A letter of confession which a victim would really want to receive
If only Andy Savage had written this to Jules Woodson, but he didn’t. This fictional letter is what Dr Julia Dahl thinks Andy Savage should have written to Jules.
Although it’s only a made-up letter, I believe our readers will find it helpful in their own journey of recovery. While reading it I felt how very different it is from the ‘apologies’ I have received over the years from my abusers and their enablers. Julia has kindly allowed us to re-post the letter.
On twitter Julia Dahl gives her profile as follows:
General Surgical Pathologist, GI/Liver, placenta & IHC. Microbiome metagenome molecular fascinated. Assoc Director MLabs Michigan Medicine. Jesus.
For over twenty years, I have wronged you.
I wronged you when you were only fourteen years old and I, at nineteen, offered you a certain type of attention that was intended not for you, but to encourage you to look up to me, to trust me and to become emotionally dependent on me – rather than Jesus.
I wanted your attention because it made me feel important. I’ve wronged you every time I treated myself as being more important than you.
I wronged you by giving you special attention and flirting with you openly at church events. This was wrong not only because it was inappropriate for me to show feelings for you in this way, but also because I can see now that doing this gave other people the perception that you were being singled out.
I wronged you every single time I could see people begin to gossip about you – because of the way I treated you – I wronged you by remaining silent and allowing the gossip to continue instead of protecting you and the people gossiping about you by putting an end to all the gossip.
I wronged you by pretending to have feelings about you that I did not actually have. I can see now that I did this so that you would trust me. I wronged you by giving you a false sense of security that you could trust me. I was not then, and am not now, someone you should have trusted with your secrets. I wronged you by encouraging you to divulge your secrets to me. I did this so that you would know that I knew something about you that could be disclosed to others, which would cause you shame. This was a reprehensible thing for me to do – in effect buying your silence under the fear of shame.
I wronged you, Jules, by using my position of a youth pastor to build a sense that you could trust me and that I would protect you. I wronged you, Jules, by abusing my position of authority over you to led you astray while pretending that I was in fact a Godly man.
I wronged you and others by being so visibly committed to Biblical purity – preaching Biblical purity – while knowing that I was then and am now a hypocrite. I wronged you by purposely causing you confusion: saying I was committed to Biblical purity and yet flirting with you. I wronged you by teaching True Love Waits and then encouraging you to flirt with me while I flirted with you.
I wronged you by giving you the impression that I could possibly have been in love with you, when I was not.
I wronged you, Jules, by looking for opportunities to be alone with you. I wronged you when I secluded you in a bedroom of the home in which I was staying and tested your boundaries by tickling you. I already knew your pain at having been treated badly by another man at that point. It was despicable of me to touch you and to give the impression to the family that I stayed with that you were “that kind of girl.”
I wronged you and failed in my role as a Youth Pastor to protect YOUR relationship with God, your virtue and your emotional health.
I wronged you, Jules, by driving you to a secluded location and exposing myself to you. I wronged you by requiring that in your confused emotional state you touch me for both my sexual pleasure and for my ego satisfaction of having gotten you to do what I wanted.
I wronged you, Jules, by asking you to expose yourself so that I could see and touch your body; that was absolutely wrong. I was not your husband and I did that for purely selfish reasons.
I wronged you Jules by putting you at risk for facing legal action for what and when and where I did to you what I did to you. I put you at risk for being cited for Indecent Exposure, for being an accomplice to my indecent exposure when I exposed my penis to you in a public place. I wronged you when I put you at risk for facing legal action when I led you into sexual activity in a public place, where we both could be cited for public lewdness.
Jules I wronged you – risked all these things and put you in this position not for you – but because I was completely selfish in all of my motives.
Jules I wronged you in my fake apology and demanding that you stay silent. That was a horrible thing to do – to place YOUR reconciliation with God over any sexual sin you were led into far beneath my own confession and repentance for abusing my authority over you.
Update added by Barb Roberts 27 March
Perhaps I didn’t make it clear enough that Julia Dahl’s letter was only Part 1 of what she initially thought would be a 2-Part letter. She has not written Part 2 yet, but may do so soon.
Part 2 was going to be his confession for all the damage he did to Jules in the 20 years after assaulting her. The 20 years in which he did NOT report himself to the police for sexually assaulting Jules. The way he let the initial church cover for him and make it look like he just ‘left the church’ rather than putting him under discipline and expelling him from his pastoral position and from the church. The 20 years in which he went on being a pastor in other churches, maintaining that cover-up lie. The way he ignored Jules’ email to him. The way once Jules’ story went public he kept on spinning his story to Highpoint and to the wider Christian community. The way he seduced the Highpoint congregation into giving him a standing ovation. The lies and spin he told on Ben Ferguson’s radio program. Topped off by a full confession of all the evil tactics he use in his weasel-worded statement of resignation which is published at Highpoint’s website.
I think if Julia Dahl writes Part 2, her tone might be more brutally honest there.
While the crime of sexual abuse is heinous, the crime of conspiring to cover up sexual abuse is in my view at least as heinous… and it sometimes can be more damaging to the victims than the original crime…. not to mention how damaging it is to all the other people in the community who are also victims of crime…
Andy Savage made a statement on the stage at Highpoint when he was exposed by The Warthburg Watch and Watchkeep blogs. Julia Dahl did an infographic analysis of that statement. Here is my cropped version:
And here is the un-cropped version:
Savage was put on fully paid leave for two and a half months during which the church paid MinistrySafe to do an investigation. The upshot? Andy Savage has now resigned. Highpoint Church made a brief statement and announced MinistrySafe’s Investigation Conclusion.
Julia Dahl’s infographic analysis of Andy Savage’s resignation statement can be found here.
Other infographics by Julia Dahl are at the end of this post.