Sandy Phillips Kirkham authored a book titled, Let Me Prey Upon You. It details how a youth pastor preyed upon her, a betrayal which left her broken, with a shattered faith, and the ultimate shame of being blamed and forced from the church she loved. It’s a story of sexual abuse which may be confronting for some people. It’s also a story of hope and healing.

 

 

Website: https://sandyphillipskirkham.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KirkhamAuthor/

Email: sandykirkhamauthor@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

(Transcript is a guide only and may not be 100% correct.)

 

Emily Olsen

Wherever there are shadows, there are people ready to kick at the darkness until it bleeds daylight. This is Bleeding Daylight with your host Rodney Olsen.

 

Rodney Olsen 

Thank you for listening today. Once you’ve heard today’s episode please search for Bleeding Daylight on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, and please share this episode.

 

My guest today authored a book titled, Let Me Prey Upon You. It details how a youth pastor preyed upon her, a betrayal which left her broken, with a shattered faith, and the ultimate shame of being blamed and forced from the church she loved. It’s a story of sexual abuse which may be confronting for some people. It’s also a story of hope and healing.

 

Most of us have insecurities as we try to find our way in the world during our teenage years. Thankfully, many of us are able to find places of safety during that time and eventually we move past the awkwardness of growing up. But what do you do when one of those safe places turns out to be a place of betrayal? Sandy Phillips Kirkham was 16 when her world changed. Today we welcome her to Bleeding Daylight to tell her story. Sandy, thanks for your time.

 

Sandy Phillips Kirkham 

Well, thank you for having me on. It's good to be here.

 

Rodney Olsen 

Tell me what was life like before your trust was betrayed.

 

Sandy Phillips Kirkham 

I was happy little teenage girl in the church. My only issue in my life at that point was that my parents were divorced and that had a very traumatic effect on me. I didn't see my dad very much growing up. Sometimes I had difficulty with my stepfather. It was just an insecure part of my life, having the divorce and missing my dad. I was very active in the church in my teenag years from the time I was about eight. My family did not attend church, but I was invited by a friend and I went every Sunday with them to church. I was baptized when I was 13 and I was very eager to lead my new Christian life. I loved being at church and serving God. It was a place that I found safety. It was a place that I found love and concern for my well being and it was just a place I loved. I was very active. I sang in the choir, I taught Sunday School, I led prayer breakfasts, I think it would be no exaggeration to say that if the doors were open, I was there. So that was kind of where I was  when our church hired a new youth pastor.

 

Rodney Olsen 

And this new youth pastor, I guess, as most youth pastors come along, and he's ready to shake up the world and that was probably his experience to of what happened at that church at the time.

 

Sandy Phillips Kirkham 

Exactly. It was just after I turned 16 that they hired this new youth pastor and there was an unusual excitement among the adults about this new pastor coming to our church because they had heard of the growth and excitement he had created in his previous church. So they were looking forward to having this dynamic and energetic pastor on staff and really, within a very short time, there was a dramatic change in the youth group. There was a transformation from boring Sunday School lessons, they were replaced with interactive skits, there was guitar music, youth night was added. And the attendance just started to explode. Kids from all over the city were coming to our youth group because of this new cool youth pastor and he really was different in a lot of ways. And while he was close in age to our former pastor, he dressed younger, his hair was longer. He knew our music. He drove a convertible, I guess if you would say in the 70s vernacular, he was hip. When he came to our church, everyone wanted to be a part of this new change, and no one wanted to miss out. He was really like a rock star. So you know, if he asked you to do something, you didn't just do it because you felt like you should, you felt honored to be in his inner circle, so to speak. So it was very a unique time in our in our church and even his sermons were like anything we never heard before. So again, I think that his persona and his charismatic personality really created an atmosphere in our church that we had never seen before.

 

Rodney Olsen 

And so you were just like everyone else, you wanted to be a part of this, and get close to that youth pastor. So what did that involve for you in getting to know him and becoming closer to him?

 

Sandy Phillips Kirkham 

Almost immediately, he singled me out as to be one of the leaders in the youth group. And so I picked up early that he thought I was special. And of course, that made me feel special. And again, not having the father figure in my life that I wanted. I sort of looked at him that way. And because it was the youth pastor, of course, I just trusted him. And I had no reason to doubt that he didn't have my best interest at heart. You know, when he would ask me to do something, I was happy to do it. I didn't question him. And he started getting me more involved in the church than I'd ever been before. He asked me to serve on committees, he would tell me that, you know, the people and the ladies in the kitchen need help on Sunday after church, I've told them you would help. And I was seeing this as a part of my way of helping God and helping the church grow. And so it was very natural for me, and I enjoyed it. It wasn't like I didn't want to do it. But I did notice that you know, I certainly was one of his special people.

 

Rodney Olsen 

When did things start to turn more sinister?

 

Sandy Phillips Kirkham 

Well, that actually happened immediately. As far as it wasn't anything gradual. We It was after a youth group meeting at my house, and he was waiting for everyone to leave. We were alone. He walked over to me and simply said, how much he appreciated me and how thankful he was that I was involved in the church, and how much I was helping him and his ministry and of course, I'm on cloud nine because He's telling me these wonderful things and how great I am and then he suddenly bent down and kissed me. I was absolutely stunned. I didn't expect it. I certainly didn't know what to do or say I was so just taken aback. And then I thought, well, this is my youth minister, he wouldn't be doing anything he shouldn't be doing. And so for me, it was almost like I tried to call myself and justify it. Because in my 16 year old mind, I couldn't let myself go to a place that this man would be doing anything that he shouldn't be doing. So I thought, well, maybe I've just under misunderstood and it was just a kiss. So it was really how I rationalized it and so I just kind of let it go. But I babysat for his family. And so he had the opportunity many times to be alone with me. His wife worked evenings, so he would come home and after the kids were in bed, he'd asked if I'd sit and talk about the Bible, we talk about church, we talk about, you know, how we can get more kids involved, he would give me books to read on Christianity. And you know, none of this seemed out of the ordinary to me, because he was my youth minister. I've said many times you know if it had been my 30 year old neighbor down the street, I would have gone home to my mom and said, You know, this is weird. This man wants to sit and talk to me all evening. Why what interest would I have as a teenager talking to this 30 year old man, but because it was my youth pastor, and he used the church and our common interest in the church, he used that then to make it seem normal that this was okay. And so he would kiss me goodnight. Sometimes Sometimes he wouldn't. There was never any real pattern to it. This went on for about a year. And I call that the year of grooming, it was the year of setting me up to get to his ultimate goal, which was to have sex with me, which he eventually did. So that initial contact was very unexpected and but then it was a gradual continuation of this kissing in the hugging that then one night, he just put me on the floor and had sex with me.

 

Rodney Olsen 

So to be absolutely clear. This is a man who is almost twice your age. He's married with a family of his own. So this is not a a romance between a youth pastor and someone in the youth group. This goes far beyond that there is no, no way that this can be justified is there?

 

Sandy Phillips Kirkham 

No. And not only that, but just after he was hired at our church, a young woman from his first church came forward and accused him of sexual misconduct. When the elders were informed of this, they confronted him. He said he was sorry, he asked for forgiveness, he promised it would never happen again. No information was given to the congregation and within six months, that's when he was kissing me in my hallway. So this was not his first incident of sexual misconduct.

 

Rodney Olsen 

And do you look back and knowing now what you know, just wonder what was happening for those church leaders to have seen those red flags and yet totally ignored them?

 

Sandy Phillips Kirkham 

Absolutely. I mean, I'm stunned to think that they were aware of this kind of behavior, and they chose to ignore it. And what they basically did was to allow him to continue in ministry, so that he could offend a second time, they gave him the opportunity, not at second chance at ministry, but at a second chance to commit sexual misconduct and sexual abuse again, so basically, they felt that anyone in that congregation could be collateral damage, so that he could continue on in ministry. And I hesitate. And I wish I didn't have to say this. But even though that was over 40 years ago, not a lot has changed in many churches in their in their response. So often, churches will still decide to give these men second chances, or they move them to other churches and I'm sad to say that, because you would hope that it would have changed over the years. And sometimes there are churches, certainly that do respond in the right way. But many times that's not the case.

 

Rodney Olsen 

So how did this supposed relationship continue? Do you think he was justifying it to himself? Or do you think he was just a predator who was out for his own gain the whole time,

 

Sandy Phillips Kirkham 

It was definitely a predator who was out for his own gain. He was abusive to me. He hit me it was not a loving, caring relationship, the sexual behavior became more deviant. But he had gotten to a point where he was able to control me through, you know, manipulation through gaslighting, grooming, and those are terms we can talk about, but he slowly and methodically changed my reality. He slowly methodically took control of who I was, and what I could do. I was I was afraid of being in many respects, you know, sometimes he would be kind to me, and then other times he would be abusive to me. So I never knew who I was going to see at that point. And the relationship then continued for five years in the beginning of the relationship. I did try to get out of it. I would either go to him and say look at the guilt is just killing me. I can't do this. anymore. And he would respond in one of two ways. Either he would be very kind and caring and tell me how much he needed me that the church needed me and that this was God's will that we were together, we were married in God's eyes. And this was part of God's plan, or he would become violent, shoved me against the wall threatened me and tell me Who do you think you are thinking you can leave me, you'll never be able to leave me, no one's going to want to because you're no longer a virgin. And so I was in this trap. And I had, I felt like I was in a black hole with no way out. Now, the relationship went on for five years. But near the end of the relationship, probably, I would say maybe into the second year of the relationship, I had given up in trying to get out, I just assumed that this was my life that I, I didn't feel like I could tell anyone, he made it very clear that if I were to tell anyone, then I would be to be blamed for what would happen to him, and no one's going to believe me. So I didn't feel like I could tell anyone and so I felt trapped and I felt that this was going to be my life, and that this relationship would end when he said it was over.

 

Rodney Olsen 

And they would be those keyboard warriors who sit behind keyboards at home and comment on things online. Who would just say, Well, why didn't you just get out? This is obviously something that you wanted? Can you help us understand that, that feeling of being trapped, that you couldn't actually release yourself from this relationship?

 

Sandy Phillips Kirkham 

First of all, I will say that trauma changes, your cognitive thinking and trauma changes how you are able to think and see things. So there may be a way out, and there may have been someone who would have believed me, but that's not how I perceived it. And then you have to remember, too, that these men and predators have a way of systematically changing a person's direction and their life. So through gaslighting, this is the most common. So it's a form of psychological manipulation, they obstruct and they distort the victim's reality, and their understanding of what reality is. So they'll start to say he say things to me, like, you know, you're too sensitive. And you're crazy. I never said that, or no one really likes you, but they tolerate you, or you're just imagining things, when I would, I would sit and try to reason with him. He'd say, That's not how it is. And so you become powerless to fight back because you begin to see yourself through their reality through the reality they want you to see. I know it's hard to understand at times, but that's why abuse women in abusive relationships can't get out because they don't see a way out even though there is one, I didn't see a way out. I just didn't see it.

 

Rodney Olsen 

So is it that the perpetrator has so manipulated the situation that you don't believe that there's worth within yourself aside from from who they are?

 

Sandy Phillips Kirkham 

Absolutely, I mean, they, for him, and the way he treated me was, you know, his, he constantly reminded me that I wasn't a virgin anymore. And that within the church, that's, you know, something that is taught that, you know, virginity is special, and that you should never give your virginity away. So he constantly reminded me that I would never be loved by anyone else, because I no longer was a virgin. He also berated me many times and how smart I was, I wasn't smart enough. I was too fat. Even though I was a thin 16 year old kid. It was a constant badgering. And so it took me to a level that I had no self esteem. And I began to believe his reality of what he was telling me. And again, who was I going to tell I was I knew enough to know that if I were to ever tell anyone in the church, that the minister that they all adored, and preached every Sunday that he was doing these kinds of things to me, I knew that was going to be a bombshell. I didn't know what the results would be. But I knew that trying to get that kind of information out, would have been devastating to the people in the church. And again, who were they going to believe me or him? So I stayed silent. I didn't I didn't say anything.

 

Rodney Olsen 

You mentioned that there was an accusation from a previous church. Was there any way that you could tell Were there other women or young girls involved with him at this stage? Or were you the only one that you know of?

 

Sandy Phillips Kirkham 

No, he used to brag to me that he had so and so in his office and she let him kiss her and he felt her and he touched her. He would tell me of these incidences in his office, so he was bragging to me about other and these were mostly women. There weren't other teenagers. I learned later find out that there were other girls that he probably kissed or he touched, but I don't know of any that went as far as sexual intercourse that as they did with me, but there certainly were other cases and girls and women. That he had the same time he was having sex with me inappropriate behavior with other women and girls.

 

Rodney Olsen 

Do you think that some of that that kissing and that touching as part of his grooming for those other women and other girls, was actually kind of a test to see? How far can I take this?

 

Sandy Phillips Kirkham 

Yes, I think so. And I think some of them, let him go farther than others. It's always a test with these men, that's part of the game for them, they derive some kind of pleasure out of watching to see how far they can go. And again, most of these women and young girls or insert, certainly children are vulnerable. There's something about them in their lives, that they know that they are craving attention, and that it will be easy for them to make these moves on them. And in they'll keep the secret. There were women I know he would talk about and say, Well, she would never let me get near her. They have a sixth sense almost about who's got a vulnerability that they can tap into.

 

Rodney Olsen 

It sounds like this is such a terrible place for you to be and you're saying that you're feeling trapped. But eventually you did break free of that relationship. How did that come about?

 

Sandy Phillips Kirkham 

That only happened because two people in the church became suspicious, and followed him one night and found us. He was called into the elders. I have no idea what he told them. But I'm certain that he gave his side of the story, which wouldn't have been accurate. But eventually, they decided to forgive him and they gave him a going away party, he was sent to another church where he once again committed sexual misconduct within a very short period of time. After he left, I was called in by the elders of the church. And I was told that because of my behavior, I was to leave the church, I can tell you of all the things that happened to me and that were done to me during that five year period, nothing was more devastating to me, than to be told that I was unfit to worship in the church that I loved. Even now, as I speak those words, it's very hurtful for me, to be reminded that I was told by the elders that I was to be kicked out of the church, when he was forgiven, and able to move on with his life. I left the church, and I kind of floundered a little bit and tried to find my way, I eventually married and then I spent the next 27 years feeling guilty. Because I felt that I'd had an affair with a married man who was my pastor. And I spent 27 years hiding my past for my husband and my closest friends, always fearing that someone would find out and it was a nightmare to have to live with that for 27 years, I had many trigger factors that I had to disguise when they would happen in my life. And I was out somewhere and, and I would be reminded of him. I spent 27 years trying to live a life that I wanted to live. I had a happy marriage, I had two great kids, but I always had this abuse. And I didn't even think of it as abusive to me, I saw myself that I'd had an affair with a married man, I didn't at that point, see it as abuse until a trigger factor forced me to face my past. And that's when I began to understand that I was sexually abused that this was not an affair, that this man never cared about me, and that I should have been safe with him as my pastor, but I was not.

 

Rodney Olsen 

So due to the inaction of the elders at this church. Exactly what he had told you would happen is that no one's going to believe you you are supposedly damaged goods, was actually the reality that they forced upon you by asking you to leave that church that the blame was on you. So he was gaming the system the whole time, knowing that would be the reality.

 

Sandy Phillips Kirkham 

You have to remember that these men are very charismatic, which he was, they not only groom and manipulate the victim, but they groom and manipulate the entire congregation. So he certainly knew how to work them. And they were willing to accept his version of the story. One of the things that he did tell me after he was called in by the elders, he made a phone call to me. And he said, if they ask you anything, tell them that this is only been going on for a year. Now. I think he did that for two reasons. One, he didn't want them to know that this started when I was 16. I was about 21 when they found him with me. So that's been five years. But so he said tell them that this has only been going on for a year, because one he didn't want them to know my true age when it started. But I also think more importantly, I think he felt like he could be forgiven if he could say that it was only going on for a year it would be a little tougher to ask for forgiveness if for the entire time of his ministry. He was having sex with me while he preached every Sunday morning. It would be a little tougher to say he made a mistake, and that this was something he was sorry for when and only been going on for a year instead of five years.

 

Rodney Olsen 

And just before we start to talk about that healing process that you went through, do you know where this guy is now? Is he still working in church ministry is he still doing the same things

 

Sandy Phillips Kirkham 

I ended up confronting him actually, part of my healing process is that I hired a private investigator, to locate him so that I could confront him. At that time, he was still a pastor in a church, I got the same reaction from that church. And that was, we believe he's a changed man, we don't think anything that happened 27, 30 years ago, is relevant. This happened to you. It doesn't apply to him today. So I was pretty much shut down by that church as well. I eventually went to his denominational leaders and got the same response. I think he's semi retired now. But he still remains in good standing within the church itself. So he can probably preach part time. But he is semi retired, I believe, but he has, he has good standing within the denomination.

 

Rodney Olsen 

So I don't know the laws in the US, but essentially, starting to groom you and starting that relationship when you were just 16. And the age difference, and the the power differential that's there. He was not just doing something immoral. But surely that was something that he's done, that's illegal, that he's never been held account to.

 

Sandy Phillips Kirkham 

We have 50 states here in the United States. And each state has a different age as to what is the age of consent. In 1971, when this occurred, age of consent at that time was 16. So I was considered age of consent. So he didn't legally break any laws. I did try to file a suit against him, a new statute had coming out that you could put his name on a registry, if I could prove that something had happened. I couldn't gain any money from it. It wasn't anything that was could take legal action. But it was simply to put his name on a list. But again, because it was the age of consent at that time, I couldn't do even do that. Now, the age of consent has been changed to know in the state of Ohio, where I am to 18. Now, let me just say this, which is interesting. age of consent was 16. However, if he had been my school teacher, my high school English teacher, it would have been against the law. It didn't the age of consent did not apply to teachers, because they claim teachers have power over their students. And therefore they have the ability to abuse that position and power. Oddly enough, that doesn't didn't apply to pastors.

 

Rodney Olsen 

And that's the thing that there's this power differential that even despite that age difference, despite any of that, that there's this power differential, and it's recognized in someone like a teacher, and yet someone who has access to more of your private life, being a youth pastor, or a pastor of any kind, there's not that legislation that holds them back. That just seems to be crazy.

 

Sandy Phillips Kirkham 

It's crazy. And they're only out of the 50 states, there's only 13 states that make it illegal for a minister who is counseling a woman, if she has sex with her, or any kind of intimate relationship, there's only 13 states that consider that illegal. So a pastor can call in a woman who's in a very emotional, unstable position, who may be going through a divorce, who's had a death, illness, whatever, he can counsel her, and use that situation to take advantage of her. And it's not against the law. Because she's supposedly is old enough, you know, she's an adult. But however, a doctor, a psychiatrist, they don't have that same pass, they are held responsible, and they lose their license if they do such behavior. So it we have given for some reason pastors and those in spiritual leadership, this kind of passed to say, because you're a pastor, these laws don't apply to you, when in reality, they should be held to a higher standard than the position of the psychiatry because they truly do, as you said, have access to these to the personal lives of these individuals. And they can use that against them. And so it's, it's it's almost, to me, there should be a stricter judgment. In fact, if you think about it, James three, one does talk about that, you know, not many of you to be teachers, and because there's a stricter judgment for those who do, they should be held to a higher standard, and our churches should demand that.

 

Rodney Olsen 

Absolutely. And there is a higher standard that we shouldn't even have to rely on the law to know that this is absolutely wrong. I want to talk about this healing. 27 years later, you've been stuffing this down for so many years and trying to ignore the triggers that come regularly. How did the healing actually begin all those 27 years later?

 

Sandy Phillips Kirkham 

Well, that began is I I was driving along the road and I saw a sign that was to the place he had moved after he left our church. It was an Next sign off on the expressway. And it just sent me into a tailspin, I had to pull off the side of the road and I totally collapsed. sobbing, I couldn't control myself, I, I didn't understand it, because I'd had trigger factors before, and I was able to control them and hide them. And this particular time, it just all erupted. And it was because I think for 27 years, I had stuffed it down, I had tried to, to keep it inside, you know, I became very good at hiding my secret. And all of a sudden, it was out there. And I didn't know how to put it back down. And so what I did, I probably spent two weeks just in a turmoil trying to figure out what to do. And for the first time, I decided I would tell my very good friend, what would what had happened to me. And that's started the beginning, when I was able to find one person that I could trust to tell my story to. And then I told to other friends, it would take me a while before I would tell my husband, even though I didn't have any reason to fear his reaction. It was something that I I was afraid to tell him. And so that took me a while to get there, though. So then what I began to do is through my friends, and through talking to some a couple that I was very close to who are very spiritual, I began my spiritual journey back to God, because for 27 years, I had a disconnect with the church and I never prayed again. I never read my Bible during that 27 years, and this I was someone, I carry my Bible to school with me every day, I prayed every day, I was faithful in my calling to Christ. And I was, I love my faith. And now for 27 years, I had this disconnect, because it reminded me of that time in my life. And so I missed it, but I couldn't figure out how to make it better. So I just accepted that this was the way my spiritual life would be. I took my kids to church, and I forced myself to go, but I never could have that spiritual connection to the church again. So what I was finding was slowly but surely, I was allowing God back into my life and that was because I had done a lot of hard work trying to figure this out in my life. One of the things I did early on, was, I read everything I could on clergy sexual abuse. And so once I began doing that, I began to understand what the grooming was, I could see the the manipulation that he had caused in my life, I could begin to understand, not what happened to me. But what was done to me. And once I began to see that, I finally was able to say, this man didn't care about me, this was not a love relationship. This was an abusive relationship. This was sexual abuse by a pastor. And that was the beginning of my able to let go of the guilt and the shame that I had carried all those 27 years. So I first thing I did was I told someone, then I educated myself. And then I found myself to the point where I could finally say, what what was done to me was not my fault. And that took four, then you would probably think he would think, Well, you could look at this. And of course, it wasn't your fault, you were 16, or he was in a position of power, and he had intimate details about your life that he used against you. But people who are abused, oftentimes want to find some logic to it. And the only logic we can find is that we must have participated or we must have done something to cause it. Otherwise, why would this person do this if I hadn't done something to encourage it. And so that took a while for me to get to that point to understand that. It was always his responsibility to maintain the boundaries, no matter what my issues were in my life, he had no right to do what he did. And so I finally came to that point. And that was a big step in my in my healing as well. And then I had to be kind to myself, I tell victims, healing is messy. It's not easy. You sometimes go from point A to point B, sometimes you go from point A to D, and then you go back to a again. There's no real straight line to healing, you're going to have ups and downs. You're going to be depressed at times but it's worth the effort. It takes time. And it takes work and it takes effort. So be patient and I and I say to be kind to yourself. And then if you're if you're still keeping the secret, like I found what I found was the more I could talk about it. The closer I came to healing, there was freedom in mind being able to talk about it. Now that wasn't easy. The first time I told my friend I literally sat there for 20 minutes and sobbed before I could tell her and come out with the words I was sexually abused by my youth pastor. Keeping the secret doesn't help. What I found was that secret was controlling me for 27 years. I thought by keeping my secret I was in control. But what was actually happening was the secret was controlling me because all it did was continually remind me of him. The secret that I had to protect was always a constant reminder and it wasn't until I let go of that secret that I was finally able to let go of him and the abuse.

 

Rodney Olsen 

And you talk about holding this secret. And it was this secret that was holding things back. But in reality, it was this youth pastor who was continuing to abuse you, even though he was long off the scene, the abuse continues, he broke your relationship with God, he broke your relationship with your husband in that you, you didn't feel that you could tell him everything. And he continued to go on his way. When you confronted him, did you confront him with any of this?

 

Sandy Phillips Kirkham 

I did. For me confronting him, I knew from my private investigator that he was going to say he was sorry that you know, and what else would you expect him to say? But for me, I wanted him to understand what he did to me, it wasn't enough for him to say he was sorry, I needed him to articulate so I made a list of about 20 things that I wrote down, and I had him read the list back to me, it started with, I was wrong. When I took your virginity I was wrong. When I kissed you that night in your home, I was wrong. When I hit you, I was wrong. And so I there were 20 things that I went down, that I asked him to read the list. And he did read it to me. And at the end, he said to me, I don't remember all this, but I guess it's true. So I don't even know after the meeting, that he still understood what he really had done to me. I told him that he had taken my spiritual life and he twisted it, he contaminated the church for me, I wanted him to understand it wasn't just, you know, the abuse, it was who he was when he did it, by the fact that he was my clergy and my pastor, it affected my spiritual life, it touched a sacred part of my soul, that I can't get back, I can't have the same trust that I had prior to the abuse, I've been changed by what he had done to me. Now, that doesn't mean I'm defined by what he did to me, it doesn't mean that I don't move forward and find purpose in what happened to me but I have been changed by this abuse. No abuse victim is ever just totally forgets what was done to them. I did try to get him to understand, but I don't think he did. Because once he started speaking, then he start explaining why he was the way he was that he'd had therapy, he'd been identified as a sexual addict. Everything he said after he read the list was about him, and why he was the way he was. And again, he are true narcissist. That's probably how you're going to respond Anyway, you play the victim again, and look for someone to feel sorry for you as well.

 

Rodney Olsen 

And again, he's repeating that same behavior of not really caring for you, you were just part of his his path to fulfilling his own desires. And it sounds like you just continue to be that.

 

Sandy Phillips Kirkham 

And I kind of knew that going into the meeting someone who's as manipulative as he was, and who could lie so easily. But for me, it wasn't so much what he would say to me. But what I felt I needed to say to him, I needed to be able to look him in the eye and say, I get what you did to me now, I didn't understand it, then but I understand it now and what you did to me, you had no right to do and so for me that was power. And to be able to say that to him. I wanted so much to have a different reaction from him, but I wasn't going to get it. So I had to accept that that he wasn't going to get it not only was he not going to get it, but I also requested that his supervisor be in that same meeting. And his supervisor again said to me, Well, you're talking about a man, I don't know. And that's not the person I know. And he has taken this church from 25 people to over 300 people, we have a beautiful church building. And I'm sitting there thinking, this is kind of where I was 40 years ago, nothing has really changed. I was so disappointed in his supervisor, I suppose more than I was in him because, again, I think I expected his response. I was hoping for a different response from his church leadership, which didn't happen.

 

Rodney Olsen 

Part of your healing has been to write your book. Let me pray upon you. Maybe you can tell us about the journey of writing that book and, and where that's gone to.

 

Sandy Phillips Kirkham 

I had been speaking at conferences and different churches about my experience. And so many people would come up to me and say, Oh, my gosh, you have such an empowering story. You really need to write a book. And I just never thought that would be possible. And so a couple years ago, actually two years ago, I was frustrated by the number of times I would hear people say things like, well, I don't believe that really happened to her because she didn't talk about it when it first happened. Why did she wait so long to tell? And I thought my story will. I think if I tell it right will explain why we wait so long to tell. And so that was part of the reason and the other reason was I wrote the book because I often thought many times. What if when this man was doing what he was doing to me, I had heard someone else's story because I thought I was the only one I thought I got the only bad apple in the barrel. I had no idea that this was possibly happening to anyone else. And I think victims even with even with the internet and everything we hear about clergy abuse, when it's happening to you, you still feel like, I'm still the only one because my situation is different. And so I think, to tell our stories, we empower others and help others find the courage to join begin their journey of healing. So I really wrote the story for for other victims. And then my second purpose was, I wanted to educate those who didn't quite understand, you know, what are the dynamics of clergy abuse? And why does it happen? And how can we prevent it from happening. And so that was the second reason for writing the book, it took me two years to write it, it was difficult at times to write, it's one thing to talk about saying that you were sexually abused, it's another than to go into detail, and write it down in black and white for everyone to read. I really felt it was God's purpose in my life. I think one of the saddest things for me over 27 years was the fact that I always regretted and felt like that when I reached the pearly gates, I would never hear the words well done my good and faithful servant, because I wasn't in the church serving in any capacity. I didn't even like going to church. And so I was sad for the fact that I knew that I would never hear those words. And now I know that this is my ministry, and that I will hear those words, because we need victims to speak out, not only to help each other, but to change the culture of allowing these men to continue in ministry, and to continue this kind of behavior. Because what they're doing, Rodney is they're stealing souls. They're not, they're doing the opposite work of Christ. Because Christ, we're supposed to bring people into our faith or to bring people to closer to Christ. And these men are moving people away from the church. And not only are they was my disconnect from the church, or because of that, my children didn't have the same kind of spiritual upbringing, they would have had had this not happened to me. And so that was a regret that I will always live with. But I did the best I could, you know, with the baggage I was carrying, I mean, I, I took them to church, and but I couldn't engage them, like children have never had a bedtime prayer with their mother. And so for me, that's very, very sad to have to say that, but that's where I was in my life for 27 years. And so now that I'm healing, and I'm moving forward, I have a joy in my life, I'm closer to God, I pray, I can read the Bible without feeling sick to my stomach like I used to do, there is still somewhat of a disconnect with church itself, but that's getting better. And when the trigger factors come now, instead of trying to hide them, I deal with them. And I understand why I'm having them. And I now know God understands why and so I'm in a good place. It took me a while but I'm here.

 

Rodney Olsen 

What has the feedback been like for those who have read the book, and perhaps even some victims who have been able to read through your story.

 

Sandy Phillips Kirkham 

So the most rewarding thing, of course, is when I get an email or a message from someone who's read the book, who's been sexually abused, and they tell me how powerful it is to have read that book, it's been able to, to resonate with someone else's story is so powerful, and it and it's given them some hope. One victim talked about, you know, the courage, she finally felt that she could talk about what was done to her by her, her pastor. The other interesting thing that happened, and I didn't expect was, how many women have said to me, I wasn't sexually abused, and I wasn't sexually abused by a pastor. But I was in an abusive relationship with my ex husband or my boyfriend, and all of the things that you talked about the grooming, the manipulation, the gaslighting were all things that he did to me. And it was so empowering to read that. And I could see that what was done to me by my boyfriend, and my ex husband, was not my fault that this was someone who was manipulating me. And one woman said to me, she was reading the book, and she got to the chapter when I talked about grooming, and manipulation and gaslighting. And she said, I just stopped, I handed the book to my current husband. And I said, I want you to read these two chapters, because this is exactly the kind of life I had when I was married to my ex husband. So that was an interesting twist that I didn't expect, but I'm certainly grateful for I've had a couple people talk to me about, well, you know, do we really think that these men should be removed from ministry because that's kind of where I'm come from. But overall, most people read the book and find it engaging. They've learned something from it. They appreciate the fact that I've been so open about my story, that it gives them hope and courage as well.

 

Rodney Olsen 

It's so good to know that the book is having that effect and I would hope that there would be some as well who are in positions of power, who will be able to see the harm that this does and actually change the way that they react. And I know that's a slow process. But I'm hoping that that happens. If people are wanting to get in touch with you or to find the book, what's the easiest place to find you?

 

Sandy Phillips Kirkham 

It's on Amazon, but my website is www.sandyphillipskirkham.com and my book is available through my website. I have some blogs, I have some other interviews that I've done. There's a lot of information that would be helpful if they were interested in that. And looking at the website, I think,

 

Rodney Olsen 

And I will definitely put details of that website in the show notes at bleeding daylight. dotnet. Sandy, I want to say thank you for sharing your story with us for the courage that it takes to to speak about your story. And we do hope and pray that things do change, that the structures that are set up to protect predators will actually turn around and say no more. But I want to thank you for your courage. I want to thank you for your story and and for sharing it with us today.

 

Sandy Phillips Kirkham 

Well, I appreciate that I so appreciate the opportunity you've given me and because I know it's not an easy topic to talk about, but it is one we need to discuss. And let me just say one last thing to any victim out there. Do not let your abuse define who you are. God has a purpose in your life and your abuse does not have to be the defining point in your life. There's hope.

 

Rodney Olsen 

Thank you very much.

 

Sandy Phillips Kirkham 

Thank you.

 

Emily Olsen

Thank you for listening to Bleeding Daylight. Please help us to shine more light into the darkness by sharing this episode with others. For further details and more episodes, please visit BleedingDaylight.net

 

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