Highland woman alleges youth pastor at First Baptist Church of Hammond raped her in 1970s: ‘He knew exactly what he was doing’
By Alexandra Kukulka
March 27, 2020
|Joy Ryder, who formed the sexual assault support group Out of the Shadows, speaks about her personal experiences during an interview in her home on Wednesday, March 4, 2020.|
Photo by Kyle Telechan
|Joy Ryder, who formed the sexual assault support group Out of the Shadows, shows a tattoo on her wrist, "hope", as she speaks about her personal experiences during an interview in her home on Wednesday, March 4, 2020.|
Photo by Kyle Telechan
Sitting in her apartment in Highland, Joy Ryder looks back on two years of alleged sexual abuse at the hands of her youth pastor and said it made her reevaluate her relationship with God and religion.
“I never lost my faith in God,” Ryder said. “I’m not about religion, but more of a relationship with Christ.”
Ryder recently filed a lawsuit against the estate of Jack Hyles, his son David Hyles, Hyles-Anderson College and First Baptist Church of Hammond alleging that David Hyles raped, sexually assaulted and sexually abused her and that church leadership covered it up in the late 1970s.
“You aren’t special, he does that with everyone,” Ryder said Jack Hyles, the then-lead pastor of First Baptist Church of Hammond, told her.
Ryder, then 14, recalled that was Jack Hyles’ response when she approached him to tell him that a senior-ranking member of the church — his son — was abusing her.
“He is probably the most cruel, and cunning person I’ve ever known in my life, and I don’t say that easily,” Ryder, now 57, said of David Hyles. “He knew exactly what he was doing."
Jack Hyles came to the First Baptist Church of Hammond from Miller Road Baptist Church in Garland, Texas, in 1959, according to a 2012 Chicago Magazine article.
Linda Murphrey, one of his daughters, recently told the Post-Tribune that she was 2 years old when her family moved from Texas to Indiana. Up until she was about 10, “things seemed very normal,” but throughout the 1970s and 1980s “things got weird,” Murphrey said.
Murphrey recalled her parents fighting about the “different women in the church that my dad was sleeping with,” Murphrey said.
One night, Jack Hyles sat three of his four children down — the eldest was away at college — and told them he had to leave the home “because of the way your mom is acting,” Murphrey recalled. He also told them he couldn’t raise them anymore, but that he would open Baptists schools to raise them, Murphrey said.
“We’d have to go to church and hear him preach and I would sit there and feel so angry, like how dare you act like this pious, wonderful man,” Murphrey said. “The more he began being accused of things, the more bizarre he started acting.”
Murphrey, who left the church when she was 26 years old, said her father always preached that it is a sin to criticize “God’s man," and he demanded loyalty from his congregants. If someone betrayed Jack Hyles, or the church, he wasn’t against “belittling people from the pulpit for disloyalty,” she said.
Jack Hyles, who died in 2001, “psychologically made us so afraid of God” that congregants would follow his teachings for fear of not doing so would upset God, Murphrey said, adding she believes in God and prays, but does not attend church.
“He would make you feel like God might kill you if you dare speak against anyone in ministry,” Murphrey said. “There was a culture of you don’t criticize him, you don’t confront him, you don’t say anything bad against him. You just close your eyes as tight as you can and pretend nothing is going on.”
Murphrey said she and students from the First Baptist schools were required to spend Saturdays “soul winning,” which meant converting people to believe in Jesus and have them attend the church of Hammond. As part of “soul winning,” junior high and high school students would be dropped off in areas around Hammond, while college students would go to Chicago, she said.
As part of “soul winning,” Murphrey said, the students were taught to ask: ‘If you were to die today, do you know 100% sure that you would go to heaven?’
“The church grew like crazy from that because you had hundreds and hundreds of people on all of these buses coming to church,” Murphrey said.
In 1972, Hyles-Anderson College opened, “an unaccredited divinity school where would-be pastors are taught to export the Hyles approach to churches across the country,” according to the Chicago Magazine article.
Various news articles, including Chicago Magazine and the Star-Telegram in Fort Worth, Texas, have documented the patterns of alleged abuse and sexual assault – most cases involving teenage girls – by church leadership, including Jack Hyles’ son-in-law Jack Schaap, who became the pastor after Jack Hyles died.
Schaap pleaded guilty to taking a 16-year-old girl he was counseling at First Baptist across state lines for sex. In March 2013, he was sentenced to 12 years in federal prison. Now 62, Schaap is incarcerated at the federal prison in Ashland, Kentucky.
As concerns were raised about David Hyles, Jack Hyles sent his son to be the pastor of Miller Road Baptist Church in Garland, Texas – the church he once led, according to the Star-Telegram.
David Hyles eventually left the Texas church after two women alleged he assaulted them, according to the Star-Telegram. He went on to run another ministry and was never charged.
“My brother became my dad, but a darker version," Murphrey said. “(My father) covered up for my brother no matter what he did.”
Repeated efforts to reach David Hyles and representatives from Hyles-Anderson College and First Baptist Church of Hammond were unsuccessful.
Ryder’s apartment walls are minimally decorated. A calendar marking family celebrations and a few family photos hang on the wall. There are no religious symbols displayed predominantly in the living room.
Given his position and the “charismatic personality that he had," people were drawn to David Hyles, Ryder said, and felt that “if he looked favorably on you, you were ‘in’ with the youth pastor.”
“That was something that was flattering to everyone," Ryder said.
In 1976, when she was 14, Ryder said David Hyles started “grooming” her. A touch here, a quick hug there. David Hyles also convinced her parents that Ryder was “rebellious” and that he would counsel her, she said.
Then grooming then turned into something else, she said.
David Hyles allegedly raped Ryder the first time in his office in the youth center, about a block and a half away from the church, according to the lawsuit. Ryder said she was 15 years old at the time.
Ryder joined Strength and Beauty, the church’s and school’s “traveling music group." The group traveled for a whole summer, during which time David Hyles had “full access" to her, Ryder said.
“That’s when it really escalated, was on that trip,” Ryder said.
The lawsuit alleges Ryder “suffered sexual abuse by D. Hyles over 50 discrete instances," some of which occurred at a Holiday Inn in Illinois.
According to the lawsuit, David Hyles would allegedly threaten to “expose” Ryder to the church as a “slut” if she didn’t comply. He would also, according to the lawsuit, allegedly threaten her parents’ jobs at Hyles-Anderson College.
“In the church, you’re taught to never question authority, to always be quiet,” Ryder said. “When that’s life to you, and your world revolves around the church and the school, there’s very little way out, as far as speaking up and speaking out for yourself.”
After two years, Ryder said she finally told her parents about what she was enduring.
Ryder brought her father with her to a meeting with David Hyles at a Holiday Inn in Lansing, according to the lawsuit. Ryder told David Hyles that she would “no longer perform any sexual acts with him ever again” and that her father was outside, according to the lawsuit.
Ryder said her father told Jack Hyles about what he witnessed, and shortly after that David Hyles relocated to Texas.
"After I told my parents, they wanted to know what happened. I told them, but I was so embarrassed by everything that I remember we talked about it once and that was it. We never talked about it again,” Ryder said.
Ryder went on to attend Hyles-Anderson College, before transferring to Tennessee Temple University, a private Christian university in Chattanooga, Tennessee, that has since closed, she said.
She didn’t graduate, and would eventually get married and have three children, she said. Ryder became a missionary and lived 20 years in Papua New Guinea, where she raised her children.
After the allegations were reported to Jack Hyles, Ryder said she saw David Hyles twice: once at the church and once at Tennessee Temple University. He came to the university to speak, and Ryder said she had to attend because it was mandatory. She said she doesn’t remember what he spoke about.
Ryder said she didn’t talk to him on those two occasions.
The experience has made her “understand that these people exist everywhere,” Ryder said. It has also taught her that it’s important to protect children and give them the “voice they deserve."
In 2013, Ryder started a non-profit organization Out of the Shadows, which provides resources for victims of sexual abuse. Ryder said she has talked with many survivors of sexual abuse, some of whom have experienced it at a religious institution.
“A lot of them, especially abused in the church, ... just don’t know what to do with God anymore,” Ryder said. “If he’s used against you, they need to have their story heard but then that’s something they have to work out.”
Ryder said she is not asking for money in the lawsuit, but if there is a judgment in her favor it will go toward her non-profit.
By filing the lawsuit, Ryder said she is showing survivors of sexual assault that she’s done “absolutely everything that I can do to seek justice," and hopefully inspire them to speak up.
“If I can give somebody hope, that’s what I want to do,” Ryder said.