My Pastor Called my Sexual Abuse “Just Boys Playing Around”

The OPC needs systemic change around sexual abuse — now.

Nathaniel Snedeker (they/them)
Human Parts
5 min readApr 15, 2024


Photo by Alexander Grey on Unsplash

Content Warning: CSA (child sexual abuse)

I’ve always hated the carpet in my room. It was blue and fluffy, but not fluffy enough to provide any real comfort. My first memory is of that carpet. I was four years old.

One night, the sons of a family friend babysat me. They were twelve and thirteen years old. They were the only family I had. My father passed away when I was a week old, and this family had become our closest friends. But there’s something about the word “friends” that doesn’t quite do our relationship justice.

One translation of 1 Samuel 18 describes Jonathan’s soul as being “knit to the soul of David.” I quite like that image. The souls of our two families were knit together: unbreakable.

The night started out like any other. According to my mother’s written record of things, the older son had babysat me “a million times before.” He had been everywhere with us. When we went out of the country on vacation for the first and only time, my mom bought him a ticket to come along.

That night, I sat on that cursed carpet. Those who were knit to my soul told me that I needed to change into my pajamas. It was time for bed. My memory of what happened next is vague. There was touching in places I didn’t like. Everywhere on my naked body.

I asked them to please stop. They didn’t. I tried to pull away. It didn’t matter. My four year old body could do nothing. I remember this vividly. Since then, I’ve never liked pajamas. I’ve always slept in my clothes, socks and all. Now I understand why.

Another day the boys visited, I was on my mom’s bed. They touched me and one of them sucked on my penis. I feel sure that more abuse occurred. After this incident, while I was still four, I told my mom.

At one point in my mother’s version of events, I said to her that “they don’t do those things when they are outside or with other people.” My ability to observe a pattern in their behavior, along with the fact that they had babysat me “millions” of times, implies more instances of sexual abuse.

The author, age 4, already with the crazy hair. Credit: Sarah Jane Miller

What is a single, Christian mother to do when abuse happens? Go to the church — that beloved body of Christ. Our church at the time was the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC). The parents of the boys were members of the OPC as well. My mom talked to our pastor about the second incident that had happened. He told my mom that he viewed the situation as “playing around,” not “molestation.” My mom listened, at least partially. And why shouldn’t she have? He was the leader in our community.

No police reports were filed at the time. No action taken. Although the bond between our families was broken, the two boys who abused me were allowed to live their lives as if nothing happened. It was only years later that my mom filed a police report.

The inaction of our pastor has weighed on me heavily over the years. Both of the boys who sexually abused me molested other individuals. One boy molested a second child at the same time as me. The other boy molested another child after me.

Someone else got molested by the boys’ grandfather, also a member of the OPC. This grandfather is now dead. In retrospect, I see that he was the one who abused the boys, who then abused me. I remember going over to the grandfather’s house when I was nine. I would jump out from behind the basement office wall, scaring the living daylights out of him.

The second or third time, he pleaded with me, “Nathaniel, please don’t scare me, I have a bad heart!”

I stopped scaring him, but I regret it. Maybe I could have stopped the molestation from happening right in front of my eyes in the basement. Maybe I could have quickened his entry into hell.

One of my abusers became a counselor at a local camp that many of the church kids and I attended. The first time I saw him at camp at age eight, I found myself remembering the sexual abuse for the first time in a while. I was aware that he shouldn’t be working with kids at camp. We avoided each other like the plague. Somehow, after the times he abused me, he still felt comfortable working with kids in our area.

I’m not sure if my pastor ever knew that one of my abusers was a counselor at the camp. The church and camp communities were so closely intertwined that it’s certainly possible. Regardless of whether the pastor knew, the incidents had just been some boys playing around, right? Who knows how many kids my abuser molested at the camp.

Rage is all I feel. Rage that nothing was done. Rage that adults allowed the abuse to continue. Rage that all the people and institutions in my life I trusted failed me.

Photo by Skyler Gerald on Unsplash

Courageous women like Jennifer Greenberg, Aimee Byrd, and Valerie Hobbs have spoken out about how sexual and spiritual abuse is covered up in the OPC. The cases are similar to mine. People have spoken up about their abuse at the hands of spouses, fathers, and pastors. They have been silenced by the very institution meant to nurture and support them.

I’m heartbroken that this issue goes beyond me. The OPC needs to step up, realize that they have a very serious systemic problem, and address it. So far, they’ve done nothing. In 2021, the OPC voted against considering a resolution that would have allowed a third party to investigate abuse in OPC churches (see pg. 43 #214.)

Aimee Byrd rightly reflected that “All the talk about proper channels is cruel if the process is being used to neglect the people [in churches] and [the church] somehow feel[s] pious about it…We’ve missed [the purpose of] Christ.”

In the name of hierarchy and patriarchy, the OPC has lost its sense of who Christ is and what Christ did. By allowing a culture of abuse to continue, the OPC simultaneously plays the role of robber and Pharisee in the Parable of the Good Samaritan. It robs the man, beats him half to death, and spits on him, only to pass by him later in the day with a look of apathy on its face.

But where is the Samaritan? And how long must the man wait — bleeding, bruised, and broken — for justice to be carried out? How long must we sit in silence while evil is done to us? The time to stand up is now.



Nathaniel Snedeker (they/them)
Human Parts

Housing case manager, gender warper, and amateur chess player. Love writing about gender, politics, and religion! 🍉