“I always thought I’d be seeing him on TV,” Stanley Barnard told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, referring to his son Victor.
But not like this.
The son, 52, seems to have been bright and athletically gifted in his younger days. Then he became a minister and began to think of himself as someone who wielded influence, even power. It brought out the worst in him. Eventually (and allegedly), the Rev. Victor A. Barnard began recruiting young girls for sex.
Now he’s a fugitive from justice, and the subject of a nationwide warrant and a manhunt.
Two young women have stepped forward to accuse Barnard, who led the isolated River Road Fellowship in Finlayson, of sexually abusing them for years, beginning when they were just 12 and 13. Authorities in Washington State are searching, but have yet to locate Barnard.
The parents of the victims seem to have missed some pretty serious warning signs:
Lindsay Tornambe [now 27] was just 13 years old when she was chosen to be “sacrificed to God,” she remembers. That announcement in July 2000 came from a minister who led an insular faith community that included her family in central Minnesota. As Tornambe sat in the congregation with her parents, she remembers the minister calling out a list of 10 girls for a position of honor. He would later call them “maidens.” Soon, her parents dutifully dropped her off at his isolated camp, where what she now calls a nightmare of sexual abuse went on for about nine years. …
Barnard ruled “like a rock star” over the camp and sexually exploited girls and young women at his whim while they lived apart from their families.
So far, two victims have come forward, but police say they’re certain there are more “maidens” who were repeatedly raped by the man of God.
The complaint says that females ages 12 to 24 were in the Maidens Group and that Barnard would preach to them about giving themselves to God and never marrying.
They were sometimes called “Alamoth,” a biblical word referencing virginity, the document says. Barnard taught the girls that he represented Jesus.
The abuse wasn’t just sexual, but, of course, psychological too. This kind of mental torment must seem totally justified when you’re a child rapist who “serves God”:
Tornambe said she tried to leave the group once, when she was 15. Barnard took back a ring, a veil and other gifts he had given her before she went home to her parents, she said, and her mother cried for a week with disappointment. When Barnard called clergy members, the maidens and their parents together for a meeting shortly afterward, he talked about damnation from God. Fearful, Tornambe went back with Barnard. “I was really scared, and I didn’t know what receiving damnation from God would be like,” she said.
You might think that Tornambe’s parents had no idea what what was going on. You’d be wrong.
Her father recalled Barnard coming to him and rationalizing his having sex with the girls. The father “felt pressured to not say anything,” the complaint continued. “[The father] said he did not know what he was thinking at the time but just remembers feeling so much pressure to not become an outcast and lose everything he had.”
The other known victim, identified only as “C,” has a similar story.
In February 2001, Barnard, C and her parents met. He told her family that he might have sex with her, even though that had already been occurring.
And, for the Lord’s glorification, they were apparently fine with that.
My guess is that these are basically good people. The kind of good people once described by Steven Weinberg, the Nobel-Prize-winning physicist:
With or without [religion] you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.
Belatedly, Barnard’s victims just might agree.
(Image via Shutterstock)