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Trauma of a Pastor's Betrayal

Updated: Oct 15, 2021

When Sandy Phillips Kirkham was 17 years old, she was sexually assaulted by her pastor, a young, married man who callously took advantage of her admiration of him, and desire for his attention. His name was Jeff Coulier.

The first time took place in the pastor’s house, in his bed, and that is how Sandy lost her virginity.

She had given this “man of God” her trust and he violated that trust, just as he violated her. And he was he worried about after it was over? Frantically washing the bloody sheets before his wife came home -- in a washing machine he didn't know how to use.

That was just the beginning of Sandy’s trauma of betrayal.

After many years, Sandy decided if she was to heal, she needed to confront that past. She writes, “With the healing came my need and passion to speak out about clergy abuse.” Today, she works with The Hope of Survivors ministry and is on the board of the Council on Child Abuse. She’s spoken to many groups and churches on the topic of prevention and has met several courageous survivors.

And so, Sandy Phillips Kirkham wrote a wonderful, riveting book in which she tells her story. It’s a story of lies, manipulation, coercion, and abuse, but it’s also a story of courage, resilience, and bravery. The name of her book is “Let Me Prey Upon You.”

In this episode of The Lean to the Left Podcast, Sandy discusses the details about how all of this happened; how it went on for several years; why she allowed it to happen in the first place; the impact it's had on her life since then; and now, what she's doing about it.

She pulls no punches in this interview. If you care about sexual exploitation by people in power, religious or not, it's worth a listen.

Meanwhile, the Associated Press reported Oct. 15 that Ronnie Floyd, president and CEO of the Southern Baptist Convention's Executive Committee, is resigning over an investigation into the denomination's response to sexual abuse reports.

AP said that an outside investigative firm is conducting the review of allegations that the committee mishandled abuse reports and mistreated survivors. Following multiple meetings and mounting pressure from across the convention, a divided Executive Committee voted Oct. 5 to waive its attorney-client privilege for the probe, agreeing to turn over legally protected records to investigators.

The article went on to say that the Southern Baptist's have been grappling with a sex abuse scandal for years. In 2019, the Houston Chronicle and the San Antonio Express-News documented hundreds of cases of abuse in the denomination's churches, including several in which alleged perpetrators remained in the ministry.

While Sandy Phillips Kirkham was not a member of that denomination, she says in our interview that her perpetrator was simply moved from her church to another, and that his previous acts of sex abuse were not disclosed.

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