For years, Ravi Zacharias labeled her a predator and a serial extortionist. And sadly, the world believed him. But now, we know better. Ravi Zacharias was the predator in what was dubbed in 2017 as a “sexting scandal.” And Lori Anne Thompson was not just the victim of clergy sexual abuse—but of a worldwide campaign to smear her name.
In this special episode of The Roys Report, you’ll hear what was definitely a highlight of the recent Restore 2022 Conference.
Lori Anne Thompson—one of Ravi’s multiple sex abuse victims—vulnerably shares her insights on effective victim advocacy with well-known author and academic Karen Swallow Prior.
There are so many holy moments in this podcast, beginning with Prior’s apology for not believing Thompson when Prior first learned of the so-called “sexting scandal.” Likewise, Thompson’s insights on truth, trauma, and advocacy—borne out of years of suffering — are profound and sobering.
“There is something to bearing the cross and scorning its shame that’s stabilizing, believe it or not,” Thompson says during the interview, choking back tears. “. . . For me, what that means is that you sort of bear the full cup of somebody else’s wrath when you don’t deserve it and do right anyway. And when you know yourself to be true, but everybody else in the globe, including people in your own home, think you’re false, that the truth is solid on the bottom and it emits its own light — and that when the time is right, the truth, and the truth alone, will rise up to defend itself. You don’t have to.”
This powerful interview not only educates, but also inspires and equips those who have been abused and their advocates to fight the evil they’ve encountered. It is the first of many sessions from Restore 2022 we’ll be publishing in the coming weeks.
Lori Anne Thompson
Lori Anne Thompson is a survivor of clergy sexual abuse and has expertise about the protection of people from the ravages of poverty, adverse childhood experience, and interpersonal violence. She’s also a storyteller and writes about abuse, trauma, #ChurchToo, #MeToo, justice, recovery, and restoration at loriannethompson.com.
LORI ANNE THOMPSON, KAREN SWALLOW PRIOR, JULIE ROYS
JULIE ROYS 00:04
For years, Ravi Zacharias labeled her a predator and a serial extortionist and sadly the world believed him. But now we know better. Ravi Zacharias was the predator in what was dubbed in 2017 as a sexting scandal, and Lori Anne Thompson was not just the victim of clergy sexual abuse, but of a worldwide campaign to smear her name. Welcome to The Roys Report, a podcast dedicated to reporting the truth and restoring the church. I’m Julie Roys. And today we’re going to hear what was definitely a highlight of the recent Restore conference at Judson University. Lori Anne Thompson, one of Ravi’s multiple sex abuse victims, took the stage with well-known author and academic, Karen Swallow Prior. As you’ll hear, Prior begins a session with an emotional apology for not believing Thompson when Prior first learned of the so-called sexting scandal. And in all honesty, many of us didn’t believe Thompson early on. I like many others read the Christianity Today article in 2017, with Ravi’s full-throated rebuttal, and I believed Ravi. I’m ashamed of that today. And I’m very grateful that the woman I disbelieved at first, Lori Anne Thompson, is someone that today I can call a friend. And not only has she forgiven me for believing Ravi, but in September 2020 Lori Anne Thompson gave me the great privilege of telling her story to the world. Some of it had been reported before by Steve Baughman, author of Cover Up in the Kingdom, and blogger Julie Anne Smith. But I received overwhelming evidence and documentation that Ravi indeed was a sexual predator, and Lori Anne was his prey. So, what you’re about to hear is very personal for me. I love Lori Anne and I’m so grieved by what happened to her and I’m in awe of her resiliency and the wisdom she’s gained through an unbelievably traumatic experience. But before we hear this powerful interview between Lori Anne Thompson and Karen Swallow Prior, I want to thank the sponsors of this podcast, Judson University, and Marquardt of Barrington Judson University is a top ranked Christian University providing a caring community and an excellent college experience. Plus, the school offers more than 60 majors great leadership opportunities and strong financial aid. Judson University is shaping lives that shaped the world. For more information, just go to Judsonu.edu. Also, if you’re looking for a quality new or used car, I highly recommend my friends at Marquardt of Barrington. Marquardt is a Buick GMC dealership where you can expect honesty, integrity and transparency. That’s because the owners there Dan and Kurt Marquardt are men of character. To check them out, just go to buyacar123.com. Well, again, what you’re about to hear is the audio from a powerful session on effective victim advocacy at Restore 2022. It features Lori Anne Thompson, who now has her master’s degree in child advocacy and policy, and popular author and academic Karen Swallow Prior.
KAREN SWALLOW PRIOR 03:21
Well, Lori, and I’ve been looking forward if those are the right words to this conversation for a while. In the spring of 2018, I helped to lead a call for the removal of one of my denominational leaders who had been exposed for, for covering up sexual assault, for perpetuating a culture of misogyny toward women for a long, long time. And on the day that his board of trustees had been they had been deliberating and they were making a decision about what to do with this leader and whether to remove him or not, I was out of town to attend a conference, waiting up most of the night for that decision. And when the decision came, it was the decision to allow this leader to retire with a wonderful retirement package. And I was actually walking in this town I was visiting to meet a colleague, and on the way I stepped into a crosswalk and got hit by a bus. I spent eight days in Vanderbilt Hospital with life threatening injuries. And I didn’t know until later that at the very moment I was getting hit by this bus, my mind full of all this anguish over the lack of accountability for this leader, the person that I was going to meet at the very minute that I was getting hit by the bus, was in a meeting with her boss disclosing her years of sexual abuse and assault for the first time. That sounds like spiritual warfare to me. Then as I lay in the hospital, I started getting emails from people I had never heard of, people I didn’t know, strangers. Now, of course, I had received some harassment and intimidation because of my role in helping to hold this denominational leader to account. And these emails were coming from men I didn’t know who were seemed to me in a taunting way, asking me to hold another man accountable. I thought this was just part of my denominational wars. The man they wanted me to help hold accountable was Ravi. And they told me about Lori Anne’s story. Now, I didn’t know Ravi, other than being the name of a famous evangelist, he meant nothing to me. I didn’t know Lori Ann. But in these emails, the story that I understood was one in which I didn’t believe Lori. She had signed an NDA; I didn’t understand NDAs. To me, she looked guilty and these men were harassing me. I did send their emails along to journalists that I knew. They told me they couldn’t find out anything and they couldn’t do anything. And finally, the men just kind of left me alone. I’ve said this to Lori, but I want to say it before all of you. Lori, I’m sorry that I didn’t believe you. And I want to confess that, and I want to apologize, and I want to ask you to forgive me, if you will.
LORI ANNE THOMPSON 06:46
You’re really easy to forgive.
KAREN SWALLOW PRIOR 06:50
Thank you. So, I’ve learned a lot since 2018. And I think a lot of us are learning. And I’m so thankful to Lori Anne. I’m thankful to many other survivors, some of you are out there who have taught me so much and are teaching the world so much. And that’s not even your job to do. You shouldn’t have to do it. But thank you for helping some of us learn. Thank you Lori Ann. And so, I want to start I guess maybe where I was a few years ago. The things that I didn’t understand. What is just some basic definitions. What is clergy sexual abuse? How is it similar to other forms of sexual abuse and how is it different?
LORI ANNE THOMPSON 07:38
Okay, well, clergy, clergy abuse can operate in three possible ways. One is by financial malfeasance; I followed the work of the late Dr. Ensign Shoop. And he did research on clergy, clergy abuse, and he coined the term clergy, clerical malfeasance. Clergy being any religious leaders, anybody who operates or represents anybody in the faith. So, it could be the treasurer, the secretary, could be the pastor, it could be the worship leader, etc. And malfeasance means to do evil. And generally, in such a fashion that it destroys public trust. So, clergy abuse can happen in three possible ways. One is financial, and, you don’t have to dig very deep for seeing a fair bit of that. The other is sexual in nature. And the third is spiritual abuse. And you can’t have sexual abuse without spiritual abuse, and you can’t have financial abuse without spiritual abuse. You can however experience sexual or financial abuse, exclusive of each other, and some people are unfortunate enough to experience all three.
KAREN SWALLOW PRIOR 08:48
And so, in what way what are some of the dynamics that play into this kind of abuse that make it like other you know, other forms of abuse, maybe outside the church even?
LORI ANNE THOMPSON 09:01
All forms of abuse actually carry really similar characteristics and so all abuse obliterates voice choice agency. It breaches bodies, it breaches boundaries, it dehumanizes, it denigrates, it creates a situation where in high trust relationships you experience a high trust or breach of betrayal are called betrayal trauma. The difference between clergy abuse, and there are a couple things, but the main difference between clergy abuse and abuse of a trusted other is that it conflates abuse with Christ or abuse with God. And so, all abuse actually evidence would indicate that all abuse causes a spiritual wound. So, you don’t have to be abused in church to experience a spiritual wound. I experienced poly victimization as a child. So, I came to the church as an adult with a profound spiritual wound. So, I was I came into clergy abuse with a spiritual wound. But it was profoundly widened and deepened by experiencing clerical abuse and myself, and my husband both experienced financial and spiritual abuse, and then it was a doubleheader, then I eventually experienced clergy sexual abuse and another experience at the same time of spiritual abuse. And so, while all of these creates that profound spiritual wound, when somebody’s being abused by somebody who’s not a religious leader, there’s always a higher power to call upon. And so, there’s hope. But when you’re harmed in the name of hope, then there’s no hope indeed. And I know I’m telling not just my story; I’m telling the story of everybody’s everybody in the room has experienced something similar to that.
KAREN SWALLOW PRIOR 11:04
I want to go back to what was the sticking point for me in your situation because I, you know, again, I didn’t there was so little I understood then, about NDAs and other forms of settlements and litigations that are used to silence survivors. Can you talk about them and explain, you know, what they are, how they work and how they have become weaponized in these kinds of issues?
LORI ANNE THOMPSON 11:29
You ask some really good questions. Nondisclosure agreements, I think it’s probably common knowledge that non-disclosure agreements are supposed to be used for trade secrets, not for trauma secrets. Anyone? Litigation by itself is a traumatic experience. Judith Herman in her book, Trauma and Recovery, which is one of my favorite pieces of work as a seminal work on trauma. She talks about how going through the criminal or the civil justice system really is a pathway to potential justice, but it’s also re victimizing at the same time. When you go into, when I went to a situation where I was trying to litigate against my oppressor, and just that was super backfired, just in case anybody didn’t notice. And I’m still in a state of complete devastation, signed a nondisclosure agreement, because there’s just it’s a choiceless choice. First of all, you don’t choose abuse in the first place. And going into litigation with somebody who is a very powerful oppressor, who is backed by finances you don’t have. In my case, it was a billionaire. So, but it doesn’t matter. Like it’s just it’s, it’s more than you have, it’s more, right? And it’s more than you can pay for to emotionally for two to five more years of litigation, and there’s more costs than money, right? I still had kids to raise, and neither my husband nor I were stable. And so, you can’t fight when you’re on a balance beam. You have to have something underneath of you. And we had absolutely nothing but thin air. And so, we signed a nondisclosure agreement, which was meant to protect the offender, not the victim. And it was at the time, something we felt we didn’t have any choice in. Even though and, you know, your accusers later on say, well, you signed a nondisclosure agreement, and didn’t you get yourself a little bit of cash? There’s just no amount of money that can make up for that level of trauma. And I don’t think I need to explain that in this room. And the other thing that a nondisclosure agreement does, and abuse does the same thing. So, it’s a perpetration of the oppressor victim dynamic, or the oppressor oppressed, dynamic. So, the oppressor or the abuser says that their word you don’t your word is now your very thing that’s left, the only thing you got left to saying this is exactly what happened, is also gone. So, it’s another way to dehumanize people is to make it so that they can’t tell their story. And speaker after speaker after speaker has said that giving voice to voiceless things is part of the healing process, right? That’s part of naming and identifying what you’ve been through. So non-disclosure agreements are, they’re, they’re diabolical, and they’re an extension of the abuse and oppression that most people experienced in the first place. They ought not be.
KAREN SWALLOW PRIOR 14:49
So, we’ve heard some sessions about this today. But I don’t think we can talk about this enough. I want to hear from you from your firsthand experience. So, what do you see as some pathways to accountability on the part of churches, institutions, pastors, prevention, and just addressing clergy abuse? I know, that’s a big question, but it’s kind of the heart of it. So, what are some first of all, like accountability, how do we build in or create accountability?
LORI ANNE THOMPSON 15:28
Boy. Can I reframe your question just a little bit?
KAREN SWALLOW PRIOR 15:34
LORI ANNE THOMPSON 15:35
I think the question that most survivors want to know is how can I hold these buggers accountable? What am I going to do about the situation? If ecclesiastical accountability worked, we wouldn’t be here. If the church held its own to account, this, this conference would not exist. And this church wouldn’t be filled with survivors of them. We would be healed, and we would be restored to the flock instead of shutting out of it. And this is where all the bad words are going through my head. You know, I think on the upside when we this happened to us, and we’re just one of millions, if not billions, of people that this has happened to. There wasn’t there’s not a lot, there wasn’t a lot of avenues for accountability. So, I did have a consultation at the time with some leaders, and they were rare. In this area, some psychologist and we sort of talked about what are the options? You can go to the board. Well, that’s a joke. The board is usually stacked in support of the offender, or the offender has so much power, the board is a bunch of full of Yes, persons, usually men because men only know how to think and speak and talk and lead and women don’t. Lost my train of thought. You could go to the board, and you can go to you could get a lawyer. You could, at the time, the only people who would listen to clergy abuse survivors were survivor bloggers. And they at the time, I mean, they were grassroot people, they’re still doing what they’re doing. But at the time, they were considered fringe. And so, it’s, it’s easy to dismiss somebody who you think, is on the fringes because, you know, they’re demonizing, they’re agents of Satan, I think they were called Daughters of Satan actually, at the time. And so that was an unattractive option. And, and the other option was to do nothing. And that didn’t seem like a possibility either. So, in the hopes of having some type of privacy, we chose to go with a lawyer. And I think the final one was also to go to the secular media to like, kapow, everything out into the open. And that wasn’t something I was willing to do either. Because, you know this, because I’ve said it from my keyboard. I’m actually an introvert. And this type of central tension isn’t comfortable for me, but that doesn’t change how history has happened. And also, my family dynamic was such that just wouldn’t be comfortable to be exposed in that way. And guess what? I was exposed anyway. I was exposed, then silenced. So those are still avenues of accountability. Clearly if it’s criminal, it should be reported to the police. But so often, even those avenues have difficulty. As Dr. McKnight had said earlier, these people really do fear the truth being told. So, telling the truth in and finding the best possible way to tell the truth in the manner in a way that protects you the most and exposes them the most is whatever that looks like for you. Those are just some possible avenues in which to do that. But the most important part is, I’m going to say this, and I mean it and it’s not going to be, I want to receive it from a heart of somebody who has not just barely survived this. Most important part is not their exposure. The most important part is your safety.
KAREN SWALLOW PRIOR 19:51
And when you talked about the lack of the churches and institutions holding people accountable, it really has been most of the time the journalists who have done the job. And I’ve also found in you know, because after your, you know, my interaction with your story, I learned about terrible abuses at my own institution and my own employer. Those were in the headlines for a while, again, through journalists. And I found that a key defense strategy of these institutions is to blame the liberal media for making up lies and being tools of Satan. I mean, and that’s, that’s essentially it, and so many people believe that. So, the journalists do some of the best work, and the bloggers. And yet, still, there is so much denial. But in God’s timing the truth does come out. So let me just ask this because we’re talking about the denial and the defenses, and the silence that is enforced by these documents. What do you do when people lie about you?
LORI ANNE THOMPSON 21:22
Anyone else want the answer to that question? All right, well, buckle up. I don’t think you’re going to like what I have to say. Most victims are empathic. Most victims want to belong. They want to be part of community. Most victims have some sort of vulnerability. I don’t know like being human. And when you’re lied about when you tell the truth, it’s devastating. It’s destabilizing. It can be annihilating. It can be lethal. And there’s nothing like being globally lied about to make you really uncomfortable, even sharing your name with people. So, here’s what I’m going to tell you. I want you to look at how what you should consider looking at, I’m gonna tell you what to do. When you consider looking at how did Christ answer his accusers? I don’t like it any more than you do by way of answer. If Christ be our model, if he be our king, if he be even a moral teacher that we think is worthy of following, then his example has to mean something. It is absolutely pointless in the face of a tsunami of falsehood to do anything but just quietly speak the truth. There is something there’s something to bearing the cross and scorning its shame that stabilizing, believe it or not. And when, I’m not a theologian and maybe Dr. McKnight and other people like that could elucidate what that means. But for me, what that means is that you sort of bear the full cup of somebody else’s wrath when you don’t deserve it. And do right anyway. And when you know yourself to be true, but everybody else in the globe, including people in your home, think you’re false, that the truth is solid on the bottom, and it emits its own light. And that when the time is right, the truth and the truth alone will rise up to defend itself. You don’t have to. That’s about all I have to say about that.
KAREN SWALLOW PRIOR 24:43
There’s a reason why they call Jesus the truth.
LORI ANNE THOMPSON 24:47
The trouble with it, the trouble with it is that so many people were crucified and told lies in the name of the truth. And so, part of this work is actually figuring out what the truth actually is. And that doesn’t look anything like what most of us learned it was; radically different actually.
KAREN SWALLOW PRIOR 25:10
And I just want to give praise to God and His Son Jesus for letting the truth of your situation come out, Lori Anne. I just give him the praise. You give me hope and inspiration. So, this truth coming out as long as it took, and I know it was an eternity. Doesn’t matter how many months or years and others have borne the same, but it is a form of justice, for the truth to come out. So, let’s just talk about justice. What does real justice look like in these situations? And then maybe we should talk about mercy too, because we can’t talk about one without the other. Small mission.
LORI ANNE THOMPSON 26:14
How y’all doing? Everybody need a deep breath? Oh, thanks. It’s like birthing a baby, man. It’s hard stuff to talk about. How are y’all doing? You okay? Good. Real justice. First of all, justice can come in sort of probably a bunch of different pathways, but all named for ecclesiastical pathways. There are those, whether they’re working or not, is a different thing. But I have heard of some cases where they have, and those have given me hope. And those are very beautiful. When ecclesiastical justice works, it really restores wounded places in people and restores that sense of trust and faith in the church. So, if anybody thinks that that might be a good idea, might want to use their own rules. Criminal justice is an option. Unfortunately, a lot of things that are immoral and profoundly wounding are not yet criminal. So, clergy, sexual abuse laws are important to enact. And people who have a passion and an interest in that type of advocacy are really important. There are civil pathways for justice. And I don’t need to tell anybody in the room, how costly it is to endure abuse. And so, any kind of recompense that’s possible is worthy of pursuit. I would just encourage you to get a trauma informed lawyer. I won’t make any shameless plugs, but you know who you are. And there’s also and again, this is something I find difficult to talk about, because I don’t want to sound trite. And I hope that if suffering, if suffering lends any credibility, you can just hear this through the lens of suffering, not through the lens of like, platitudes. What does divine justice look like? And I don’t think it looks absolutely anything like we think it will. And if you watch closely for divine justice, you will see that people who consume the truth than you are truth seekers and truth consumers, otherwise you wouldn’t be here. You actually have the opportunity to ripen and live in the light. Even though the light has been called, or you know, what has been darkness has been called light, you actually have the opportunity to live in the light. These fuckers don’t. And that’s what I call them in my head all the time. All the time. I would say that the injustice that we experienced wasn’t a new experience for me. I was born into a home of a sexual predator. My father is deceased now, which is mercy. Speaking of mercy, and I do mean that. He was miserable. Everybody he was around was miserable. And I don’t mean that to be trite, it is mercy he’s gone. And he raped all my sisters and made multiple attempts to do the same thing to me. And he did like nine months in prison for ruining everybody’s life. So, tell me there’s justice in the criminal justice system and oh, wait – that’s Canada. Yeah. Yeah. But only there’s one statistic that says like 3% of sex offenders are ever incarcerated. So, you know, 97% of the rest of the people who even bring that to light, much less the people who don’t, don’t ever see criminal justice occur. And so, here’s the thing about justice. And I didn’t know any of this when this happened to me, okay? So, this is all hard-earned things that have come since life fell apart, is that if you’re not going to get justice, you better become it. And that alone, is a just outcome. You. You can become a just outcome. You don’t have to get a just outcome to be just, to become a just outcome. And mercy. Let’s get to mercy. I don’t think mercy looks anything like we think it does either. Mercy is not soft soap and candy floss, and popcorn. There is a savageness in mercy. It looks nothing like welcoming an offender back into the fold so he can destroy more sheep. You all are so safe to talk to. I really appreciate that. You should never share anything, or it’s not going to be absorbed well. Don’t pour out the beauty of you in environments where it’s going to be splashed back in your face. So, thank you for being such absorbent listeners. This is hard for me. It’s not something I love to do. But I came because Julie Roys asked me to because she did something for me, and I believe in reciprocity. And because I love you.
KAREN SWALLOW PRIOR 32:25
One more thing I want to talk a little bit about in terms of mercy. I see you on social media where we are too often. Some of us. I want to talk about two things related to this. You are so merciful to others. The abuse survivor community, rightly, justly, understandably, is one filled with people in fight or flight mode, people who are hurt and angry and wounded and seeking healing and seeking justice and who need mercy. And I see you as one who is always merciful. To them, to others like me who don’t, who made mistakes and don’t understand, and also merciful to yourself. So, can you just talk about here does that come from? How do you do that? How do you sustain that?
LORI ANNE THOMPSON 33:25
Karen, that’s not on the list of questions.
KAREN SWALLOW PRIOR 33:27
I know. Pop quiz
LORI ANNE THOMPSON 33:36
All right. I’m a mom. It’s the best thing that ever happened to me. I have children. One of them is grown. And I didn’t have appropriate development. That shouldn’t shock anybody. But they have. And so, I’ve been privileged to be part of their development from you know, infancy, extreme vulnerability to a toddler that you wanted to throttle but couldn’t, to the adolescent who is awkward and gangly and extremely vulnerable, who didn’t know their identity. Who, who every move is awkward and uncomfortable, to the adult who’s becoming and learning to fly on their own? And I have a profound maternal heart. And what’s true for my children has to be true for me. It has to be. I have to have the I can’t live in an incongruent truth. Probably not. Again, the rest of you, you wouldn’t be here. So, if they’re allowed to grow and they’re allowed to become and allowed to make mistakes, and they’re allowed to not know, allowed to be in a developmental process. They need comfort if they need nurture. If they can make mistakes and be forgiven, if they can royally screw it up and have to pay the price and just start again, then so can I. No baby is born a sexual predator. Nobody is. So, we become that. And I was talking in a group with a group of clergy sexual abuse survivors, primary and secondary survivors at the hotel a couple of nights ago. And I said, there’s mercy for everybody, you know, including offenders. But hold on. Mercy does not mean trust. I will tell you that we can never be more fully human by dehumanizing anybody. I don’t care who it is.
KAREN SWALLOW PRIOR 36:04
LORI ANNE THOMPSON 36:04
So, you want to be free? I do too. You’re going to have to use the tactics of liberty, not the tactics of oppression. That does not mean being naive. The Bible says it talks about you know, when I was a child, I thought like a child. It’s time for some of us to grow the [email protected]#$% up. Right? And that’s a developmental process. Don’t be naive. But don’t give way to cynicism, either. And that’s a process. Part of what, you know, constantly made problems for me was that I was I thought like a child, because I had developmental places where I wasn’t grown. So, all that to say, how come I’m merciful? Because I see humanity in everybody, including me.
KAREN SWALLOW PRIOR 36:57
Well, as someone who has experienced that mercy from you, and that ability that, you know, to experience growth and change, because you made room for it. Again, thank you. So, for those of us again, I, you know, I’m here to, to hear you and to listen, and to learn. That’s what I’ve been doing these past few years. And so for those of us who are in that space, we are learning, we are listening, we want to support, some may even want to advocate, how can we, how can we equip and empower survivors, rather than, which is my sort of natural instinct, to kind of just like, do it for people fix it? How can we equip and empower rather than try to do it for you?
LORI ANNE THOMPSON 37:55
Abuse is done to. So, abuse is something that steals voice, choice, agency, personhood. It’s not a decision. I don’t care if you wore the wrong dress, or you were in the wrong spot. Or you told your secrets, or you trusted him, or doesn’t matter. You know, what, what decision do you felt you made, abuse is never a choice. And so, the pathway out of abuse of any kind is the opposite. And Dr. Diane Langberg is responsible for clarifying and elucidating that in my life with her work. Yeah, you can’t do the same thing that it used it; it has to be the opposite. So, in recovery, survivors have to have control. They have to be heard. And sometimes that means they even just need to be able to hear themselves first. They need to be somebody, was Virginia Woolf. She’s a late author. She actually ended up taking her own life on account of the abuse, sexual abuse that she suffered at the hands of her two stepbrothers. And she is a prolific, beautiful author, beautiful woman. And she wrote a narrative where she was talking about looking glass shame. That, you know, when she looked at herself in the mirror, she felt shame because of the sexual abuse that she had endured, and perhaps some of us can relate to that. And she talks about being someone being a person to whom things happened. Anybody else identify with that? And part of the recovery process is becoming a person who makes things happen. If you do for me, then somebody else with less good intentions is also going to do for me and they’re going to do to me. And I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m okay to be partnered with when I need and want help anymore. But the very best thing that that I’ve learned to do is to be able to do for myself. If that makes sense to be able to exercise, it’s like a muscle like, Can I make a decision? I don’t think I’ve made a full-fledged decision other than marrying my current husband and having my last two children until I was in my 40s. Everything else just happened. That’s sobering people. That’s like halfway through life before you make a decision, like toddlers make decisions. No! There was no ‘no’ in an abusive environment, right? You don’t even learn to exercise that muscle of No, much less, it’s just Yes. And when you’re formed and fashioned in abuse. And I do think that Christendom, I wasn’t raised in Christendom, I came to it late in the game. Boy, oh, boy. Christendom doesn’t help the development of agency and doesn’t necessarily help with empowering individuals. Christ does. Christendom does not. I really think that part of the development process is acquiring information. And then wisdom is the application of that information, that knowledge. And so, growing both in information and knowledge, or information and wisdom, so that you can make informed decisions is really, really important.
KAREN SWALLOW PRIOR 41:41
Now, that’s very helpful. I mean, the Messiah Complex runs deep in many of us, and it can be hard for us to resist that urge to want to save other people.
LORI ANNE THOMPSON 41:55
There’s only one Savior,
KAREN SWALLOW PRIOR 41:56
I know. Yeah, amen. So, what are some other pitfalls that people who want to support for or be advocates for survivors? What are some other pitfalls that we can fall into?
LORI ANNE THOMPSON 42:08
To advocate is the root word of that is, I think it’s advocury. It’s from the Latin or old French. And it means to publicaly stand up for to defend. It has some, some legal language associated with it. What it doesn’t mean is to people say, oh, thank you for being a voice for the voiceless. Hold on a second unless they’re mute. Anybody? Advocacy means helping somebody else to find their voice, not speaking for them. So, there’s some advocates, self-proclaimed, untrained, that need to drink a cup of ‘Shut the f$%^ up’. Because it’s not theirs to say, okay? When you advocate, you lend your power to somebody else, you don’t stand in power in front of them. You partner with. To do other than that is to make them less human and an object of your action and to make them a non-dialogical inactive passive individual. And guess what also does that? Abuse. That’s a free sermon. I think that we have to deal with our own our own pain before we you know, at least the mountains of it and have some level of self-awareness and humility, before we come alongside other people and partner with them or proclaim to have answers. I think that there’s an awful lot of people that think they have answers when they really should just have questions. I think that we should probably stop doing so much aid and start doing more abiding. And lastly, I would say this, you know, wherever you see tools of repression being used, manipulation, name calling, deceit, proclamations, in my opinion, if I hear that one more time, I don’t care about your opinion. I care about yours. I’ll hear about how you feel. But I don’t care about what somebody else’s opinion is. I have had enough of somebody else’s thinking for me, thank you very much. Just give me the information and I will think it through myself. Anybody?
KAREN SWALLOW PRIOR 44:50
So, let’s go back to talking about, survivors. And, again, this is helpful, not just for survivors, but for people like me who want to support them. What are the phases of recovery?
LORI ANNE THOMPSON 45:12
Judith Herman, again, I have more books than hers. But she in the early days, her work really helped me have a framework because there’s, you know, that somebody wrote this quote of the maps, not the territory, right? So, you can have a map that didn’t look anything like the road you’re on, just happens to give you some sort of sense of direction. So, there’s a bit of a map for recovery in that book. And its evidence based, and I really like it. And she talks about three phases of recovery that are clearly on a continuum. There’s no like, okay, I’m on phase one and phase two, and then phase three. They intermingle and flow in and out of each other a bit. The first phase is safety and stability, developing safety and stability in your life. And that means fiscal stability, emotional stability, psychological stability, physical stability. Can you eat? Can you sleep? Can you move? Do you have employment? Do you have safe lodging? Are you physically safe? Are you emotionally safe? So, developing and keeping that and that’s primary. And then the next phase that she elucidates is grieving and remembering, and that’s where a therapeutic alliance is really important, and cannot over stress the importance of finding safe therapeutic relationships. Safe therapeutic. A pastor is a pastor, not a therapist. And grieving and remembering takes time. And it, you should have somebody licensed by a board that you can hold accountable, okay? Not a church board. Like a psychological association somewhere, some sort of backup. Somebody registered to do what they’re doing not just certified. And then the third phase is reintegration. And reintegration involves going back into the things that used to bring your life and I have probably spent two years, two – three years in each phase. I’m still heavily in reintegration, this for me, this is reintegration.
KAREN SWALLOW PRIOR 47:25
And I know I mean, just, I know so little about this, and yet just being hit by a bus and experiencing that kind of trauma to my mind and body. It really, I mean, God has used that to help me understand trauma in general, other people’s trauma and healing and how it’s not linear, right? And so, in that way, I just see it as a gift that’s helped me open up my eyes and understand all of this more. And so, I want to close just kind of on the note of this conference, The tagline or theme for this conference is Restoring Faith in God and the Church. And so, do you have a word for us on that theme? How can we, how are we, how could we help everyone here just have a little more restoration of faith and God and the church?
LORI ANNE THOMPSON 48:25
I heard Rachel den Hollander say somewhere like, you know, you don’t have faith in Christianity you have faith in Christ. And I think that for some of us, even that can be a stretch, because so much has been bound up or called Christ which is anything but. One of the last songs that we just sang before you and I came up on stage there was a line that says, you know, where there has been salvation in your name. You know, for many of us, there’s been slaughter in his name and so calling upon the name of Jesus while it’s part of the ethos of faith in Christ, can be a painful thing to do. That song also talked about having a living hope to me. And I think that it’s difficult to have faith when you don’t see it in actual action. And I just want to thank you, thank you for showing up in this space. It’s not you’re the experts in the room. You really are. These people have come to serve you and to bless you. I’ve come terrified and to be blessed, but I just want to say that your being here this is a church filled with people who have been hurt by the church, and part of your just presence here restores my faith not only in humanity but faith in faith itself. And Dr. McKnight, in his session, he opened by saying we believe you. How beautiful it is to be part of the fellowship of finally believed.
JULIE ROYS 50:37
Well, that concludes what was a very powerful interview with Lori Anne Thompson by Karen Swallow Prior at the Restore Conference. And it’s just one of many messages from Restore that we’ll be publishing in the next few weeks. So, you’ll want to be watching for that. But thanks so much for listening to this special edition of The Roys Report, a podcast dedicated to reporting the truth and restoring the church. I’m Julie Roys. If you’d like to connect with me online, you can do so at JulieRoys.com. Also, just a reminder to subscribe to The Roys Report on Apple podcast, Google podcast, Spotify or YouTube. That way you’ll never miss an episode. And while you’re at it, we’d really appreciate it if you’d help us spread the word about the podcast by leaving a review. And then please share the podcast on social media so more people can hear about this great content. Again, thanks so much for joining me today. I hope you were blessed and encouraged and equipped to stand with and for the vulnerable.
7 thoughts on “Lori Anne Thompson on Truth, Trauma & Advocacy”
I have just read with interest Karen’s dialogue with Lori Thompson. In it Karen refers to some men who harassed her about Paige and Ravi. She did not name them. My email records show that I was possibly one of them. I am guessing Steve Baughman was another.
My records show that on 28 May 2018 I sent Karen an email, imploring her to use her influence to call Ravi to account prior to his appearance at the annual SBC meeting in June. After all, by her own testimony, she had gone after Paige Patterson, calling him to account for his silence. I have no record nor do I know of any record that Karen utilized her voice to call Ravi to account. Question: how does her silence differ from the silence of which she has accused Paige Patterson?
Karen acknowledges having read the Dec 2017 piece that CT published about Ravi —a self-authenticating piece of balderdash, if I ever read one. Anyone reading that then or today had to know Ravi was lying. Yet Karen believed it, while throwing Paige Patterson under the bus (no pun intended).
In her present piece she refers to people who “harassed” her about Ravi. No one reading the email (copies provided upon request) I sent her would remotely characterize it as harassment. So let us say she did not mean me. The fact remains that she seems to have ignored my plea to hold Ravi’s feet —and foreskin— to the fire.
May I hear from her?
Archivist (1999-2013), Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
Hey Jim, The way I understood it, Karen was just saying that she perceived the emails as harassing, given the context a the time. But I took her statement as an admission that she had gotten it very wrong in 2018 and felt badly for that.
I really wish the profanity had been bleeped out.
I do not wish the profanity had been bleeped out. Thank you LoriAnne for representing me. I am an RZ SURVIVOR, VickiBlue
Vicki, agree with you. Only one instance from a woman who demonstrated tremendous self-control throughout the interview (and her years-long ordeal). It made Lori Anne truly authentic.
Thank you for posting this interview. Lori Anne has so much courage and wisdom! Her fight was both groundbreaking and heartbreaking. She has paved the way for more and more victims to be heard and believed. Thank you for posting the interview in it’s entirety, as Lori Anne does not need to yet again be censored. Her pain is real and raw and I was blessed by hearing her story. Thank you.
I feel your kindness deeply and I am moved by it. Thank you each just so much.
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