Lisa Kum was 17 when she says she had sex with a man from her church who was nearly 16 years older than she was.
She said she, too, was sexually abused and groomed from a young age to accept it. The waves and winks began from the stage during Sunday morning services. The man would wave and later wrote notes to Kum that he would put in her coat pockets and hide in other places for her to find.
“I remember him waving at me and making faces and winking,” Kum said in an interview. “It was the winking that always made me feel a little weird, but I was so young. I was only nine.”
The man, who the Cap Times is not naming because he has not been charged with a crime, eventually got physical with Kum, she said, even after he married another woman. He continued to write her notes and they eventually had sex.
When the church’s pastor at the time, John Grant, found out about it around 1993, he told Kum she must confess to the adult women in the congregation and apologize if she wanted to continue attending the church, the church school and youth group.
So she did.
John Seidl, executive pastor of Calvary Gospel, replied to an email seeking comment for this story by saying the church stands by its previous statement.
“We obey and apply all Mandatory Reporting requirements defined by law in Wisconsin,” Seidl said.
Standing in front of dozens of women and admitting to an act she later realized was abuse was a humiliation Kum still has not processed and avoided dealing with for years, she said.
“I was terrified. I was humiliated. Humiliated is probably the best word for it. I didn’t really understand why I had to do it, but I did it because basically I didn’t want to go to hell,” she said. “But they made me take responsibility as if I was the one at fault."
Despite making the confession, Kum and at least seven other former Calvary Gospel Church members who witnessed her confession or attended Calvary at the time say she was kicked out of school and youth group and shunned.
“What I didn’t realize is that in addition, they were going to tell all my friends … never to speak to me,” she said. “I don’t even know how to put it into words. We were never allowed to have friends outside of the church or associate with people outside of the church and all of a sudden all of my friends are gone.”
Several other women who said they experienced sexual abuse at Calvary said what happened to Kum scared them and deterred them from speaking up about the abuse they said they endured until years later.
“At the time, they really treated us like we were the ones who did wrong and it’s no wonder why the other girls were always afraid to come forward because a lot of them saw what happened to me,” Kum said. “I was basically the Scarlet Letter.”
Grant told Kum and her parents, Dan and Laura Anderson, at the time that he was taking care of the problem and the Andersons and Kum said they were led to believe that Madison police were involved and aware of the man’s behavior. They later learned that police were never contacted.
“They really did believe it was reported and I think they were doing what they thought was right at the time,” said Kum. Anderson said she believed for decades that the police reviewed the allegations, only to find out in recent years that was not the case.
After the confession, Kum and the man continued to see one another and eventually got married, she said. He promised her an exciting life and, looking back, she remembers just going along with it.
“It’s so hard for me to wrap my brain around everything. I was very emotionally immature and I don’t think I understood what I was getting myself into. I don’t even know how to express it sometimes,” she said. “To be honest, I haven’t really talked about my whole story. This is the first time I’ve sat down and talked about the whole thing. My brain is kind of scattered and all over the place.”
Kum was married to the man for 15 years and, during that time, she said, she came to see the relationship as abusive and manipulative. She believed for years that because of the confession she gave and the subsequent shunning, she was going to hell.
With that mindset, she said, her 20s were spent repressing many of the memories from her teens. In her 30s, she acted like a college student, she said, making reckless decisions and hanging with the wrong crowd.
“I’m learning to let it go, (but) it takes a long time to heal from that kind of mentality and to really get it out of your brain,” she said.
Kum has been in therapy to try to process it more, but even talking to a counselor doesn't get at the depth of the experience that has bred distrust and anxiety within her. She struggles to open up to anyone, she said.
“I was so humiliated. I never want to walk down that path again,” she said. “Why would I put myself in that situation again?”
For her, speaking out is about putting an end to whatever might be happening at Calvary Gospel today, she said. She wants to see Wisconsin’s laws change to require clergy to report allegations of sexual abuse to police, as is the law in at least six other states.
“Just because it's church, doesn’t mean it’s safe,” she said. “I want this to stop. I don’t want these churches to continue to have this loophole in the mandatory reporting. Getting up in front of the church and apologizing is not the way you deal with kids who have been abused.”