[dropcap]H[/dropcap]undreds of women and teenagers have been revealing stories of rape, sexual abuse and harassment that they suffered inside church or at the hands of Christian men in leadership, using the (#churchtoo) hashtag to shed light on countless disturbing experiences.
While many Christian women shared their stories of abuse recently under the #MeToohashtag, Twitter discussion under #churchtoo has given both believers and nonbelievers the chance to add to the revelations.
“Growing up in purity culture, I was taught that men were ‘visual creatures’ that couldn’t help feeling aroused at the sight of slightly revealed ankles or knees, and that all men were imagining me naked 24/7,” wrote a user by the name Sarah.
“The entire system shamed women for even existing,” she added.
Rosemary Johnson said: “I CANNOT COUNT the number of times I’ve heard guys in church PUBLICLY admit to molestation, harassment, assault, etc, only to be praised for their bravery & honesty. No consequences. The church’s legacy of protecting abusers is sickening.”
“I was sexually & physically abused by a boy friend who was also a member of my church,” another user with the handle @littleotmark revealed.
“When I went to my church leaders for help they discouraged me from going to the police & encouraged me to give him another chance.”
“There was talk among the girls regarding ‘the rod of Moses’, but I did not know what it meant, said a lady who claimed she was abused by her pastor.
“But one day I innocently remarked during music rehearsals that I also wanted this rod of Moses.
“Immediately, he [the pastor] summoned me to his office.”
The woman claimed she had been asked there if she wanted the “rod of Moses” and she responded that she no longer did.
“He [the pastor] came closer to me, saying it was nice,” she said.
“He hugged me and rubbed [against] me with his lower body … I felt very uncomfortable and began to sob.”
The woman said the pastor had asked her what she wanted from God and she had replied that she needed to be blessed.
She alleged that he had handed her some money, which she refused, but he had insisted that she take the money and give it to a relative.
The woman claimed that the pastor targeted females, particularly from disadvantaged backgrounds, to whom he promised a better life.
A 53-year-old pastor Timothy Ngwu, reportedly impregnated 20 members of his congregation claims the Holy Spirit ordered him to have sex with them.
Ngwu’s abusive behaviour was finally reported to the police by his estranged wife Veronica who grew tired of his adulterous behaviour – and reportedly impregnated her young neice.
He also claims he never had sex with any married woman unless their husbands consented to the Holy Spirit’s request.
Calista Omeje and Assumpta Odo both left their husbands to live with the pastor based on these holy commands.
Mother-of-eight Odo said Ngwu impregnated both her and her daughter, whose age is not known.
A user with the handle @HopeLoveJustice said: “I was abused, starting at age 2 by my father, a church elder & seminary teacher.
“I could not even find words or make sense of any of it until I was in my 30’s,” she added.
A 54-year-old woman, Pastor Idowu Olupinla, a founder of a Church in Ijoko-Ota, Abeokuta, was arrested recently by the Police for allegedly operating a prostitution cartel with teenagers.
“We are about 10 girls with Mama, and she always arrange men for us to have sex,” said a 16-year-old girl rescued by the police. “She created apartment within the church premises, where the men sleep with us. We charge N500 per sex in which Mama will collect N300 and give us N200.”
Female pastors also joined in the discussion, with Robin Anderson of Commonwealth Baptist Church in the USA writing :
“I was sexually abused by a pastor. When reported, the social worker chose to protect the minister instead of my 7 year body. Bcs of that, the abuse continued for years. Kids deserve better.”
Some revealed that the experiences of abuse have driven them away from religion.
“Which is why, although I believe in God, I no longer will believe in church or religion. I refuse to step inside another church or say to a priest ‘Father bless me for I have sinned.’ If I want that blessing, I’m going straight to God with the request. No middle man,” another writer stated.
User @andemoriah shared: “Men in the church told me my clothing determined the level of respect I deserve. They groped & touched me for a literal decade.”
Another user recalled: “My first of three experiences with sexual harassment in the church was at 14 years old. My youth pastor pulled me aside to tell me not to wear sandals to church. He told me he had a foot fetish and my feet were turning him on. I was causing him to sin.”
Kimberly another writer argued that the revelations should not come as a surprise to people:
“If #churchtoo shocks you, wake up. The sheer level of shame heaped on women just for being women inside the Church is ground level basics in Christianity and a breeding ground to perpetuate abuse.”