Pastor Mike Bickle, founder of the International House of Prayer in Kansas City, has been accused of clergy sexual abuse over several decades by multiple complainants. According to the statement released yesterday (see below), leaders have reviewed the allegations and found them to be credible.
While the statement does not explain how leaders undertook a process of credibility analysis, we can infer that it included the following steps:
(1) The identification of multiple prima facie credible complainants. They note that these women presented as “credible, trustworthy, and courageous.” While one strong complainant can certainly be sufficient to warrant an investigation and a finding of abuse, the more independent complainants one can identify, the stronger the overall case for abuse. Think of Ecclesiastes 4:12: “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”
(2) Absence of ulterior motives for false or embellished allegations. There is no evidence that the women would have motives to fabricate or embellish allegations against Bickle.
(3) The women would have strong motives to remain silent. When abuse survivors, female in particular, come forward to identify an abusive spiritual leader they often face skepticism and a strong social stigma particularly in contexts like the patriarchy of evangelical subculture. Note how the statement actually makes a point of pleading with people not to use “names” when referring to the complainants. (E.g. Abuse survivors have been maligned as “Jezebel” or “temptress.”) The fact that the women overcame this social stigma to speak out counts in their favour.
(4) Similar patterns of spiritual manipulation and sexual misconduct. The women appear to offer overlapping accounts (i.e. similar fact evidence).
(5) Bickle’s stonewalling response. Typically, those who are wrongly accused welcome an investigation, recognizing that light is the best disinfectant. By contrast, guilty parties tend to resist processes of inquiry. As the statement reports: “we were refused any sort of meeting.”
(6) Finally, Bickle exhibits DARVO: (denying, attacking, and attempting to reverse victim/offender). As the statement puts it, rather than engage the complainants, Bickle attempted to intimidate, isolate, and discredit. This is classic DARVO behaviour.
One final observation. The statement authors write “we could never have imagined” Bickle would be associated with such allegations. As one who works with Veritas Solutions doing investigations into this kind of abuse, I can say that there is almost always a pattern of pre-existing evidence that a person is a predator/abuser: the key is to learn how to identify it. In the words of Jesus, to be innocent as doves, but wise as serpents (Matthew 10:16).