Attendees saw tears of relief, not just sadness, Megan Lively said at an event focused on addressing sex abuse in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). In April, the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) changed the direction of its 2019 national conference in the wake of news reports about abuse in Southern Baptist churches.
Karen Race Photography 2019
Lively, a member of Peace Church in Wilson, N.C., shared her experience as a sexual abuse survivor for the first time on a public stage at “Caring Well: Equipping Churches to Confront the Abuse Crisis.” The conference was held Oct. 3-5 in Grapevine, Texas.
“I’m glad that we’re having conversations about this subject,” Lively told the Biblical Recorder in an interview Oct. 4. “I know one girl that wept through an entire talk, and I knew she was relieved that we’re having this conversation.”
Lively first came forward as a survivor of sexual assault in May 2018, when she identified herself as the woman in a Washington Post article who had been allegedly assaulted by a male student while enrolled at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) in 2003. Lively also claimed she was encouraged by then-president Paige Patterson not to report the incident to police.
Telling her story to help other victims came with unforeseen costs, she said. Lively encountered scrutiny and skepticism. Lawyers asked if she had financial or marital problems. Even some family members did not believe her.
Lively advised survivors to “guard your story” in her talk.
“There’s a part of me, looking back, had I known, I don’t know if I could’ve done it,” she told the Recorder. “God carried us through it.
“The most heartbreaking thing is when I hear women talk about their faith. They struggle with their faith, or they question their faith. That’s one thing I had never struggled [with]. I just had this visual of God literally holding me in His hands for the last 15 years.”
Recounting her experiences, Lively talked about her husband’s care, help from Southern Baptist leaders and rediscovering a calling to ministry.
“The darkness has not overcome the light,” she said.
Lively recently returned to SEBTS to complete her master’s degree after withdrawing in the early 2000s.
While undergoing Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy, which is designed to treat post-traumatic stress, she “kept seeing an open door, a chapter that needed to be finished … and I know it was God leading me to finish what I started at SEBTS.”
Lively said she also wanted to show both male and female survivors “that God redeems people and institutions.”
When asked whether the SBC was acting quickly enough to address sexual abuse in its churches, Lively said it will take time, but she sees change happening.
“There’s not an overnight fix, especially when the SBC is so large, and we still have strongholds,” she said. “We still have people that remain among us that want that power that was held on to for so long. We are seeing God crumble power and take down strongholds, painful at times, but necessary.
“God is really changing hearts,” said Lively. “It takes a while, but I think you look at these leaders now, and it’s contagious … we’re drawn to people that genuinely love all people, especially the vulnerable, and have a desire to help the broken and hurting.”
The full text of what Lively shared at the ERLC conference is available at meganlively.com/single-post/2019/10/08/My-Survivor-Story.