Sexual Abuse at the Hands of a Youth Pastor by Shanyn Silinski

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I am excited to have guest blogger and frequent contributor to Emerging from Broken, Shanyn Silinski from “the Scarred Seeker” blog sharing with my readers today on the topic of Spiritual abuse and Church abuse. Please help me welcome Shanyn and as always, please feel free to contribute your comments and feedback in the comments section of this blog post. ~ Darlene Ouimet, founder of Emerging from Broken

 Church abuse, spiritual abuseSexual Abuse at the Hands of a Youth Pastor by Shanyn Silinski

Mark 9:42 “And if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck.

 For years it was me who wore the millstone of being dirty, whorish, asking for it, trash and I wore it silently because my abuse at the hands of a youth pastor was a secret for years.  He knew, of course, and because of the shame I didn’t tell.  I paid the price for his secret desires, and his willingness to touch a child.  I look back on the photos of that weekend.  I was just a kid.  Not ‘blooming early’.

When I finally did tell someone, I was told, don’t be so dramatic, it wasn’t you he wanted but me (my mother). Take it as a compliment.  This was years later, and I realized that she knew he lusted after her, and she thought somehow, in hindsight, that it was okay to have your daughter serve as substitute. 

I remember it so clearly, driving in the truck, finally breaking the silence.  Hoping and praying for something more than that.  I was worried what if he hurt other girls and was ‘assured’ I was the only one, after all there was only one her, and I looked just like her. 

Shockingly, it didn’t horrify me that someone could think that was a compliment and that they would be okay with their child as a substitute.  I was more worried about another voiceless child.  And my own voice was once again silenced.

Looking back, I can see how this shook me.  My faith, still young and fragile, was shaken to the core.  The folded fifty dollar bill had more power to a senior pastor than a tear stained face.  The abuse of power which created an atmosphere of mistrust drove me first away and then seeking to be redeemed I came back in. 

Only to find the only difference between a stranger abusing you and someone you know is their access.  The stranger took what he wanted and left.  Left me bruised, scarred and scared.  He was gone. The blame, the laughter of the witnesses stayed but it faded.

Seeing my abuser in church and around other young women was a slap.  It made it my fault.  It seemed it was my sin that was screaming scarlet in the sanctuary.  I wanted some where save where I could rush to confess my sins that made it possible for him to hurt me.  Not knowing it wasn’t me! 

The assumption of blame on the victim especially in the church, seems to come from a belief that there are no thieves in God’s house. (hello, Judas was a the money keeper for Jesus – and he was a thief, betrayer and sneak).  It cannot be the trusted youth pastor or the choir leader or the __________who has been there for years. Therefore it must be me and you and everyone but them.

The blame is always on the one who it is assumed has caused temptation and never on the one who gives into temptation.  Because of an under the surface assumption that cripples us, it demeans us, it steals us away from grace.  That assumption is that a) there really was temptation, b) the temptress (or tempter) was doing it on purpose and c) that the one who gives in has no choice.

I was no where near the adult woman my mother was.  Budding, sure, but no blooms.  Not grand roses.  Perhaps a slight whisper of physical maturity.  I was not her substitute.  I couldn’t be.  I was barely a teenager.  He was a married man, with a child and was a youth pastor.  Even if he was an older teen, single and available it was still abuse.  It was still abuse in the church

As to being a temptation – who could possibly think that violating a child in the dark is somehow a substitute for an adult interaction?  She was unattainable, of course she was, but that didn’t have to consign me to the position of this will do.

He could have stayed away from children. Someone could have noticed that bad things were going on in my life after that.  They couldn’t hardly miss them! But they chose to.  He had a choice, and adult always has a choice.  I did not but I paid the price.  I carried that for years.

Last year, looking for some closure, I reached out to my old pastor.  My old betrayer who would rather be friends with my parents than be a shepherd to a lost lamb.  They got to him first.  They always impressed him with their style and whatever it was and do you think this man would call me back? Respond to an email? Acknowledge a prayer request?  Another cry ignored.

The reach of my parents in their sphere of influence is frightening.  I’ve lost friends and have been ignored by people solely on their say so.  I’m outcast because I won’t come back under their conditions.  I’m denominationally challenged and I tend to challenge pastors because I know they are human.  They make mistakes. But as teachers, as leaders, they have a higher standard to adhere to.  I expect that.  I have the right to.  Just as I had the right to be safe in church.  Having a right doesn’t mean it won’t be violated but violating it doesn’t remove it either.

I speak up for children, I stick up for the elderly, I advocate for welfare and safety for all creatures – I’ve found my voice and I’m gonna use it as long as God blesses me with it!

Matthew 18:5 “And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me.

 Shanyn Silinski

Shanyn Silinski is an outspoken survivor who writes, creates and lives life as fully as she can with her husband, son and the animals on their small ranch in Manitoba. The author of a number of blogs, a book of poetry with two more in the works, Shanyn also sculpts, scrapbooks and loves having fun with photography. Please visit her recovery blog “The Scarred Seeker”

52 response to "Sexual Abuse at the Hands of a Youth Pastor by Shanyn Silinski"

  1. By: Kate Posted: 2nd October

    “The blame is always on the one who it is assumed has caused temptation and never on the one who gives into temptation. Because of an under the surface assumption that cripples us, it demeans us, it steals us away from grace. That assumption is that a) there really was temptation, b) the temptress (or tempter) was doing it on purpose and c) that the one who gives in has no choice.”

    The thing that tempted him was not you; it was power, power “over” another

  2. By: Maribeth Posted: 2nd October

    Ah Shanyn,
    What a horrible thing to have happened- especially at a time in life where your sense of you who you are and what you value is was being formed. Thank you for your courage.
    I’m with Lynda – think you’re terrific,
    hugs
    Maribeth

  3. By: Kate Posted: 2nd October

    “people assuming their money makes them something that their character shows they are not.”

    active, not passive, they demand this of their money

  4. By: joy Posted: 2nd October

    Shanyn

    You write wonderfully; it took courage to share your story and it helped me find strength in understanding my own. thanks for writing such a beautiful article

    Joy

  5. By: Shanyn Posted: 2nd October

    Jane – thank you for sharing, and for coming by. That phrase, “don’t be so dramatic” is one that was used often to discount my feelings and demean me. You could have the wrong tone, posture, look or even improper eye contact and get hit with that. I’m sorry for what happened to you Jane. I wish you the best on your healing path.

    Calvin – my family also was the master of silence, denial and they did know some of what was going on, I had tried to tell them once or twice. But I learned quickly that it wouldn’t do any good.

    Pam – thanks for sharing that, you brought up a key point. Forgiveness doesn’t mean we need to forget, I don’t think we could. Breaking with family, putting up boundaries for us to heal is totally about us, not them. And even if they don’t understand that, we do! Thanks for sharing.

    Kate – thanks for sharing, and you are so right to point out that there is so many kinds of abuse. This instant of sexual abuse was fostered in an atmosphere where being important and having influence could be bought instead of earned. That is a major problem for me (and you, and so many who read and comment here)…people assuming their money makes them something that their character shows they are not.

    Jeri – thanks for the encouragement! I have made my break, run for it and live safely on my side of the boundaries I set up. The ones they choose to walk away from ironically. I liked your addition to Kate’s list! Working on those, as we all are, and it feels good to live without them in our lives. Sometimes I wish they could choose differently, but they won’t.

    Lynda – you described so much of my childhood and early adult life so well in just two paragraphs! Being gifted or highly intelligent doesn’t make us less vulnerable! The insanity of clinging to something that is just wrong because it looks better than the truth is sad and disturbing. Lynda – my little girl self never had anyone outraged on her behalf. I really had to digest that line, and having been raged at is something so different than someone being outraged on your behalf. I want to thank you for it.

    I want to thank everyone who read and commented for their support and love and understanding. This was a hard post to write (and rewrite, consider and still go forward with!)…your support is amazing, for me and for each other.

  6. By: Lynda ~ Out Of The cRaZy Closet Posted: 1st October

    Shanyn, you said “It wasn’t until much later that I realized how insane the whole situation and response really was..”

    I understand that, only too well. When we are taught all our lives that we don’t matter, because only SOME people matter, and we aren’t one of them… we can’t see how insane it is because, to us, in our world, that is “normal.” I was 50 before I began to really SEE and KNOW how insane my childhood was. This is despite the fact that I have an extremely high IQ. It doesn’t matter how intelligent you are, if you grow up in a family where everybody calls red, blue, then you are going to believe that red really is blue. It’s not easy to unlearn this stuff.

    How narcissistic it was for your mother to say that your youth pastor had abused you as a child, because you look like your mother and he “really wanted HER,” but she was unavailable, so he used you as a substitute! How unbelievably CRUEL it was for her to tell you that you were “being dramatic,” and you ought to take the sexual abuse as a COMPLIMENT?? Oh my God, I am OUTRAGED for that precious, unprotected, and discounted little girl you were.

    BIG HUGS for you, Shanyn.

    Lynda

  7. By: Jeri Massi Posted: 1st October

    Shanyn,
    What a heart breaking story. I would get as far away from that church and your mother as I could. In my opinion, she is worse than he is. Kate is right: seek to do what is useful, beautiful, and healthful. I would also add, merciful. It sounds like you are already doing those things. So sorry you went through all that; horrible people banded together to make themselves look good. Run from it. Thank you for your courage to share.
    Jeri

  8. By: Kate Posted: 1st October

    yes, abusive families are not for their members which are abused, but that ARE for someone…and churches are often the ones found in favor

  9. By: Kate Posted: 1st October

    Shanyn,
    Thank you so much for sharing…yes, I have met up with that $50 bill SO many times, and “my parents’ sphere of influence” IOW, more money for the pastor, wow, makes me sick to my stomach, and the story of my life. I wasn’t sexually abused, but abused in every other way in religious settings. by the time i was ready for college, I had put enough hours into getting to and attending church that I could literally have earned a phD and had a way to support myself, not to mention be a single mom with four children. The time alone that we give these people so they can trip out on the power/position/money is staggering. We would be so much better off if we just lived our own lives, doing what is useful, beautiful, and healthful.

  10. By: Pam Posted: 1st October

    Calvin, That is the chant of my family. What happened to me wasn’t important to them but my remembering it is a crime, in their thinking. What people need to understand is that an unresolved past that includes abuse is always in our present. It stays that way until it is reckoned with. Forgive and forget was a major road-block on my path to healing and being able to put the past in the past. I had to break with my family to do it.

    Pam

  11. By: Calvin Posted: 1st October

    Where I come from the past is the past… forgive and forget…pretend nothing ever happend…

    If they could only see what they are doing! But they won’t…

  12. By: Jane Humphreys Posted: 1st October

    OMG does that ring true “Don’t be dramatic” – I’ve heard this several times over the years from my mother, as a response to just about any subject that has me mentioning abuse of me. My family are Brethren, my grandfather, a vile man and was a sunday school teacher, best friends with his brother inlaw who sexually abused both my mother and myself. They’re scum, social inadequates, incapable of attracting anyone worthwhile, so they validate their lack as people in the church, getting power from it, which is a shame for those member of the church who are decent people. They have taken your childhood, as they took mine, but they have not taken your integrity, see them for what they truly are – the scum of the earth. My very best wishes to you.

  13. By: Shanyn Posted: 1st October

    Lynda – thanks for your encouraging comment. It wasn’t until much later that I realized how insane the whole situation and response really was, and probably still is. I think, for me, the worst part is that no one cared that other children could have been hurt or that I was hurt by this. I appreciate your support!

    Rise – you couldn’t have known my friend, I have a few secrets left and that was one. Not a secret any longer, although it took too many years to see the light of day. When we lose a part of our childhood and no one seems to notice or care it is a terrible hole in our lives for a long time. My family has chosen their path, and walked away from the boundaries I set for my safety and sanity. Their choice to walk away and you are right we know our own truth. Thanks for the hugs!

  14. By: Risé Posted: 30th September

    Oh Shanyn – I did not know this about you … don’t know how I missed it, but I am so sorry this happened to you! Abuse of any kind is the most terrible thing to happen to a child – it steals from us our own identities and who we could have been!! So brave of you to share your story. It still amazes me how those of us who are abused are often estranged from our families because they choose to not believe us, they choose to live in ignorance … but we know our own truth.

    Big hugs to you girl! And “Bravo!” for sharing so openly!!

  15. By: Lynda ~ Out Of The cRaZy Closet Posted: 30th September

    Shanyn ~ your mother’s reaction was INSANE. Her response to learning that you had been sexually abused by the youth minister, was no less abusive than what he did. I am outraged that you were treated so horribly. And I am amazed at how strong and courageous you are, after everything you have gone through. You are AWESOME.

    Lynda

  16. By: Shanyn Posted: 30th September

    Mel – thank you for coming by, it is so encouraging to see you here. Thank you for your comment, it blesses and encourages me. Hugs you.

  17. By: Mel @ Trailing After God Posted: 30th September

    Shanyn, first thank you for sharing your story. Second, I am so sorry for what you were put through and for your mom’s reaction and continued sneaky abuse. You keep speaking out. God’s gifted you with a voice and He’s using you in mighty ways! Love your heart ?

    Blessings,
    Mel
    Please feel free to stop by: Trailing After God

  18. By: joy Posted: 30th September

    First want to say . that I see Darlene and EFB as answers to my prayer for help in my darkness

    Shaynyn:

    Sad thing is it took so much out of me to empty my secrets to my T then she left.. but I know .. something good will come from this. I feel it deeply.

    Thakn you for the hugs and love I so appreciate it:

    (( hugs))

    Joy

    Pam:
    thank you so much for your kind words: short but deep and amen to what you say <3

    Love

    Joy

  19. By: Pam Posted: 30th September

    Joy, Your truth is for you. Those who seek to cover the truth and blot it out,live in darkness, no matter their position,title,or profession.To be loved and accepted by such people,one has to be like them. I would much rather be a reject in their eyes and live in truth.

    Pam

  20. By: Shanyn Posted: 30th September

    Joy, many hugs for you, and much love. The evil that lives in a church comes from the people who allow it. They either turn their backs or through their silence give assent. We are taught to trust people who have either earthly or spiritual authority – children should be able to trust, so should adults. When someone steals that from us, and then expects us to carry the hurt, shame and blame alone they are the ones who are wrong. Not me. Not you.

    Secrets are like poison, when we hold them too long, they hurt us more than if we let them out and get them away from us. I’m sorry your T hasn’t been able to continue with you. That is a terrible trauma for you right now. I’m praying for you Joy. And I’m sending you lots of hugs and love.

  21. By: joy Posted: 30th September

    Shanyn. I am so sorry for what you went through . I understand the shame of carrying secrets for a long time.because this is how the church said it should be .. that suffering shame silently would make me closer to God was what was drilled into me.

    When I revealed my secrets they were made light of and I was even told to hush .. or I would not make it into Heaven.. Now after the scandals and knowing how many secrets this church has swept under its rug .. I am not surprised by what happened to me as a little child ..

    Unfortunately I didnt know the evilness of the church as a child. I idolized the pastors and nuns like saints mouth pieces of God.. so I never ever thought to question their words: was like God speaking.

    Only now this year had I begun to open up but now am wondering was it wrong to have done so .. !!

    The Church sanctioned all the abuse I ever went through and acted ignorant of what was happening in my home and later on in my life. .Ignorance is always called upon to protect the abusers. they never knew .. they didn’t realize.. they never saw anything..

    Yet a little child told them.. ..Now am a big child again I am wondering why did I ever let my secrets out .. what good did it do me. My T was suppose to help me with all I slowly emptied and instead she
    ran away from me like all the rest.

    SO I am bleeding inside, confused .. wandering around like that little six year old girl smarting from the abandonment imposed on me .. hoping..praying . God will send me someone real .. to help me as I go forward in my healing.

    Secrets are painful but more painful is having shared them with someone who never really cared.

    joy

  22. By: Shanyn Posted: 30th September

    Pam – thank you for reading, and commenting. Your comment was so encouraging for me, and for those who read it. Your analogy of carrying shame is very accurate! I’m so thankful that we can wash ourselves off and that we have friends on the healing path to hand us some clean towels!

    Your family was shameful in how they put it back on you. The truth, when spoken for us, is our truth. Not theirs. God would never ask us for less. Your last line is one that shines for me like a beacon, “for others who seek freedom from the shame they carry but haven’t earned.” AMEN!

  23. By: Pam Posted: 30th September

    Shanyn, Thank you for your courage and your pursuit of truth. People seem to think that people in church cease to be people with all of the thoughts for evil that people have. When those thoughts turn to action, then protecting the image of the church kicks in and everything, no matter who it hurts, is pushed under the rug. This is done by people who are prideful and have a wish for church people to be seen as more than they are and perfect. This is never about God and I don’t believe that God has any pleasure in a man using religious authority in fulfilling his perverse pleasure and then people who profess faith in, Jesus conspiring to cover it up. Yay! for the denominationally challenged who truly believe in what they profess and seek to live it out.

    I too carried the shame of sexual abuse as a teenager for decades. Carrying shame that doesn’t belong to you is like having someone deficate in your presense and then smear it all over you and then having the people who say they love you, pinch their noses in disgust and refuse to help you wash it off. They prefer you to wear the excrement of another to risking getting their own hands dirty.

    I wore that shame for decades and then when I demanded that my family acknowledge the truth and also, my parents acknowledge their irresponsibility in allowing it to happen, I was told that the 28 year old man who hurt me was just a victim of the sexual revolution and my parent’s neglect wasn’t a crime because I was so rebellious. I am also branded as not being honorable toward my parents by insisting on the truth. They want me to lie and accept that lie as honor and they do so in the name of God. It doesn’t matter, in church or out of church, it is safer to blame the victim than to take on the perpetrator. It’s disgusting. I don’t care anymore what they say or how they label me, I will not go back to living a lie. Life lived in the light has become highly precious to me. Thank you, for also bringing your story into the light so that it may become light and be a beacon for others who seek freedom from the shame they carry but haven’t earned.

    Pam

  24. By: Shanyn Posted: 30th September

    Darlene – thanks for having me post here. It’s been a long time and a lot of years that this story rattled around in the dark of my mind. I never shared it like this before. It is so hard to unlearn that you have little value except for how you can benefit others.

    ((hugs you)) thanks Darlene! You may be the first person to say that they were sorry about this. Ever. Amazing.

    Where you have people you’ll have people making good and bad choices. The bad choices of adults when I was a child could have destroyed me, but for the Grace of God I could have become so many other things than what I am right now. God blessed me, and this experience is shared to shed some light on a ‘sacred cow’ that is cared for by fallible humans.

    Thanks for having me. I always enjoy guest posting for you Darlene!

  25. By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 30th September

    Shanyn
    Thank you for guest posting this week on EFB. I am struck as always by the way the sick system in our world works. The perps are rarely held responsible no matter what organization the abuse is going on in is. I have deep memories of being told over and over that I had to respect my elders.. I was taught not to question anything, I was taught very young that if someone was wrong, it was me. I became compliant because that was the only way. I became accepting of the blame and learned very young not to question it.

    It was hard to unlearn that!

    I am so sorry that this happened to you Shanyn. There is no excuse. Telling a child that it was her mother they wanted… that it was her mother who was desired, that you were a substitute is SICK and crazy. That is a double abuse. It makes me sick that these kinds of justifications exist!

    Again, thank you so much for guest posting.
    Hugs, Darlene

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