I have received permission to post the following story from a woman who shared about her experience at SEP where she was molested along with two other girls. Kermit Nelson, Dennis VanDeVenter and Mr. Burnett attempted to cover the molestations up.
This brought her story forward when she learned of the Jehovah's Witnesses child abuse case that is portrayed above. Nightline has a program on tonight about abuse in the Jehovah's Witnesses cult. The parallels in the JW story are exactly like what has happened over and over in the Church of God and CONTINUES to this day in the Philadelphia Church of God, the Restored Church of God, Living Church of God, United Church of God, COGWA and other groups!
Sharing a Nightline Special on sexual abuse coverup from Jehovah Witness leadership. She won a landmark court case! How familiar is this video?
This hits close to home, as I was 13 at SEP, first time away from home so far and so long, and me and two other girls were molested and I was almost raped by an 18 year old guy in our brother dorm. He got no real punishment, but me and the two other girls had to tell our stories, emotionally falling apart but with no support or guidance, in front of Dr. Kermit Nelson (director of SEP), Mr. Dennis VanDeVanter (who baptized my parents and was our minister for a while, but by this time had been transferred to the upper ranks in Pasadena), and Mr. Burnett (our dorm minister and the women's BB coach at Pasadena AC). Our phone and mail privileges were revoked as they didn't want the word of this "to get out and spread through the congregations, then parents will be reluctant to send their children to SEP which could save them spiritually." (as SEP was fun at times, but it was indoctrination-based)
When they said we couldn't call/write our parents anymore or anything else, it felt like *we* were the ones getting punished because we came forward, they said, "If this gets out, it will spread like wild fire through the congregations worldwide. Do you really want the eternal lives of who knows how many young people on your head?" Guilt squashed our need to contact anyone or seek emotional healing. They even made me dance with him at the end of camp to show there were "no hard feelings" - and he managed to do even more damage during and after that dance.
No cops were called. No parents.
My parents got worried when my every-other-day phone calls stopped abruptly.
They called the camp. Dr. Nelson and Mr. VanDeVanter both lied to them initially and said they didn't know of anything going on, and that we were just probably caught up with the fun of camp.
Finally, my parents got the truth out of them when they demanded to speak to me. My parents were furious, but still didn't occur to them to call the cops, and at this point there had not only been the molestation, but neglect and coverup by the church.
I was told that this matter went all the way up to Mr. Tkatch from Dr. Nelson when they were deciding how to handle this.
I relate with so much of this girl says in the Nightline story. Hopefully this will open the door for more lawsuits won against cults and their slimy legal/PR tactics. And hopefully people will see that the JW's and Mormons and other cults aren't just "nice people that believe things a little different" but their secrecy and closed door policies when it comes to these issues.