Rachel Baer was sexually harassed by her pastor. Four decades later, she found her voice, but the truth is, she never really lost it.
The church hardly ever supports women who are harassed or abused by the leaders within the institution. Heck! The church is almost never supportive. Women have had to endure untold forms of sexual harassment because they are hardly ever believed when they report these issues.
Such is the story of Rachel Baer who found her voice almost 4 decades after being harassed at the age of 18, by the “pastor” of her church.
Rachel Baer lived in the UK during the ’80s. At this time, she was a part of a church in London.
“I later recognized it was actually a cult. It took me several years to realize as everyone was so accepting and welcoming, it was like being part of a close family. I had just left a home with a volatile mother, this was like a breath of fresh air to me.”
One would think, what better place to find succour and joy than a church, alas, that was not to be the case for Rachel.
“It wasn’t long before I experienced extremely inappropriate advances from the then “pastor” of the church.” Rachel went on to report this issue to the church leadership of which the pastor was a part. “I was told it would be their word against mine and that no one would believe me. They were supporting the abuser, who I know was treating other women in the same way.”
This put Rachel in a very difficult situation as she found it hard to leave because she shared housing with other young women and leaving the church meant being ostracized or cast out.
Fast forward to 2018, Rachel started seeing a therapist about this issue because she was so angry about it, especially about the fact that he got away with it. Prior to this time, she had mentioned it to no one.
“I was sitting on the beach one afternoon and it occurred to me what I would do. It was of course too late to report that matter and with no evidence how could anyone believe me? A few clicks of the keyboard later and I had tracked down the former pastor.”
The former pastor was now a practising Dr in family practice in the UK, and so, she typed a short factual, non-emotive letter, printed it out and mailed it to each of his colleagues at the surgery, including the perpetrator and the practice manager.
“I mailed them out that same afternoon, drove to the post office so I could not change my mind by later taking the letters out of the mailbox at home. As I dropped them in one by one I shouted a big F U, fortunately, there was no one there to hear me.”
Several weeks later, she got a polite reply from the practice manager thanking her for the letter, saying that it had been looked into and that the named Dr was not considered a threat. Rachel describes the way she felt saying, “I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall and seen his face when he opened his letter and realized it had been sent to all his colleagues.”
For Rachel, just knowing he had been made even for a brief time to face his own shame and wrongdoing was incredible.
“I still think that it is wrong that he suffered no consequences (or perhaps he did) I will never know, I did send one further letter to the practice manager stating that I hoped they were sure they were protecting their patients, many of whom must have been young women but I did not hear back any further.”
Rachel is proud that she found my voice, made him face his actions and she feels so much stronger for speaking out. Rachel found her voice, but the truth is she never really lost it. She fought for herself by speaking up even at a young and tender age. The church and the abuser deserve all the smoke here.
The world, (and in this case, the church) needs to create systems that support women who call out their abusers. It is high time we began to do better as a society, otherwise, what world are we leaving behind for the next generation?