A 27-year-old married youth pastor confessed to fondling a 14-year-old girl when he was supposed to be comforting her after the death of her father. He carried on an abusive sexual relationship with her for several years, but he was never held accountable because his church “swept it under the rug.”
Brad Tebbutt (above) admitted to sexually abusing Jennifer Graves since she was a child, including in his office at his popular church in Modesto, California. Officials from First Baptist Church (now known as CrossPoint Community Church) told the victim to simply forgive and forget when she came forward as a teenager, according to Garth Stapley of the Modesto Bee.
Church leaders never informed her mother. They never went to police. They termed it an affair, she said.
“They gave me specific directions to never speak of the events to anyone, because it would damage the reputation of the church, and of Jesus himself,” she said. “The abuse was swept under the rug.”
Two friends from those days who also attended First Baptist, Deborah Jules Vilmur and Jennifer Vanderpol Tracz, recently confirmed that she had confided in them about the abuse not long after it happened.
Leaders from the church knew about the abuse after it ended, just after Tebbutt moved away, yet they did nothing to seek justice or stop it from happening in the future.
A few months after Tebbutt left town, the girl confided in another youth pastor, who told then-high school pastor Marvin Jacobo, who has led a long and distinguished ministry both at the church and at a respected religious nonprofit group in Modesto.
Jacobo recently confirmed that he had called Tebbutt after the girl came forward all those years ago, and said Tebbutt confessed to him. Jacobo then contacted Tebbutt’s wife and his boss at the time, he said.
Tebbutt refused multiple interview requests made via telephone and email, and Jacobo would respond only in writing, sidestepping some questions.
Tebbutt, we’re told, currently runs a ministry for senior citizens at the International House of Prayer in Kansas City. Under one of his articles on the church’s website, he talks about how he’s “passionate about bringing hope to each new generation.”
So, to sum up: a youth pastor sexually abused an underage girl for years. She reported it and he admitted it. Yet he had a 30-year career as a pastor, often traveling to different states and changing churches, without ever once being reprimanded or charged.
We have no idea how many victims there actually are, so we’ll have to see if Graves inspires anyone else to come forward.
Unfortunately, Graves, who’s now 47, will likely never see Tebbutt prosecuted on criminal charges considering how much time has passed. Still, it’s important to share her story and learn from it. It’s all too common for churches to conceal abuse like this in order to preserve their reputation, and it’s unacceptable.
(Thanks to Caleb for the link)