Like many people who contact the Hope of Survivors, I too was a victim of spiritual abuse and clergy sexual abuse. When the abuse was first discovered, I was blamed for seducing the pastor into having an affair. I was so confused because I had gone to him for counseling, not an affair. I felt like the church had set me up to fail and offered no support for someone in my situation. Even worse, I began doubting myself, feeling like I was losing my sense of reality and feeling like God was angry with me. Thank goodness there is a resource out there that can explain clergy sexual abuse so effectively and help victims heal from this type of trauma. I have personally contacted a representative from the Hope of Survivors, and she was so supportive in a beautiful, non-judgemental way! If it wasn't for this organization, I don't know what I would have done. The Hope of Survivors is a much-needed outreach for those who have been hurt by the church and who need to know there is a compassionate God who is for them!
The Hope of Survivors has helped my tremendously through their articles, testimonials and most of all through Samantha's prompt attention to my initial letter and her counseling. I am so glad I found THOS as I am a survivor of abuse at the hands of clergy. THOS has been life changing!
Samantha is very prompt when responding to contact. They are genuine, warm, hospitable, and ever dedicated to this ministry. I appreciate how very knowledgeable they are in the subject of clergy sexual abuse and committed to providing quality reference material both in print and online, through social media, and in conferences they present. They increased my awareness; I now know that this does not only happen in my church, but in every church, not to mention the secular realm. It is a human problem; and they are advocating to rectify the situation. My experience with them has been only positive.
The Hope of Survivors educated me and others I knew about clergy sexual abuse. As a young woman, this has made me much more careful in my interactions with men in authority over me. I am not paranoid, but more aware of the dynamics which can come into play. They taught me that this kind of abuse of power and social standing does not only happen in my church, as I might first have thought, but in every church, not to mention other social settings, such as in businesses and schools. This knowledge helped preserve my faith in my church and our beliefs.
Steve and Samantha, the founders, are personal, caring, and wise in their care of victims and others affected. It always amazes me how quickly Samantha responds to email requests, and I have heard others report the same. I first came into contact with them after sexual abuse incidents left a spiritual leader disfellowshipped from our church, displaced in his career, and in legal trouble. They supported everyone involved, encouraging our church to respond Biblically to the crisis, and seeing us through the entire trying process to the end. Thank you to all the volunteers at The Hope of Survivors! We remain grateful for your invaluable support.
THOS has helped me and my husband beyond our expectations. Samantha's and Martin's compassion and dedication surpassed our immediate months of crisis. Throughout our time of crisis which was over two years ago, they were available and responsive to us, and they have remained with us as loving and ready sources of support and friends since. They are truly sincere in their efforts to provide healing and education to both survivors and perpetrators and incredibly skilled in their spiritual and counseling roles. We were fortunate in meeting Steve (co-founder) this past summer and were impressed with his noble character as well. Everyone who we have met and/or dealt with at THOS have shown utmost integrity, sincerity, professionalism, respect, consistency, and complete commitment to our well-being. I am certain that they extend these same virtues to anyone who has the fortune of coming into contact with them. There are some people of rare beauty and courage behind the name THOS, including, I am certain, their volunteers and other associates who we have not yet met. THOS deserves recognition and support for their continued efforts in confronting clergy sexual misconduct, a devastating and heinous act.
Well what can I say. Hope of Survivors has helped me and my family so much. We would be a broken family if it wasn't for Hope of Survivors. Even though I am a man was so affected by what had happened to my family. They educated me to what was real and where to put my hope. I am so greatfull for them. Hope of Survivors was the only ministry that is activly working hard to support and help those affected. from the victims to the churches to find hope and healing thank God for them kepp up the great work.
THOS were there to give me moral and spiritual support when no one else understood my circumstances.
I felt isolated and trapped in my situation of abuse. I googled and found "The Hope of Survivors" - and became a survivor of Pastoral abuse... I have found the encouragement and support I have received from the Nelsons has allowed me to grow to be a happier, healthier and stronger person, and only this week I have commenced proceedings to make an official complaint about my abuser. I cannot imagine where I would be without their support and counsel over the past 18 months or so. I had no support structure here in Australia and I am very grateful to have "someone" who understands and accepts me unconditionally.
Thank you, Judy, for your comment. We are so grateful God used THOS to be a blessing to you! :-) Samantha
Hope of Survivors was a life line to me at a time when I needed help the most. Samantha was a listening ear on so many occasions. They walked me through challenges, understood my situation, and encouraged me that things would get better. When I experienced Clergy Sexual Abuse I thought my world would end and I would not be able to function again. I knew that the one place that would always listen was only an email away. Samantha and Steve have watched me heal and grow. They wept with me and they now rejoice with me as they see God restore every bit that was stolen. Hope of the Survivors has been a light in the darkness.
The Hope of Survivors helped me to know that I was not alone. Before I found The Hope of Survivors website and Samantha, I felt like there was something wrong with me. I had been counseled following my abuse by a Christian counselor who presented what happened to me as me being a "weak sheep" and needing to become a strong person. This made me feel like the pastor preying on me was due to a flaw in me and that it was my fault somehow that he chose me to prey upon. The Hope of Survivors helped me to understand that what the pastor did was abuse and that it wasn't because I was weak and flawed, but that it was because HE was. I found a healing through Samantha's counsel. I would recommend the Hope of Survivors to anyone affected by this type of abuse. I found out that I was not alone in what I went through and that the pattern that my abuse followed was indeed a pattern that many pastors use to prey upon adult women in their congregations. I am thankful to this organization for the help that they provided to me and the work that they continue to do in so many people's lives.
When my pastor abused me, I blamed myself. I had no idea I was even being abused. When I mentioned what was happening to a friend, they searched the web and found The Hope of Survivors. These wonderful people gave me a way to frame what happened to me - in short, they provided education, gave me hope, and set me on the path to healing. They were with me every step of the way, like a trusted best friend. I wouldn't have been able to move on like I have without their help. The Hope of Survivors was and still is a godsend.
I had been victimized and had no where to turn; my UCC church family, for the most part, ignored my pleas for support, validation, and the truth. I lost so much: work, health, family, friends, and was re-victimized by anonymous church members who wrote letters to my home and to my work place accusing me of being something that I was not. I thought I was alone and had suffered through something unique. In my research, I was led to The Hope Of Survivors; it was there that I was given the healing words of validation and healing. Faceless strangers who assisted me from being a victim to a vocal victim advocate and survivor. With faith and support from THOS, I am able to actively tell my story in the hope of preventing the cycle of clergy abuse and professional misconduct. (www.thehopeofsurvivors.com)
I was at my wits end and boarding suicide until I decided to google what was happening to me only to realize there was a name for it. If it was not for the love, grace and mercy of God and the volunteers of this great organization I would be dead.
My wife and I founded a clergy sexual abuse website "PastorsWhoPrey.org" in 2001. After 5 years of running it and reaching out to many clergy sexual abuse survivors we decided to discontinue it. We have referred many survivors to the "Hope of Survivors" over the years. They do a great job educating and reaching out to those who are deeply hurting from the horrific clergy sexual abuse they have experienced. They also play an extremely important role in educating the general public on what clergy sexual abuse really is and encouraging the media to cover this very important subject. The more the spotlight shines on it, we will rejoice in seeing fewer survivors in the future.
The Hope of Survivors (THOS) has been extremely influential in my life. Samantha and her husband Steve have been so supportive of me. I first contacted Samantha in December 2005. I was trying to get out of an extremely violent and abusive relationship. I never told Samantha of the ongoing pastoral abuse in the beginning. Because at that time, and for a long while afterward, it was my dark secret and I believed was ALL my fault. The word “abuse” never entered my mind. I did not realize how desperately I needed help for that, as well as the violent relationship I was in at that time.
The pastor I was involved with came highly recommended to me by several family members, even one who had worked with him in the past. A few friends of mine who knew him, his wife and kids, personally, also recommended him to me. I went to him embarrassed to explain all I had been involved with over the years. But, I was desperate for help! By the third session, he had made sexual advancements toward me. Even though I was uncomfortable, I did tell him this was not what I came for. It still quickly ended up in a sexual relationship. He threatened me from day one what would happen to my family if they found out. He said no one would believe me—not a woman like me! He gave me many guilt trips of how I had ruined my mom’s marriages by having sexual relationships with my biological father and my adopted dad. I believed I was a tramp and I was getting what I deserved.
After getting to know Samantha, and her helping me work through my abusive relationship that was getting more violent by the day, she also began helping me deal with sexual abuse from my family growing up. I don't remember how we got on the subject of pastoral abuse. I think it was from her sharing her story with me early on that opened door for me to tell her about what was going on in my life. All of it! I remember her sending me a couple workbooks to work through. She sent me some CD's and ALWAYS remembered my birthday over the years, and has sent me several encouraging cards over the years. Which meant the world to me! I still have every card to this day. Samantha (THOS) DID this knowing I had no money to give them.
They’re so amazing! Not just Steve and Samantha, but their whole team! They all have prayed for me when I needed it. A year can go by where I don't stay in contact but I know if I need anything THOS is always there for me. They truly have become my family. I wish I had millions of dollars to give to THOS but I do not. All I can say is, if you choose THOS, you won't be sorry. Your money will be given to a cause worth giving to because THOS ALWAYS gives back to those in need. And let me tell you, there are many, many more woman and kids out there waiting to know that someone else has been through it and someone cares. But, more than that, that a cause like The Hope of Survivors will step up, step out, and take action! I know—they've done this for me many times!
My wife was sexually exploited by our pastor while seeking counseling for depression and anxiety. Over the years he had positioned himself as a close friend and kept me as an insider. However, our relationship was usually strained and confusing as he would take advantage of me and several close friends in a variety of situations.
After a failed attempt at suicide, I finally I began to dig. While our pastor had been counseling me to not ask questions concerning her worsening depression, claiming that much of it was due to my "neediness," I finally found evidence of him speaking to her in an inappropriate tone online. In way that could be taken as the playful joking of close friends, but my spirit knew better. I asked her the right question, and our world fell apart.
There is not room here to properly tell the story of how this unfolded. The aggression. The manipulation. The denial. The loss of friends. How our church nearly died. How it is still limping a year later. How the friendships that did survive were horribly wounded, changed forever.
Not to mention, we were the lucky ones. Most predators in the powerful position of spiritual authority are not held accountable. The sensitive issue or sexual abuse makes it more than difficult for anyone to know what to do. The work of The Hope of Survivors, Baylor University, and the Interfaith Sexual Trauma Institute at St. John's Abbey and University can help educate churches and congregant and prepare them for these situations. Without them, I do not know what we would have done. We were lucky that our elders had the integrity to stand up for us whatever it cost.
Many churches feel powerless and are afraid of what it would cost to stand up to abusers who stand behind the pulpit each week. The Hope of Survivors is one of the (very, very) few resources available to them. They offered us help and asked nothing in return.
Just to clarify, The Hope of Survivors works with victims and church leaders of all denominations. The fact that the founders are Seventh-day Adventists, as are many of the board members, should be a non-issue, as The Hope of Survivors is not about a denomination or set of beliefs. Many of The Hope of Survivors' volunteers are not Seventh-day Adventists, but are from many other denominations, and our board of directors is looking for qualified Christian individuals of other faiths to participate. We are Christians providing a service to those of any religious faith who are in need. THOS is about providing Biblical counsel, support and materials to victims and church leaders. We reference many other denominational websites on our Resources page--from Methodist to Orthodox and many other religions/denominations in between. We have worked with Buddhists and Muslims as well. While we may include quotes from Adventist authors on our website (we include quotes from other denominational leaders too) and in our materials, these quotes are Biblical and only lend credibility to the seriousness of the issue of clergy sexual abuse and provide encouraging and comforting words to victims.
Review from Guidestar
We cannot survive without attachments. In a time of need, I turned to a professional, someone I had been taught in my childhood to be a representative of God. I developed an attachment to him. He told me there was no reason not to trust him. It turned out there were good reasons not to trust him the way I am meant to trust God.
I cannot imagine anyone going through an experience like mine without a resource like Hope of Survivors. They believed me.
Review from Guidestar
There is a great lack of resources in the area of clergy sexual abuse and misconduct. I was fortunate to find THOS by seaching the internet, and was personally helped by the caring concern and biblical counsel available. There is truly no other organization to my knowledge that provides this personal counseling approach to such a specific and poorly understood area of abuse, and it certainly was a breakthrough moment in my healing from being abused by my pastor. The written materials and information on the web site were also very useful.
One of the reasons this organization is so important and effective, is the personal experience of the founders and many of the volunteers. When someone can not only understand objectively what you've been through, but also related and understand through the lens of personal experience, it really makes a difference and provides much needed support and the foundation for trust and honest disclosure for the victim.
Review from Guidestar
I came across this website while I was searching for information about clergy sexual misconduct. The information found on their website and contact by email was crucial in helping me understand the signs of what I was starting to suspect that my now former pastor was trying to do. Because of the information I received, I was able to tell my husband of the pastor's behavior around me and our daughter also confided in us that he had acted inappropriately with her as well. We were able to leave the situation before anything more damaging was done.
Review from Guidestar
When no one else we reached out to could fathom the devastating effects of the clergy sexual abuse we had experienced, THOS helped my wife and I through the most emotionally shattering time in our lives. THOS understood the trauma my wife was suffering and pulled her through that experience with their dedicated and skillful counselors and professional resources that are based in true human love and care. They helped me to understand the depths of that betrayal and to come to terms with my own role, confusion and mix of overwhelming emotions. I honestly don't know where we would be today if THOS had not been there for us with their deep care, ready support and experienced understanding.
Review from Guidestar
THOS, Samantha Nelson and one of their volunteers/pastors have provided essential support to me and my husband in our recovery from clergy sexual abuse. I first contacted THOS in April of 2010, while seeking support for the devastation that my husband and I were facing.
The aftermath of our experience probably marked the darkest periods of our lives, having been betrayed by a spiritual leader toward whom we we had both given our total trust and devotion. Samantha immediately responded to my desperation and grief with the sensitivity, care and respect of a loving mother to her child. She was also able to provide guidance coming from direct experience, having been a survivor of clergy abuse herself, as well as wisdom born from her deep faith and commitment to her own spiritual growth.
One of their volunteer pastors who was assigned to me as a counselor was just as amazing, kind and skillful in his guidance. An experienced and learned, deeply spiritual, wise and compassionate man, he was able to provide clear insight and guidance to my husband and I. It is obvious that THOS only seeks volunteers and personnel of great integrity, faith and compassion.
Since that day in April of 2010, Samantha has remained a steady support to my husband and I, from our most painful days to the present in our continuing recovery and healing. I have become much stronger, but it wouldn't have been possible without THOS's dedicated help.
I feel as though we have made friends for life in THOS and their loving stewards.
Review from Guidestar
I come from a well thought of family. Neither family or church members believe that clergy sexual abuse could happen to me. Actually I grew up being abused by religious leaders. And again as an adult. I learned changing churches did not guarantee safety.
At a convention last summer (2010) I came across The Hope of Survivors booth. Unexpectedly I immediately felt safe. I did get acquainted with Samantha and Steve Nelson, founders, and a few of the volunteers. They listened and believed me. When one learned something said had inadvertently hurt me a genuine apology was quickly sent. The volunteer who is working with me gives freedom of choice, believes me! For me an important thing is knowing I'm daily prayed for.
I appreciate their balanced approach. That they realize that more than the two involved are affected. But also their families, friends, and church members. Besides getting great benefit myself I have told others about this organization.
Review from Guidestar
After my wife was the victim of clergy sexual abuse by the Associate Pastor at our United Methodist Church, Hope of Survivors was the best organization I found to help both of us understand what happened and to heal and recover. Hope of Survivors provided excellent resources as well as support via phone and email. They also provide resources which we will now use to push for changes in our church's policies and practices to protect our congregation and other pastors from this in the future. (The pastor who did this to us resigned after I confronted him, so he is no longer there.) I will be an on-going supporter and donor to this vitally important organization.
Review from Guidestar