Child sex abuse reaches far
beyond Catholic Church, experts say.
By WILLIAM FINN BENNETT / The Californian
(an edition of the North County Times)
story from William, who advances the issue beyond
the current headlines and also provides some good
tips for parents and others. -- DAVID
TEMECULA -- Six years ago, Becky
J.'s life revolved around Temecula Valley Baptist
Church. She worshipped there, went to school there, and
even worked after hours two days a week at the school to
earn pocket money.
That's where she met 40-year-old
Pastor Kerry Clyde Martin. But at 14, Becky didn't
understand the concept of street smarts, she said. She
didn't know when the man befriended her what the future
"He listened to my problems and
would tell me how right I was if I had a fight with my
parents," she said. "I always thought he meant it in a
pastor way, or like a father."
Little did Becky know that as a
cleric at two previous churches -- one in Maryland and
one in Orange County -- Martin had already been accused
of sexually molesting at least three other girls, all
14. Little did she know the friendly, charismatic
minister was taking the first steps that would culminate
in his repeatedly raping the girl over the next two
In 1999, a Riverside County
Superior Court judge sentenced Martin to 205 years in
state prison for his crimes against Becky: 20 counts of
lewd acts with a child, 20 counts of penetration with a
foreign object, five counts of rape by force or fear and
five counts of unlawful intercourse with a child.
Martin's three earlier victims testified against him at
Last June, a judge denied
Martin's appeal for a new hearing. He is serving his
sentence at Calipatria State Prison in Imperial County
and did not respond to a request from The Californian to
meet with him.
While the revelations of priests
molesting children have focused attention on the issue,
experts say the tentacles of child abuse reach far
beyond the Catholic Church, that society has just begun
to scratch the surface of the dimensions of child abuse
by people in positions of trust -- church leaders with
other denominations, teachers, coaches and
During that first year, Becky
said, Martin began inviting the girl to his office for
private chats, confiding in her, sympathizing with her,
telling her she was the only good girl in
Experts call it "grooming" --
the gradual process of first gaining a child's complete
trust through kindness. Once they have the child's
confidence, the pedophiles take it to the next level.
The hugs prolong. The touches linger.
"It took months to progress,"
A local prosecutor says that
because many parents have a stereotypical idea of the
typical child molester as the monster lurking in the
bushes, they are often dumbfounded if the friendly
cleric, Little League coach or Scout leader they and
their child so believed in turns out to be a
"The people who prey on children
are often so nice, so caring, so loving," said Riverside
County Deputy District Attorney Kennis Clark, who has
prosecuted "thousands" of child sexual molestation cases
Protecting one's child requires
constant vigilance, Clark said. Harried parents,
constantly on the run, too often simply go through the
motions of making sure their children are safe, she
"We take the shortcut by letting
the name (the church, the Scout troop, the school)
determine whether our children are safe or not," she
said. "You're too busy, so you buy a uniform, you find a
ride, and we think we've done our job."
But that's not enough, she said.
Parents can't let themselves think that because their
child is part of an organization that supposedly exists
to benefit children, the young one is safe.
"Individual vigilance is the
only answer," Clark said. "To stereotype an individual
church or group under the guise of 'now I am going to
protect my children' is ridiculous. You have to know the
individual. You are entrusting your child to an
individual, not a group."
Slowly, Martin weaved his web
around Becky, asking her to write him notes telling how
she cared about him, scolding her if he caught her
talking to boys, asking her to stay after class, having
her come to his office, court records show.
Then Becky's father went
overseas for a year. "That's when he (Martin) started
hugging," she said.
The hugging became more
"He'd say, 'Hey. Give me a hug.
I love you, kiddo.' He always said that."
After nearly a year of
"grooming," Martin's touching had increased and the
sexual contact began, she said. "It was very gradual,"
Becky said in a recent interview with The Californian.
"But once he started kissing, it went faster. The ball
just started rolling from there."
The power of the
Becky said she never told anyone
what was happening because Martin was so popular with
church members and such a powerful manipulator: No one
would believe her.
"I was scared. If it came out,
he would twist things and make it look like I was the
one who did the wrong thing," she said. "I watched how
people reacted to him. They really believed in him. I
didn't think anyone would believe me. They would say,
'How can you say that? -- He's a man of
Deena Bennett, who works with
the Riverside County District Attorney's sexual assault
and child abuse unit, said that what really concerns her
is that many church members see clerics as above
reproach, so that abused children's fears of coming
forward may be grounded in reality.
"Unfortunately, the power those
people have is enthralling: They are larger than life
and can do no wrong," said Bennett, who was the attorney
who successfully prosecuted Martin for his crimes
Now, five years after Becky's
ordeal began, she is making plans for marriage later
this year. She said she doesn't remember the details of
what happened after the sexual contact
"I don't remember because I
don't want to," she said. "I want to erase it all,"
adding that she did not want her real name used in the
paper, out of "security concerns."
Feelings of guilt
But erasing what happened to her
may be more difficult than Becky imagines. Just ask
Sandy G. The Oceanside resident was the victim of sexual
molestation for more than three years by a Fontana
priest in the early 1960s, starting when she was 6 years
Sandy spent many of her adult
years in weekly therapy sessions, she said. Later, the
sessions became less frequent. But with the tidal wave
of reports of sexual abuse by priests surrounding the
Catholic Church in recent months, she is now back in
weekly therapy sessions, she said.
Sandy said she did not wish to
have her full name published, out of fear that it could
jeopardize her career as a a psychotherapist working
with abused and neglected children.
Wracked with guilt that somehow
what happened was partially her fault, Sandy said she
never talked with anyone about it. Her college roommate
had also been a victim of the now-deceased priest, but
even they did not discuss the man and what he had done
-- putting Sandy in his lap in his rectory office,
kissing and fondling her.
Deputy District Attorney Clark
said children who are victims of sexual molestation
typically have feelings of guilt about what has happened
"The victim (feels like) she is
an accomplice," Clark said. "It becomes even harder to
tell someone the further it goes, because they (feel)
complicit in the act. Guilt prevents them from coming
forward," she said. "No wonder these kids are screwed up
Becky even attempted suicide --
twice, she said. Once with pills, the second time with a
Picking a victim
Sandy G. said Martin is typical
of adults in positions of trust who sexually molest
First they pick their victim.
Often they look for the lonely or shy child, someone
they know they can manipulate, she said.
"From families I have talked to,
it's the needy kids," Sandy G. said. Her own father died
when she was just 7 months old, she said. "This isn't by
chance. They pick you. They know how to size you up --
your vulnerability. They are not going to go for a child
that is strong, street smart, someone that would say,
'What are you doing?'"
Prosecutor Bennett agreed. "They
target individuals who have a void in their lives: They
make an easy target."
Becky said she believes Martin
picked her because he knew her and her family well, her
troubles with her father, her obedience, her naivete. "I
was the kind of person who thought you lose your
virginity by kissing," she said.
Becky met with Martin's other
three alleged victims, she said, and there was a common
thread to each of their stories. "We were all quiet,"
she said. "We all had problems with our relationships
with our dads."
Dimensions of the
Bennett said that her office
often deals with cases of child sexual molestation by
people in positions of trust. There are five attorneys
in her unit working full time on child abuse
prosecutions. The caseloads of those attorneys average
about 25 to 30 each, every month, she said, and many of
those involve sexual molestation.
Prosecutor Clark said that
although about 80 percent of child sexual molestations
occur within the home, the next biggest group of
molesters are people in positions of trust,
"Every one of us has
(prosecuted) a teacher, a Scout leader, a coach,"
She is involved in one such case
now, in Lake Elsinore, she said.
On May 6, she filed charges
against Temescal Canyon High School teacher Charles
Noppe for one count of sexual molestation with a minor
over the age of 14, one count of felony corporal
punishment and three counts of misdemeanor child
annoyance or harassment for sexual purposes.
In 1998, an assistant youth
pastor with a Sun City Church was convicted of oral
copulation with a 15-year-old girl who was seeing him
for counseling through the church, court records
Clark said that as a society we
have just begun to realize the dimensions of the
problem. One of the reasons for that, she said, is that
many molesters manipulate and intimidate so well that
they go undetected their whole lives, often committing
hundreds of sexual acts against children.
Another factor making detection
more difficult is the tendency -- particularly among
churches -- to circle the wagons, protecting their own,
believing the clerics can and will "repent for their
sins" and the problem will go away.
Like the Catholic Church's now
widely disclosed shuffling of pedophile priests from one
parish to another, Martin had been accused of sexually
molesting children at other churches, court documents
show, only to be given another chance in a new town, at
another church, because his former superiors did not
hand him over to authorities. At one of those churches,
Martin's brother was the pastor.
"Some of his other victims
complained, but it was just swept under the rug," Becky
"I don't have any proof, but I
will bet you that every single denomination has kept its
secrets," Clark said. "It's not just the
After Martin was convicted,
Becky said, her personality changed dramatically. She
went from being a shy, obedient child, always ready to
cede to other people's demands, to being a rebellious
outspoken youth, reveling in her newfound sense of power
to say no, her ability to challenge
Her family moved to Iowa, she
said, and she began to drink heavily and became sexually
"I went off the deep end," she
said. "I went to the other extreme: drinking,
fistfights, yelling at my parents. I took 15 shots of
vodka one night."
Her faith was badly damaged,
too, she said. "I was angry at God: How could he let
this happen to me?"
She blamed her parents as well,
she said. At one point, during the time Martin was
molesting her, she went to her mother -- and although
she didn't reveal what Martin was doing to her -- she
told her she wanted a different job, outside of the
She said her mother discouraged
her from leaving her job at the church, telling her the
church job was perfect because she could work around her
school hours. "How could she not realize?" Becky said
she asked herself at the time. "She closed my only
escape route. Now I realize that I blamed them for not
Then when she was 18, she got
pregnant by another man and had a daughter. "That was
God's wake-up call for me," Becky said.
She no longer has contact with
her 2-year-old daughter's father, she said, but she
certainly knows how she is going to raise her little
girl to make sure she does not also fall victim to a
"I'm going to teach her to
figure things out for herself and that she can always
come to mom and dad," Becky said. "I want her to trust
authority figures -- but not all the way."
Advice to other
Becky said she decided to talk
with The Californian about her experience to help other
children who may be victims.
"If there is another child this
is happening to, I want them to know that they can speak
up, because there is a way out," she said. 'Tell your
parents. Tell the police. Tell somebody."
Children need to watch for the
danger signs, before things escalate, she said. They
should watch out for adults who try to isolate them from
their friends and family. show exaggerated signs of
affection, or put them on a pedestal. "And do everything
you can to make sure you two are not alone," she
Her faith has been restored,
Becky said, but with changes.
"I'm closer to God, now," she
said. "But it's not a religion. I believe it's a
relationship between me and God."
She is stronger and has learned
street smarts. "I can read people very well now, and I
stand up for myself and what I believe in."
When asked what her feelings
were about Martin today, Becky was terse. "I pray every
day that God helps me forgive him -- but that's
Contact staff writer William
Finn Bennett, at (909) 676-4315, Ext. 2624, or
List: Tips to protect your
Be sensitive to changes in your
children's behavior: outbursts of anger, withdrawal,
fearfullness: and in smaller children, acting out
sexually. n Be alert to a teenager or adult who is
paying an unusual amount of attention to your
Don't rely on the fact that the
organization caring for your child has a wonderful
reputation, focus on the individual caring for your
child, not the institution.
Tell your children no one should
ask them to keep a special secret. If that happens they
should tell parents.
Teach your children to be
assertive, that they have the right to say
Teach your children that no one
should touch them in their private parts, and
if that happens they should tell
mom or dad.
Source: Riverside County
District Attorney's office and the National Center for
Missing and Exploited Children.
List: Warning signs of
possible sexual abuse
Sudden reluctance to go
someplace or be with someone
Inappropriate displays of
Sexual acting out
Sudden use of sexual terms or
new names for body parts
Discomfort or rejection of
typical family affection
Sleep problems: insomnia,
nightmares, refusal to sleep alone, bed-wetting,
Extreme clinging or other signs
A sudden change in
Source: Coalition for Children