Photo Credits: St. Augustine College of South Africa
As The Capital Times reports, a Pentecostal church on Madison’s east side has concealed allegations of sexual assault among its congregants for over 30 years, and continues to perpetuate a culture of fear and control that fosters abuse, former members say.
The women who say they were assaulted as children — Debbie McNulty, Rachel Capacio, Rachel Huff and Rebecca Martin Byrd, all of whom agreed to publication of their names for this story — say they were groomed at a young age to accept sexual abuse from men in the church as other adults at the time looked the other way.
Their alleged perpetrators, often seen as service-oriented “men of God” in their 20s and 30s, sexually pursued them when they were girls. All of the women were under 18 at the time of the alleged assaults — and one was as young as 11.
Those assaults happened from 1980 to 2005 and some of them are beyond the state’s statute of limitations for criminal prosecution, which varies in Wisconsin depending on the age of the victim at the time of the alleged crime and type of assault committed.
One of those women, Rebecca Martin Byrd, who is now in her 40s, alleges a different man from the same church started abusing her when she was 12. "I was told that if I told my story, people wouldn't come to church, and if they didn't come to church, they were going to burn in Hell, and that was my fault," Martin Byrd said. "So inherently, right away, you learn it's your fault."
“I feel like John Grant could get in front of the congregation, shoot a child in the head and 95 percent of that congregation would say, ‘Well, it was God’s will,’” Byrd said. “That was the mentality. You just don’t question it.
After the man allegedly tried to rape her when she was 12, McNulty went to her pastor, John Grant, and told him what was happening. He recorded the conversation and told her he would get back to her. He never did, she said.
The fact is that in the past many cases of child abuse were covered up, especially by clergy. That’s why two new bills would help in cases of sexual assaults. One bill, the Clergy Mandatory Reporting Act, would expand mandatory reporting requirements for members of the clergy. They would be required to report all instances of child abuse to law enforcement, even if those allegations are made during confessional or a private setting.
The other proposal, the Child Victims Act, would get rid of the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse cases. Under current state law, children who were sexually assaulted have until age 35 to file civil action.