Oh boy. So I’ve written before about Doug Wilson’s excuse-making for serial child molester Steven Sitler, but I haven’t written much about the other child abuser in Doug Wilson’s closet—Jamin Wight. Long story short, while Jamin was a student at Doug Wilson’s seminary and boarding with a Christ Church family, he sexually (and psychologically) abused the family’s daughter, Natalie, for years, beginning when she was 13 years old. Jamin was ten years the girl’s senior.
When the abuse came to light, Wilson accused Natalie’s father “neglecting” his daughter by not keeping her safe and then wrote to the judge explaining that “I do not believe that this situation in any way paints Jamin as a sexual predator.” If we didn’t already know that Wilson has utterly no understanding of what abuse is and how it works, we would now. In his letter to the judge, Wilson used phrases like “the sexual behavior occurring between Jamin and Natalie,” as though it were an affair between two lovers and not an adult man grooming and preying on a 13-year-old child.
Indeed, according to Natalie herself, Wilson’s letter to the judge—the letter in which he insisted that Jamin should not be seen as a sexual predator—contained numerous inaccuracies and completely misconstrued the nature of what had happened.
One other thing regrettably needs to be noted. In the meeting, we took care to have Jamin acknowledge that no matter what circumstances actually set up the temptation, the crime, the sin, and the deception were his responsibility alone. Blame-shifting on his part would be utterly inappropriate, and we had Jamin acknowledge that he was in no position to absolve himself by pointing fingers at others. Having said this, I can observe what Jamin should not. In our meeting the Greenfields (who had no idea of the sexual behavior occurring between Jamin and Natalie) acknowledged their sin and folly in helping to set the situation up. They did this by inviting Jamin to move in with them, encouraging and permitting a relationship between Jamin and Natalie, while keeping that relationship secret from the broader community. They thought (and were led to believe by Jamin) that the relationship was sexually pure, but they did know it was a relationship between a man in his mid-twenties and their fourteen-year-old daughter, and they helped to create the climate of secrecy. At the same time, their folly (as Pat Greenfield has aptly pointed out) was not a felony. It is not a crime to be foolish, while it is a crime to do what Jamin did. I agree with this completely, and in describing this aspect of the situation I do not believe it absolves Jamin of any responsibility for his behavior. But it does help explain what kind of criminal behavior it was. For example, I do not believe that this situation in any way paints Jamin as a sexual predator. In all my hears as a pastor, I don’t believe that I have ever seen such a level of parental foolishness as what the Greenfields did in this.
Note that Wilson says that it would be inappropriate for Jamin to shift blame, but that it’s perfectly appropriate for Wilson to do so. Wilson then proceeds to assert that Natalie’s parents bear some of the blame for her abuse for, among other things, allowing Jamin to board with them. What is conspicuously absent from his letter is the fact that Wilson encourages the families in his church to allow his seminary and college students to board with them. Neither New Saint Andrews College nor Greyfriars have their own housing.
What about Wilson’s assertion that the Greenfields allowed Jamin to start a relationship with their young teenage daughter? Well first of all, Wilson promotes a belief system that encourages early marriage. You may remember from Steven Sitler’s story that Katie Travis fancied herself an old maid at 23. Further, girls are taught from a young age that their role in life is to keep a well-run home, make a husband happy, and raise and educate children. All of this would make having a twenty-four-year old man express interest in your fourteen-year-old daughter seem like a normal occurrence. But second of all, Wilson is not telling the truth when he claims Natalie’s parents permitted a relationship between her and Jamin.
Jamin expressed an interest in me to my parents when I was 14 years old, months after he’d begun grooming me and had already instigated a physical relationship with me. To say I had a crush on him would be an understatement – I was completely infatuated with him, as is common for abuse victims, and had been since shortly after I met him at a church event when I was 13 years old. (No one knew the depth of my affection for him, of course, I think told my parents I thought he was pretty cool.) My parents told Jamin he could wait for me if he wanted to and they’d reassess the situation when I was 18 years old. It was made exceedingly clear that in the meantime there was to be no ‘relationship’ whatsoever. As far as my parents knew there was no relationship, and from what I can tell any “confession” they made to Doug was taken out of context and/or deliberately twisted. There’s not much more to be said about this, honestly. My parents were naive and foolish, yes. They trusted him to respect the house rules regarding their daughter, partly because he’d been vetted by their own pastor as a seminary student. He didn’t follow the rules.
And as Natalie explains further:
What confuses me is how this information has any relevance to Jamin’s long term physical, sexual, mental and emotional abuse of me (before, during and after the time he lived in our home) or how it constitutes Doug writing to the magistrate judge and requesting leniency for him, or how it justifies Doug blaming and shaming my father (and mother) the way he did. Doug painted a picture in which the blame is dangerously shifted to my parents and away from a criminal. Ultimately, he was rather successful at his part in this, as Jamin’s charge and sentence were greatly reduced and he went on to criminally abuse more innocent victims after a very brief stint in jail.
In his letter to the judge, Wilson described Jamin as “genuinely repentant” and “most cooperative.” While he does affirm that Jamin committed a crime and should be punished for it, he also states that Jamin should not be seen as a “sexual predator.” In Wilson’s eyes, the Greenfields set Jamin up for temptation and then allowed a sexual affair to take place in their own home between their teenage daughter and their young adult boarder. In Wilson’s eyes, what took place between Jamin and Natalie was an illicit love affair, not abuse.
Notice this, from Wilson’s letter:
Jamin’s crime and sin in this was of a particularly egregious nature because he was studying for the ministry at the time, and his behavior involved a great deal of calculated deception—actively deceiving the Greenfields, his elders and pastors, and so on.
Here, Jamin’s crime is “egregious” because it involved deception of Natalie’s parents, and by a man ostensibly studying for the ministry. One would think that the “egregious” nature of Jamin’s crime would be his years-long grooming and sexual abuse of a very young teen girl (remember that this started when Natalie was thirteen), but no.
And yes, it appears that his portrayal of the situation persuaded the judge.
As Natalie writes in another article:
Sadly, my story did not have a just ending. My abuser, who was originally charged on 3 counts of “child sexual abuse”, “lewd and lascivious acts”, and “forced sexual contact”, was convicted of “injury to child”- the same term that would have been used had he slapped a child on Main Street. We were encouraged to go to mediation rather than to trial, and at the last minute the visiting judge decided the sentence/label of ‘sexual offender’ was too harsh. He equated what had happened to a “homeschool teenage love affair”, despite the fact that my abuser was 10 years older than me. As a result, rather than being labeled as a sex offender (which was the only outcome I desired), his charge was lowered and he was sentenced to 4 months in Cottonwood prison and a few years on probation (which he was released from early a few months ago).
Yes, you read that right, a grown man in his twenties groomed and sexually abused a young teenage girl ten years his junior for years and yet somehow was given only four months in prison and wasn’t even labeled as a sex offender. This is absolutely mind boggling to me.
Peter Leithart, another reformed pastor in Moscow who worked closely with Wilson in handling this case, recently posted an apology on his Facebook page:
It is clear now that I made major errors of judgment. Fundamentally, I misjudged Jamin, badly. I thought he was a godly young man who had fallen into sin. That was wrong. In the course of trying to pastor Jamin through other crises in his life, I came to realize that he is deceptive and highly manipulative, and that I allowed him to manipulate me. A number of the things I said about Jamin to the congregation and court at the time his abuse was uncovered were spun in Jamin’s favor; I am ashamed to realize that I used Jamin’s talking points. Though I never doubted that Jamin was guilty, I trusted his account of the circumstances more readily and longer than I should have, and conversely I disbelieved the victim’s parents (to the best of my recollection, I had no direct contact with the victim, who was a member of Christ Church). I should have seen through Jamin, and didn’t.
Leithart writes that he saw Jamin as “a godly young man who had fallen into sin.” He means sexual sin, of course, and I’m sure that’s how Jamin portrayed it—rather than as abuse—because he was an abuser and that is what abusers do. Both Leithart and Wilson fell for it, hook line and sinker, and accepted the story of an abuser over the story of his victim. Leithart has acknowledged his mistake and apologized, but to my knowledge, Wilson has not.
This story has hit me hard, and I think one reason for that is a situation that has recently come to light in the homeschooling community I grew up in. It is a situation that bears too much similarity for comfort. Again there is the lack of knowledge of grooming and of abuse, and again there is the portrayal predatory behavior as an elicit love affair rather than as coercive, and again there are people writing to the judge praising the “character” of the accused. And so it hits close to home.
Must we keep doing this?