Pierre's Story

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

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

He experienced child sexual abuse between the ages of 12 and 15. The perpetrator was the youth pastor at his church, a close family friend. As the choir director, the perpetrator was also a charismatic and important leader in the church.

“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 says. 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 gave Pierre gifts, special attention, and privileges for spending time with him one-on-one. From a young age, Pierre was dedicated to the church and knew he wanted to learn more and get more involved, so he thought these special privileges were just part of learning about the church and shadowing his mentor.

“He was someone who was always on my side. When I would get in trouble with my parents, he would tell them that I should come over to his house for the night. My parents could sense something was off—it seemed odd that I was spending so much time alone with an adult. They even asked me about it, but I told them that everything was fine. I now realize that this was all an effect of grooming.”

Pierre didn’t want to say anything because he was worried he’d get in trouble or cause an issue in his family or the church. But eventually, he was prompted to tell his parents when preparing to attend a weekend retreat with the youth pastor.

Pierre’s dad noticed that something was off and asked him about it.

“That’s when 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.”

His parents took him to the hospital to get a sexual assault forensic exam.

“I can’t remember anything from the exam. I know that people say they are retraumatizing, but for me the way that manifested is that I have no recollection of it.”

Pierre’s parents reported the abuse and began a 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.

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

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 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. Most important, trust your gut when you see something that seems off. You have the ability to change a child’s life if you step up and say something.”

Writing, spending time in his community and with his faith mentors, and being a father have all been important parts of Pierre’s healing process. Pierre is also the author of a memoir and account of the abuse, I Trusted You. He 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. That’s why I share my story, so that someone else out there knows they aren’t alone.”

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