Sex­ual abuse by pas­tors back in spot­light

Young vic­tims ‘groomed’ for rape

The Korea Times - - NATIONAL - By Lee Suh-yoon sylee@ko­re­

Re­cent al­le­ga­tions that a 35-year-old pas­tor sex­u­ally abused at least 26 teenage girls in his youth min­istry group have re­fu­eled the de­bate over the ma­nip­u­la­tive tac­tics of sex of­fend­ers in the clergy.

On Tues­day, four of the al­leged vic­tims — masked and cov­ered in black — spoke out against a pas­tor at their church in In­cheon, claim­ing he “groomed” them into ac­com­mo­dat­ing his sex­ual de­mands for years in their teens.

“Ev­ery time I said no, he told me he loved me, say­ing it was the first time he felt this way about some­one,” one of the vic­tims said at a press con­fer­ence held at a Chris­tian meet­ing hall in Yeonji-dong, Seoul. “I trusted the pas­tor, so I never thought he could lie in God’s name.”

The pas­tor, sur­named Kim, ap­proached young fe­male stu­dents in the youth min­istry of his church, buy­ing them treats and gen­tly coun­sel­ing them on fam­ily is­sues. As the girls started to trust him more, Kim started mak­ing sex­ual com­ments or touch­ing them. He con­vinced the girls they were in lov­ing re­la­tion­ships that would even­tu­ally end in mar­riage. Grad­u­ally, he got them to have sex with him reg­u­larly, telling them he wanted to “pu­rify” bad mem­o­ries of be­ing raped by his un­cle.

“It was hard for the vic­tims to even reg­is­ter their sit­u­a­tion as sex­ual abuse while they were stuck in the con­tin­u­ous cy­cle of psy­cho­log­i­cal brain­wash­ing and rape,” Chae Su-ji, head of the Chris­tian Coun­sel­ing Cen­ter for Vi­o­lence Against Women, told The Korea Times, Wed­nes­day.

“As the re­la­tion­ship deep­ens and the young per­son is forced to keep se­crets, she is in­creas­ingly iso­lated from oth­ers, mak­ing it eas­ier for the pas­tor to psy­cho­log­i­cally con­trol her.”

Kim, son of the head pas­tor, car­ried on this tac­tic with mul­ti­ple girls at a time. His be­hav­ior was no­ticed by the church lead­er­ship, but went un­pun­ished for the last 10 years.

His tac­tics are echoed in sim­i­lar cases that have been pulled out of the shad­ows by the #MeToo move­ment ear­lier this year, like the no­to­ri­ous Lee Jae-rock, a se­nior pas­tor at the 140,000-strong Man­min Cen­tral Church now on trial for rap­ing seven fe­male fol­low­ers.

Per­pe­tra­tors tend to tar­get the most vul­ner­a­ble, us­ing the vic­tim’s faith.

“The per­pe­tra­tors ap­proach the most vul­ner­a­ble, or those who are alone and don’t have friends or par­ent fig­ures they can openly talk to,” Chae said. “They also use the fact that young Chris­tian girls, es­pe­cially those with ab­sent or abu­sive fa­thers, see a pas­tor as a se­cond fa­ther whom they ide­al­ize and want val­i­da­tion from.”

The Chris­tian cen­ter has re­ceived over 400 con­sul­ta­tions — triple the annual av­er­age — since Jan­uary, when the #MeToo move­ment caught on in the coun­try.

Over 680 re­li­gious lead­ers were ap­pre­hended for sex­ual abuse from 2010 to 2016, ac­cord­ing to po­lice records, but many more crimes went un­re­ported, ex­perts say.

Proper pun­ish­ment is an­other is­sue. When a fe­male pas­tor whom one of the vic­tims con­fided in re­cently called out Kim’s ac­tions, the vic­tims were threat­ened, bribed, and even ac­cused of cult ac­tiv­i­ties, the vic­tims say.

Po­lice said they will be­gin in­ves­ti­gat­ing the case, to­day.

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