Doug Wilson’s Shaming Letter to the Father of an Abuse Survivor
By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator
Content warning: discussion about child sexual abuse and victim-blaming.
In 2005, on behalf of the elders of Christ Church, pastor Doug Wilson wrote a letter to a member of his church, Gary. Gary is the father of Natalie Rose Greenfield**, the young woman who was sexually abused by one of Wilson’s students from 2000-2003 when she was 13-16 years old. I previously wrote about the story of that child molestor, Jamin C. Wight, a homeschooled alumnus.
Today, Greenfield made public the letter Wilson wrote to her father in 2005. To be honest, it made me sick just to read it. The way Wilson blames Gary for his daughter’s abuse, the way he tries to manipulate Gary into extending mercy to Wilson’s 24-year-old, youth ministry-bound child molester, is simply inexcusable.
With Greenfield’s permission, I am sharing a copy of the letter below. Click the images to see larger versions:
I think the most telling excerpts are these:
Although we believe the sins were very different, we also wanted to let you know that we have considered whether or not we should suspend you from the Supper for your dereliction of your duties as a father…
As Jamin is discovering, sinful behavior can have (and should have) destructive consequences. But different kinds of sins destroy in different ways, and we would urge you to have a merciful heart toward him, just as you would have others show mercy to you.
Wilson’s intentional comparison between Wight’s sins (carefully grooming and then sexually abusing a child) and Gary’s so-called “sins” (not detecting Wight’s careful grooming process and thus being unaware that Wilson’s student was molesting his 13-year-old girl) is one of the most victim-blaming pieces of writing I have ever had the misfortune of reading. And then Wilson doubles-down with the manipulation by urging Gary to have “a merciful heart toward” the man who molested his little girl, because, hey, Gary needs mercy to for his “sins,” too. If that’s not the most glaring example of religious abuse, I’m not sure what is.
Greenfield has written commentary about the letter’s context, which I would encourage you to read here. I want to highlight a few sections here. First, Greenfield points out that her father was actually wise in putting distance between himself and Greenfield and Wilson and Christ Church after the fact because of how destructively the latter was handling the situation:
How my father could be placed at a similar level of blame to this monster is completely unfathomable to me. My father’s response was shock and injury, and while I know there were many previous instances of him realizing this church was not a place particularly well-versed in exhibiting the love of Christ, I believe this was something of a nail in the coffin for him, as would be expected. I recently spoke with my father about the details of his additional communication with Doug concerning my abuse and it is true that my father told them to stay away from his family, but not until after he saw the despicable way the situation was being handled. In hindsight, perhaps it’s a good thing I wasn’t much ministered to.
Greenfield also identifies key failings in Wilson and Christ Church’s response, namely, that they were sorely ill-equipped to respond to child sexual abuse within their midst. And from Wilson’s current self-centered defense, it appears that not much has changed:
I knew I was being blamed for a good deal of the ‘sexual sin’ in my abuse from Jamin (not strictly from Doug but also from many other individuals in the church, mostly men and many of whom I had previously considered to be like older brothers to me, who wrote to the judge citing varying degrees of unladylike behaviors and temptress-like qualities I possessed as a 13 year old girl), and while the damage the deafening silence did to my psyche was extensive, it’s now clear to me they had no idea what they were doing. Not a clue. Doug’s daughter, Rachel, admitted as much when we met for coffee late last year to discuss her father’s involvement and my misgivings. She wasn’t privy to many of the details surrounding the situation but her general impression was that nobody really knew what to do for me. Considering their utter lack of knowledge in dealing with sexual abuse, I shudder to think of what support would have looked like, had I received any.
Katie Botkin also wrote commentary about the letter, which I also would encourage you to read here. Botkin asks some important questions:
Why would Wilson hold Gary accountable for Jamin’s crimes? And ask that Gary be merciful in Jamin’s court proceedings? I don’t know, but I’m guessing it had something to do with image control. It looks pretty bad if your seminary student is convicted as a child rapist.
Botkin also observes that,
By refusing to answer any questions about these cases and by refusing to apologize for his own actions, Wilson isn’t protecting “the sheep,” he’s protecting himself.
But it’s not just that Wilson is trying to protect himself. Honestly, this situation (and the Steven Sitler situation) have grown beyond the point at which Wilson has any control anymore over how they get portrayed. Yet Wilson still refuses to humble himself before God and those among God’s people he has hurt and alienated. Wilson’s unwillingness to compassionately and openly dialogue and reflect on his mishandling of these abuse cases points to an even deeper problem:
Doug Wilson continues to sacrifice the least of those among him to further his self-imaged empire. Wilson is walking a road far from the Samaritan’s footprints, and I shudder to think where that road will end.
** I am using Greenfield’s name with her permission.