Andy Savage is the megachurch leader from Memphis who sexually assaulted a 17-year-old girl two decades ago when he was her youth pastor. The victim recently went public with her story, detailing how Savage drove her to a secluded area, whipped out his penis, and pressured her into giving him oral sex.
Or, as he now refers to the whole encounter, that “incident.”
Savage finally came clean to the entire Highpoint Church congregation in January — without going into any of the details — and the members gave him a standing ovation for it. His colleagues subsequently announced that Savage would be taking a “leave of absence” while they investigated the situation. Savage is still on that leave.
In the meantime, his church took down the video of his “apology,” perhaps hoping no one would have evidence of that pathetic speech or the enthusiastic applause from the congregation. They must not realize that the internet doesn’t forget.
The New York Times, which saved a copy of the video before it was taken down, recently showed it to Jules Woodson, the woman Savage assaulted all those years ago.
Her commentary about how her church minimized the assault, her reaction to seeing Savage celebrated for his supposed courage, and her plea for churches to take sexual assault more seriously deserve a few minutes of your time.
The whole thing is disturbing to watch. It’s even worse at the end when you realize plenty of people are still harassing her online for having the courage to tell her story — one, it should be stated, that Savage himself has admitted to even as he tries to play it down.
This is what the evangelical moral high ground looks like in the age of Donald Trump. Assault gets a pass. Victims get condemnation. The Times headline puts it perfectly: “I Was Assaulted. He Was Applauded.”
(Portions of this article were published earlier)