Monday, September 19, 2011

Tina Anderson Answers Questions from Readers

Recently, through her husband's post on this blog and through a post on the Stuff Fundies Like Forum, Tina offered to answer questions from readers. The questions she answered are below, separated by a dashed line, with Tina's answers in blue. One questioner asked a series of questions, so those are grouped together within the same section.

You are courageous, and sharing your story on ABC 20/20 has helped many see the truth about IFB extremists.

While reading the live reports during the court hearing it seemed as though the defense attorney, David Gibbs, purposefully tried to sit near you...and some saw that as a subtle attempt to intimidate you.

How did you perceive his actions?

I think he was acting like a bully. I find it very shameful that he also appeared to use his son for these purposes as well. I was very thankful that I had some wonderful friends and also a great prosecutor who stuck up for me and did not allow his feeble attempts to continue.

It appears as if Jeri Massi is on the same "side" as Tina as in wanting these people exposed, so I'm curious as to whether Tina herself is against Jeri of her name is just being used. I don't "know" Jeri so I'm not "defending" anyone, I am just curious because it seems that both women are working for the same goal here which is why I am confused about why someone would be "against" someone working for the same goal as them.

I have never spoken or communicated in any way with Jeri Massi. I do not know her, and I cannot pretend to know her heart or her intentions. I think that everyone should have a personal commitment to fighting against child abuse in all of its repulsive forms.

What Tina did was a brave and noble thing. What would Tina suggest for someone who cannot go that route due to the fact that it would permanently screw up the life they have now that they have rebuilt?

Let me start by saying I felt like I had rebuilt my life and had a great life with my husband. When my story came out everything I worked to rebuild came crashing down around me. Tim and I are once again in a rebuilding phase. That being said, there is a HUGE amount of healing that has come from seeing justice finally happen. There has also been a huge weight lifted off that I never really knew was even there. The freedom I have experienced has been so liberating!

My advice would be to know and understand that as a general rule, abusers—especially sexual abusers—don’t change. You may be safe now, but you need to consider how you would feel if you found out that your abuser had hurt another child. Would you be able to forgive yourself if you could have potentially stopped it. I would always encourage those who have been abused to come forward. One thing that really helped was to have a good friend or two who were willing to walk the road with me and encourage me along the way. I would never have found the healing and freedom that I have if this wouldn’t have ever happened. God will strengthen you to go through a trial if that is what He calls you to.

First, Tina, I appreciate your bravery for coming forward and telling the truth, at great personal pain and cost.

Second, to your husband, Semper Fi, sir! I'm sure your fortitude and dedication was a great support to your wife.

I don't have any question, just wanted to let you know of my love and prayers. My heart really goes out to you both.

Thanks for your words of encouragement! It has been wonderful to know that I have people that I don’t even know behind me supporting me along the way! I have been so thankful for the love and support we have been shown!

I have written Matt Olson of NIU and asked him to step down as President. I sent copies of my letter to three members of the board. Matt claims that he did nothing wrong. He claims that he was very loving and kind.

Tina, do you feel that Matt Olson was very loving and kind during the time you were in Colorado?

As a general rule the Olson family was kind to me. I remember this more about Diane than Matt. Overall, Matt kind of ignored me, but Diane was kind.

Did Matt Olson suggest that you write a letter to Willis' wife apologizing for what happened?

I did have to write a letter to Ernie Willis’ wife apologizing for betraying her trust. I was made to do this in Colorado, and I believe that Matt Olson was the one who required me to do this.

Has Matt Olson apologized to you for his role in removing you from NH resulting in Willis being allowed to stay in Phelps' church?

No, I have not received any apologies from any of the church leaders involved in this saga. While I have forgiven them for what they have done it would still be nice for them to admit where they failed and ask for forgiveness. First, it would add a final sense of closure for me after everything that has happened. Second, I believe it would be instructive for IFB leaders all over the country that look up to and respect Matt Olsen and Chuck Phelps. In order to effectively lead their congregations and prevent further shame to the name of Christ, pastors need to know how to properly handle situations of child molestation and abuse.

Did Olson suggest to you that you were responsible in any way for what happened to you?

Every step of the way along my ordeal I was blamed for what happened. Every person who was an authority figure in my life told me I was to blame for what happened and that I needed to accept responsibility for my actions.

I was at court with you of course... but, I'm curious what the FIRST thing was that went through your head when they read the verdict. :)

Praise God!!!! :-) I was just so thankful that God had given me strength to get through the ordeal of trial and that He opened the eyes of the jurors to see what had really happened! It was so amazing to feel like for the first time in my life I was believed and had some vindication!

What have you done each day to focus on "first things first" and stay relaxed under pressure? Any tips for other victims, who are going through very traumatic court cases right now?

I try to keep my focus on God and what he REALLY thinks about me! What a revelation in the last year that I’m a princess, a daughter of the most high King and I am loved just for who I am and because I exist and not because of what I do or don’t do. I often listen to good music when I am down or call a friend that encourages me.

To other victims---let me start by saying I’m so very sorry for what you have gone through! No one should ever have to endure abuse! I think that you need to find 1 or 2 really trustworthy, safe people that you can talk to about what is going on in your life and who can encourage you to keep doing what you need to! Even if you don’t know someone there are rape crisis centers all across the country that have victim advocates that can help you through the process. I also think it is really important to pace yourself. Take one day at a time, and try to focus on what you have to deal with that day, not what is going to happen or might happen next month. One of the things that really helped me was finding a comforting verse to memorize. I would use wet erase markers to write them on the mirror in my bathroom at home. At trial I had multiple note cards with verses and prayers that I kept in my purse that I would read through when I got too stressed. This would help me to remember that God loves me and He is in control.

I guess as I watch, I am also deeply concerned for your daughter that was given up. I am praying for her often. I wonder if you will ever be given the chance to meet her again.. Also, how can we best pray for her? I pray that she will learn to relax in the arms of the God of grace and love who created her with joy despite the circumstances of her conception.

This would probably be one of the toughest things for me. I love my daughter dearly, and my heart misses her every day. I pray for her daily that God will keep her safe, and help her to know that she is deeply loved. I pray that I will get to meet her and tell her that I love her unconditionally. No matter the circumstances surrounding her conception she is not to blame in any way and she is a beautiful child of God created in His image.

After going through all you did, what would be your advice for those just starting the legal process? I'm sure survivors could benefit from one who's already walked the path.

Earlier I gave some advice, but I will expand here… Please tell the truth and the whole truth. Don’t be afraid to share details. There may be those who would encourage you to only answer the questions you are asked, or not to volunteer any information. I would say please do not listen to these people. If you hold back information at the start and then come out with it later it can appear that you aren’t telling the truth or you are adding to your story. These are the kind of things that defense attorneys will pounce on to try to make you look like a liar. Another big thing is that there may be toxic people in your life that do nothing but bring you down. Sometimes it is really hard to break off these relationships, but for your mental health and those you love it may become necessary to walk away from these people. If anyone—whether it be a sibling, a parent, a close friend, someone you respected, etc is abusive or manipulative in any way the relationship with them can only bring you down. Please know that you are a person of great value and you do not have to put up with that under any circumstance. It is ok to say this relationship isn’t healthy and I’m going to do what is best for me and end it. You should be loved unconditionally, and if that isn’t the case please take the time to re-examine the relationship.

As a fellow abuse survivor: What are some of you tactics you use to combat the "bad days"...those days where just getting up is a struggle, let alone taking care of the kids and housework?

First of all, know that you are not alone. Sometimes if I am really struggling I put on some good music, read an encouraging book, spend time in prayer, take a walk, and talk with friends. Sometimes if I’m really down I will try to reach out and help someone else even in a small way. This helps me to get my focus off of myself and my problems. Ultimately you have to find things that encourage you, but the idea is don’t allow yourself to stay down. I have found that if I allow myself to stay down I will not only get dragged down deeper I will take my family with me, or take it out on them. It is not fair to them, so I do whatever I need to do to change my focus. This doesn’t mean that you can deny that you have these feelings, or not work on them. These are just some coping mechanisms that have helped me. It is really important to take time to work on these issues. Finding a good certified counselor that you can trust will probably be very helpful as well.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Lynne Tuohy's Article in Atlanta paper

NH convict in shamed girl's rape gets 15-30 years


"It's a huge amount of vindication for me," Anderson, now 29, told The Associated Press. "I was never really believed, no matter how many times I said it was not consensual. Now it's been proven in a court of law that he's guilty and he's been given a significant sentence."
"Willis, wearing bright orange prison garb and shackled at the ankles, also apologized to his ex-wife and their children for the embarrassment and financial ruin they've suffered and to Concord's Trinity Baptist Church for the ridicule his case has wrought."
In my personal opinion, Trinity Baptist Church and former pastor Chuck Phelps deserved every bit of censure, ridicule and blame they received from the community and around the world. Chuck Phelps had the chance to do the right thing for the victim and he instead chose to consider the needs of a child rapist first. 
"The case remained unsolved for years because Concord police could not locate the teen. Unbeknownst to them, the pastor of Trinity Baptist Church helped ship the girl to Colorado, with her mother's consent, to live with a Baptist couple she did not know and put her infant daughter up for adoption."
"The teen babysat Willis's children and, a prosecutor said Tuesday, considered him a father figure. 'Her trust and admiration were repaid with violence and rape,' prosecutor Wayne Coull told the judge. Coull said the most aggravating factor of all was Willis's reaction upon learning the teen was pregnant. 'He offered to punch her in the stomach so hard as to cause a miscarriage,' Coull said. 'For the defendant to be so cruel and selfish as to recommend such actions upon a child is just outrageous.'"
Tina, I applaud your courage and celebrate with you the justice you are finally receiving from the court today. Though due to the statute of limitations, not all people that should have been held responsible were, there will be a day of final hearing for them. May God show them more mercy than they showed you.

Notes from the sentencing

Our friend Kathy was in court today sending notes as everything happened. Here is a synopsis.

Kathy is in court giving us notes. I'm giving them to you exactly as they were given to me. (Laurie)

  • Ernie came in with the perp orange uniform on. He was in orange sweatpants and a t-shirt when he arrived. Then the "suit crew" showed up with other clothes.
  • The defense is trying to argue that because there's no other conviction in 14 years, it means he is not a danger? REALLY?! More likely, he just hasn't been caught!
  • Tina is at a different location listening in via phone
  • Oh, here we go. Poor Ernie has "low self-esteem," so he shouldn't be held accountable for his actions. Funny, it was high enough to rape a vulnerable child.
  • Amazing how his attorney can characterize no verbal support for him as Ernie not wishing to drag his friends and family through "all this."
  • And he still has the balls to identify himself to her..."She is my Christian sister; I am her Christian brother." Disgusting!
  • Sound problems in courtroom. Tina...we can hear you. You clearly cannot hear us. The judge is chosing to move forward without your participation.
  • "Tina's mother Christine has suffered through this also." Are you kidding me? This statement is the biggest whitewash bull I've ever heard! A laundry list of how HER MOTHER has suffered!
  • "I haven't seen my precious children in several months now." Poor baby.
  • Now he's expressing sorrow for the infamy the church has suffered as a result of this case. Pretty sure Chuckie chose that one.
  • Ernie says - "I can now understand how my lack of assertiveness contributed..." OH MY GOD!! Rape is NOT lack of assertion! Which quack job did he find to condone THAT bull$h1t!
  • Ernie failed a lie detector test as a part of the sentencing investigation.
  • Judge is calling counsel to bench.
  • Bottom line...15 to 30, as recommended by PSI.
  • Why: primary factor...justice for victim. His acts robbed victim of her childhood.
  • Judge is essentially telling Ernie he lied under oath!!
  • What are factors? His level of education should mean that he knew better, but was not a factor the judge considered. Role of pastor and church...Willis is not being punished for those. His lack of responsibility both in the trial and his statements today is what is his decision has been based on.
  • State's point that he admitted only to undeniable act is valid.
  • Judge is speaking now. (Has been). "Bare minimum admission of guilt."
  • Kathy: Lack of record is why he is not getting full twenty. Stand committed, 15-30.
  • Judge--Will recommend, but not order Sex Offender Treatment. Concurrent sentencing for lesser charges.
  • "Betrayal of trust, and the effects on Tina Anderson, (her statements) were as truthful and eloquent as any I have ever heard."
  • Judge is referring to Tina's Victim Impact Statement:
  • He does have 103 days pre-trial credit, so 15 years minus 103 days.
  • Proceeding is completed. Bye, Jail Bird!
  • Ultimately, that is the most empathy I've ever seen (in person) the prosecution or judge display for a survivor of sexual assault. TA, you have made much positive impact here in NH. God Bless you more!
  • 15 is the time he has to physically serve with good behavior. It is my understanding that once he physically gets out, he will have to do the remainder (15 more, for a total of 30 years) being monitored, on parole. Just to be certain, she should ask for clarification.

Convicted Rapist Sentenced To 15-30 Years

Convicted Rapist Sentenced To 15-30 Years
Ernest Willis Convicted Of Raping Fellow Church Member

"MERRIMACK, N.H. -- A New Hampshire man convicted of raping and impregnating a 15-year-old church member more than a decade ago was sentenced Tuesday to 15 to 30 years in prison.
Ernest Willis, of Gilford, 52, robbed the girl of her childhood, the judge said in sentencing Willis, who had admitted to having sex in 1997 with the teenager, who also babysat his children, but he claimed it was consensual."

Read the rest of the article here:

Monday, September 5, 2011

Willis Prison Sentencing: WMUR Reports

Highlights from the news story here: NH Man In Church Rape Case Facing 54 Years At Sentencing

"A convicted rapist, accused of impregnating a 15-year-old church member, faces up to 54 years in a New Hampshire prison.
Ernest Willis, 52, of Gilford is to be sentenced Tuesday in Merrimack Superior Court..
Willis and the teenager, who also babysat his children, attended a fundamentalist Baptist church in Concord that made her apologize to the congregation when she became pregnant. The pastor helped ship her to the home of a Colorado couple she didn't know - with her mother's consent - and arrange for her baby to be adopted.
A jury in May convicted Willis of forcibly raping the girl twice in 1997
'She got shamed, shunned, silenced and sent away,' prosecutor Wayne Coull told jurors."

Ernest Willis Sentencing Scheduled for Sept. 6

Ernest Willis is scheduled to be sentenced tomorrow--Tuesday, September 6, 2011 at 1:30 p.m. EST. Because of that, I've been thinking back today over the week of the trial and everything it entailed. It was such a draining week emotionally and physically for those of us that went to NH to support Tina. For Tina, I'm sure that was magnified times 100. I can't even imagine.

I'm keeping Tina and Tim in my prayers today and tomorrow as this final piece of the trial reaches closure. If you'd like to post a quick note here to let Tina know she is in your prayers, please feel free to do so.

I thought I'd share a couple of pictures from the week of the trial. Some of them were taken on my phone from inside my car--so photo quality isn't super great, but these pictures mean a lot to me and I thought some of you would appreciate them.

The last day of the trail in the waiting room.

Tina in my car after the guilty verdict was handed down. I love this smile!

We waited to leave the parking lot until after we watched Ernie loaded into the van that would be taking him to jail.

This was our final good-bye just before Bethany and I left to drive back home the night of the last day of the trial. Happy smiles because justice was served--finally--after all those years.