The Indiana woman who confronted a pastor for allegedly abusing her as a teen described the years of grooming at the hands of the church leader — and her decision to go public.
Bobi Gephart said family members convinced her to approach 65-year-old pastor John B. Lowe II at New Life Christian Church and World Outreach when the pastor announced he was stepping down due to committing adultery two decades ago.
“I had family members texting me … saying, ‘You need to get to the church. You should be there. They need to hear your story,’” she told Fox News. “I was not ready for church. I just threw my sandals on and told my niece that was here to take me.”
Bobi’s husband, Nate, had already planned to confront the pastor about his years of grooming and sexual abuse himself, he told the outlet. Instead, Bobi chose to confront her abuser herself in front of the congregation with her husband at her side.
On stage at the church, Lowe admitted that he had “committed adultery … nearly 20 years ago.”
“I committed adultery. It was nearly 20 years ago, it continued far too long,” he said from a podium, according to a viral video posted on Facebook by a church member. “It involved one person and there’s been no other, nor any other situation of unbecoming conduct for the last 20 years. I will not use the Bible to defend, protect and deflect my past sin. I have no defense. I committed the adultery.”
Bobi Gephart confronted John B. Lowe after he confessed to having an affair 20 years ago.
He continued talking about his “sin” for several minutes as he apologized for the hurt it has caused both his family members and his congregation, adding that he’s repented for his actions and his silence. He asked for forgiveness and informed congregants that he would be stepping down as pastor to a standing ovation of applause.
But Gephart knew that this was not the true confession, and took to the stage to tell her church community what had actually happened.
“What I wanted was freedom,” she told Fox about getting on stage to tell her story. “And for my husband to know my heart, and for people not to be lied to anymore.”
“We took it upon ourselves and went right to the stage without anybody’s permission and took the mic,” she recalled.
Nate spoke to the congregants first: “If you love us, then please let us talk,” he pleaded before Bobi took the microphone.
“For 27 years I lived in a prison. It was not 20 years … I was just 16 when you took my virginity on your office floor. Do you remember that? I know you do,” Gephard, now 43, told Lowe. “I lived in a prison of lies and pain. Lying to protect the Lowe family. I thought I was a horrible person having suicidal thoughts, not realizing what had truly been done to me,” she said.
“The church deserves to know the truth. This church has been built on lies, but no more. The lies need to stop,” she said in the clip.
She told the congregation she would still be in that “prison of lies” had it not been for her brother asking her about a month ago about “what he had seen as a teenager that bothered him all these years” — including seeing Lowe lying in bed with Bobi as a teenager when she was in just a t-shirt and underwear.
She said fear had kept her silent for over two decades.
“The lies and the manipulation have to stop,” she emotionally told the crowd. “I was a prisoner, and you kept me in your prison. I’m a prisoner no longer.”
Nate takes back the microphone and said the abuse lasted nearly a decade until he and Bobi started dating.
“My wife, it’s not just adultery. It’s another level when it’s a teenager, and I will not let this man talk about my wife like that,” he says. “It happened for nine years, when she was 15, 16, the sexual grooming started.”
“It goes far beyond adultery,” he added.
Lowe, facing loud demanding questions from members of the audience, admits “We did it, At 16. She was 16 years old.”
He asked again for forgiveness.
“If I could go back and re-do it all, I would. I can’t, and all I can do is ask you to forgive me,” Lowe says in the surreal exchange. “It’s been 20 years. I know, I guess it doesn’t count for anything. We loved them, I deeply hurt them, I deeply hurt you. I ask you to forgive me, and that’s all I can do.”
Lowe did not respond to several inquiries for comment from Fox News. However, New Life Christian Church and World Outreach released an official statement on the allegations.
The church said “this long-held secret first came to light when a woman in the church came forward and disclosed the relationship to various people within the church.
“When confronted by others in church leadership concerning that report, Pastor Lowe confessed privately that the adultery did, in fact, occur,” the statement said, adding that the relationship between Lowe and the woman continued until she was in her 20s.
“In the wake of what has now been revealed, we are hurting and broken for a woman who has lovingly attended and served in the church for many years, as well as for her husband and family,” the church continued.
Gephart told Fox News she had never considered herself to be “an actual victim.” After speaking with her brother on May 9, she said she had finally mustered up the courage to tell her husband what she had experienced after hiding it from him for years.
“I asked my brother to help me tell Nate,” she said. “What I just wanted in my life was freedom, for him to know me and to know what I went through and just to be honest. And I partly believed that it was my fault.”
“All I ever wanted was for [Nate] to know me, because I lied to him. He thought I was a virgin when we got married,” she said, seated while sitting beside her husband for an interview. “And so this whole time he has no clue that even the man he’s looking up to had done these horrendous things to me.”
She described how difficult it was to come forward and tell the truth about a man whose family was “like a family to us.” Gephart’s mother had been a nanny to the Lowe family and Bobi and Nate had lived with them for a time, she said.
“And that is what was the hardest part … hard for people to realize that we were there all the time and heavily involved in our church. And this whole time, stuffing those secrets inside me,” she said.
“Everything I knew was that church. My whole life was that church. I went to school at that church,” Gephart said.
The grooming, she said, started with “Shoulder massages, lap sits, long hugs, things like that nature that would get longer and deeper,” before escalating.
Gephart told Fox that although the sexual aspect of their relationship began when she was 16 — the legal age of consent in Indiana — “molestation happened prior to that.”
There are currently no plans to take legal action against Lowe, she said, given the age of consent and statute of limitations in the state, but said she and her family are working on healing together.
She has not spoken to Lowe since confronting him, but said a family had reached out and was “very kind.” She said she hopes the pastor’s “heart changes.”
She urged all of those who have been victims of sexual abuse to find someone they can talk to.
“You can’t just live your life trying to protect others. You also have to free yourself.”
To see more documents/articles regarding this group/organization/subject click here.