Among the many stories involving child sexual abuse among leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention, one of the more disturbing ones was made public last July.
Anne Marie Miller revealed that when she was 16, in 1997, she was assaulted by then-25-year-old Mark Aderholt, who worked for the International Mission Board, the SBC’s missionary arm.
It wasn’t until 2005 that she realized how serious the crime was. (Frequently, abuse victims don’t realize they’re being abused until they’re much older and able to see the incident(s) from a different perspective.) Still, Miller alerted the IMB… only to watch them do nothing. They didn’t report Aderholt to authorities. They also allowed him to resign in 2008 on his own terms, which meant he could work with other SBC churches without raising any red flags. (He found work at another Southern Baptist church two months later. His résumé included references from IMB.)
Eventually, Miller told the authorities herself. Instead of counting on the church to do the right thing, which they were clearly never going to do, she took matters into her own hands. It wasn’t until this past April (in 2019!) that the IMB finally asked people who knew Aderholt if they had any more information about his abusive behavior.
It only took them 12 years. And one courageous survivor. And all kinds of awful publicity.
Earlier today, Aderholt finally pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault causing bodily injury.
The downside is that his punishment seems relatively minimal compared to the trauma he caused Miller.
The judge placed Aderholt on 24 months of deferred adjudication, a form of probation that will not leave a conviction on his record if he successfully completes the term. He was also ordered to spend 30 days in jail beginning Tuesday evening and to pay a $4,000 fine. He prohibited Aderholt from having any form of contact with Miller.
Aderholt, in a pinstriped suit and yellow tie, came to the bench and faced Miller as she read a statement. Flanked by her husband and mother, she spoke through tears as she described how he allegedly started sexual contact with her and then broke her trust — in people and in God. It was the first time she had seen him face-to-face in 22 years.
“Your lies have no more power,” Miller said from the small, fifth-floor courtroom, staring at Aderholt. “This is the end, Mark.”
“What you did to me made me want to kill myself many times,” she said, her voice nearly a whisper, wiping her eyes with a tissue. “I even tried once a few years ago, but I couldn’t figure out how to work the gun.”
Miller said on Twitter earlier today that, while it was a “lesser charge,” she finally got to hear him admit his guilt.
Mark Aderholt pled guilty to Assault: Bodily Contact, a lesser charge, but I heard him say “guilty” & he was sentenced. I was able to face him and read him my victim (survivor) statement. He avoided looking me in the eyes.
My statement will be posted publicly later in the day. https://t.co/aRWA3NtspM
— Anne Marie Miller (@girlnamedanne) July 2, 2019
The courage it must have took to say what she said is incredible. I hope she finds closure in all of this — and I hope the SBC takes steps to prevent their negligence and ignorance from ruining the lives of more Christians in the future.
(Image via Shutterstock)