Church sex assault victim: from youth leader to drug addict
He was abused by a junior pastor for years, and now has finally found the courage to speak out
A Polokwane man who was sexually abused by his pastor as a young teenager finally mustered the courage to open a criminal case against him in 2015.
Now 34 years old, and with the pastor having been convicted of indecent assault and sent to jail for five years in February, the man, who does not want to be named, feels it is time to tell his story in the hope that others will benefit from it.
He joined a local church that was new in his community in 1999 and shortly after becoming a member, was invited by the junior pastor to be part of the youth choir where he was elected as a youth leader.
“I ended up spending a lot of time at church and would sometimes sleep at church because we would finish late and the junior pastor would offer me a place to sleep to avoid having to walk home late at night,” he told Times Select.
During those church sleepovers, the junior pastor molested him as they shared a bed. “Every time after molesting me sexually, he would pray and I felt as if I’m the one who did something wrong,” he said.
This continued for about two years, after which he confided in a church member, who advised him to tell the senior pastor.
“I did tell the pastor but he swept it all under the carpet. He told me that the church will see to it that I receive counselling, which never happened, and that they would also deal with the junior pastor. That also didn't happen because he carried on working for the church.
“The senior pastor started acting strangely towards me and every time I tried talking to him he would act busy. He also looked at me in a way that I felt as if I had done something wrong and regretted telling him about the incident," he said.
In 2001 he left the church and turned to drugs.
“I started like any naughty young boy. I smoked weed. At home they noticed that my behaviour had changed but they thought it was just a stage that would pass,” he explained.
During that time his family and friends did not know about the sexual abuse. He had only told one church member and the pastor. But as he grew older he had many questions about the abuse.
“I then started using more serious drugs and drank alcohol irresponsibly. My whole life turned upside down and every time I thought of the abuse I just got angry and used drugs and alcohol to sort of forget.”
In 2007, he went into rehab for therapy but said he still felt the void and knew he needed closure.
“My psychiatrists and psychologists told me that I need to forgive and forget. They also told me that the other option was to open a criminal case against the pastor,” he said.
In 2015, he decided to open a criminal case and in February the pastor was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment. He is appealing the sentence.
The pastor’s lawyer, Andre Rheeder, confirmed that the pastor, Wayne Coetzee, had been found guilty of indecent assault and that he was sentenced to five years’ direct imprisonment.
Because an appeal was pending and the matter was sub judice, “we cannot discuss the merits of matter”, Rheeder told Times Select.
He said the pastor had on various occasions apologised to the victim.
“This has been done personally as well as publicly, specifically in court. [The pastor] has also offered compensation to assist the victim, by offering to pay for any treatment by psychologists or otherwise that he may need,” the lawyer said.