(title inspired by the extraordinary John Legend song-listen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PIh07c_P4hc )
Because a retired counselor doesn’t meet the threshold of a public figure (a la Harvey Weinstein), we would have to establish a bulletproof case showing Adventure Christian Church and/or Board of Behavioral Science engaged in negligence or cover-up that is putting people at risk today.
To start out with the bottom line, the above is a quote from the last email I received from a writer at Sacramento News & Review last spring after several months of exchanging emails about my stepfather, initials DAP. (Side note-I did a quick consult with a lawyer and he said it is OK to use his name. But I still don’t feel 100% comfortable with it. So the initials are a compromise to make him pretty identifiable but still protect my family and DAP’s extended family.)
I have some questions about the above statement. I first want to say that while I do understand that headlines will be bigger and newspapers will sell more copies when breaking a story about someone famous, I ask myself why a small-scale case of sexual assault, even it potentially only affected one person, is not also newsworthy? Continuing with the example of Harvey Weinstein, who preyed upon actresses, models and a range of other celebrities…is it more significant that some of the survivors were themselves as famous (or more so) than Harvey himself?
I also do not understand why it is possible for the women who came forward to do so in a public way, and why there was no need for them to provide a “bulletproof case” of evidence about what happened. Does that rule only apply to people like me who are not famous or rich, or who don’t have fancy lawyers? What about the rest of us? Is there an unspoken rule that we do not have the right to come forward and talk about our experiences?
I ask this because I truly want to understand. I also ask because of my experiences with DAP-most importantly, the fact that he has worked with families, women and children in the capacity of providing leadership and guidance to them as a counselor. Last, I ask because the media is the last option I see remaining to me in my quest to protect others from potential harm.
Allow me to back up for a moment. More precisely, circa 1993.
I was either in 6th or 7th grade at the time this photo was taken, living in Sacramento, California, and it was around the time that DAP retired from the fire department because of an injury and became an LMFT. After that, the two of us were home a lot together while my mom worked full time. I’m not sure whether he was already seeing clients at home or whether he just had a home “office” back then. All I know is that it is possible that he was already working with women and children. Also, this is when I was in the transition between being a girl and a young woman, and most of my worst memories come from this time period. I didn’t generally smile in pictures because I had been told that I shouldn’t attract attention to myself, especially if it was not an occasion that was “about me” (i.e., my sister’s wedding a few years before.)
This next photo is probably from my sophomore or junior year of high school. At this time, my family and I lived in Roseville, CA and attended Adventure Christian Church in Roseville. Rick Stedman was the pastor, DAP was on staff as a counselor, and I played in the youth rock band during services. Around this time I told a friend (most of) what was going on at home and started thinking about moving in with my dad and stepmom. Before that, I was too ashamed to tell anyone but my mom.
And last, here I am ca. 2000, my freshman year at the University of Redlands, studying music (of course, what else?!?!) After moving into my dad’s house my senior year of high school, I did my best to completely cut ties with my stepdad and move on from what had happened to me. Sophomore year I took things further by telling my mom that I no longer wanted DAP to be part of my life. I also had a small nervous breakdown that year, resulting in going to an individual counselor for the first time in my life and actually telling another human being all.the.things. that had happened over the past ten-odd years. That culminated in me writing a few letters and reports to the following people/entities:
- my two stepsisters
- Rick Stedman and the leadership of Adventure Christian Church
- the behavioral sciences state licensing board of California, BBS
And after that, school was out for summer break and I thought I was finished with all that messy stuff. Done. Fini. Stick a fork in me.
Ok, maybe let’s skip that last one.
The fact that I didn’t hear much back from my stepsisters was not surprising to me given the situation. More concerning and disappointing was that Pastor Stedman didn’t seem to take me seriously or do much with the information I gave him (my mom and I both remember his response being along the lines of “welp, you don’t have any physical evidence, and I have known this person for a long time, soooo…”) besides have DAP himself do a year of counseling with an elder in the church. But I felt reassured that, thanks to my BBS report, his license would soon be taken away, and that this monster of a human being would soon no longer be able to manipulate any other people into believing that they were disgusting, selfish, guilty and just plain unworthy of life on this earth.
So I moved on and didn’t look back. I finished college. I went through a few serious and not so serious relationships. I got my master’s degree (yup, music). I moved to Austria and got another master’s degree (yup, you guessed it-music). Somewhere in between I had another breakdown and started therapy for the first time since I cut those ties in the early 2000s. I learned another language and fell in love with another culture, and a person from that culture, my future husband. We moved back to California to try and mend the ties I had broken with the rest of my family. I taught piano and performed all over the Bay Area. We got married and I got pregnant. And just like that, there I was, having checked so many things off of the little wishlist I had kept in my heart for as long as I could remember.
But then I got some devastating news when I was just entering the second trimester of pregnancy. At the suggestion of our couple’s therapist at the time, I called the BBS to check and see what kind of action had been taken against DAP 14ish years before. And I found out that they had done a whole lot of, well, nothing. In addition, DAP was still working on staff at Adventure Christian Church, as I found out when I googled the church and saw his photo on their website. Just right there, staring back at me, as it had probably been the whole time.
I’ll just let that sink in for a moment.
Now, onward and a bit in fast-forward through a lot of devastation and a whole lot of bureaucratic doors slammed in my face. Over the course of the next few years (in between battling with postpartum depression and becoming a mother), I went down the list of all the possible action I could take to protect and inform anyone else who had contact with DAP, and also to see what the heck happened to my original report back in 2000. I tried to follow up with the therapist I had at Redlands and the university itself. They informed me that they both shredded records after 10 years had passed. BBS itself finally told me that the reason the report was considered invalid at the time is that it was only made in a phone call and not in writing. To this day I have no idea why. So I immediately filed a written report. Then I talked to CPS and to the police, both of whom told me that the statute of limitations had been reached. In the meantime, I was interviewed by an investigator at BBS, who, after a lot of consideration, told me that the only way they would do anything about my complaint would be if I could produce concrete evidence of the abuse. Sound familiar? We are now pretty much back at the beginning of this post. Full circle. I shoved all of this despair down as best I could and kept moving.
In the years after that, things got a bit better…#metoo happened and it gave me a lot of hope and inspiration. I felt able to have another baby and (with the help of medication, therapy and social support) was able to evade PPD the second time around. The statute of limitations in the state of California was amended, so I was able to file police reports in both Sacramento and Placer counties. The officers I spoke with were very supportive and commended me for my courage. They did, however, repeat the same refrain as the BBS investigator. So I tried contacting local news outlets, inspired by other women who had done so. The only journal that even considered writing something up was SN&R. But in the end, it came down to the same bottom line:
No evidence, no dice.
A small, somewhat ironic, side tangent: had the incidents in my home occurred in the age of cell phones, I would have had plenty of opportunities to gather evidence over the years. But, alas, that was not the case.
So, where does this leave me?
As I am writing this, November 2020, I do know a few facts that offer me some comfort. I know that DAP’s license is not currently active. Adventure Christian Church (now called Bayside Church Adventure) is under new leadership and doesn’t have any info about their current staff up on the website. I am planning to post a review about the church and include a link to this article. Most surprisingly, about a year ago, one of my stepsisters contacted me to let me know that DAP’s health was deteriorating, and that he is/was in hospice care. She acknowledged that she did receive my letter, although she had never responded in the past 20 years. She wanted to know whether I still stood by what I had shared with her. I said yes, absolutely. She said she wanted to talk with him about how to “make it right”. We discussed getting together to talk all of this, but in the meantime there was COVID, and I moved back to Austria, and it just never worked out. This all gives me a modicum of comfort. It sounds like she is OK, and that there is little chance that he is still in a position to harm others. What a relief that is.
But another part of me struggles to let go of those other 15–20 years where, as far as I know, anything is possible.
What I have held onto all this time is my hope is that I was the only one.
But…in case I was not, or in case the telling of this story can bring peace or courage to someone else; someone ordinary, un-famous (or even infamous), living life out there in this wild, wide world…I feel like I need to release it. Even if that someone is only myself. So here goes.
Thanks so much for being here with me.