WEST MEMPHIS, Ark. — Kenny Stubblefield says he was 16 years old when a church leader sexually abused him.
“The most damaging part to me was not the sexual physical abuse, it was the mental spiritual abuse by the people I went and told about my abuse afterwards,” he said.
He says the Collierville pastor he confided in recommended he keep quiet about it.
But he found out he wasn’t alone and three years ago, he went public on social media.
“I didn’t know the impact it had on my life until I started dealing with it, until I started getting help, until I started talking to people about it.”
Since then, thousands of others from various religions have shared their stories.
Last month, more than 300 priests were named as predators in a report out of Pennsylvania.
And now a Bishop with the Diocese of Little Rock is naming more.
“The greatest thing a person in a leadership setting like that can do, a pastoral leadership position can do, is just be transparent and not enable abuse to happen by staying silent,” said Stubblefield.
Bishop Anthony B. Taylor released a list of a dozen priests he says have had credible sexual abuse allegations against them.
Five of them were once assigned in Catholic Churches in our area in West Memphis, Forrest City, Blytheville and Helena West Helena. All were removed from active ministry at least a decade ago. Three of them are no longer alive.
In part of his statement, Bishop Taylor wrote, “In my own name and in the name of the Church, I would like to apologize to all victims for the abuse you have suffered and for the way that Church leadership has sometimes failed you in the past. I am committed to doing everything in my power to ensure that this never happens again.”
Bishop Taylor said the goal is to be transparent and encourage people to come forward in the wake of the recent scandals in the Church.
“What I think it does for other victims and survivors is say, ‘There are people out there who believe you. There are people out there that will stand with you,'” said Stubblefield.
Stubblefield hopes all churches will start utilizing lists and registries of sexual abusers, so religious leaders don’t unknowingly move to other places and prey on new victims.
“The more information, the more transparency that’s out there, the more protected our kids are.”
The Bishop’s statement also says the church is offering full assistance to any victims and they’re working with the Attorney General’s Office.
The Attorney General’s Office released the following statement:
Attorney General Rutledge is coordinating with the Diocese to review and investigate allegations of abuse. The Attorney General will not tolerate abuse and will work with local prosecutors and the Catholic diocese to address any issues in Arkansas. Attorney General Rutledge encourages Arkansans with information to contact the Attorney General’s office or a local prosecutor.
We reached out to all the nearby churches to see if any alleged abuse took place while the priest was assigned there. We are waiting to hear back.