Tag Archive: Sexual Assault

Hugging Women (and Men) in Church

hugging in church

Last Christmas season, I had an interesting interaction with a female stranger at one of my oldest granddaughter’s high school basketball games. As you know, I have a white beard, ruddy complexion, and a portly figure. As a result, people often think I am Santa Claus. Children give me long stares, whereas adults tend to tell me that they have been real good this year, so they are expecting lots of gifts from me. As I was leaving the aforementioned basketball game, I heard someone say, “Look, Santa’s a Bengal’s fan” (I had my Cincinnati Bengals hat on). The woman came down from the stands and asked if she could take a selfie with me so she could show her husband that Santa roots for the Bengals. I said, sure. I thought that we would stand next to each other as she snapped the smartphone photograph. Instead, she put her arm around me and drew me close, acting as if we were best friends. I am certain the woman meant nothing by her warm, affectionate embrace, but it sure embarrassed me and made me feel uncomfortable. I quickly exited the gym, glad to be free of the woman’s perfumed embrace.

The sexual harassment of women has been in the news lately. I, for one, am glad that this issue is getting the attention it deserves. Part of the sexual harassment discussion has to do with understanding boundaries and treating others with respect. We should never lay our hands on people without their permission; even if we are innocently doing so. We should never behave in ways that cause others to feel uncomfortable or embarrassed.

This got me thinking about all the women (and men) I have hugged in church over the years. I hugged hundreds of people during my time as an Evangelical pastor. I viewed the hugs as a sign of love. Hugging is a common practice among Evangelicals. I suspect most former Evangelical readers know what I am talking about. It was assumed that everyone was okay with being hugged by non-family members. After all, the church was viewed as our real family, and families hug each other, so it was deemed appropriate for congregants, without permission, to hug one another. I wonder, in light of current discussions about sexual harassment, if it might be time to take a closer look at hugging in church.

I am not overtly emotional in public. I don’t hug my children, nor do I tell them that I love them every time I see them. My family knows I love them, not because of words or outward displays of affection, but because I am there for them no matter what; because, when they need help, I am always available; because when they ask me to do something for them, I always say “Yes.” I am, emotionally, very much like my parents. This drives some people crazy. People who are clap-happy seals needing verbal pronouncements of love tend to think I am uncaring or indifferent. For a long time, I felt guilty about not being emotionally exuberant when it was “expected” of me. Finally, I reached a place in my life where I realized that it was okay for me to be who and what I am; that the clap-happy seal crowd doesn’t have the right to demand from me certain emotional responses.

I hugged people in church because I thought it was expected of me. I never felt comfortable doing so, but I viewed hugging as part of my job description. I now wonder if there were congregants — especially women — who felt as I did. I wonder if these women felt they were being sexually harassed/assaulted in Jesus’ name. At the very least, the hugging violated the personal space of others. People should have the inviolate right to not be touched by others without first giving permission. While most church hugging is benign, I have no doubt that there are some men who are sexually stimulated when hugging female church members. I wrote about his several weeks ago in a post titled, Beware of Deacon Bob.

We have reached a place culturally where people have a right not to have their persons violated. In the case of women, in particular, many of them have had to endure inappropriate touching out of not wanting to make a fuss in public. Perhaps, it is time to make a fuss. Perhaps, men need to be taught how to properly interact with the fairer sex. The rules are quite simple: no physical contact without permission. Want to hug someone? Ask first. Years ago, when Polly and I were looking for a church to attend, we were repeatedly assaulted by well-meaning Christians who were way too familiar with us — people we had never met before. From hugs to interrogations about where we lived and worked, we often felt we were being mugged. On more than one occasion I wanted to tell the person interrogating us, I’m sorry. I don’t have sex on the first date. Of course, I was too polite to say this. I wonder if I am alone in feeling this way. I suspect I am not, that many readers have had their personal space violated time and again by well-meaning (and not-so-well-meaning) people. How about we all agree to respect each other enough to keep our hands to ourselves. If you want to hug people you don’t know, ask them if it is okay for you to do so. If they say “Yes,” then, by all means, hug them, keeping your hands where they belong and not hugging them in a way that turns from friendly to sexual. In other words, learn what boundaries are and practice them.

Did you attend a hugging church?  Were you hugged without permission? How did this make you feel? Please leave your thoughts in the comment section.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 60, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 39 years. He and his wife have six grown children and eleven 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. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

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Black Collar Crime: Catholic Priest Richard Jacklin Charged with Sexual Assault

busted

Richard Jacklin, who is a priest affiliated with Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Goodrich, Illinois, was charged yesterday with sexually assault a disabled adult.

The Daily Journal reports:

Father Richard E. Jacklin, who assists with Masses at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Goodrich, is scheduled to be in court today for his bond to be set after he was arrested by Illinois State Police on Tuesday and charged with sexually assaulting a resident at Shapiro Developmental Center in Kankakee.

The 65-year-old Jacklin has been preliminarily charged by state police with criminal sexual assault by force and sexual misconduct of a person with a disability.
“We are still gathering information,” Kankakee County State’s Attorney Jim Rowe told the Daily Journal on Wednesday.

Rowe said he would not comment further until after Jacklin’s bond is set in Kankakee County court today. Jacklin, who was ordained June 2, 1984, has been assigned to Sacred Heart since 2005, according to the Diocese of Joliet. Jacklin was assigned as resident at St. Rose of Lima Church in Kankakee from 1996-2005.

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Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Women Assault Men When They Dress “Provocatively” says Mike Shoesmith

jennifer aniston

Shoesmith uses this photograph — calling it soft porn — as an example of a woman sexually assaulting men

Earlier today I posted the following observation to Facebook:

“If a woman wears sexually suggestive clothing around a man is that not also sexual assault? Men are visually stimulated and unwanted stimulation should meet the basic definition of assault. I am not condoning bad behavior by men but women need to understand that by walking around in their little sister’s skirt they are guilty of indecent visual assault on a man’s imagination which does cause mental anguish and torment especially on men who really are trying to live in harmony and respect toward women; something made more difficult when every ripple and curve are exposed to the men around you. Something to think about.”

Needless to say this caused a flurry of comments both in agreement and disdain. Many – too many – concluded I was fabricating an excuse for sexual assault against women by men. But those people, men and women, willing to wade into the deep end of the pool got it, thankfully

Many married women also feel assaulted and infuriated by the provocative dress of other women in part because they know what it’s doing to their husbands. And what, exactly, does it “do” to their husbands?

When a man sees a naked or partially dressed woman a chemical reaction happens in his brain. Neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin are released, giving him an involuntary surge of pleasure… involuntary!

It does also appear that women know this affect they have on men. This is likely due to cultural conditioning over several decades. From the sexual revolution of the sixties to Hollywood’s push for more and more sexual imagery in movies girls have been conditioned to accept the normalization of using their bodies as tools to gain acceptance in society. The “look at me” addiction has led to smaller and smaller bathing suits on beaches with modesty having all but disappeared. The porn scenes made in private studios have gone public. Men are in a state of constant sexual assault by women who either don’t understand the severity of what they are doing because it’s cute and they like the attention, or worse – they do know the feelings it stirs and like the control they have over men.

There are literally millions – nay – billions of pictures we could post here but again, soft porn. Do the women know what they are doing? Yes, of course. But are they aware that it fits the definition of “sexual assault?”

….

Finally let me say, for your own sake and ours, please put some clothes on. Stop the sexual assault against men. Yes, you have the power. Yes, you are pretty. But also yes, you are assaulting us.

— Michael Shoesmith, PNN News and Media Network, The Woman-on-Man Sexual Assault Epidemic! More Serious Than You Might Think! October 19, 2017

Black Collar Crime: Methodist Pastor Clinton Brackett Accused of Sexual Assault

clinton brackett

Clinton Brackett, Director of Student Ministries at First United Methodist Church in Lindale, Texas, stands accused of sexual assault.

The Tyler Morning Telegraph reports:

The Director of Student Ministries at First United Methodist Church in Lindale has been arrested for sexual assault.

Clinton Brackett, 32, of Lindale was arrested Thursday on a warrant out of Runnels County and taken to the Smith County Jail.

The arrest was the result of information obtained from a Texas Highway Patrol trooper’s traffic stop in Runnels County, according to a statement from the Texas Department of Public Safety.

….

First United Methodist Senior Pastor Rick Ivey released a statement saying Clinton Brackett, an employee at the church was arrested Thursday for charges of sexual assault that happened in Runnels County.

Ivey said the incident did not happen at FUMC Lindale or in the Lindale community.

“Clint Bracket’s employment with our church has been terminated,” Ivey said.

Brackett’s social media page indicates he was previously employed as the First Baptist Church in Ballinger. In a social medial post on Dec. 6, 2015, Brackett wrote that he accepted the position of Student Minister at the First United Methodist Church in Lindale and would be leaving the church in Ballinger after four and half years as a minister and member of the First Baptist Church family.

Brackett was held on a $100,000 bond which he posted on Thursday, according to Smith County Judicial records.

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Klint Bitter Charged With Sexual Assault of a Child


Klint Bitter, pastor of kids and student ministry at Christ Community Church in Omaha, Nebraska, was charged today with first-degree sexual assault of a child.

WOWT-6 reports:

A former youth pastor at a west Omaha church is now in jail, accused of having sex with a 15-year old prostitute.

Klint Bitter turned himself in at the Sarpy County Jail Tuesday. He’s charged with first-degree sexual assault of a child. The 34-year-old allegedly answered an online ad posted by a sex trafficking suspect in Bellevue.

Bitter was a pastor of kids and student ministry at Christ Community Church near 108th and Harney. Church officials said Bitter has been fired from that position.

KETV-7 adds:

Sarpy County authorities say Klint Andrew Bitter, 34, is held without bond on one felony count of sexual assault.

A criminal complaint says the victim is 15-year old girl and that Bitter assaulted her in the parking lot of an abandoned supermarket in Bellevue on February 27th, 2017.

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KETV NewsWatch 7 has learned Bitter’s arrest is part of a wider investigation into human trafficking. In March 2017, a Bellevue West High School student was charged with first-degree sexual assault and human trafficking based on an investigation that began on February 27th.

The Omaha World Herald reports:

A 34-year-old former youth pastor will stand trial in the sexual assault of a 15-year-old girl.

Klint Bitter appeared in Sarpy County Court on Wednesday morning and waived his right to a preliminary hearing. Judge Robert Wester set Bitter’s bail at $1 million and ordered Bitter not to have contact with anyone 18 or younger.

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Sarpy County Deputy Attorney Phil Kleine told the judge Bitter contacted DeArch Stubblefield online to set up a meeting with the girl. In asking for a high bail, Kleine compared Bitter’s case to co-defendants Stubblefield and Jason Gibson.

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Thomas Petersen, Bitter’s attorney, asked for a $150,000 bail and told the judge Bitter saw the ad on Craigslist and then emailed to ask if the girl was 18.

Update

Today, October 20, 2017,  the Bellvue Leader reports that Bitter has been released from jail after posting ten-percent of his $1 million bond:

Bitter, 34, of Omaha, appeared in Sarpy County Court on Wednesday morning and waived his right to a preliminary hearing. Judge Robert Wester set Bitter’s bail at $1 million and ordered Bitter not to have contact with anyone 18 years or younger. He was released later Wednesday after posting 10 percent of that bail, $100,000.

Sarpy County Deputy Attorney Phil Kleine told the judge that Bitter contacted DeArch Stubblefield, then 18, to set up a meeting with the girl. Bitter’s attorney said he was responding to a Craigslist ad. A criminal complaint said the offense took place near the intersection of Fort Crook and Childs Roads on Feb. 27.

That same day, Bellevue police said they began an investigation into a report of possible human trafficking, which led to the March arrest of Stubblefield.

In asking for a high bail, Kleine compared Bitter’s case to co-defendants Stubblefield and Jason Gibson, who was charged March 9 with the same offense as Bitter. Stubblefield was initially held on no bail and Gibson was held on $2 million bail.

Gibson, 41, later pleaded no contest to attempted first-degree sexual assault of a child. He will be sentenced next month and faces up to 50 years in prison.

And on Wednesday, Stubblefield pleaded guilty to attempted human trafficking, attempted aiding and abetting first-degree sexual assault of a child, and possession of child pornography. Prosecutors dropped an additional charge of child abuse. He faces a maximum of 72 years when sentenced in December.

Thomas Petersen, Bitter’s attorney, asked Wednesday for a $150,000 bail amount. He told the judge that Bitter emailed after seeing the Craigslist ad to ask if the girl was 18.

n asking for a lower bail amount, Petersen also said his client is married with children, owns a home, is college educated and until recently was employed as a pastor.
Mark Ashton, lead pastor at Christ Community Church, said Bitter worked for the church for seven years and was in charge of the church’s kids and student ministries.

….

Update

Bitter’s co-defendant, Jason Gibson, pleaded guilty to attempted first-degree sexual assault of a child and received a six-month jail sentence. Gibson must also serve five years probation and register as a sex offender.

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