Victim Recalls Alleged Abuse
By Liz Mitchell
Culpeper Star Exponent [Virginia]
January 31, 2006
For 18 years, Liz Bailey felt she was alone.
Now she is the second person to come forward with charges of sexual abuse against Charles Shifflett, the 54-year-old pastor of First Baptist Church of Culpeper.
Bailey, 35, was a member of Shifflett's former church, Calvary Baptist, and student at its K-12 school where he was principal.
In October 2005, the Culpeper County Sheriff's Office began an investigation of Shifflett, prompted by a church member who aired concerns about how the school was run, according to Sgt. Jim Fox.
The ongoing investigation has landed Shifflett in Culpeper County Jail three times this month on charges of child injury, endangerment and indecent liberties.
The past two jail bookings resulted when Chad Robison, 29, and Bailey took out arrest warrants claiming Shifflett victimized them when they attended his school.
On Monday, Bailey told her story to the Star-Exponent.
The alleged crime
In 1988, Bailey was a 16-year-old 11th-grader grader. She had been out sick from school with pneumonia. When she returned, on a Wednesday, her teacher suggested she stay after class to catch up on some work.
Church services were traditionally held Wednesday nights and students were taken out of class early to clean up the church and prepare, Bailey said.
While she was alone in the classroom, she said Shifflett entered, closed the door and walked toward her.
Bailey said Shifflett rubbed his penis on her arm and held her in her seat until her teacher walked in. At that point, Bailey said, Shifflett jumped back, saying he was helping Bailey with her work. He then left the room.
The teacher didn't suspect anything, Bailey said, and only walked into the classroom to grab something before leaving again.
Bailey stayed at her desk until she was able to go to the bathroom and cry. She did not immediately tell anyone of her experience because she was afraid, she said.
That night, she attended church with her family. After services, Bailey said, the teenagers typically went outside to talk on the sidewalk. At that time, the church was located at what is now Food Lion in the Culpeper Town Mall. Later that year, it moved to its current location on Alum Springs Road.
Bailey said Shifflett would not allow her to go outside and she waited until he was talking to another church member. She then ran to the nearest pay phone and called some friends, who came to pick her up and take her back to church because they knew her mother would be worried.
When Bailey returned to church, members encouraged her to talk to Shifflett, who then met with her privately in a room at the church.
When he asked her what was wrong, Bailey said she mentioned what he had done to her earlier that day: "I remembered him telling me, 'You can tell anybody you want to, but nobody is going to believe you because I'm the preacher.' "
Since that conversation, Bailey said, she has felt powerless. Not only did she have Shifflett's words in her mind, but she said the church's youth pastor accused her of lying and her mother ignored her pain.
"It would have been me against a whole church," she said. "Now there is not just me, there's we. Now there are adults who are listening to us."
Bailey said her former youth pastor has since apologized and contacted her about seven years ago in an attempt to file charges against Shifflett, but nothing matured from his initial efforts.
After the school year, Bailey said, she moved in with her grandparents because her mother would not let anyone live under her roof without going to Calvary Baptist.
Her mother volunteered at the church and Bailey said she would visit but was leery of going inside while Shifflett was there. However, she did attend church yard sales, which she says was her way of coping. Out of curiosity, she would observe children in the crowd.
"I would look at their faces and wonder if he is mistreating them," she said. "I always worried about the kids and I would think maybe, just maybe, he was not treating them the way he treated me and the others who went to school the same time I did."
Bailey said going there was also her way of trying to stand up to Shifflett, whom she believes has tremendous power over people.
"I felt like if I faced him," she said, "that was my way of trying to make him feel ashamed."
Shifflett's case has been a recurring item of discussion on the commentary pages of the Star-Exponent for the past two weeks.
Despite many letters from his supporters, none have responded to requests for interviews, and one church member said Shifflett has been advised not to talk to reporters. (Editor's note: Shifflett has not responded to several requests for an interview.)
Bailey agrees with letter writers who argue that Shifflett has helped people, including her own family.
"He did have a good side," she said. "He did help a lot of people, but he was also dangerous."
In response to letters that question the timing of the charges, Bailey said she has been scared and helpless for nearly two decades and had not come forward because she thought she was the only victim.
But now she feels a duty to state what happened, to reach out to others who might have had similar experiences and to prevent other children from being abused.
She encourages anyone who thinks he or she might be a victim to come forward. If nothing else, Bailey said, talking about it could help.
"Every single victim," she said. "We need to get together to talk so you know you're not alone."
Liz Mitchell can be reached at 825-0771 ext. 110 or email@example.com.
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