Pierre's Story

Pierre's Story

  • Charming
  • Respectful
  • Caring
  • Determined
  • Overcomer

Sexual abuse isn’t talked about in many Black communities and church communities. That’s why I share my story—so that someone else out there knows they aren’t alone.

1 in 20 boys under 18 experience sexual abuse or assault. This survivor spotlights the warning signs. “You can change a child’s life if you say something.”

“I told my parents that I was in a relationship with the youth pastor and they said, ‘No, that is not a relationship; that is child abuse.’”

Pierre Chambers hadn’t wanted to say anything about the “relationship” with his youth pastor. What if he got in trouble or caused problems for his family or their church? But his dad had noticed that something was… “off.” And, as Pierre prepared for a weekend retreat with the very youth pastor who’d been abusing him, his dad asked Pierre what was going on.

Overcoming Child Sexual Abuse from a Church Leader

Between the ages of 12 and 15, Pierre endured child sexual abuse by his church’s youth pastor, a charismatic leader and close family friend who also served as the congregation’s choir director.

“My parents were very involved in the Black Pentecostal Church community—my dad was a deacon and my mom led the Sunday school, so I was at church almost every day of the week,” Pierre described. “I spent a lot of time with the youth pastor. He was like a big brother to me; he would pick me up from school and church; his wife would cook me dinner. My parents trusted him completely.” The youth pastor also gave Pierre gifts and special privileges for spending time with him one-on-one. 

“My parents trusted him completely.”

From a young age, Pierre was dedicated to the church. He was always eager to learn and get more involved, so he thought the youth pastor’s attention was a natural part of his mentorship. “He was someone who was always on my side,” Pierre shared. “When I would get in trouble with my parents, he would tell them that I should come over to his house for the night.” 

But Pierre’s parents sensed that something was wrong. They found it odd that their son was spending so much time alone with an adult. “They even asked me about it,” he said, “but I told them that everything was fine. I now realize that this was all an effect of grooming.”

Then the day arrived when Pierre’s dad pushed his son to open up. “I didn’t know how to get help. I just wanted an adult to look at me and know what was happening.”

Reporting the perpetrator and prosecuting the crime

Pierre’s parents took him to the hospital for a sexual assault forensic exam, but “I can’t remember anything from the exam,” he told us. “I know that people say [the exams] are retraumatizing, but for me, the way that manifested is that I have no recollection of it.”

Pierre’s parents also reported the abuse and began the long process of attending hearings. The perpetrator pleaded guilty to seven of 50 counts of felony childhood sexual abuse and was sentenced to six years in state prison.

The perpetrator pleaded guilty to seven of 50 counts of felony childhood sexual abuse and was sentenced to six years in state prison.

Teaching Others to See the Warning Signs

Because of his own experience, Pierre is now passionate about making sure that parents, educators, and anyone interacting with children or teens are familiar with the warning signs of sexual abuse.

“Keep an open line of communication with your kids—they need to know they can tell you if something happens,” he asserts. “Most importantly, trust your gut when you see something that seems off. You can change a child’s life if you step up and say something.”

Today, Pierre is a leader in his church, a musician, and a father. He is also a survivor of child sexual abuse.

“We’ve all heard about child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church,” Pierre pointed out, “so through my story, I want to shed light on how this also happens in other faith communities.”

For Pierre, it all comes down to trust. “I had profound trust in the church—it was the closest I could ever be to God. But that absolute trust can be broken and manipulated by bad individuals,” he said. “The church didn’t do this to me; an individual did. But it’s the system that allowed it.”

“Trust can be broken and manipulated by bad individuals.”

Writing, spending time in his community and with his faith mentors, and being a father all continue to play important roles in Pierre’s healing process. The author of the memoir, I Trusted You, Pierre and writer/director Lee Davis are currently working together to create a film based on his story.

“Sexual abuse isn’t talked about in many Black communities and church communities,” he said. “That’s why I share my story—so that someone else out there knows they aren’t alone.”

 

Subscribe to Policy News

91¢ of every $1 goes to helping survivors and preventing sexual violence.

Donate Now