Bobbi Jeffert did not plan to go to church that Sunday — the minister did not go to worship intended to confess the oppressive secret she had for a long time.
But she quickly changed her mind and realized that she couldn’t trust the minister (the man she says started sexually preying on her when she was a teenager) to share the whole truth.
Jeffart is in a hurry New Life Christian Church & World Outreach Arrived in the middle of the service in Warsaw, Indiana, confirming that her story was definitely told.
Nearly one million viewers witnessed what happened next in the May 22 conflict, captured it on video and posted it on Facebook.
John B. Rowe II, a longtime pastor of the congregation, confessed “fornication” on the stage 20 years ago. “I have sinned,” he said, admitting that he had never publicly acknowledged it “to protect himself.”
Bobbi and her husband Nate Jeffert, watching from the congregation, went up to the stage and picked up the microphone.
“If you love us, let me talk,” Nate gave Mike to his wife.
She said she “lived in a prison of lies and shame” for 27 years instead of 20 years.
“For years I thought I was a scary person. I was suicidal, unaware that I was really done, and was a victim,” she told him. floor. do you remember? do you remember? “
She told Rowe, “You locked me in your prison,” but “I’m no longer a prisoner.”
Bobbi Geffert, now 43, told The Associated Press that he wanted the Church community to know the truth and did not expect videos recorded by congregation families to produce such a viral reaction. rice field. She said she received “overwhelming support”.
“I didn’t know how much this helped and helped people,” she said. “People not only in this area but all over the world are reaching out to me. Their story is very heartbreaking.”
Rowe resigned as minister and The church said in a statement The church said none of the staff knew what had happened before, which offered to help Jeffert “heal in every way we could.”
At the church’s May 29 worship service, Rowe’s son and deputy minister, Brian Rowe, read a statement that the church would be restructured and a meeting with its members would be held.
In a statement, Indianapolis Police Department asked anyone with “information as a victim or witness” to contact investigators about the situation.
Bobbi Jeffert spoke with police, admitting that Rowe’s indictment is unlikely, as time has passed and Indiana law defines the age of consent as 16 years. She said she knew of other past abuses in the church.
She said that before Rowe was 16, sexual predators began “grooming” to gain the trust of their victims. Sexual relationships lasted until the early twenties. Rowe, now 65, was over 20 years older than her.
From a young age, Jeffert said that her family’s life “revolved around the church and Loews.”
“We were like a family with them,” she said, and when one set of parents was traveling, the others were often watching over the children.
She said some people in the church knew what had happened, but it remained a secret to most congregations and no one helped her get counseling. She said she felt obliged to protect the reputation of the minister and the church and did not speak to her husband.
Things have changed recently when her brother told her she was suffering from memories from her teens. She said she remembered seeing “his minister was in bed with her sister, wearing a T-shirt and underwear.”
When she told him what had happened, she said her brother immediately confronted Rowe in a text and called on him to resign.
She said Rowe started talking to some of the churches and confessed her adultery, but did not talk about the whole thing.
The church formed an advisory board, stating that a later statement had not completed the investigation, could not verify the accuracy of Rowe’s version, and advised him not to make a confession on May 22.
In US states, the age of consent varies between 16 and 18 years.
Defenders of the victims say that such sexual activity by clerics goes beyond “fornication.” This means consent between equality. They say it is equivalent to the abuse of power by spiritual authority. Some denominations, such as the Catholic Church, define sexual abuse of clergy as involving victims under the age of 18.
New Life is an independent church.
After Bobbi Geffert confronted Rowe in worship, Nate Geffert threw the necklace Rowe gave to Bobbi, followed by her “Contract Purity Ring.” This was given to young people by many churches to promote virginity before marriage.
“We work through love and forgiveness,” Nate said. “But people need to be held accountable, and they can’t just fool people and say,’Well, I just committed adultery.’ It went far beyond adultery. It’s a contract purity ring. I don’t want it at home. “
Some in the congregation expressed support for the couple and asked Rowe, who admitted that Bobbi was 16 when the sexual relationship began. Later, some went around him in prayer.
The Associated Press’s religious coverage is funded by Lily Endowment, Inc. and is supported through a collaboration between AP and The Conversation US. AP is solely responsible for this content.