|Darkness Now Light||
Anyway, <supporting D. in his effort to give G. an alternative to prison because ex-gay ministries are valid.> I might find myself arguing that ministry as an alternative to prison is not necessarily a right thing. To do so on a consistent basis would demand a restructuring of the idea of societal retribution for wrongs committed by individuals against it.
I am 100% in favor of treatment--it does work when administered correctly--but have seen some of my victims and know that part of their healing demanded that I be punished. As I told D., if God wants G. free to get treatment on the outside, He will cause it tobe so. But my premise in supporting offenders is to help them see the whole picture and not just as it relates to them (or as it related and still relates to me). God does love me despite what I have done, but that is a message not many in our churches could stomach. If they conceded to God loving me I do think they would amend the statement to reflect "but I hope the guy never sees the free world again."
Date: Sun, 25 Jan 1998
God doesn't do things by accident, and one thing I believe is that being connected with you is part of His plan. I have long ago stopped trying to second guess His plans because I was wrong most of the time.
Now I pray and ask His guidance, trusting that if I am to offer anything to this venture it will materialize. At the same time, please understand that my plate is overflowing lately. . .so many things I would like to do, write, and say but so little time for any of it.
I think of you and pray for you, Maggie, and ask that you do the same for me.
In Him, Bob
by Bob Van Domelen, Director
Broken Yoke Ministries
The various Wisconsin prison cells I occupied for almost three years were similar: a simple bunk, a small table or desk, and a window with bars that opened no more than a few inches. Other inmates nearby had committed murder, rape, armed robbery, and other crimes. My sentence: first and second degree sexual assault involving young men.
As a youmg child I loved to be held. One evening when I was about six years old, I climbed on my father's lap to kiss him goodnight.
My mother interrupted me. "Don't you think you're getting a little old for that?" she asked. I hesitated, then climbed down and offered only a verbal "Good night, Daddy." I never again held or kissed my father.
A few years later, I found myself involved in sexual activity with boys older than myself. I was scared at first but came to enjoy those times of intimacy. In the years that followed, I found other boys my age or slightly younger who responded to my encouragement for physical intimacy. Fear of discovery limited the number of physical encounters to once or twice a month. For a brief moment, my needs for love and touch were answered.
When I was 16, my dad died of complications due to diabetes. I tried to cry but tears came with difficulty, as though something in me had shut down.
Sporadic encounters with girls while in high school involved kissing and some rather unsuccessful hand explorations. Things were more serious in college as I lost my heterosexual virginity in an effort to prove to myself that I was normal. While somewhat uneasy about relating to the opposite sex, I had no problem finding physical pleasure with women. But the most meaningful relationships to me occurred with same-sex peers.
As a college freshman, I had been propositioned by an older man in a public restroom and soon began to frequent such places. For awhile I clung to the idea that such behavior was just experimentation—things that guys sometimes did. But as people around me discussed homosexuality, I realized they were describing the kinds of activities that I was doing.
After I graduated from college, something happened that brought great despair. One Sunday afternoon, I stood in the shower room of a local school after a swim in the pool. There was one other person in that shower room, a young man who seemed to watch every move I made. If I touched my leg, he touched his. When I smiled, so did he. I suggested that he might like to come to my apartment where we would be less likely to be interrupted, and he agreed.
Later, after having sex, I asked him, 'Why did you let me do this to you?" I'll never forget his answer: "Today is my fifteenth birthday. I wanted to find out what it was like to love a man."
I panicked. I'm a teacher and I just assaulted this kid! I thought. Please, God, don't let me get caught and its never happen again. But it did happen again.
Most of my students called me "Dad" and shared their hurts and hopes with me. Some of the young men were outwardly mature, but hidden behind the facade was a vulnerable child looking for love and tenderness. A factor which often made them susceptible was the absence of their own father. Before the end of any school year, I would be sexually involved with at least one male student.
I had met my wife, Cathie, during my first weeks as a teacher. A year after graduation from college, I had married with the hope that a heterosexual relationship might correct my own distorted life. My heart thought it understood love, but it was a confused and undeveloped boy and not a man who entered the marriage.
There were many nights when I lay awake and prayed that God would release me from the darkness in my life. Tears flowed at the thought of losing my wife and family. My prayer always ended, "Please don't let me get caught."
In April 1985, a student from 14 years previous returned to town for the sole purpose of confronting me. When he asked how many other young men I had sexually abused, I told him "none" and said that ours was a special relationship. But he sensed that I was not telling the truth, and went to the police.
Within days I was interrogated and arrested. I cannot remember what the police asked during the four hours of questioning, but when I was left alone, I heard a voice inside. "This is the answer to your prayers."
The next morning I was allowed freedom on bail and brought home by my wife. The media aired information about my arrest. I was so ashamed that I thought of committing suicide, but taking my life seemed too much of a contradiction to the words I had heard. How could suicide be the answer to my prayers?
Just over one year passed from the day of my arrest to my sentencing date. In that time, God's healimg love became evident as individuals and then a prayer community taught me how to seek His presence. At first I sought their God, their experiences. Eventually I learned to pursue my own personal relationship with God. I desperately needed to believe that Bob Van Domelen was worth saving and that my past sins did not necessarily dictate my future.
The hardest part of my final court appearance was having to listen to the court clerk, a complete stranger, read the detailed charges against me. A whole year had passed, a year free from pornography and behavior shrouded in dark secrecy. I wanted to scream, "I'm not the same person you are reading about!"
The judge asked me if I wanted to add anything on my own behalf. I gave a sincere apology to all those I had harmed. Then the judge sentenced me to five years prison and ten years subsequent probation. "I hope that your sentence will be a warning to others," he added. Society needs protection from people like you."
Word spreads quickly among men in confinement, and handmade signs began appealing my bed frame announcing that I was a Baby taper." Lewd and suggestive remarks were included along with comments that I was not fit to live. I'd flush these efforts down the toilet. The other men merely laughed and started all over. I rarely slept for more than 15-20 minutes at a time.
At first only my wife was allowed to visit me. Then Cathie managed to get the judge's permission for family visits to occur in another part of the building. I arrived with shackles on my hands and feet, only capable of small steps, between two armed guards. Of all my prison memories, the afternoon of that first visit with my family is the most painful to recall.
While in prison, I spent hours each day reading the Bible. No matter where I was sent within Wisconsin's prison system, I attended as many Bible studies as allowed.
One Tuesday morning in 1988, I found myself focusing on a single verse--Nehemiah 2:17. That evening at Bible study, the guest speaker was Bill Windel, director of a local ex-gay outreach called Broken Yoke Ministries.
Bill gave his testimony and talked about his ministry. "Our Tuesday evening group is called the Nehemiah Fellowship," he said, "mostly because we see the truth behind the verse in chapter two, verse 17." I was amazed-that was the exact verse I'd been meditating on!
After the meeting, I talked to Bill and he gave me permission to call him collect whenever I felt a need. He always responded to my calls with hope, encouragement, and prayers. He was the first former homosexual I'd ever met, and his face literally glowed whenever he spoke of Jesus. Once out of prison, I drove to Madison each week to attend his group meetings. In September 1990, I began a Broken Yoke support group in the Milwaukee area. Bill's witness of love gave me the courage to believe that sharing my own testimony could make a difference for others.
My healing process is grounded in the knowledge that God loves me. I surrender my life to Him on a daily basis. As I've grown spiritually, I have become more aware of my choices, rather than simply succumbing to compulsive, addictive behavior.
I look at young men far differently than years ago. I no longer feed off their vulnerability or see in them some aspect of completion needed within myself. Writing in a private journal shows me how my thinking and behavior are changing.
Some things, like pornography, no longer have any attraction for me. But I am vulnerable in other areas. I avoid adult bookstores. I say a quick prayer before entering public restrooms. I cannot linger in locker rooms where young men might be changing.
I know these temptations offer only empty promises of fulfillment. I have a freedom now that I don't want to lose, a freedom built both on the memories of what God has done for me, as well as His promises for what lies ahead.
I see a therapist because I need an objective ear to help me sort out what I am feeling, a parole officer who is not afraid to ask direct questions, and friends with whom I am accountable. Most important, a portion of each day is set aside for studying God's Holy Word.
I spoke at a church recently and felt God encouraging me to confess my past sins against young men. Afterward a woman approached me and opened her arms in what was clearly an invitation for a hug. I stepped forward and was mere inches from making contact when she said, "I'm Sue, Oscar's mother." With a shock, I realized that I had been sexually involved with her son.
I accepted the hug with a plea for forgiveness. She told me that Oscar was now a minister in a large city. "Up until a few months ago, I hated you," she said. "One day I was sharing some of my hurt with my pastor's wife and she mentioned Broken Yoke." When Sue told her son about me, he responded, "I have been praying for that man ever since he was my teacher." I have written Oscar and asked for his forgiveness.
Today I share where I have been because the majority of people even many Christians—say that there is no hope for one such as myself But I know they are wrong. As Christ occupies more and more of this man named Bob, I am being changed into the man of God He created me to be. My prison doors have opened, and now I'm walking free.
This is a book of testimony from
a man who molested young people, was caught, convicted and discovered the
healing grace of