When all the stuff about Jack Schaap came to light, I became brave enough to tell a very abbreviated version of my story on the Do Right Hyles Anderson College Facebook page. I did put Bill Wininger’s name out there but, I want to tell my story here too.
I would have done this much sooner, but I am the mom of 5 children with the youngest being 3 weeks, so needless to say, I haven’t had much time to myself.
I started attending North Sharon Baptist Church as a 3 year old. As a matter of fact, it was Bethany Leonard’s dad who came to my door and invited my family to ride the church bus. Her family has been a blessing to my family. After all, they are the reason I started going to church.
I loved my childhood at North Sharon Baptist Church. It was like a second home and family to me; especially after my parents were divorced. I was in eighth grade when this happened so my church family was my rock. I knew the people had a genuine love and concern for me.
Well, right before my parents divorced, our church went through a big scandal and my brothers and sister and I, who were attending North Sharon Christian School at the time, suddenly found ourselves in a public school. My parents were advised this would be best because of our direct involvement in the scandal. We rode the bus of one of the men who was falsely accused. For me, it was devastating. My world had just fallen apart.
It was during this time when Bill Wininger started grooming me for abuse. It started off as innocent. He would call me into his office to make sure I was doing okay and give me hugs. Well, it proceeded into much more than that over the course of the next year. I knew it was wrong but, tried to justify it by telling myself he was the “man of God” and he had a reason for it. I remember thinking he was trying to judge my character and see if I was really a “good girl.”
One day after school, I rode home with another family at the school because I was babysitting for the family overnight. Needless to say, they could tell something was wrong right away. I was quiet the whole way home, could barely eat dinner and, was trying to hold back tears. I remember both Mr. and Mrs., ______ asking me what was wrong and I told them I couldn’t talk about it. But, deep down inside, I wanted to tell someone. Just before school let out that day, Bill Wininger called me into his office and that was when the worst of the abuse occurred. Not only was it worse than any other time in his office but, after he was done, he looked me in the eyes and asked me why I let him do that to me! It’s amazing I didn’t burst into tears right there. Instead, I just froze and didn’t say anything. After all, why did I let it happen?
Shortly after that incident, I remember purposely trying to avoid him. I was scared to death. I started having bad dreams at night and would sit up in my bed and just cry uncontrollably. My sister shared a room with me and was obviously concerned and curious as to why I kept doing this. She kept asking me to tell her what was wrong and I kept saying, “I can’t.” She finally told me, “You better tell me what’s going on!” Well, I finally told her but, made her promise not to tell anyone, not even my dad or brothers because I knew if my dad found out, we would never go to church again.
Soon after, I noticed I wasn’t alone. A couple of my friends (Robin Nixon being one of those friends) were being called into his office too. I at least felt safe enough to talk to my friends about the abuse. This is what got me through emotionally until I graduated high school. My brothers eventually found out somehow; not sure how, but it was the big secret of our youth group for the longest time. All the teenagers eventually knew about Bill Wininger.
Well, I’m sure I left something out, but I’ve already written a lot. Needless to say, this has made me a stronger person and there’s so much more I could share but will leave it for a different time.
If there is anyone out there who has been abused and is afraid to tell, please, please tell someone! I am glad my sister pried the truth out of me. She will never know how much it helped to finally tell someone. I love her more than words can say. She has been one of my biggest rocks through all this!