the names have been changed. Most notably would be the predator, Jeff. Why did you make that choice?
Sandy Kirkham (00:53:49):
That was probably one of the hardest decisions I made in writing the book. I went back and forth many times on that. When I first began telling my story, I was very emotional and I was not in a good place as far as my healing go. I'm not certainly in the place I am now. I wanted to get my message out. I was so afraid that I wouldn't be heard if people saw this as a vendetta or that I was just using this as a revenge. For me it was important to tell my story to help educate and to prevent further abuse. One of the first places I contacted was Cincinnati Christian Bible Seminary. I thought since they were mostly pastors and people studying to be ministers, if I didn't use his name I would have a better opportunity to get my foot in the door. That was my initial ... It really wasn't about revenge. This was about my story.
Sandy Kirkham (00:54:41):
I contacted his ex-wife to, I wouldn't say make amends, but to acknowledge the pain that this had caused her, not that I was the cause of the pain, but I wanted to acknowledge that this had to have been so difficult for her as well. We became very close. We visited over the years. I also babysat his children. For me I just didn't want to add the additional pain of naming this person. Even though he deserved it, I didn't want to cause any more pain to his family than had already been done by him.
Sandy Kirkham (00:55:12):
Then I had already done everything I thought I could do. I had gone to his elders. I went to his denominational leaders in Indianapolis. I talked to the president of the denomination. When I found out he was at another church, I wrote the elders of that church. It wasn't like I was not letting him just go freely about. I was keeping tabs on him and informing anyone that was going to hire him that they understand what his past was. Then if they decided to keep him, which all of them did, then ... At some point I began to realize, chasing after him and trying to expose him was doing no good. It was diverting me from my message. I decided that in the book I would not use his name.
Sandy Kirkham (00:55:53):
I chose not to name the church, because the church was very good, my former church. They allowed me to come back and tell my truth. That was tremendous to my healing. They were all very accepting of me, acknowledged the wrong that was done. I knew if someone was going to Google that church if they were interested in attending, the first thing that was going to pop up was my book. I didn't think they deserved to have that pain and that additional ... It wasn't going to do anybody any good.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:56:21):
That was interesting as I was reading the book, because you use his name a lot, his first and last name a lot in the book. I'm thinking, "Wow, she went there." I'm like, "When I'm done reading this book, I'm going to Google him and tell him what it's for." Then at the end I read that you changed his name, and I thought, "I get it. I get it."
Sandy Kirkham (00:56:38):
You weren't disappointed?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:56:40):
Sandy Kirkham (00:56:40):
A lot of people are very disappointed, and some are angry that I didn't.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:56:43):
We'll get to Beth in a second, because she has a different opinion. I too changed some names in my book. Instantly when I read what you said, I instantly got it, because it wasn't about him. This is a bigger story. I think almost if you had named him, it might've become about him. It's not about him. This is about this abuse that is just rampant that needs to be known and exposed. You did try to expose him so many times to all the right people. You did all the right things and nothing happened.
Sandy Kirkham (00:57:20):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:57:21):
I completely understood the things that you changed and I totally respected that. I'm going to pass it to Beth, because that's something that she really, before she read the book she's like, "Why doesn't she name him?" Then after she read the book she's like, "Why didn't she put his name?" Here's a little bit from Beth.
Beth Demme (00:57:40):
Let me say that I think the advantage to not using his actual name is that it leaves it open to this could be anyone. This could be anyone-
Sandy Kirkham (00:57:51):
Beth Demme (00:57:51):
... currently in ministry. Take seriously accusations. Take seriously past history. You say in your epilogue, "In keeping his identity a secret, was I complicit in keeping his actions a secret?" That's the rub for me. I appreciated that you struggled with it. I appreciated that you really did everything that you could. You did much more than I think I would have had the strength to do in trying to make his actions known to everyone he was in ministry with. I think the thing that really clicked for me was what you just said about his ex-wife and his children from that marriage, that they don't deserve to have that sin laid upon them.
Sandy Kirkham (00:58:41):
That was probably the most compelling point for me. I guess I didn't put that in the book, and I should have.
Beth Demme (00:58:48):
What advice would you give to someone to help a victim of clergy abuse?
Sandy Kirkham (00:58:54):
The first thing that you can do is to listen. I don't know how you feel, Stephanie, but I couldn't tell my story enough. I couldn't get it out enough. I wanted to continually talk about it, because each time I talked about it, I gave a little bit more of it. I trusted to give a little bit more of my story. I just didn't come out and tell this entire story. The best thing you can do is just let that person talk without judgment, without questions. Don't bombard them with, "Why this? Why that?" Let them talk. I would also say you need to repeat to a victim over and over again, "It's not your fault. You should've been able to trust this person. This is a person, either whether it was in clergy, a family member, you should've been able to trust them. It wasn't your fault you were targeted. This was done to you by someone you should've been able to trust." Then as I go back earlier, try not to push them spiritually along. Let them guide themselves. Those would be the three things that I would say you can help a victim is to listen to them without judgment, remind them that it was not their fault, and to help them spiritually by letting them guide you to where they need to be.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:59:59):
What would you say to other sexual abuse survivors?
Sandy Kirkham (01:00:03):
I'll repeat it again. It was not your fault. You're not alone in this. You're not alone.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (01:00:14):
Sandy, thank you so much for being with us today. Like I said at the beginning, I think this book is for literally everyone. Where can people find this book?
Sandy Kirkham (01:00:25):
I have a website, which is simply my name, it's Sandy, S-A-N-D-Y, Phillips, P-H-I-L-L-I-P-S, Kirkham, K-I-R-K-H-A-M, dot com. That's my website. Even if they don't want to buy the book, I think the website has a lot of good information on there for victims and for those who want to understand this topic a little bit better. Then it's also available on Amazon in hardback and in paperback.
Beth Demme (01:00:52):
We'll put a link to your website in our show notes for today. Are you on any kind of social media? Can people find you on Instagram or Twitter or Snapchat or any of that?
Sandy Kirkham (01:01:00):
I'm on Twitter and I also have a Facebook page. I have a personal page and then an author page. It's Facebook Sandy Phillips Kirkham and it's author, but one is private. If you don't get to that one, you'll get to the other one.
Beth Demme (01:01:13):
Makes sense. That makes sense.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (01:01:14):
You'll find all of that input links in the description. At the end of each episode, we end with questions for reflection. These are questions based on today's show that Beth will read and leave a little pause between for you to answer to yourself, or you can find a pdf on our Buy Me A Coffee page.
Beth Demme (01:01:29):
Number one, how do you feel after hearing Sandy's story? Number two, what have you learned about the grooming process used by sexual predators? Number three, do you know any sexual abuse survivors? Are you a survivor yourself? Reflect on that. Number four, how does the fact that Sandy's abuse happened through the church impact your connection to her story?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (01:01:57):
This has been the Discovering Our Scars podcast. Thank you for joining us.