Stolen Innocence: Lauren’s Story of Church Sexual Abuse
August 24, 2018
|Greenwich Presbyterian Church in Nokesville, Virginia|
After two years I am finally using my name. My name is Lauren.
I am not just “the victim” or the young teenager with the orange bow in her hair, as I was labeled by lawyers and the media.
I am Lauren …
And this is my story of sexual abuse by Derrick Trump, the youth director of Greenwich Presbyterian Church in Nokesville, Virginia.
I grew up in Greenwich Presbyterian Church, which is a small church in Nokesville, Virginia. I have many good memories from that church that will always be with me; however, most of my memories will haunt me for a long time to come.
When I was eleven the church hired a new youth director, Derrick Trump. That is when the abuse began, as Derrick Trump started to use my youthful vulnerability to groom me. He never allowed me to form friendships correctly, interact with boys my age, or experience a normal preteen existence.
It seemed like we were attached at the hip. He taught me to play the guitar. We were involved together with youth group and mission trips. When we were not physically together, he was always texting me.
I hung out with him and his wife for hours at a time. I thought I had this great relationship with these adults who would protect me. Derrick made me a part of their lives. This is why I trusted him.
Derrick Trump acted like a father figure to me. As a naïve girl at the time, that’s how I saw him. A few church volunteers made comments to us questioning our relationship. I just shrugged them off. They never told the right people, which made me feel like I also couldn’t tell anyone when things eventually became very wrong.
As things progressed, I will always remember one conversation I had with Derrick’s wife. I told her I was afraid. I didn’t quite understand it myself. That one time I tried to cry out for help, I spoke up and said he scared me. When he got upset or angry he scared me. That’s the only way I knew how to describe it. Her response was very limited.
Still, no one protected me. His wife, the pastors and many other people all went through child protection training. They should have protected me, because I was a child!
Then when I was just sixteen, Derrick Trump took my virginity. He continued to use my naïve loyalty and care for him against me to further sexually and emotionally abuse me over the next year.
When I finally got up the courage to tell, I was shunned by the pastors and the church, even though I was an underaged child who was abused by their youth director. Even after Derrick was arrested, they wanted to hide me and shun me and they have done a damn good job. To this day, no one will speak to me unless they are being awful to me.
About two weeks after it all came out, the associate pastor did reach out to my parents concerning a mission trip I was set to go on that summer with an internationally known Christian mission trip program. He said if we didn’t tell the mission trip coordinators what happened, then he’d tell them himself. I did not get to go on the trip even though I had already raised funds for it.
In addition, certain congregation members told me that I was not acting Christian enough to go on a mission trip because I had an “affair”, and they said that I should not be allowed to go.
Contrary to apparent popular belief, age sixteen is too young to give consent or have an “affair”, especially with a church authority figure who groomed me for five years, starting when I was only eleven.
As soon as Derrick was sentenced, I reached out to the associate pastor – who was the direct supervisor over Derrick Trump – in hopes of getting some of my church community back. I wanted to re-join the youth group. In response he requested a meeting with my mother and me to discuss why I would want to come back. He wanted to know what I expected, because he thought I would be putting everyone else out by coming back. I told him I expected to be able to go to youth group, study the Bible and be in fellowship with other Christians.
Instead, I was shamed and silenced and never truly welcomed back to Greenwich Presbyterian Church.
When I turned eighteen I hired a lawyer. I wanted my voice back.
After ten months of fighting, I chose to settle and walk away for the wellbeing of myself and my family. I did receive a private apology from the head pastor when I requested to meet with him after the settlement agreement was signed. I very much appreciated his honesty over the guilt and responsibility he felt. He was able to share this with me after I signed the documents releasing them from any additional liability for my abuse.
This private, secret apology from one man will never make up for the separation they caused between myself and their congregation. Very few of the staff members knew I had hired a lawyer and was handed a settlement check on behalf of Greenwich Presbyterian Church. That’s something all staff and congregation members should know.
Because of Derrick Trump’s sexual abuse, I cannot walk into a church. I just cannot handle it. While everyone else involved in this mess gets to continue with their church or in some sort of church community, I, the victim, don’t get to do that.
Since then, I have been to a church a few times, but I run out in panic attacks from the memories. Sometimes when we visit churches, I get overwhelmed by emotions when people hear we went to Greenwich Presbyterian Church. Then I feel the shaming all over again.
I have made it through this ordeal with the amazing support of my family, therapy, the grace of God, and finally the service dog that I so badly needed due to post tramatic stress disorder.
My service dog, Paddington, is being trained to assist in my night terrors. Having Paddington has been the only reason I’ve been able to get a little sleep. I suffer anxiety attacks and severe disassociation. I sleep with a glowing clock and Christmas lights that I refuse to take down because otherwise my room would be dark. The darkness brings bad memories of the things Derrick Trump did to me.
The road to recovery is a winding road. One day I am okay and feel like I can do life again. The next day I can’t get myself out of bed. Because of his actions I have no friends. I find it insanely difficult to even imagine dating like girls my age do. Most days I can’t bring myself to go to work. God forbid if I ever thought about going to college because what if I got a male professor? I can hardly be around men, let alone have them in authority over me, since last time that happened I was abused for seven years.
Derrick Trump was sentenced to just one year and six months in jail. Yet this past year, when he was in jail, has been a wonderful but painful year of freedom. I am discovering who I am without him.
Derrick Trump used many inappropriate roles: best friend, father figure, youth pastor and abuser. He abused me in every way for seven years. It’s because of Derrick Trump’s abuse and Greenwich Presbyterian Church’s lack of transparency that I lost my freedom. Derrick gained his freedom from jail in May 2018. I feel like mine continues to be undermined, but I am slowly winning that battle.
God makes the judgments in the end. For the sake of myself and my faith, I hope one day I can come to forgiveness for my abuser, his wife, the pastors and the congregation. I continue to pray for my abuser, Derrick Trump, and the congregation of Greenwich Presbyterian Church. I pray that anyone struggling with abuse gets the support they need to understand that this was not your fault. If that clicks for even one person and they get the courage to speak up, then I can live with putting my intimate details in the public eye.
I realized I can have my voice outside of a court room. I’ve been forced to grow up way sooner than I needed to.
When I was eleven Derrick Trump began grooming me. At fifteen, I realized I couldn’t have a boyfriend because this man wasn’t ok with it for reasons I didn’t understand. At sixteen, this 28-year-old man took my virginity while preaching that sex should be saved until marriage. At sixteen, I answered law enforcement’s question after question of very intimate, embarrassing and shameful details of my abuse. At seventeen, I had to testify in court against this man. At eighteen, I signed legal documents to retain a lawyer. At almost nineteen, I decided to sign a settlement agreement with Greenwich Presbyterian Church, so I could finally walk away and get the psychological help I needed.
Yet despite the abuse and shaming, my faith is stronger than ever. The many adults of faith who brought me up in that church failed me, but that won’t stop me from believing that God will make beauty from my ashes. I will make a better life for myself and speak for those who can’t.
Derrick Trump admitted to his sins in court and I hope he will change his ways to make a better life. The church must change their ways of hiding victims and silencing young children; otherwise, the cycle will never stop.
My abuser got his say in court. The newspapers got their say. So, this is my time. This is my voice. It is a voice that will never be silenced and will never back down. Today I, Lauren, am finally free to use my voice! Listen to my message.