In the post below about Afshin Javid, one of the questions commenters are asking is why women who experienced inappropriate sexual contact by this former Vancouver Christian Fellowship staff member have not gone to police.
Again, this is a situation where Canadian Christians are doing the right things, helping victims, notifying the ministerial association ( Christian Ministers Association) contacting a BC church Javid supposedly represented himself as a staff member of, warning media and parachurch conferences where Javid is scheduled to participate, pleading with Javid’s current church (Church of Zion) to keep him out of ministry, and going to law enforcement.
Rev. Nick Osborne
is a youth minister of an SBC affiliated church in Kettering BC (First Baptist) Who went to police. (correction – not this Rev. Osborne! my bad – BD) He is a former minister and former co-pastor with Javid. From The Truth about Afshin Javid:
In fact, the police were notified immediately when the women came forward by Rev Nick Osborne. As I recall, his wife had a relative who was an RCMP member. According to Nick the police acknowledged that this was a breach of trust but because the women were not minors, they had to file the complaint themselves. In the summer of 2011, another former VCF member phoned the police also and messaged the bulk of the VCF adherents on Facebook to say that he had done so.
In Canada the statistics of sexual assault reporting is sobering.
- Of every 100 incidents of sexual assault, only 6 are reported to the police
- 1 – 2% of “date rape” sexual assaults are reported to the police
- 1 in 4 North American women will be sexually assaulted during their lifetime
- Only 2 – 4% of all sexual assaults reported are false reports
Sexual assault is about power and control, shame and fear are emotional and soul wounds which take time, support and professional help to overcome. Trauma cripples. Christians can do a great deal to stop the blame and shame game. In Canada the criminal code definition of assault also applies to sexual assault.
265. (1) A person commits an assault when
- (a) without the consent of another person, he applies force intentionally to that other person, directly or indirectly;
- (b) he attempts or threatens, by an act or a gesture, to apply force to another person, if he has, or causes that other person to believe on reasonable grounds that he has, present ability to effect his purpose; or
- (c) while openly wearing or carrying a weapon or an imitation thereof, he accosts or impedes another person or begs.
(2) This section applies to all forms of assault, including sexual assault, sexual assault with a weapon, threats to a third party or causing bodily harm and aggravated sexual assault.
(3) For the purposes of this section, no consent is obtained where the complainant submits or does not resist by reason of
- (a) the application of force to the complainant or to a person other than the complainant;
- (b) threats or fear of the application of force to the complainant or to a person other than the complainant;
- (c) fraud; or
- (d) the exercise of authority.
There is no time limit in British Columbia on when a sexual assault can be reported to police. So why aren’t alleged sexual assault victims of Afshin Javid going to police?
Dr. Daniel Holmes left a comment here at BDBO which will help people understand why it is such a difficult journey for these young adults to reclaim and regain their emotional, social and spiritual power.
The women are in a very complex situation. Let me explain:1. Exclusivity
You have to understand the cult mentality that existed in VCF. Once brought into VCF, friendships were redirected so that they were nearly exclusively within the group. This was fostered by a strange kind of superiority and narcissism that this was the “real church” and this as the “real faith” described in Acts 2.:44 whereas people in other churches were second rate. So there was a sense of privilege for being “one of the chosen ones” – there was a lot of flattery too. The whole thing played into the narcissistic tendencies that exist in all of us – and I include myself in this. There was a tremendous pressure to be at Afshin’s all of the time. Afshin’s house was always open. This was presented as an act of generosity but in fact, it was employed as a Trojan Horse. This would allow people to be there late into the night when they were emotionally vulnerable. You get the picture.2. Isolation
As the attention of the young people who attended was gradually focussed inward into the group, their outside relationships tended to diminish. This was particularly true for kids who decided to go live at the house. This offer was always on the table it seemed. Once people were living at the house, there was an opportunity to develop what my friend Faith (pseudonym) called “the new normal”, that is, “the adjusted moral calibrator”. Afshin would gradually adjust the tone of discussions group and private to encompass sexual matters. It started with joking and then it would proceed (recall: out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks).3. Prophetic Leader
The third and most potent part of the deception was that Afshin unequivocally assumed the role of prophet. This was predicated on the theophany (ie vision of Christ) he claims in his book. He would sometimes say, “Well, I am the one who looked into Jesus’ eyes” – that is “I know what Jesus is like [and you don't]“. After the vision of Christ, he claimed to be given this prophetic gift. He did not say explicitly that he was a prophet but he claimed to be able to look into anyone’s life and see in an instant the state of their soul. He would convey this “state” with a drawing, that is, a picture metaphor. Some people were very moved by what he had to say to them. He would always start by saying, “I have a gift, a spiritual gift, Jesus gave to me”. He would sometimes say, “Let’s have some fun with this. What do you want to know?” Then there would be a drawing and a little bit of back and forth where he would ask the recipient if the picture made sense. If the picture resonated with the person, that was it. They were hooked. Afshin’s picture drawings were generically referred to as “Afshin’s gift” – everyone knew this meant the picture drawings.On the matter of prophecy, Afshin’s dreams played an important role in control of the group. He would have dreams that were obviously self-serving (like Mohammad – see Surah 33 for example). One fine example was the attempt to poach my friend’s motorcycle. “Don (pseudonym), I had a dream that you gave me your motorcycle”. That is, “Don, you are going to give me your motorcycle in the future”. I know, it’s laughable, but people would believe it. After all, people believed Mohammad when he said that he was allowed to take Zaynab (the wife of his adopted son) as his own wife, because Allah had given special dispensation.4.Obedience
Over the course of a short period, say weeks, the devotion obtained with the picture drawing would lead to more sessions and gradual control. He would frame obedience to himself personally as a prerequisite for staying in the group. Any challenge to his authority was really framed as disobedience to God. He repeatedly talked about his “army mentality” – “As I submit to my elders, so you also should submit to me” – except whenever he was asked to submit to his elders, he refused. In fact, his refusal to submit to any authority is why he kept migrating accountability.5. Shunning and Shaming:
People who left the group were characterized as disobedient to God and were shamed and shunned – and I mean shunned. At MissionsFest this w/e I was told by an ex-VCF female that when I broke contact with Afshin, she was not allowed to call me and ask why. She was only told “it was his issue not ours”. She was forced to join in the shunning. Shaming and shunning were a big part of the control. And here is the kicker, if you crossed the leader, you would be shunned and then you would lose your entire support structure all in one shot. Fortunately for me, I was not a VCF member per se… I just came to the house from time to time. I still got shunned – thank the LORD. There was a pervasive fear of rebuke from Afshin because it was understood that he was the one who had the prophetic gift. When he spoke, for some of them, it was as if God was speaking.6. Compromise
Wearing down of previously established moral barriers was a big part of the VCF technique. This was accomplished by framing personal codes of ethics as “spirits of religiosity”. So, for example, exhorting Afshin not to make off colour jokes or swear might be framed as “a religious spirit”. By the systematic application of this technique over the course of months, you could take a clean living kid and get them to think it’s OK that the pastor is massaging topless women in his living room. I know that seems patently ridiculous but it worked. Kids who came from upright homes were suddenly participating in things that would have struck them as entirely repugnant 6 months earlier.7. And most confusingly
Through all of this, great worship sessions were maintained as were really powerful sessions of prayer among the adherents. It seemed that God still came and met with those gathered in his name.So, I think that the reader understands when you love bomb, isolate, create devotion and obedience to a prophet, you can basically get anyone to do anything. I used to think only a half-wit could fall into a cult. Now I know that any passionate person with a deep desire for growth, if they end up in the wrong place, can be a spiritual victim.Back to the original point: the women feel ashamed for having fell for something so stupid and they are genuinely afraid of Afshin – I mean very afraid. I have talked to them. But as John said, “We do not have a spirit of fear.”Lord Jesus, would you glorify your Father in this? Please help your servants clean up this mess by your grace and power. Restore your glory LORD.