I can’t imagine something that I would like to talk about less, but need to talk about more.
I was born into the home of a serial sexual predator. I took my first beating in the womb. Abuse has been my birthright. I managed to survive a home of substance abuse, domestic violence, parental abduction, sexual, physical, emotional abuse, medical, educational, physical, environmental neglect, spurning and psychological abuse that bordered on torture. Adverse childhood experiences (ACE) have been robustly studied and scaled in severity. Individuals can have an ACE score of 1-10 — mine is a perfect ten.
Outcomes in adulthood for children like me are abysmal. Lacking the average expected environment, my personhood and personality were formed not only in lack, but in deprivation of all that would fashion growth — but grow I did. I was clever, quiet, and compulsively compliant — all things that helped me to survive. Deep rivers of ruin ran under my intelligence and undermined my every effort to overcome. I tried hard to run away from the ravages, but they ran through me.
I left home when I was fifteen, not because I wanted to, but because I had too. Previously incarcerated for sexual abuse, my father was tried for sex crimes a second time and this time was set free. I had every reason to fear for my life and I did — daily. I would be preyed upon by men in positions of power over the next twenty five years. Early and well developed patterns of compliance were complicated by the very real and human need to belong. Predators possess. The abused very often do not know the difference between the two. I survived a series of ‘possessions’ as a student, as an employee, as a patient, and as a parishioner. I wish this had of been different for me and for many. I hungered for it to be different. I hunger for it to be different still. I wanted each of those individuals to be trustworthy and true. They weren’t.
I met Ravi Zacharias (RZ) in the fall of 2014 at a UCB Canada businessman luncheon in Kingston, ON when my husband Brad, a businessman and avid listener of RZ’s work, regular annual donor to UCB Canada, sponsored and hosted a table. At the time we lived an hour away and I was weary of travelling back and forth everyday to Kingston, ON, where I was a mature student at Queen’s University. It is my belief that RZ targeted me from the moment that he saw me. He had his assistant take my email at that event and an online seemingly innocent dialogue ensued for an extended period.
Many survivors of childhood abuse have a profound spiritual wound and questions about God, myself not withstanding. RZ appeared to be one of the safest, most well respected, and honourable persons in whom to confide and seek wise counsel. His position as a global representative of the gospel was one of extraordinary and unquestioned trust. I simply had no reason to suspect that he had nefarious intentions. I think this position of naive trust is equally understandable and relatable.
I was a married mother to five children in a blended family and I was also finishing my undergraduate late in life, and launching into my dream career, all during this same time period. When I met RZ, my youngest child was 5, at the time of this writing she is nearly 12. It has been well over six years since that day. I wish I had never had the misfortune of meeting RZ in person. In hindsight, attending that luncheon was one of the worst days of my life — and as you can imagine — I have had a few.
The details of the grooming process and subsequent online sexual abuse have been released in The Roys Report in a narrative that I wrote in late 2016/17. Even to revisit and retell of that traumatic time, wounds me. I feel all the same nausea as the world spins in savage slow motion. I wrote them then. They still stand now. There is no need to repeat myself nor do I wish to.
I tried to tell a Christian counsellor what was happening to me. He told me not to tell anyone, especially not my husband, that he could see RZ’s draw to me, and that if anyone ever found out, the kingdom of God would be irreparably damaged. I became suicidal. When I heard news of someone in our old church getting a diagnosis of terminal cancer, I longed to be her. We visited Peggy’s Cove in Nova Scotia for my fortieth birthday and I researched how best to slip off the rocks and succumb to the deep —such was the depths of despair. It was not just what was happening to me, but whom it was happening by. I didn’t die, but if wishing to die could kill you — I’d be dead repeatedly. Even after the abuse stopped, I stayed in touch with RZ. He was the only person who knew what happened to me. In time, I told my sister but I was never going to tell anyone else what happened.
I travelled to a counselling intensive with Jerry and Denise Basel (they were recommended by friends in the ministry.) I had no intention of telling them what exactly happened or whom it happened with. When I finally disclosed to them, together we drafted an email to cut off all contact with RZ and to tell my husband about the abuse. I was contacted by text, email, and phone from RZ once I had sent a final email to him. He threatened to commit suicide if I broke my silence. I was terrified in that moment and for a long time to come. To my betrayer, telling anyone was betrayal. Abusers not only demand silence — they enforce it.
When I disclosed that same day to my husband what happened to me — he was devastated. Brad had already experienced a protracted history of breech of trust, early abandonment, shaming, and interrupted attachments in his own life. He was crumbling at home with our children and I was in another country in complete collapse. He wasn’t sure he wanted me to come home. I wasn’t sure I would make it home. No one slept that Saturday night and for many years of Saturdays to come. Life as we knew it was ripped apart. We were torn asunder. I can hardly find the words to describe the complete and utter relational, emotional, psychological, and physical implosion.
I took a leave of absence from my much loved work as I/we could hardly function. A handful of friends knew. We contacted an advocate who put us in contact with a trauma informed therapist. Daily I was not sure if my husband would come home. Daily he was not certain I would be alive when he got home. The lack of any cognitive framework for clergy sexual abuse mixed with deep attachment wounds of his own, leaving my husband drowning in shame and excruciating pain. This led to him to bitterly blame me — even as I struggled under the crushing weight of it all. The intensity of our individual despair, outrage, and felt shame drove us each intermittently deeper into despair. Our whole family was ruptured. All semblance of normal biological and relational rhythm was obliterated. Daily life ground down to trying not to die or kill each other. We did not understand what had happened to me, to him, and to us. It would take a full year and a half of very hard work just to establish some semblance of safety and stability.
Post disclosure, we started looking at our options for accountability. What were we going to do? We could go to the media, survivor bloggers, the board (which included some of RZ’s family), hire a lawyer to confront him privately, or do nothing. Given the expansive power differential and our desire for privacy we chose to confront RZ with a lawyer. It was not then, and is not now, about the money — it was about accountability. We held the view that powerful people who target, groom, exploit others should be held accountable.
We (and our legal team) underestimated the level of retaliation and backlash we would receive. RZ kept asking for more time to respond to our demand letter — this time was granted. The day after the final extension expired, RZ filed a federal lawsuit against us alleging that he was a victim of an elaborate extortion scheme for money that we didn’t need. We were also accused of racketeering, which I still do not fully comprehend. We were dumbfounded. I remember when we were served the lawsuit. I was terrified. I was certain that RZ had sent someone to kill us both.
RZ used a former local church abuse experience where my husband and I had been victim of financially and spiritually abusive cleric, to support his fantastical claim that we were a litigious couple who sued people for financial gain. While this narrative is as verifiably false as it is reprehensible — it was also widely parroted and propagated by RZIM. RZ as an individual and RZIM as an institution took a prior abuse situation that had fractured my husband and I years previously, and used that information to publicly and falsely crucify us. The consequences of trying to hold RZ to account for his abusive and predatory behaviour was that my husband and I not only had to endure endless interpersonal atrocities — we were also widely publicly humiliated and vilified.
When RZ sued us (victims) as alleged extortionists, my husband and I were still staggering under the weight of trauma and struggling with extensive PTSD symptoms. While we were horrified and outraged and had some financial resources to use, we also had limited personal resources with which to fight an individual with as much power as RZ and virtually limitless resources. We were barely surviving as it was. RZ reported that he had a donor who was willing to fund the full cost of litigation and that this process could take several more years. To settle with RZ out of court seemed like the only viable and practical option. Both parties signed a NDA and we had no idea that he would break it almost immediately. Even when he broke it so flagrantly, we were still unable to collect ourselves enough to even think about the protracted litigation process we were promised.
Being abused costs far more than can ever be properly recompensed. It has been reported elsewhere that I had received a financial settlement from RZ. More than half of the money reportedly received was spent on legal fees, approximately another $33,000 was spent on therapy (which is ongoing), and a further $30,000 was invested in a Masters of Child Advocacy in Policy from Montclair State University. I have also lost my annual income as a health professional. Yet, astonishingly, there remains who still accuse me of being in this “for the money.” This false narrative was started by RZ, but has been widely circulated publicly and privately by RZIM.
When we met RZ, we no longer attended church, but our children were still attending faith based schools, and we took our summer holidays in a faith based community. After the press release issued in Christianity Today on Dec 3, 2107 it became untenable to remain in the same community. RZ portrayed my husband as a man who pimped his wife virtually for monetary gain. This was not only widely believed, it was also untenable. By March of 2018 we had decided to sell the home we built together at a loss, and moved to a smaller home at a higher cost, in another city. I left the work that I loved as a registered health professional and went to grad school to study abuse. The hope was that we could enjoy some semblance of local anonymity and daily safety and stability.
I knew the world to be an unsafe place before I met Ravi Zacharias — but I yet had hope that there were some safe and sacred spaces. I no longer live with that hope. I trusted him. I trusted Christendom. That trust is irreparably and catastrophically shattered. I yet believe Christ, even if he be not true, as he is the highest ethic I can find. They (the religious elite) stripped him, beat him mercilessly, called him all manner of names, and publicly crucified him too.
Even though I was a survivor before I met RZ, having met and come to know him was one of the most traumatizing, soul destroying, faith crushing seasons in my life. He tore down everything I had built and that I thought was beautiful. My marriage, my husband, my home, my faith, my families faith, my capacity to mother, my mental and physical health, what little good repute I had, and ultimately my entire career path.
Most of what matters in life is held together by healthy relationships, secure attachments, and trust. The betrayal trauma that we incurred because of RZ and RZIM crushed our relationship to each other, to God, and severed our connection to the wider faith community. While I am immensely grateful that we still have each other, I am grieved that we have lost much of faith, nearly all of our friends, and are inhibited in the process of making new ones.
My privacy has been expunged and has been replaced with secrecy. Never again will I be hired for work without someone reading about what happened to me at his hands. Never again will privacy be fully mine. I accept that as my new reality, but I will never come to agree with it.
RZ’s secrets sins and public shame do not be belong to me and I verbally and publically send them back to him and RZIM. I have repeatedly requested to be released from my NDA. To date, no release has come. So be it. My words belong to me, and I take them back today.
To my fellow advocates — thank you for speaking for me where and when I could not speak for myself.
To my fellow survivors, hold fast. There is hope. There is help. All will not always be lost. What happened to you does not have the last word. You do. It is hope that this is my final statement on my own behalf — I will never stop speaking on yours.