Michael Morse

Memories From Childhood: A Church Unsafe

When I was a child, my parents were friends with an inordinate number of abusers. Some were later convicted of crimes. Some were never reported. Most were professing Christians we’d met in OPC and PCA churches. I’ve decided to write a series of short blogs recounting my memories and incidents I witnessed. While these stories are true, I have changed names and details to protect the victims. The purpose of these stories is to paint a picture of what life was like, and how evil was covered up or made to appear normal. My hope is that if you can understand what happened to me, you’ll be able to see patterns and recognize warning signs when they arise in your own community.

When I was about 6-years-old, we went to church with a sweet little girl named Abby Jones. Abby loved playing dolls and we had many tea parties and picnics with our toys.

Abby’s mom was named Debbie. I don’t know why, but Debbie disliked me. One day, after Abby and I had been playing, Debbie told my mom I’d lied about things that had never happened. While my mom believed me, things were smoothed over and I was allowed to keep playing with Abby.

One day, at church, Debbie and my mom were teaching a class. I can’t remember if it was Sunday School or some kind of home school co-op class, but whatever the case, Abby and I were both there. I’m not sure what happened. I was later told that Abby had said something rude. But all of a sudden, Debbie grabbed Abby by the hair, pulled the little girl out of her chair, and dragged her out of the room.

For the next five minutes, Debbie dragged her screaming daughter up and down the carpeted church hallway by her hair. My mom shut the classroom door so she could keep teaching despite my friend’s frantic pleas, apologies, and screams.

By the time Debbie was done, Abby had bruises, severe carpet burns, and scrapes all over her legs, knees, hands, and elbows. I can only assume a good deal of her hair was pulled out as well. I’d never seen a parent other than my dad behave so violently. When I asked my mom about it later, she said that parents have to teach their children to be respectful.

Later, Abby began having behavioral issues. She began pulling out her eyelashes and eyebrows, and (according to her mother) telling lies. I was discouraged from playing with her anymore, and she was considered a problem child.

Multiple adults witnessed this incident. None of them intervened or got help. Because of this, I thought it was normal. I thought what Debbie had done to her daughter was acceptable, standard practice, and certainly not the sort of thing a child could or should complain about. Because, if everyone is abusive, no one is abusive. Why would you tell someone you’re being abused if abuse is normal? Why would you ask for protection from violence if you think violence is discipline, and you know that all the parents and church leaders think so too?

Photo by Michael Morse.

Comments 2

  1. This is horrifying! Obviously traumatic for Abby to experience this kind of abuse, but also for all the other kids watching it happen! Pure evil.

  2. I remember a sleepover in high school, where the other girl was removed from the bed late at night, taken into the living room, yelled and screamed at, beaten physically, and returned to bed sobbing for the rest of the night. It was horrific, and needless to say, I was frozen in fear, terrified for her and for me. That’s just how her parents were. So sad!

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