Why Does the Malayalee Pentecostal Church Protect Predators?

It was a normal Sunday, nothing that would make it stand out from the 100s of other Sundays that came before it. But on that particular day, something happened that changed me forever.

I was wearing a red and gold checkered churidar, my favorite one, the one that I wore slightly too often. It was totally on trend, with the bodice being cut short so that it fell just above my knees. A churidar, for those who aren’t aware, consists of a dress, pants, and a shawl for extra modesty. It was the epitome of Indian fashion in the early 2000s. Service had just ended and I was anxious to leave soon so that I wouldn’t have to talk to too many people.

I weaved and bobbed my way through the crowd as I headed to the back of the sanctuary trying to find my parents. I smiled and said hello to a few uncles and aunties but I kept moving.

Until he blocked my path. He smiled, like he had 100 times before, called me molay and asked how I was.

I gave him a shy smile and said that I was good. That’s when I noticed him coming closer. Before I could blink or take my next breath, I saw his hand reach out.

He reached out and grabbed me. Down there. Then he squeezed me. Then he let go, and brushed past me.

It happened fast. Lightening fast. Fast enough that his smile never left his face while he did it. Fast enough that not one of the 60-70 people surrounding us noticed.

I stood there for a minute completely stunned and overwhelmed. Then I heard my name as my mom called me and said we were going home.


All these years later, what shocks me the most about that moment is the sheer audacity that he had in touching me in total public. He had no fear of being seen. He had no fear of me screaming. He had NO FEAR.

Why? Because he knew that he would never be caught. He knew that even if I told my parents, which I did, we wouldn’t feel like we could do anything. He knew that he could get away with it, because he had gotten away with it before.

You see, this man that violated me, also molested my friend not long before this incident.

In the years that have passed since both of us were taken advantage of, I cannot imagine the countless number of young girls and boys he has had- and continues to have- access to. My biggest regret in my entire life is that I was not able to be the last person he ever molested.

Now some of you may read my description of the incident, and say that it wasn’t a big deal, at least I wasn’t raped. Or that I must be mistaken, he simply brushed his hand against me in the crowd. But I can confidently say that I have been in many crowds, and I have never been brushed like that before that day, or after. When you feel your crotch being squeezed, you know that it is intentional. Sure, it could have been worse, I was lucky that was all he did. But even at that age I knew that if he could do that to me so quickly and casually, he certainly would have no qualms doing much worse in private. And I was right. He has done much worse in private.

I recently shared a quick description of this on Facebook, joining the chorus of #MeToo. I posted it because I was frustrated that the Malayalee Pentecostal community refuses to talk about sexual abuse in any capacity. I have known too many Malayalee kids who have been sexually abused, and yet never once have I heard of an abuser being held accountable for their actions.

After I posted my status, I received a request to take my post down. Apparently it made me look bad. Apparently it was shameful.

No.

The only thing that is shameful is that you want to silence me. Because you do not want be uncomfortable. You do not want to deal with this problem in the community. You do not want to believe that the person who sits next to you every Sunday is capable of such atrocity.

I’ve been looked dead in the eyes and told by Malayalee aunties and uncles that I would go to hell because I wore nail polish and got my ears pierced. I’ve been told that wearing jewelry and dresses to church makes me unfit to teach Sunday School…yet these same people hear about sexual predators lurking around their churches and they keep quiet.

I am now in seminary, and I work as a full time Children’s Minister in a church in Southern California. We background check every person that volunteers in our Sunday School. We have training where we talk about what it is appropriate touch and speech. To my fellow leaders in Malayalee Pentecostal churches- do you talk about these things with your volunteers? Do you do background checks? Do you vet the people who have spiritual authority over your children? Don’t assume that because most of your volunteers are women you have nothing to worry about. Women have just as much capacity to be sexual abusers, and boys can be targets to be victims. Same sex abuse is also possible.

To Malayalee parents of young children- I am fortunate enough to have parents who are profoundly open with me and my sister. My mother talked to me from a very young age about being careful around people, and what I should deem as acceptable touch. I felt comfortable to tell my parents about the incident and I am grateful that they both believed me. They told me not to go near him. At that time that was all they felt they had the power to do.

Parents, please have an open dialogue with your kids. You may think that they are too young, but it is never to early to teach them how they can protect themselves. Make sure that you can be the person that they trust to tell if they have been hurt. Lastly, if your child has the strength and bravery to tell you something happened, please believe them. The disbelief can sometimes hurt more than the abuse itself.

You may ask why I am talking about this more than a decade later. I am talking about it now because I want our community to stop being afraid of talking about our issues in public. Each time we shove an incident under the rug, we are creating an opportunity for that abuser to abuse another child. The mentality of ‘as long as it’s not my kid’ is disgusting.

The first step is to actually talk about the fact that this is happening in our community. The next step is to take action. Ideally, these abusers should be in jail. Ideally, they should be on the National Sex Offender Registry. Our children should be able to go to church without seeing the face of their abuser every week. I hope if you are reading this and you have been abused, or you have a child who has been abused, you will feel inspired to tell someone who can help you. Tell the Senior Pastor. Tell the Director of your Children’s Ministry. Tell the police. Tell someone who can protect the other children.

Our Malayalee Pentecostal churches are a safe haven for sexual predators. I, for one, am tired of protecting them.

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14 thoughts on “Why Does the Malayalee Pentecostal Church Protect Predators?

  1. It’s not only in Pentecostal churches, but homes too. The key is that children open up to their parents and the parents have to address the issue with the perpetrators and the authorities

  2. Thank you for your courage in writing something that needs to be heard. Often times we brush past major issues like sexual predators in the Malayalee Church. The more people speak and share like you just did, the safer the church might be for our future sons and daughters.

  3. Christal, I am do sorry that you had to go through this! I have been molested too as a child. And I am Malayalee..yes our community does have this sad tendency to hush things up and suffer in silence. I admire your courage in coming out with this. I have educated both my children about this and hope and pray that if anything like this happens they will let me know immediately.

  4. I am so proud of you for exposing these predators who pretend to be christians. Malayalee Pentecostals need to address this evil in their churches. Parents needs to be vigilant in these regard when they have guests staying in their homes as well. I tell my grand children to lock their doors when they sleep. Please continue your ministry with young people. May God bless you.

  5. Thank you for having the courage to speak up on this issue, unfortunately, we have too many “wolves” in sheep’s clothing lurking in churches who live worse lives than unbelievers and cause God’s name to be dishonored.

  6. Pingback: Why Does the Malayalee Pentecostal Church Protect Predators? – Learning to be the Light

  7. Part of the problem is you dressed in a way to make him think about you in that manner. It never ceases to amaze me how women feel like they can dress totally slutty and yet wants to be treated with respect. I am not saying that he had the right to do what he did. However, if you work at a strip club and men violate you, don’t be surprised. A few years ago a 14 year old was gang raped at a party. Everyone was furious and upset this would happen. Until they found out that she went to a college sex party. Well, what did you think was going to happen? Now, I know you would say that you were at church. But you already admitted to wearing something that gave easy access to your private parts. When you walk around revealing your body to everyone, it’s like a wild animal farting out pheromones. I am not justifying what he did. But don’t expect to be treated like mary mother of Jesus when you dress like you sleep in the playboy mansion.

    • Julie honey…you are precisely the reason I put what I was wearing in my post. By the flagrant ignorance coming off of your comment I am going to assume that you are not well versed in Indian attire. But a churidar is an outfit that includes pants, a dress, and a shawl for extra modesty. It was an outfit that my parents and church family deemed more than appropriate for my 12 year old self to wear to a HIGHLY CONSERVATIVE PENTECOSTAL CHURCH. It may have been cut above my knees, but it covered everything else with triple the amount of cloth that you wear on a normal basis. Indians are known for their modesty. And for your knowledge, women have been sexually assaulted since the dawn of time, in EVERY time period, from EVERY socioeconomic status, regardless of what they were wearing. What do you say of men who have been sexually assaulted? Little boys? Surely they weren’t running around in miniskirts. Please educate yourself before you speak publicly on a topic you obviously know very little about. Please refrain from commenting your stupidity and ignorance on my blog ever again. How convenient for you that you have no last name and no picture to identify you…coward.

    • WOW!! Are you kidding me?Even if a woman is standing naked in a crowd, no man EVER has the right to touch her. How dare you get on this blog and shame the victim for wearing clothes that she liked? Clothes that she called her favorite… If you yourself got raped in baggy sweatpants and a loose T-shirts are you going to blame your clothes or your rapist? In a country like India women who wear Purdas get equally raped as women who wear jeans. Do you want me to throw statistics at you to prove it? And what about little girls being raped? Are you going to blame them for their clothes enticing unwanted male attention?! You are shame to humanity everywhere.

  8. Hi there! A random search using malayalee as the keyword led me to your blog post through the WordPress reader.
    I don’t know you, and I am not sure if I have the liberty to say this, but, I am sorry to hear that this happened to you in church. And I am shocked to learn that you were told by someone that your #metoo post showed you in poor light.
    Having faced all this, the courage you displayed to have shared this here is appreciable!

    And..You did nothing wrong so, there is no need to be ashamed.
    And wearing dresses and nail polish adds to your sin is a very malayalee thing to say. Which is sad given the fact that we are considered the most educated lot on India. God loves us so much that He gave His only son for us, clothes and nail polish won’t make Him hate you!!
    I hope malayalees as a community learn to acknowledge the person and not their clothes or the way they carry themselves. Apparently for us, still a saree or churidar makes a woman pure, even a jeans makes God hate us. Sadly it doesn’t matter toGod. It shouldnt matter to us too.

    I genuinely applaud your courage. God be with you and shower you with love and courage always!

  9. Thank you for having the courage to share your experience. It opens eyes to those who have a hard time believing that such atrocious acts happen in a church environment. Unfortunately, what you have experienced is not isolated in Malayalee Pentecostal churches. It has the propensity to occur in practically every church. Your sharing will hopefully lead to churches educating and screening both volunteers and people in power so that sexual predators will know that they do not have free access to our youth and vulnerable adults.

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