Austin woman strives to prevent sexual abuse in church

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CBS 42 Reporter: Annalisa Petralia
5/01/2008 KEYE-TV


Christa Brown operates a website called

Pope Benedict XVI's recent visit with victims of church sex abuse cast light on how reports of sexual abuse are handled in other churches.

CBS 42's Annalisa Petralia sat down with an Austin woman who says she was sexually abused at her Baptist Church.

She's a mother, a lawyer, and a victim of sexual abuse in her church. Christa Brown launched a web site and crusade against sexual predators in the Baptist Church.

She shared her story Thursday and talked about how the experience prompted her to help others.

"I want kids in Baptist churches today to be a very great deal safer than I was growing up," Brown said.

After enduring years of sexual abuse in her own church, Brown's pain has turned into her mission.

She is the founder of, a Baptist Church sex abuse awareness web site.

In 1969 the devout Southern Baptist teen was sexually assaulted by her minister.

"It was very much a twisting of scripture and Bible versus God's will," Brown says. "And ultimately I believed and went along and was compliant."

At the time, her cries for help were ignored by members of the church.

Decades later she tried to report the abuse again. The statute of limitations was up to file criminal charges, so she filed a civil suit.

"It was a very, very difficult process," she said. "And when I thought about that, I just couldn't live with it. I wondered how many more there were."

There is no system for reporting abuse.

Suzii Paynter works with the Baptist General Convention of Texas. She says they take clergy sex abuse claims very seriously.

"Periodically we send out letters to all 5,700 churches about clergy sexual misconduct," Paynter says.

The Baptist General Convention's site also reports convictions of clergy sex abuse.

"Have you forgiven the church?" Petralia asked Brown.

"Mostly I don't think about forgiveness," she answered. "I certainly don't dwell on it in the sense of harboring anger for them. I believe they were human beings who made a terrible, dreadful mistake."

It's a mistake Brown strives to prevent from happening again.