Journalist to talk ‘Abuse of Faith’

Investigative reporter will discuss coverage of SBC sex abuse scandal, its lasting effect

Corryn Brock, News Editor

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An Eastern alum who helped write a series of ongoing stories exposing sexual misconduct in some Southern Baptist churches will be giving a public presentation at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Buzzard Auditorium.

Pictured is Robert Downen, Eastern journalism alum and reporter for the Houston Chronicle. Downen helped write a continuing series on the sexual misconduct within the SBC, shedding light on decades of abuse and trauma. He will speak at Eastern Tuesday evening.

Robert Downen, a 2014 graduate of the School of Journalism at Eastern, will be speaking on a series of stories he helped write called “Abuse of Faith,” which were published in The Houston Chronicle.

The ongoing series covers 20 years of sexual abuse, over 700 victims, the depths of the crimes and misconduct committed by church leaders.

The first story of the series involved a database of 236 individuals who were convicted of sex-related crimes or accepted plea deals, survivors’ stories and court documents from specific cases and videos of prosecutors and convicted pastors.

The investigation leading to the first story revealed that:

At least 35 church pastors, employees and volunteers exhibited predatory behavior and were able to find jobs at churches within the last 20 years

Law enforcement was not contacted about accusations and other congregations were not warned about allegations of any wrongdoing in some of the incidents with the 35 church pastors, employees and volunteers

Several past presidents and well-known leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention have been criticized for mishandling abuse complaints within their churches/seminaries

Some registered sex offenders resumed positions as pastors.

Many victims were adolescents who were molested, sent explicit images or text messages, exposed to pornography, had nude photos taken of them, or were raped repeatedly

Some victims, as young as 3, were abused inside of pastors’ studies and classrooms for Sunday school

Some victims were adults that said they we seduced or sexually assaulted while seeking guidance from pastors

Downen will be speaking to various classes in criminology, women and gender studies, and journalism and is here as a part of the Fox-Thornburgh Visiting Professionals series.

Downen was the Opinions Editor for The Daily Eastern News  for three semesters while at Eastern and currently works at the Houston Chronicle where he covers general and breaking news.

The event is free and open the public.

Corryn Brock can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected].