Speaking up for sex abuse victims

The First Baptist Church of Hammond, Ind., sits just southeast of Chicago. It buses in thousands of people from the Chicagoland area to attend its many Sunday services. During the 1970s it boasted to be the "World's Largest Sunday School." It is now considered a megachurch.

I used to be a member.

I was interested in July 31 news reports that the church's pastor, Jack Schaap, was fired for having sexual relationships with a minor whom the church bused in from Illinois. Schaap is the son-in-law, of the late Pastor Jack Hyles who founded and pastored the church for 42 years.

This church has a sordid - and criminal - history, which was first revealed by attorney Voyle Glover in his book "Fundamental Seduction," and by Victor Nischik in "Wizard of God." Glover writes about the many church workers who were sexual predators, and thus advises churches to apply a thorough review process of workers in order to keep out pedophiles. Nischik's book exposes the affair long time pastor Jack Hyles had with Hyles' secretary, who was Nischik's wife. Hyles had a secret adjoining door to his office.

This item caught my eye because during the 1970s I too was sexually abused by a number of preachers, youth directors, and others who believed that such acts were noble in light of Biblical heroes. One preacher justified his acts by saying "Well, look at King David, and King Solomon!"

Dave Hyles - the son of the founder - was the church's youth director while I was being abused. My own father, who was a Hammond police captain, confronted Jack Hyles about Dave's behaviors and nothing was done until years later when Dave was placed in a different church in Garland, Texas. There, Hyles continued the sexual misconduct and was again dismissed.

This firing is just the latest in a series of outrageous tragedies. The church's ministry is a breeding ground for sexual predators. Their ministry includes a youth center, a college, and a school. Joe Combs, former Bible professor at their Hyles-Anderson College, is currently serving prison time for the repeated rape and abuse of his adopted daughter. A.V. Ballenger, a church deacon and bus route driver of the church was convicted in 1993 for molesting a seven-year-old girl.

Because of the newest church news, a few of my Hammond Baptist High School classmates have come forward about sexual abuse perpetrated by the church authorities.

Many Christians ask me why I am now an atheist, a Buddhist to be exact. I tell them that they carry around a book that explicitly silences women, abuses children and supports a capitalistic system where there will be a group of people who go to "hell."

As of this date, Schaap has not been convicted of a crime. Evidence thus far is his cell phone of which the minor, the abused, sent him a picture of them having sex.

It is important that the media includes the voices of abuse victims. In this recent case the victim is a minor, and thus her name is not public. Many of us victims were minors when the abuse happened. But now that we are adults, more knowledgeable and able, we must speak up. We are the primary resources. Our healing continues knowing that this abuse is believed and that it will stop.

Further information can be obtained by calling the Lake County, Indiana Sheriff's office at: (219) 755-3400 or their switchboard at (219) 755-3300.


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  • I was there in the 70's at First Baptist Church in Hammond during time space of time that Pastor Hyles was supposedly having an affair with Mrs. Nischik. And my husband worked around the church as a carpenter and he can tell you that there is was no "secret" door between offices. This whole story is bull. We use to sit in the balcony and watch Mr. Nischik, an altar worker, wink at the ladies as they came down the aisle for prayer/salvation. I only wish that I reported him then.

    Don't bring up Pastor Hyles in this sick situation with Jack Schaap. Jack Schaap confessed and should be arrested for abuse. I agree.

    It seems very unreal that Tenzin was abused by everybody at FBC when he was there. And I wasn't. My husband wasn't. Our son wasn't. And now he writes that "Many Christians ask me why I am now an atheist, a Buddhist to be exact. " This proves my point. So glad that you are out of the Baptist world Tenzin. Good luck with the muslins. They are a goooooood crowd to hang around with.

    Posted by Jean Williams, 08/05/2012 6:55pm (3 years ago)


    Posted by JOYCE MILES, 08/05/2012 3:09pm (3 years ago)

  • Problems when girls/boys/youngsters are abused -- the disassociation that takes place during the abuse, the leaving the body, the fear of being discovered, the shame, the guilt when the perpetrator tells you you're the problem -- never goes away. Your mind becomes your enemy and your existence darkens.

    To this day, when the abuse I went through was as far back as 35 years ago, I still doubt myself. i struggle to stand up for my values, I beat myself up inside. My potential is not reached. I move in extreme caution. And all this though I'm talented. An accomplished pianist and organist, very high scholastic acquisitions in graduate school, single mom of wonderful grown kids.

    I'm lonely. Alone. I'm sad all the time.

    Producing a play in 2013 about abuse where rising helium balloons will drip muddy garbage and dirt. A representation of disassociation and what it carries with it.

    Posted by Anonymous, 08/04/2012 7:51pm (3 years ago)

  • This story which is finally coming out has many facets and there are many ways to analyze and interpret them. The thing that I see most clearly is that the abuse is rooted in a hierarchy, God, earthly authority, Priest, minister, king, man, women each with their own place and function that allows and encourages the abuse to continue. In other words it's about class division with women being subjugated more than anyone else. Without that capitalism would not exist nor societies centered around religion. In the horrible story of Esther Combs she was not educated because she was only to be a servant and whore. The man was above the wife the wife above Esther. Even in the oppressed class of women there is a class division that is structured exactly like the class system that controlled Mrs. Combs. A. Chandler's comment that it was an abuse of power is true but really that's the way power works. Girls have to be taught their place, to submit to the authority of man who has it because of "God", money, privilege, tradition. That's the excuse but the real reason is the class system which exists because it benefits those who have arranged to be at the top.

    Posted by Gary Thompson, 08/04/2012 6:11pm (3 years ago)

  • Thanks for sharing your personal experiences. I am sure it will help others who have had the same experiences and help shed light on this abusive cult.

    What a horrible abuse of power. It is so unfortunate that people use god and the bible to subjegate, abuse, and silence others. But, as you pointed out, they find genuine scripture to support what they are doing. Just another reason to challenge blind acceptance of any religious text.

    Posted by A. Chandler, 08/04/2012 10:53am (3 years ago)

  • You remember we talked about this in the school gymnasium after Dave left for Garland?

    Posted by Julie, 08/03/2012 6:44pm (3 years ago)

  • Your willingness to share such a difficult story is something for which I am grateful. Sadly, so many children suffer at the hands of those who are supposed to teach, love and protect them. They suffer in a kind of silence they carry through the journey we call life. And so many suffer in this silence alone. Thank you for sharing this Tenzin Angmo. Your words have touched at least one, but I am sure they will inspire many more.

    Posted by Kathy Mack, 08/03/2012 6:17pm (3 years ago)

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