Pop quiz: What do you call someone who is convicted of having sex with an underage girl, a grown adult who abuses his position of authority to single out and gain access to his victim, then continues to have an illicit affair with a minor?
A monster? Sure. A horrible person? Definitely. A rapist? Yes. Yes, someone who is convicted of having sex with a minor is a rapist. They have committed statutory rape.
Now, maybe we need to pass this message along to the Chicago Tribune, who covered the despicable case of a mega church pastor convicted of engaging in sex with a teenage girl who sought out his counseling without ever once mentioning the word rape.
The details of this case are disturbing and awful. The pastor of a 15,000-person church in Northwest Indiana, Jack Schaap, formed a sexual relationship with an underage girl who sought his counseling. She was not pursuing a physical relationship with her pastor, though it wouldn’t matter if she was. She was a minor and coming to an influential spiritual guide in her community for help. Instead, she received abuse in the most manipulative and disgusting ways. One text message from the girl to Schaap reads:
“When you first kissed me I was shocked. . .When I asked you if it was wrong, you said ‘No.’ You told me that I was sent you from God, I was his gift to you. You made me feel special.”
Unsurprisingly, church members became suspicious when the pastor took the young girl on “spiritual retreats” and “intensive therapy” in other states. At first, Schaap tried to delete evidence like pictures and text messages, before finally coming clean and turning himself into the police before charges were even filed.
For this, Jack Schaap is painted like a hero who simply strayed from God’s path. He has the support of his wife, who says the relationship was “consensual,” and many of his parishioners. More than 100 letters were sent to the judge of Schaap’s case blaming his behavior on stress, exhaustion, and “low lithium levels.” Schaap’s victim, of course, was thrown out of her Baptist school and her family was excommunicated from their church.
And it wasn’t enough that this girl’s community turned against her and supported her rapist. Even media outlets that she should know better want to paint Jack Schaap as the tragedy and leave his victim a nameless “troubled girl.” The Chicago Tribune‘s headline for this story was, “Ex-Indiana pastor gets 12 years for sex with girl, ‘I became a fool’.”
I’m sorry, but sex with a girl is not a crime. Raping a minor is a crime. It’s the crime that Jack Schaap committed and was sentenced for. But “rape” is such a harsh word right? Calling someone a rapist is so serious. Well, Jack Schaap’s crime was serious and it deserves to be called exactly what it was.
For a minute, put yourselves in the shoes of these parents, who trusted their pastor to help their teenage daughter during a difficult time in her life. Then, they find out that this man exchanged over 700 text messages, phone calls, and love letters with her. According to the prosecutors, he “groomed” her to be his mistress. Think of the betrayal of trust and the irreversible damage done.
Jack Schaap is not some poor fool who was seduced by a young girl. He is a rapist. He is a monster. And the people who deserve this community’s support and consideration are his victim and her family.
The Chicago Tribune should be ashamed of their coverage of this case, just as the people of this church should be ashamed of their actions, throwing aside the victim to give sympathy to a rapist.