Men have been sexually preying on women for as long as anyone can remember. Millions of women have been sexually harassed, assaulted, or raped. Worse yet, many of these crimes are never reported, let alone prosecuted. Some women feel shame after being assaulted and don’t want anyone to know what happened. Others fear retribution, job loss, or family ostracization. Still others fear they will not be believed. One such woman was my mother.
Mom was sexually molested as a child by her father. (Please read Barbara.) I know this because she told me. As an adult, Mom tried one day to confront her father over his “sins.” His response? Without ever acknowledging what he had done, he told Mom that his past sins had been forgiven by God, and if God had forgiven him, so should she. Mom’s lack of forgiveness became an issue when Grandpa’s wife, using Bill Gothard’s Basic Life Principles, decided to “confront” Mom’s bitterness. She let it be known that Mom’s bitterness was due to her unwillingness to forgive. Needless to say, the discussion turned into an angry shouting match. (Please read Dear Ann.)
In the late 1960s, we lived west of Farmer, Ohio in a rented farmhouse owned by my Dad’s sister, Mary. I attended fifth and sixth grade at Farmer Elementary School. One day, I was home sick from school. Unbeknownst to me, my uncle, whom I will call Bob out of respect for his wife and son, unexpectedly came to our home. Bob only stayed for a short while, but what he did during that time left a lasting impression on a mother and her twelve-year-old son.
I learned as an adult that Bob was known for sexually harassing and assaulting women, including teen girls. Many of the women in my family have stories to tell about Bob inappropriately touching them or coming on to them. Everyone knew about Bob. Oh, that’s just how Bob was, one close family member told me. As far as I know, no one has ever publicly accused Bob of sexually assaulting them; except for my mom, that is.
Whether Bob stopped at our house on a whim or knew that Mom would be home alone and wanted to use that opportunity to take sexual advantage of her, I’ll never know, but one thing is for certain: Bob raped my mother. I know, because she told me he did. After Bob left, Mom had me run down to the neighbor’s house to use their phone to call someone. For the life of me, I can’t remember whom she had me call. I do know that no one believed her. She was Crazy Barb, the woman with mental problems.
Is it any wonder Mom had mental health problems? Born into a family where both parents were violent alcoholics, she suffered significant trauma, including being sexually molested by her father. At age seventeen, she had an unplanned pregnancy, and by age eighteen she was married and had a redheaded baby boy — yours truly. Mom married a young Hungarian man, but he was not my father. Two years ago, I learned that my father was a married truck driver from Chicago. He met my teen mom at the truck stop where she worked in Bryan. (Please see What an Ancestry DNA Test Revealed About Me.)
A few years ago, Bob died. His funeral was held at First Baptist Church in Bryan, Ohio — the family church. Bob’s parents, Mom and Pop Daugherty, were instrumental in starting First Baptist, and they were lifelong members, as were several of their children. Bob didn’t attend First Baptist. As far as I know, he didn’t attend any church and hadn’t been to First Baptist in decades. The church is an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church, pastored by John MacFarlane, a man who was a boy in the church when I was a teenager. This boy, now a college-educated man of God, conducted Bob’s funeral.
Having attended numerous IFB funerals, I knew what to expect: preaching and an invitation to accept Jesus as my Savior. I endured this nonsense for the sake of my family. During the service, the pastor spoke glowingly of Bob’s life. I began to feel anger rise up in me, knowing that the pastor was painting faux gold on a piece of shit. Even worse, the pastor shared a story about Bob coming to the church altar as a teenager and asking Jesus to save him. And glory to God in the highest, God saved Bob and he is, thanks to Jesus, in Heaven today, said the pastor, or something to that effect. I’m sure hearing that Bob was in Heaven brought great joy and peace to his elderly mother. But what about my mother — who at age fifty-four, turned a Ruger .357 magnum towards her heart and pulled the trigger, killing herself instantly? What about all the girls, who are now grownups, and their mothers, who endured the indignity of Bob groping and sexually harassing them (and who knows what else he might have done, secrets never spoken of)? How is it that everyone who took sexual advantage of my mother died and went to Heaven — all praise be to the one who overlooks the sexually predatory ways of his followers — yet my mother is burning in Hell because she committed the one “sin” that can never be forgiven — self-murder?
Mom is buried at Fountain Grove Cemetery in Bryan, Ohio. From time to time, I will stop by the cemetery and ponder what life might have been like for my mom had it not been for the men in her life. She certainly had her faults, but I wonder how much of the carnage that became her life can be traced back to her being sexually molested as a child and being raped as a young woman. Mom would divorce my father three years after Bob raped her. She would go on to marry three more times, always thinking that she needed a man in her life to survive. Such were the times, I suppose, but I know this for sure: I miss my mother and curse those who harmed her and caused her so much anguish and suffering.
As for Bob, he is where all people — good and bad — end up when they die: the grave. There is no Heaven or Hell, except for that which we experience in this life. While Mom had moments where she experienced the joys of Heaven, sadly much of her life was Hell. I so wish for her that she could have a second run at this thing we call life, but alas there are no re-dos. All I can do now is tell her story and work to make sure that the Bobs of the world don’t have a chance to harm others. And when they do sexually harm others, I want to be a voice calling for their arrest, prosecution, and imprisonment. Perhaps then, those who sexually assault and rape young girls, teens, and adult women will experience a bit of the hell they so richly deserve — Jesus and his forgiveness be damned.
And for the preacher who preached Bob into Heaven? Fuck you, John. Your theology has turned you into a bad person.
Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.
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“Jesus paid it all” is the ultimate cosmic Get Out of Jail Free card. Even when I was a professed Evangelical I had problems with the notion that praying a “sinner’s prayer” after enduring fourteen verses of “Just As I Am” at Pastor Billy Bob’s Sunday night services wipes one’s slate clean with no collateral consequences- either internal or external.
I cursed Catholicism for decades after I left it to embrace my new Born Again status, and finally upon the threshold of middle age I realized that in many ways it was the lesser evil among the two belief systems from which I have walked away. Taking all illusions of the bearded magical sky daddy and setting them aside for just a minute, and putting it solely in terms of how an individual evaluates their own actions over the course of a lifetime, can’t it honestly be said that, for example, the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola demand a more rigorous standard of objective self evaluation that Gothard or his ilk could fathom on their most enlightened of days?
The Catholic scholars speak of a well formed conscience, and I submit that there’s something to that notion. Perhaps not embracing all of the baggage that the magisterium of the Catholic Church tries to impose, but simply at its core or essence. Something that all of us can learn from, whether we’re Fundamentalists, atheists, deists, agnostics, Catholics, Evangelicals, or none of the above. Forming our conscience not only to determine right from wrong, but facing the wrong we do and then making things right for others and ourselves.
The idea that you need to confront the origins of your desires to violate natural law standards of right and wrong before you can be in a position to receive absolution, divine or human, seems a no brainer to me. And absolution- from self or others- only can be embraced after you have first embraced the realization of the harm which you have inflicted upon others through your words and actions. It was actually easier for those of us who went through the Catholic parochial school system (pre- 1970’s, at least) on a daily basis for 12 years than it was for our fundie friends who had their once or twice a week megadose of hellfire and damnation sermons. (I could be wrong on this.. but it’s how I view it.)
And far be it that the adherents of the church of Rome be granted a monopoly in discovering that real redemption is not something that takes place with a wave of the hand, divine or otherwise: Bonhoeffer spoke of embracing a false doctrine of cheap grace as well. For him, it was more than an abstract theological hypothesis: he lived and died in a society where the consequences of a divine get- out- of- jail- free card were apparent and inescapable within the horrors of daily life.
The idea that we are somehow elevated to the level of divine perfection in a mere moment because of a vicarious and substitutionary atonement 2,000 years ago is nonsense– whether you embrace the notion of a supreme being or reject it. And, spread it far and wide amid the Fundie- gelical church in America, and I’d argue that it incarnates itself as nothing less than a perversion. The creepy Uncle Bobs of this world are but a by-product of this perversion, and the Barbaras of this world are its inevitable victims. When we allow the perpetrators of abuse to walk away scot free from any accountability for their actions, no one is justified and no one is saved.
It does seem to me that generally people need to experience natural and logical consequences connected with their harmful actions before they are able to see a need for “redemption” so to speak. I’ve known some rather sudden and dramatic jailhouse type conversions that didn’t seem to bear much fruit once the person was released from incarceration.
Although, I think even earthly justice needs to be restorative rather than simply punitive.
having been beaten by catholic nuns in a catholic grade school, and know that the catholic church protects pedophile priests and violent nuns, just like evangelicals clearly tolerate ANYTHING that subjugates women and children there can be only 1 lesson. THE LESSER OF 2 EVILS, IS STILL EVIL. and if you tolerte it in any way it will grow. it is racism and sexism nd it is ugly with no redeeeming features what so ever. and the genocidal god they worship and zombie jeebus are fairy tales.
I have commented a few times in response to your Black Collar Crime series how reprehensible it is that Christians have no problem with the notion of sexual molesters going to heaven while their victims who reject Christianity because of their actions go to hell. Anyone with any sense of Justice should be appalled by this. Consider jailhouse converts like the Son of Sam killer, David Berkowitz and Charles Manson follower, Tex Watson who are celebrated by Christians as examples of how Jesus can change people. They look forward to meeting them in heaven. Too bad for their victims who never got the chance to be “born again” and will burn in hell for eternity. If this is the Justice of a holy and loving god then no wonder so many evangelicals are vile and contemptible.
Bob is burning in hell right now, as will you, as is your mom, as will I, and as will my kids.
I wish it weren’t so but that’s a fact and no rants on a computer or denial of the facts change it. We will all give an account to God for our lives someday.
*sigh* And the evidence for your claim is? Oh, a Bronze Age religious text. Where is hell? How do you know it is there? What must one do to avoid hell? How can one know if they have done what’s necessary to avoid hell? How do you know your God is the one true God, and all other Gods are false? Why should we take your word for any of this?
So many questions. Please make sure you have read the commenting rules before responding.
Levi, why do you believe that you and your entire family are heading for Hell?
bob should have been burning in prison and failing that shunned by his family, his friends and his town. i don’t even believe in god but you think EVERYONE wil burn in hell? what a loving beneficent god you have. so happy he does not exist!
What makes you think that there is a place or state of being called hell? You do realise that the OT has almost nothing to say on hell as a place of punishment. Sheol is the grave, not a place of eternal torture.
Have you considered this: How can a just God inflict eternal torture for finite sins committed in finite time? And is God’s justice about punishment or is it about grace and mercy, assuming God exists (which is highly doubtful)? Does mercy triumph over judgment or not? Does grace (graciousness) triumph over sin or not? Is God’s wrath but for a season and does his mercy endure forever or not? Will hell be full or empty? Is God a universalist or not?
Why not focus on compassion, healing-mercy and loving kindness in this life and leave the rest up to God or non-god, if there is an after life (maybe there isn’t one)? if God exists, is he love or not? If God exists, does he love his enemies or not? If God exists, is he a friend of outcasts and “sinners” or not? If God exists, does he love the world or not? If God exists, is his purpose to make human beings whole or not?
One thing is for sure, If you focus your life on a God of wrath and judgment (a god of unspeakable cruelty) and of your own depravity in the eyes of God and of your own utter unworthiness, you may do severe mental and emotional damage to yourself.
I agree entirely, but I’m especially baffled by the concept that one can be punished in eternity for a very much finite life. Our time on this earth in the context of eternity is, mathematically, impossible to calculate but, suffice to say, it is the tiniest minuscule of a fraction of a tiny minuscule. To argue with a straight face that we might be punished in eternity for transgressions in this life is just pure stupidity; cow towing to the conniving religious leaders who both invented this nonsense and profit from its acceptance. I would go so far as to argue that no crime in this life, even those of Hitler and Stalin, are so great as to warrant eternal punishment. Severe, long lasting, absolutely, but eternal? No.
Pretty sad and cynical that you have already given up yourself and your family as doomed and worthless. Is this the “Christian Love” I’m always hearing about? Just be honest and call it what it really is: Christian hate and anger at everyone, including themselves.
And as for your claim, two words: PROVE IT!
What a brave woman your mother was. You do her a great service by believing her, telling her story, and exposing the religious predators on your blog. Anyone who thinks that she is now burning in hell for having been a victim is mentally ill and needs professional help. Just another example of the “fruits” of religious zeal-mental illness, not to mention the total immortality of such views.
You have had to face much mortal pain, Bruce, much suffering. You most certainly do not deserve the suffering you have had to bear, not in the present or the past. Your poor mom had to endure a religion that is designed to sell a big pie in the sky and winner takes all! All one need do to claim the prize is admit they are liquid crap and unworthy, that they are useless except as a divine shovel to dig their own graves and the graves of others sad and harmed enough to buy into the scheme.
Donald Trump is the new, best hot-air Jesus balloon that the USA can come up with and one good outcome is that while Trump preaches how great heaven/America will be, he outright hates and bullies the world over. This reveals a truer expression of the heart of things, just as a preacher like Steven Anderson reveals the truer heart of a literalist belief system and pr(e)ys that America can have a government that kills homosexuals.
American evangelical faith is designed to harm self and others. Like Uncle Bob it comes knocking when you are alone and embraces you, then rapes you. If you are a child, all the better. If you are a woman alone, too bad for you. Jesus loves you and he forgives you for being ________.
I am sorry to have been a full member of a Christian church and to have continued all the pain in myself and others. It grieves me to see much of my family so far-gone, so in love with harming themselves and others. Poor Levi Bullen commenting above just tells it like it is, full-on woo!
Bruce, this blog entry, “Bob Sexually Assaulted Three Generations of Women, Yet He Went to Heaven When He Died”, is truly eloquent and a balanced expression of your history. I am so sorry about your mom. Thank-you for speaking on her behalf and telling the truth. Thank-you for speaking for me too and for others of us whose belief-blinders have fallen away.
Tears for your mom, for you too Bruce, for those who suffer quietly and for those who are never believed.
“That’s just the way he/she is” has been the excuse offered for bullies and abusers since the start of time. The people making that excuse are ALSO bullies and abusers.
I didn’t know this part of your story, Bruce. I am so sorry.
Working in the Child Welfare system, I’ve seen the effects of childhood sexual abuse firsthand. The sad truth is that many of those who abuse children were also abused as children. It’s a cycle that without intervention can continue for generations.
What I had the most difficult time with in my work was relating not just with the abuser, but also with the other responsible parent who often was in denial and complicit as a perpetrator by omission.
Even when confronted with physical evidence, they would continue in denial, and not act to protect the minor child, continuing in denial to believe the word of the abuser. It could come to the place that it was the victim that had to be removed from the home because the other parent, usually the mother, would not keep the child safe, and separate from the abuser.
I can’t even begin to imagine the pain, the sense of rejection, what this could do to the mind of a young, impressionable child.
It filled me with deep sorrow beyond words. Even though I continued to work with families, I could not continue long term as an investigator, for other reasons as well.
My mom was molested at age 5 by her 14 year old uncle. She told 4 people in her lifetime – my stepdad, my brotger, me, and my sister-in-law whom she loved like a daughter. She suffered depression, anxiety, low self esteem and I don’t know what else her entire life. She said she forgave her uncle. I do not. He is dead now, but if she had told me whIle he was alive I would have called him in a rage (but she knew that about me). I intuitively hated that uncle without knowing the story – I just thought he was an asshole the way he treated his wife and his domineering and condescending way.
I am very sorry your mom suffered through this. No one deserves that, and the perpetrators deserve punishment. So many victims fear coming forward to confront their attackers. My mom didn’t, my stepdad didn’t confront his attacker, my daughter’s friend hasn’t confronted her attacker, the list goes on. My friend who did prosecute her attacker went through hell in the legal system. She didn’t know which was worse, the attack or the legal process.
Now I understand part of why you feature the Black Collar Crime series – bringing these horrible people further into the public eye. There’s no telling how many thousands go unreported. And those hiding behind the mantle of religion are even more despicable.
Your mom was robbed of a dignified life, for certain. I’m really angry about what Bob and the others did to her, and you are spot on in your analysis.
I never did tell on my abusers until they were dead. I was afraid, even as an adult. Somehow, I’d revert to that scared little girl and get sick, keeping my mouth shut. I feel guilty about that, because what if someone had believed me if I told and then they didn’t get the chance to hurt my sister or anyone else? I cannot change it now, but I refused to go to the funerals and I did state why. I was told that the past is the past and forgiveness is the way to peace of mind. Fuck that.
Kittybrat, many children are silenced by fear and shame, and that same feeling can continue for decades. It’s just there in the back of your head. None of it was your fault.
I appreciate you. Thank you. I know it wasn’t my fault. I do wish I’d come forward at least at some point because you know they went on to victimize others. Therein lays my feelings of guilt.
Bruce–Thank you for sharing this story with us. It is only recently that I have been able to talk with anyone about the sexual molestation I experienced as a child and sexual assault I survived as an adult–not to mention to relationships in which I endured abuse.
This story is particularly timely in light of the death of Bernard Law. What’s really galling is not only that, according to church doctrine, he is being rewarded in his post-Earth existence, but that he was also rewarded in this life: He was given one of the plum jobs in the Vatican.
Thanks for sharing this story. My family has a similar story. It always amazes me how quick people are to demand that victims forgive their abusers, but the abusers are never expected to show remorse or atone for the abuse. My condolences for your mother.
A lot of people are deeply uncomfortable about the very thought of anger (that of others, however justified.) I think (and I talk as a survivor of child abuse at the hands of my parents) that these people get a warm and fuzzy glow at the thought of “forgiveness”. . .and they hate being “deprived” of that. A common thing they say, of course, is “Oh, but you won’t heal properly unless you forgive” but this is just a manipulative and especially nasty tactic: if they can’t PERSUADE someone, they will attempt to SCARE them into doing what they want.
I don’t offer forgiveness to the people who abused me because I am yet to see any remorse (or even self-awareness.) One of these people went to the grave having made no attempt to confront their own culpability; the other person is still alive, still showing no remorse, still failing to accept any responsibility. If I said, today, “I forgive you”, I am almost entirely sure that those words would be heard by this person as “What you did doesn’t matter. Just carry on behaving badly.” And yes, this person has built up a nice little coterie of sympathizers who enable her in her evasion of responsibility. Were these people witnesses to the abuse? Of course not, they have no idea! But they are active Christians and, in my experience, actively religious people are probably the most suggestible people out there.
I’m so sorry that all of that happened.
It’s one of the things that makes me not believe in a god, the things that happen. If there were a god of any religious flavor, seems like a pretty powerless being.
Unless of course he/she/it WANTS people to be hurt by the people who are supposed to love them and take care of them.
I know how you feel. Now, I used to believe that all would be made right for all of us in heaven. But I can’t prove that is the case, so I hope. But I realize it is only hope.
Levi Bullen. Are you Levi Matthew Bullen, the Gregg County ,TX. inmate ? I am going to address right here what you said. You claim that Bruce’s mother is in hell. How would you ever know one way or the other. Were you there in the room ?? That is such a low down comment, even for a conservative fanatic such as yourself. What a sick thing to to say to a bereaved family member, anytime. I should not be too surprised this comes from a proud, gun- toting Txan, as yourself. A classic illustration as to how Christianity is so I’ll though of. For your information, which is obviously so limited, Barbara sounds like she was told there was no legal recourse against Grandpa Teiken and those other people. A lot of churches lie to people and tell them not to report abuse, because of scandal fears and even worse to them– loss of income. So the Teikens of the world got away with crimes for way too many years. Makes me wonder of she was also a victim of neuthetic counseling, which forbids going ‘ no contact’s and filing charges. Old Grandpa Teiken should have been shot. If not that, then the Dept.of Corrections. That said, you really put your foot in your mouth when you say get, and even your own relatives(kids) will wind up in hell one day. Just what do you base this on ?? You can’t predict the future, and you weren’t there for the past. Think ten times before speaking next time.
How is it that victims are simultaneously counseled to “forgive” their victimizers and blamed, explicitly or implicitly, for what happened to them?
MJ asks: “How is it that victims are simultaneously counseled to “forgive” their victimizers and blamed, explicitly or implicitly, for what happened to them?”
Gaslighting as a religion. A crime was committed against you AND you are a criminal! Yes, you killed Jesus, didn’t you! So you deserved it! But God loves you!
When I first met Pastor MacFarlane, he was the associate pastor and we lived next door to one of his church families. He was pleasant. We may have even talked briefly about the church I left. I may have met him once again later. My sons rode their church bus until my older son informed me that he wasn’t going back. Later he explained how bigoted against the gay community they were. (My beliefs were in a flux at this point, and I was glad. But originally I thought riding the church bus was good. I wish I could take it back now.)
I also have to admit, that hearing about what your mom went through is horrific and now that I’m awake, I feel fierce anger. I came from a more normal family upbringing, no sexual abuse, normal family dynamics, not perfect, no, my parents ignored emotional upsets, theirs and ours. But I don’t hold a grudge as I know they did their best. HOW CAN PEOPLE do this to their children? How can a man rape his daughter? I can’t conceive of the twistedness inside a person who would do that.
Bruce, I am so very sorry this happened to your mother and to you.
It is a horrible thing to live through and feel your power being taken away by a sexual predator.
Even if reported, you have to endure the trauma and shame all over again while being interviewed by law enforcement and medical staff while they collect evidence.
Personally, I am sick and tired of these cowards getting away with their crimes and I am also tired of their sympathizers’ betraying the victim by victim-shaming and guilting them into submission. All forms of abuse apply here. The rapist, abuser, molester or whomever, always has a fan club. They are just as culpable.
I appreciate your candor and sharing your story. It helps to know some of us are not alone in our struggles and despite being shamed and ostracized by our own family and friends; it gives some of us courage to open up about our own traumas.
Bruce—Reading this again made me even angrier than I was after the first time I read it. It sounds like your mother tried to live as good a life, and be as good a mother, as she knew how to be. But, for her, the abuse never ended: She got it not only from her family and Bob but also from those who judged her and protected and praised her abusers.
As you probably know, neuroscientists say what many of us had known intuitively or suspected: Trauma is passed along intergenerationally. Do you think that giving your life to Jesus and becoming a pastor was, consciously or not, a way of trying to cope with that pain?
In light of the latest cesspool overflowing in Amurka (the possible repeal of Roe vs. Wade in 2022!), I think that this repost is particularly timely, especially for the men sitting on the Supreme Court; especially for all men in authority. At the risk of offending, I would like to try speaking their language and ask them: Why did you torture and kill Bruce’s mother? What gives you the idea that you know better than another human being what is best for them? Why do you choose to harm and codify that harm by making it law?
Never again, you bastards.
I am still mad reading this again. I feel for the untold countless number of people who have been sexually assaulted and have received no justice for those assaults.
your mom is lucky to have you — worst yet common is when family members turn against victims, call them liars and worse…