The Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing: Sandy Phillips Kirkham’s Fight Against Clergy Sexual Abuse

By Karen Robinson

Heal Thrive Dream 

The Heal Thrive Dream Podcast
The Heal Thrive Dream Podcast
The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing: Sandy Phillips Kirkham's Fight Against Clergy Sexual Abuse

Sandy Phillips Kirkham, a beloved figure in her church, was sexually abused by her pastor for five years, and despite the abuse, she was blamed and exiled from her safe haven, forcing her to keep her trauma a secret for 27 years.

“Victims need to understand that you are not responsible for what was done to them. You were targeted. You were trapped, and you only could deal. And the only way you knew how was with the coping skills was you had at the time.”

Sandy Phillips Kirkham is an advocate and spokesperson for victims of clergy sexual abuse, having experienced it herself at age 16. She has spoken before the Ohio Senate and a Maryland court, serves on the Board of COCA, and works with survivors conducting victim support conferences.

Sandy Phillips Kirkham was an active young girl in the church and looked to her youth pastor as a father figure. Over a year, he groomed her with kisses and hugs until he eventually sexually abused her for five years. He used a technique of love and fear to keep her under his control and when he was caught, he was given a going away party and accolades. Sandy was told to keep the secret, or she would be blamed and for 27 years she kept it. Eventually, she confronted him and sought healing. Her journey was messy and full of lies, deceit, and low self-esteem.

In this episode, you will learn the following:

1. Exploring the Impact of Sexual Abuse at a Young Age: Learn how being sexually abused by a church youth pastor affected Sandy Phillips Kirkham, and what it meant to be a victim of abuse in a church.

2. Uncovering Abusers' Tactics: Find out how abusers groom victims and manipulate entire congregations, and how Sandy's abuser used fear and control tactics to keep her in a relationship with him.

3. Discovering the Long-Term Effects of Trauma: Understand the trauma-bonding, gaslighting, and imposter syndrome that Sandy experienced, and how it took her 27 years to come to terms with her abuse and begin the healing process.


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Chapter Summaries:

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Today's guest is Sandy Phillips, who experienced clergy sexual abuse at age 16 by her youth pastor. She now uses her voice to advocate for victims and changes in the church.

She tells her story in her book, Let Me Pray Upon You. 

The author was sexually abused by her youth pastor as a young girl. She says groomers look for people with vulnerabilities. They exploit those vulnerabilities, she says. 

Author says she was sexually abused by a church minister when she was 21 years old. She kept it a secret for 27 years before confronting him 27 years later. She says victims need to understand they are not responsible for what was done to them.

The author has been criticized for not using her abuser's full name in her new book. She says it's risky to use somebody's name for multiple reasons. Our healing journeys are our own, and it's important that victims understand that she says.

All right. Well, thank you for telling us about that. I always feel when I work with survivors, there's choices and there's pros and cons to all choices. So you made the best decision for you, right? Yeah. And he knows who he is.

I never knew which person was going to show up. Eventually I accepted the relationship, and he became more deviant sexually. I felt like I was in a black hole with no way out.

She had an affair with a married man who was the pastor of her church. She kept it secret for 27 years before confronting him in 2004. The experience has affected her relationship with God in many ways. It's been 18 years of healing.

How did the abuse impact your marriage? It affected me in the way I responded to him in the sense of trusting him sexually. As fearful as I was of telling him, he couldn't have been any more supportive and kinder.

How did the abuse impact your parenting? I never worried about her safety because I didn't want to acknowledge my own abuse. However, I am watchful with my granddaughters. Their spiritual life was not what I would have chosen for them had I been a different parent.

Did the abuse have any impact on your physical health, your physical wellbeing? What about your mental health, depression, post-traumatic stress, anxiety? How did the abuse impact your education?

You were targeted, and your vulnerabilities were exploited. I also say that you need to tell someone, and that's coming from someone who took 27 years to finally tell someone. If you can get counseling, I highly recommend that. We need a safe place.

There is no end to healing. You won't get to a stopping point, but you can heal. How can a victim reach you if they want to connect with you? Are you going to write another book?

Sandy, it's been an honor to have you on here today, and I'm appreciative of telling your story. Please join us next week, same day and time. Also, I would love for you to check out my website. Healthrivedream.com

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Karen Robinson

  Karen Robinson  

About the Author

I'm Licensed therapist with 24 years of clinical experience. Service driven, specializing in trauma recovery, anxiety, and depression, holistic care, and transformation to create an impact for trauma survivors globally. Services include coaching, therapy, virtual courses, digital products, and on-line memberships.  Follow me: Karenrobinson360.com

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