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Vienna Presbyterian Church gets it right with abuse scandal

Last week Lovefraud posted an article  about the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia and its evasive response, or nonresponse, to claims of clergy sex abuse. It was actually written by a member of the church review board, who was as dismayed as many of the faithful.

Read Criticizing bishops in the Philadelphia clergy abuse scandal.

The Vienna Presbyterian Church in Vienna, Virginia, faced a similar situation when a youth director maintained inappropriate relationships with multiple teenage girls.

Eric De Vries infiltrated their lives and manipulated the girls into what they thought were mutual romantic relationships. They said he drew them in as a trusted mentor, friend and Christian role model before professing his love, saying that he wanted to marry them, imploring them to keep the relationship secret and then progressively increasing sexual contact as they approached adulthood.

The Vienna church eventually realized the magnitude of the ordeal and worked to make amends. The church publicly took responsibility and apologized in a sermon on March 27, 2011. And, it approached the Washington Post and cooperated in an investigative report about the abuse.

Read Vienna Presbyterian Church seeks forgiveness, redemption in wake of abuse scandal on WashingtonPost.com.

The church did this in spite of being admonished by its insurance company. On March 23, 2011, before the planned sermon, a lawyer hired by the insurance company sent a warning to church officials:

“Do not make any statements, orally, in writing or in any manner, to acknowledge, admit to or apologize for anything that may be evidence of or interpreted as (a suggestion that) the actions of Vienna Presbyterian Church … caused or contributed to any damages arising from the intentional acts/abuse/misconduct” by the youth director.

Read Church abuse cases and lawyers an uneasy mix on USAToday.com.

Lovefraud applauds the courage and integrity of the Vienna Presbyterian Church.

Story suggested by a Lovefraud reader.



2 Comments on "Vienna Presbyterian Church gets it right with abuse scandal"

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  1. Genevieve79 says:

    Oh wow does this story ring a few bells for me! Guy in a position of trust in his early 30s, seeks to manipulate, groom and get under his spell teenage girls on the brink of womanhood, and enjoys playing them off against each other as well. I was 16 when I was nibbled by what I now believe to be a sexual predator, in a position of trust and authority over me. I was nibbled becase, after grooming me for several months and lavishing lots of attention and praise on me, making me feel special, he suddenly dropped me and moved onto a new target. I was a liability you see – he needed a girl who wouldn’t get too starstruck/naive and who he could trust to keep her mouth shut about illicit things. I was too honest for him, a little girl who played by the rules. Dropping me like that though did a lot of damage to my fledgling self esteem though, and I was an emotional wreck and shell of my former self by the time I left that school at 18. It’s taken me until my own early thirties to recognise and heal the damage that he did, and, unlike the others, he never even touched me – it was emotional abuse in my case. The damage to my sense of self and my career path was immense because when he turned on me, he got two of the other girls to do it too. He and they had more professional high ranking connections/political power than me, and I was so intimidated it has taken me until now to return to my career field of choice, for fear of running into them because it’s a very close knit community in my field. And yes, like Eric de Vries, he too was charismatic, attractive, related well to young people, and brought wonderful new energy to the place…. Funny how they all have the same childlike/Peter Pan/boyish quality to them don’t they!
    I know he groomed me, and I didn’t throw myself at him, because I had no feelings for him whatsoever in the beginning, still don’t fancy him at all actually, and a little voice in my head was going ‘Oh go on, he’s nice, and he likes you, just give him a chance!’ So I did, I opened my heart, let him in, and BOOM did I regret it…. Even the day I met him, my mohter was with me and she teased me afterwards on the way home about him liking me. I wasn’t at all interested because he was a teacher for goodness sake, I just didn’t ‘go there’ I suspect he sent me a Valentines card as well, in the beginning and didn’t work toohard to disguise his handwriting… Remembering those things has helped me to realise that I was groomed by him, drawn in. They’re so expert at it, they make you think it’s your fault for a long time, and that you threw yourself at them. This is what he tried to make out when we recently got back in touch and then fell out again – that I was somehow infatuated with him! Yeah right, more like the other way around! Even now I still have a strange sense of loyalty to him, and feeling that he was not all that bad and was just looking for love in the wrong places. Jeez, how screwed up am I! I think that’s what the wonderful Patrick Carnes would call a Betrayal Bond! Thank you for the article, it really helps to validate what I went through and how far I have come.

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