Jesus Loves Me: An Abuse Survivor’s Story
Although the author of this blog post speaks for herself and tells her own story, BJUGrace, as her publishing platform, through documentation and written statements from several witnesses, has sought to do due diligence to confirm that her story is true.
by Amie Brown, based on a letter written to a friend, to explain the lesser-known background of the Independent Fundamental Baptist (IFB) world
I grew up in the IFB world. I married into the IFB world. I divorced the IFB world.
As a young girl, I learned quick from my parents what my worth was. I was often told that I would amount to nothing. My own father would say, “I have three animals [his daughters], and one human [his son].”
I had no childhood. Play was not an option. I was to work. I did as I was told because it was the right thing to do, and I never asked questions.
I attended Cookeville Christian School in Cookeville, Tennessee, where my lack of worth as a female was reinforced. In this church and school context, when I was eleven years old Ted Anderson began abusing me and two other girls, physically, emotionally, mentally, and sexually. But the worst of all was the spiritual abuse. He was a deacon in the church and on the board of trustees, as well as the music director and piano player for the church. He was also the principal of the school as well as the Spanish teacher, choir director, private piano teacher, soccer coach, and main chapel speaker.
When I was sixteen, I told my parents what Ted Anderson was doing (on the day I told, he had beaten me 24 times with a two-by-four, among other things), and my parents told the church/school leaders. Bob Jones University was called on for advice on how to handle the situation. They advised the leaders at Cookeville to take no legal action, because keeping silent was better for “the cause of Christ,” but just get him out of town. My own father bought a five-thousand-dollar bond to help pay Ted’s back salary and get him out of town.
Not one person asked how I was. Not one person helped me grieve for things that were taken from me. Not one person helped me heal.
For many years, from age eleven until recently, I would sing “Jesus loves me” every night after the lights were out. Over and over again.
At the age of seventeen, I was taken to BJU. Once again my lack of worth as a female was reinforced. When I talked with the dorm counselor, I was told:
* God allowed it; you accepted it.
* I should confess the sin on my part. (I was eleven years old when it started.)
* Forgive and forget.
I buried the shame and guilt DEEP within me.
I married an IFB man, and for 24 years it was once again reinforced what my worth was as a female—I was no better than the scum on the bottom of his shoe. Yet I submitted, because that was what the Bible said to do. I was never allowed to question what was preached from an IFB pulpit or from the husband’s mouth. I was to keep silent and do what I was told.
As a married couple with three children, we attended two IFB churches in Greenville, SC, both of which are closely tied with Bob Jones University. Here are a few highlights from the first one:
* When my dad and father-in-law became terminally ill, no one stepped up to ask if I needed help. My dad died six months before my father-in-law did, and I spent three months up all night nursing my father-in-law. I was the mother of three girls and a demanding, critical husband. I had NO support from the church.
* At a youth event, the male driver drove at 55 mph with my thirteen-year-old daughter and other young people in the bed of his pickup truck. When I confronted the youth pastor about this unsafe and illegal activity, he blamed it on the woman chaperone, the driver’s wife.
* Sin in the church was buried deep. The pastor would not call out the sin because he himself was living in adultery, which was later exposed.
In the second IFB church I was a member of:
* A convicted sexual predator was protected. My sixteen-year-old daughter was in this man’s house. (Even the youth pastor at the time did not know.) When it came out, I confronted the pastor and his wife. Even though they knew about my own abuse, they said, “Why are you so upset? He likes boys.” My husband told me the man was “being watched.” I know for a fact, it will happen right in front of you. But I was told to just trust the authority in the IFB church.
* We sought marriage counseling from this pastor. After six weeks I was told that if my husband needed a mother, then that is what I was called to be.
* As a nursery supervisor, when I saw vaginal bleeding from a 4-month-old girl, I informed the pastor, who in turn did NOTHING, even knowing that this child’s family was already in the DSS system. I made an anonymous call to the proper people, but my husband knew and turned around and told the elder what I had done. Because they said I wasn’t trusting or submitting to the church authority, I was put under church discipline.
IFB churches breed abuse of women and girls. They create environments of abuse, using the Bible to keep women in their place. Are there some in these churches that Love God and Love Others? Yes, but I think they are very few in number.
I am telling you this so maybe, just maybe, you will understand why I feel as strongly as I do about the IFB church.
I am worthy BECAUSE of what Christ did for me. I am a daughter of the KING!
The friend replied, saying that she believed me and wanted to support me.
THANK YOU for believing me. Believing me is the best help you can give to me. I have been on the road to healing the last 3-1/2 years. I spent a year getting help from the Julie Valentine Center here in Greenville, SC. They could deal with the sexual, physical, mental, and emotional abuse. They could not deal with the spiritual abuse and were honest enough to tell me, but I knew that was where my biggest open wound was.
God was so good to bring into my life one women who has helped me find Joy in Christ. It has only been since January that I have begun to read my Bible and not fear. I am learning to trust Jesus. I am learning to run to Him first, when I slip back into the deep pit of shame and guilt. I am learning to run to Jesus when I can’t cope with the stress of life. Jesus is always there with open arms to hold me.
For as long as I can remember, I have sought safety in people and places. My heart begged for a safe place. Four months after my divorce was final, after a bad dating experience I screamed out to God that I just wanted to be and feel safe. After a long shower, I crawled into bed and for the first time that I can remember, God spoke to me! He spoke Proverbs 18:10 to my broken heart: “The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run into it and are SAFE.” I found my safe place in the Name of the Lord. That moment is when my healing began.
I have kept silent since I was sixteen years old. Those days are over. I have, along with one other woman who was victimized by Ted Anderson, tried to press charges in Cookeville (where the statute of limitations is only three years), and also here in Greenville, because he had also taken me to the BJU campus and abused me there. Neither report came to anything. I reported to GRACE, and now I’m naming myself and my perpetrator here. I do not want to react in anger—I want to respond with the truth and in love, like Jesus does with me.
Amie’s post has prompted other former BJU students to provide affidavits of their alleged abuse in the Cookeville Christian School environment and ensuing situation at Bob Jones University. Part One of Barbra’s account is here. Karen’s account is here.
I’m proud of your courage, Amie. I’m sorry for what you’ve been through and glad you’ve started down the road of healing.
Thank you for speaking the truth. Evil has been protected and enabled long enough. These abusers and their defenders need full exposure for the protection of others. Well done. Blessings to you.
You are a courageous woman! You have been through so much and have shown how resilient you are. I am so sorry for what happened to you! Hugs.
Thank you for posting, Amie.
So grateful for how God has brought you through and is continuing to heal. It makes me so angry to know that stuff like this goes on in so many churches under the guise of Christianity. No wonder people don’t want to have anything to do with the church. Praying for you and how you will be able to use your story to minister to other hurting women.
Thank you for sharing. I am so very sorry for all that has happened to you. Proverbs 18:10 is the verse I am memorizing this month! He is strong and safe!
Thank you for being brave, for acknowledging this publicly. Hopefully it will give me, and others, the strength to do the same.
Amie, you are so right to say that abuse happens right under your nose. I knew you during this time and felt something was wrong but as another young person I did not know what to do and being married to one of those church leaders I was also encouraged to put my suspicions to rest. I could also have regrets about not doing more in this situation. I do know it will not happen on my watch again if there is anything I can humanly do about it. Thank you for standing up and I feel privileged to be your friend.
May I submit that spiritual abuse is insidious and endemic to the IFB system and mindset? Physical and sexual abuse are the more external expressions (reflections perhaps?) of spiritual abuse. How many times have I been told outright–or more subtly through shunning and loss of friend support–to do what I am told and to keep my “stinking” mouth shut. I am a non-leadership male. The leaders seem to hold us in the same low view as they have toward women, though it is still not quite the same. It is every bit as wickedly insidious and damaging. Why are these supposed “christian” organizations so permeated with spiritual and mental abuse? If we non-leadership males say anything, we are often silenced with the accusation of being “gay” even when it is not true.
I want to let you know that I am one of many many others out there who are on your side who are heartbroken and disgusted by the way you have been treated by the institutional church. I want to help encourage you and equip you. You might find the following helpful for healing:
This article is just one of many that contain the answer to the biggest question that is out there but that no one seems to be able to answer: why. I hope you find this encouraging.
I am so sorry for what you have gone through. I am thankful that God is bringing healing to your life.
Thank you for being so brave and for bringing this evil to light! God bless you!
My heart is full of pain for your experience. Enjoy the rest of your life and find the freedom the God has given us to enjoy this wonderful creation we call Earth and the joy of an eternity with our Lord and Savior.
You are a beautiful person who is making a difference by speaking out! Reading how you sang the song “Jesus loves me” to yourself all those years in the dark of night brought tears to my eyes. That truth has been like a life jacket keeping you afloat.
As for ANY system that keep perpetrators in places of power where they are allowed to continue their evil deeds, it is HIGH TIME for a day of reckoning! These two BJU-affiliated churches in Greenville, SC need to come clean and repent of their sinful actions and cry out for God’s mercy.
I was also deeply grieved and angry to hear that the leadership at BJU, when sought out years ago by the leaders of your Christian school for advice about what to do with the perpetrator, were told not to pursue legal action and to keep things ‘quiet’ for ‘the cause of Christ.’
How poorly Christ has been represented with horrible counsel like this!
A ‘gospel’ that hides evil is NOT the gospel. Jesus exposed evil when He walked on this earth. And He came alongside those who were silenced, shamed, blamed, and shunned and spoke healing words of truth and love to them.
I keep praying for the powerful who’ve gotten it so wrong to finally do right — to confess it, and truly repent by changing their ways.
I’m glad you KNOW your true worth. I’m glad you KNOW you are a daughter of the King! May you continue to heal and keep shining! Thank you for telling your story, Amie!
Thank you for having the courage to share your truth. I believe you, and you are to be commended for your bravery.
I read your article in tears reliving that terrible period that still haunts me today. I was a victim of sexual abuse at the age of 4 so I knew what the signs were.
Ted was targeting me around the age of 13. He had begun to test the waters with me as I imagine he did with every girl he targeted. I took piano lessons from him and was at the church alone in the evening. Sitting on the piano bench he made me face him legs crossed and we were only allowed to wear dresses or skirts. He made a comment about my knee socks and lifted my skirt. I reacted quickly pushing my skirt down and he stopped. He then drove me home and pulled into an empty wooded lot and shut of the engine. I was terrified. We sat there silent for what seemed like forever. I remember just staring straight ahead with every muscle in my body clenched trembling in fear of what was going to happen. He then started the car and took me home.
One evening I was at their home and we were called to dinner. I was on the top bunkbed. He came into the room, grabbed my ankles and yanked me to his face with my legs spread. I was terrified as to what had just happened but put it out of my mind and avoided him the rest of the evening.
One last occasion that is burned in my mind was a day at school where I did not understand how to do my math. I was told that if I didn’t get it right the second time I would go to the office and get two paddlings which was 7 licks each with a pine 1X4X3. I unfortunately failed at understanding a second time so I was sent to the office. It was the scariest moment of my life other than sitting in his car alone with him. I was so terrified because those paddlings hurt so bad. And the fact that the entire high school class was across the hall to witness my screams was detrimental to my self esteem.
He called me in shut the door and as always sat in his chair and made you sit cross legged in the floor across from him. There was always supposed to be a witness present but this day there wasn’t although there were plenty in the building. He spoke his nonsense then told me to get up and bend over the desk. I put my hands on the desk. He reached for his paddle then pushed my back down forcing me to the desk. With his hand he then rubbed my buttocks for a moment before unleashing wrath on me. Every lick was excruciating, like falling on concrete. He gave me 7 in a row then took a break. I begged for mercy but mercy didn’t exist in that room. He then made me assume the same position and continued with the second round. I was screaming and crying and he told me to stop crying and screaming or he would not stop. Once it ended I had to walk the walk of shame with everyone knowing what I had endured. I was forced sit alone in the hall outside of the sanctuary and do my work. No one had any empathy for me looking down in shame at me and I was made to feel like I was worthless. My bottom was so bruised that I could not sit for several days without excruciating pain. It was completely black and blue.
I remember how relieved I was once he was caught and I thank you for coming forward. The only thoughts that went through my head after was that he got away with victimizing several girls never being punished or put away. I wanted him dead. I often thought that if I ever saw him again I would kill him for what he had taken from me. I have suffered with this trauma for 30 years. It has affected my choices, self worth, and caused me to doubt every choice I make.
In raising my children I’ve been afraid to discipline them in fear of causing emotional damage but out of that I have the most loving children with the biggest hearts as myself. I’ve had numerous failing relationships due to seeking shelter from them and fighting them in regards to how I dealt with my kids. I recently got out of a physically abusive relationship while I was pregnant with twins and I was emotionally and physically battered.
I’ve realized that I am always searching for acceptance and the need to be protected. I give 100% of my heart in hopes of getting what I need in return. I don’t know how to trust anyone. I am seeking counseling through my church and know it will be a long road to recovery. I have 5 beautiful children that I am raising on my own and must recover for them so that they never live with these feelings as I have for the majority of my life.
He was repeatedly caught by adults but would talk his way out of it. It took me telling my parents. I did it to protect my sisters from him.
I am sorry he had started to groom you.
Don’t be Amie I’m just so grateful for you coming forward
Amie Brown, Kelly Jo Herren, Wendy McCann & Barbra-Domenick Lanzisera were classmates of mine at Cookeville Christian School during my time there from 4th through 8th grade. Their courage to share their abuse has brought back some powerful memories for me. Here’s one…
I only went to Mr. Anderson’s office 1 time for help with math because he made us sit “Indian style” on the floor, eye level with his crotch & if you didn’t understand a concept, he “applied the board of education to your seat of learning.” He would then rub your back or your bottom, depending upon his mood, while he prayed that God would change your “heart condition”. I remember, in 8th grade specifically, that I failed a PACE…”packet of accelerated Christian education” 6 times rather than go ask for help. I just retook the test until I had successfully memorized the answers to the questions & then moved on to the next PACE. Memorizing the answers on the test became my strategy. It was the safest option.
It’s a big joke in my family that I have an aversion to math & a friend teases me that “I’m too pretty for math” but the truth is, I was too repulsed by what I knew, even then, Mr. Anderson’s real objective was, too afraid to ask anyone for help & too proud to give him the satisfaction of having one more ounce of power over me.
Kristi’s comments are 100% my heart.
Amie… (And Kelly) I can offer only my greatest admiration, deepest compassion, and a cheering section for you. If a hug is a safe thing for you, then I offer a virtual hug. How grateful I am that God rescues his children! How angry I am that his rescue often comes in spite of those who claim to be his church. Thank you for speaking out. Thank you for landing firmly on truth. Thank you for being one more solid steppingstone for those still drowning. Well done!
God SEES us. He LOVES us. Keep singing those truths!
So proud of you girl. You are a beautiful soul!
Amie & Kelly, my heart is broken for you and what you both have been through and continue to recover from emotionally. My sister and I attended Cookeville Christian School during the time Ted Anderson was the principal after Freddy Stringer but fortunately my Dad felt like something wasn’t right with Ted and moved us to Faith Christian School in Sparta before all this started coming to light. I think he may have tried to make my sister sit with her legs crossed like you described but will have to ask her. I was 15 at the time and my sister was 11 so she would have fit your age group. I never knew the entire story because of the way it was covered up. I love both of you as my sisters in Christ and will pray that God continues to heal you and keep you safe in Him. I still live in Cookeville and if there is ever anything I can do to help either one of you heal from this criminal act please reach out to me.
Please contact a lawyer to see if you have a legal case. This is heartbreaking and will only stop when it hurts these institutions financially.
I have read and reread this and have struggled to know how to comment. While reading, I fight to push similar memories out of my head while at the same time feeling my heart break knowing the agony you endured.
I wish I had some magical ability to go back in time, to rescue you, to rescue all the others, to rescue myself, my MK friends from childhood, my fellow victims at church and school in high school, those at BJU who are still suffering deeply and those on various mission fields and in various churches and schools all over who are still unprotected.
I am incredibly encouraged at your bravery in speaking out. I hope that you are surrounded with overwhelming support and no condemnation from anyone.
Reading this gave me the courage to take one step. It was small and not public, but it was a step. Thank you!
Amie and Kelly. I also went to Cookeville Christian School. Ted Anderson was the principal at the time and I was 11 years old. I took piano/organ lessons from Ted. He came out to our house. Ted Anderson made me feel very uncomfortable-putting his hand on my knee. Sometimes trying to put it on my thigh. Rubbing my back. Needless to say I went and told my mother who abruptly cut the lessons off. Then one summer I went to summer school. It was convenient that Ted wanted to take me to Tech’s library – alone – in his car. I let mom know again that Ted Anderson was making me VERY uncomfortable. Thank God it never went any further! My parents pulled myself and my brother out of Cookeville Christian School and put us in a different Christian school in a nearby town. I thank God my parents put us in another school. I’m sure that I too would have been one of Ted’s victims as well if my parents had not switched my brother and I to another school.
I am so proud of both of you for standing up against this abuse. You have my deepest condolences for what happened to you and the many other victims. My prayers are with you.
I live in Lebanon now, but can be in Cookeville in about 40 minutes if you ever need anything.
I love you both, my sisters in Christ. May God richly bless you.
I am Amie’s sister. I left IFB as quickly as the shove of a swinging door.
I never asked my sister about the details of what happened to her by Ted Anderson. I didn’t want her to hurt because of recanting, but also out of fear of giving consideration to what may have become of me. Amie was rushed off to BJU. Problem solved (slapping dust off of hands). From my then 13 year old perspective, her absence reflected an avoidance of what had transpired and the expectation to move on. I quickly learned to remain silent. I was not asked if I had been abused until I was an adult and the query was not about healing.
Ted had already begun his methodical conditioning of me prior to Amie’s departure. His intentions started well before his request of “I want you to think of me as your Father while you’re here (church/school).” His comments switching between “You’re being too prissy.” to “You’re being too unladylike.” and the beatings left me confused – which was exactly where he wanted his victims.
At Cookeville Christian School, during Ted’s one-on-one piano lessons, he required me to sit “Indian style” on the piano bench during which he sat eye level with the opening of my skirt. Beatings increased. In one day, I received 21 swats with the school’s 2×4 which results in painful welts. I remember going home and showing the wounds because it was painful to sit. My tears were met with my need to “suck it up” and follow the rules next time. Paddlings involved the clearing off of a large metal desk, requiring me to place my feet on the outside of the desk legs and bending over enough to lay our torso on top of the desk. This prone/vulnerable position caused unbelievable pain and was always followed by prayer asking God to forgive MY sin. The sin of a 12 year old not passing a science test. Thirty-one years later and I can remember the score. The shame culture was unrelenting and institutional.
Physical, emotional, mental and sexual abuse didn’t only happen in private, but in public and left me to questioning where I could be safe. Being touched while standing at the sink in the church kitchen forced me to hold my breath and turn around with an attempt of avoiding eye contact with anyone who may have seen. Ted knew he had complete control of his victims, their families and the church congregation. As a pre-teen, I didn’t lie in bed at night and think about what to wear the next day or a boy I may have had a crush on, I would lie in bed at night and plot his death.
When Ted was outed, he admitted to sinning, which was immediately followed with the request for the congregation to forgive him because God had forgiven him. He left and continued abusing elsewhere.
There are dark places on this earth, but His light is more powerful!
Wendy,my “baby sister”, I am so proud of you. I know this took a long time to get here. I am so sorry I didn’t tell sooner.
Amie, don’t apologize – never apologize for that. The day you told, Ted had placed me in detention for not raising my flag to ask to step away from my cubicle. Ted and I were alone in the building that evening and he had just stepped into the classroom to tell me that he would be moving me into his office for the remainder of my time. Mom showed up to tell him I was leaving with her and I don’t think she saw my relief. I cannot fathom the next step, had the chain of events not occurred as they did. I applaud you for the courage you have shown and love you for all that you are! I have been blessed with you and I am hopeful that others can draw courage from your faith and honesty.
Amie, Kelly, Wendy, and others,
I’m so sorry for what you have been through, and you are so brave for sharing your stories. I pray that you continue to find healing in the days ahead.
Amie, I am so sorry that you were not able to get earthly justice through the criminal justice system.
I am sorry for what all of you have been through. I graduated from the Marathon Christian Academy in NY and I remember a number of girls who would suddenly be missing. No one talked openly about it but I would overhear people talking about them being sent away to a boarding school down south because they had done something bad. I never knew where they had taken them.
Is this school still in operation? Was Ted ever charged with anything?
I am so sorry for what happened to you!
Please tell me that he did not die without some sort of consequences!
Amie ~ Your strength and courage is amazing! You paved the way for these others to have courage to speak out. That wolf wore his sheep’s clothing well! I stand by you all and am blessed to call you friend. On those days when you feel the waves crashing down on you know you are not alone.
i have time after time but one that really sticks out is i was in the office weekly. was the one where miss Taylor actually counted how many pairs of underwear i had on before she walked me over to the office because i knew it would take longer for him to get to me. lucky for me on that day she called my parents first on that day that was the only day i was saved from Mr. Anderson. i could go on and on put your hands on the typewriter, if you don’t raise your skirt or dress you won’t feel it and it won’t do any good. Let me rub it and make sure there are no bruising so your parents won’t know and you can’t tell. God knows it is for the best of all involved. i can go on and on
I would like to know the answers to Dan’s questions.
Is this school still in operation? Was Ted ever charged with anything?
I am so sorry for what happened to you!
Please tell me that he did not die without some sort of consequences!
It was mentioned he had children…did he do this to his own kids?
I am sick to think that he is still out there somewhere hurting more kids. Or if he abused his kids , they are out there abusing others. I am so very sad and sorry for the pain these women had to go through.
Peg, just want to make sure to clarify one thing that looks like it might be a misconception. Just because a man abused his children (we aren’t saying one way or another about Ted Anderson in this situation but are speaking in generalities) does not necessarily mean that they’ll go on to abuse others. Some abuse survivors do go on to abuse others, but other abuse survivors become some of the most protective and loving and gracious people you would ever want to know. ~Rebecca
Based on my recollection, Cookeville Christian School was closed somewhere around 1987. The church is still intact. A new principal was brought in to oversee the school until it’s closure.
Statue of limitation laws vary from state to state and in TN, it is 3 years.
At this point, we are outside the timeframe of legal accountability for the abuse he rendered all those years ago and regardless of how his decisions then are continuing to be painfully felt today.
Yes, Ted Anderson is still alive and living in another in another state. As for his children, only they can answer as to whether or not anything happened to them.
New Bethany and Longstreet in Arcadia, Louisiana. Also IFB many were abused there. I was sent in 1980 for conversion therapy. It was brutal.
Thank you for speaking out. I have been in therapy on and off for 30 years. It does get easier to live with. But the fight for justice is hard.
Anyone on here familiar or attend Grace in West Columbia, SC? I am so happy victims of spiritual abuse are speaking out.
Oh, Amie, I don’t know how to describe how much I wish you had never had to go through any of this. I never had any idea until the posts started about BJU. I wish that I had been able to help you and am so glad that you have begun to heal. Jesus is the only way any of us can feel safe, loved, and worthy all the time, no matter what. It is why He was born. I will pray for you for peace and strength and I admire your courage so much. Any problem I ever had is nothing compared to the horrors of what you have had to endure. I detest any church, and there are so many, that cover sin after sin for their own sake, regardless of the effect on the people they claim to serve in Jesus’ name. It disgusts me. Lose yourself in Him, and you will truly find yourself! Love
I am a Bible believing Christian. It sounds like there was a cult within this church. I went to public schools in Kentucky and I got paddled several times, so I believe you and can relate to most of what you say but what you relate is also just way, way out there.
First of all, boys got most of the paddlings in my school. Male principals could paddle girls but most of the time girls were paddled by female coaches or teachers. We were never required to lift our skirts or remove any clothing. We never got more than five licks. You could be paddled for cheating but never for failing a test or missing an assignment. There was none of this sick sexual stuff, no sexual pressure, bottom patting, kissing or hugging.
I still don’t believe in school corporal punishment, especially for teen girls. It is embarrassing and hurts your self-esteem. Sometimes there was some bruising but what you went through was far worse than anything I had to deal with. I will pray ofr all of you and sympathsize with you so much. I am glad that you came forward and identified this abuser.