A Tale of Victim Shaming and Blaming at Greenwich Presbyterian Church

My name is Cherie and my daughter was sexually abused by Derrick Trump when he was the youth director of Greenwich Presbyterian Church in Nokesville, Virginia. Derrick Trump was convicted of his crime and released from jail in May 2018. However, this is my story – from a mom’s perspective – about sexual abuse and the subsequent victim shaming which prevails in the church community.

Our family attended Greenwich Presbyterian Church in Nokesville, Virginia, for 12 years. We bonded with other church members over many mission trips, Vacation Bible School and youth group. We supported each other in times of joy and adversity. Church was more than just a Sunday thing for us. My kids grew up there. It was our second home. We were a family.

Greenwich Presbyterian Church in Nokesville, Virginia

Greenwich Presbyterian Church in Nokesville, Virginia

It has been two years since that devastating day when my daughter told me that the man we all cared for so deeply, Derrick Trump, had hurt her in the worst way imaginable!

As our church youth director, Derrick Trump – then a 28-year-old husband and expectant father – was being arrested, charged and sentenced to jail for sexually abusing my sixteen year old child, she was also being judged by the court of public opinion and our church congregation. As if the damage caused by Derrick was not enough, my child was condemned for his sins, too.

After Derrick’s sentencing, my daughter initially attempted to go back to youth group at Greenwich Presbyterian Church, but she was so shamed, shunned and re-victimized that she never returned. When we see people from our former church they literally cover their faces, turn their whole body away to shun us or approach us to initiate a confrontation with my child. They blame her for what a 28-year-old church leader did to her, as if a sixteen year old child under her abuser’s care was the “other woman.”

Church members have made comments like, “I would kill my daughter if she did that” or “Poor Derrick, we can bake him cookies and visit him in jail.” They act as though the grown man that the church had assigned to supervise my child is the victim! There is even a security video documenting an employee of Greenwich Presbyterian Church assaulting my daughter at her place of employment by grabbing and shaking her while blaming her for what Derrick Trump did.

Mugshot of Derrick Trump, at his arrest for sexually abusing a minor while the Youth Director at Greenwich Presbyterian Church in Nokesville, Virginia.

Derrick Trump’s Mugshot

During Derrick’s employment at the church he had a gun in his possession while simultaneously expressing suicidal inclinations. He also had confessed that he had an addiction to porn. Derrick Trump attended regular addiction meetings. He was struggling with his personal life. Some congregation members even expressed concern to the church – we later learned – over how close he seemed to be with my daughter. There were so many signs known to the church leadership that Derrick was unstable! Yet it seems that the people around him and who supervised him did not do enough to stop him from acting out in a way that has left us devastated.

The truth is that most sexual abuse does not just happen overnight in an isolated incident or moment. I’ve since learned that there is a grooming process that can take place for years. The perpetrator finds a vulnerable child, gains his or her trust and then makes that child feel special. The abuser systematically isolates the victim from his or her family and friends. In this case, Derrick put his own self on a pedestal for my young daughter to worship, rather than guiding her toward God. This abuse is particularly easy for church leaders as they are in a position of trust and are assumed to exemplify good and high moral standards. They are directly involved in the spiritual guidance and intimate journey of a child’s relationship with Christ.

My daughter has been working with a trauma therapist for the last year. A monetary settlement was reached between her and Greenwich Presbyterian Church. However, as helpful as that money may be, it is not a magic cure-all and people must keep in mind that this money was not a lottery win! It has been used to enable her to take some of the costly steps that are part of her healing process.

She still struggles daily. She cannot enter a church without weeping and suffering extreme anxiety. She has trouble praying out loud with me – something we did daily with ease before. She suffers with symptoms of PTSD, including disassociation and nightmares. She is on an antidepressant medication. She has an involuntary sniffle caused by the anxiety.

Looking back, we have had to come to terms with the fact that this man sexually and emotionally groomed and abused our little girl for years. Even before the true extent of the relationship was known, we expressed deep concern over the amount of time he spent with her to the pastors at Greenwich Presbyterian Church, months prior to the heartbreaking revelation of the whole truth.

I challenge the pastors at Greenwich Presbyterian Church to do the right thing and acknowledge their roles in this terrible abuse of trust and authority:

1. Admit you did not provide adequate supervision for Derrick Trump in his youth director position.

2. Admit that your youth volunteers acted irresponsibly in leaving my daughter unchaperoned (without our knowledge) with Derrick Trump overnight at what was otherwise suppose to be a supervised church event, as well as alone with him (again, without our knowledge) after youth group field trips.

3. Admit that you did not investigate when I first mentioned concerns about his inappropriate emotional affection for my child.

4. Admit that when we told Derrick Trump to stay away from our daughter, he met her on church grounds in secret and you let it go with only a warning! We believe Derrick Trump should have been fired right then and there.

Pastors of Greenwich Presbyterian Church, please admit your mistakes because you never gave Derrick Trump the supervision he needed. You ignored signs that he was not fit for the job and you dropped the ball in a huge and irreversible way!

I understand we are all human and make mistakes. I also believe, however, that redemption and forgiveness through Christ takes repentance of our sins.

Pastors, be bold, be brave, give us the public apology our family needs to move on! Tell the congregation of Greenwich Presbyterian Church the whole story and encourage closure and healing for our family. Your judgment and condemnation against us and my daughter are not Christianity!

God is weeping at your behavior, Greenwich Presbyterian Church!

The saddest and most devastating aspect of this is that it is by no means an isolated incident in organized religion. Churches must stop re-victimizing victims! They have to stop baking cookies for child abusers in jail and start supporting victims in healing. Derrick Trump served a year and two months in jail for sexually abusing my daughter. She will serve the rest of her life healing from his actions!

We are taking our voices back! We will continue to use them! We will speak up!

Uncomfortable conversation needs to happen! Never underestimate the power of a Mothers words!

#ChurchToo, #ChildSexualAbuse.

~ By Cherie (a victim’s mum)

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