Susan Codone, senior associate dean of academic affairs at Mercer University School of Medicine, revealed she was just 14 years old when the youth pastor at a small Southern Baptist church just outside Birmingham, Alabama, began abusing her.
Over the next 18 months, she became a victim of continual sexual abuse. When she was 15, she approached the senior pastor of the church and shared her story with him.
Her pastor fired the youth minister but “then he picked up with me where my youth minister left off with me.” She was sexually abused by the church pastor for the next four to six months.
Fearing “no one would believe" her regarding the youth pastor and pastor, Codone was too afraid to report her abusers to authorities. "I thought what had happened was my fault. They told me that I had brought down men of God,” she recalled.
While the abuse ended when she was 16 years old, Codone said the “effects have continued throughout my life,” impacting her mental health, family, and faith in God.
"[M]y faith has fluctuated over the years, and my service to [God] has been interrupted by my inability to trust Him completely and to trust the church completely," she said. "The church must do a better job of being a place of healing and refuge."
Still, Codone said she is a “hopeful survivor” and outlined 10 requests to churches, including: "Understand that what might look like spiritual apathy to you is really spiritual disconnection because of trauma, and respond accordingly."