9&10 News Investigation: Woman Claims She Was Abused by Baptist School Teacher in Gaylord
Our investigation into a Gaylord Baptist Church is finding more people who say they were sexually abused by a former teacher.
It comes after a report unveiled hundreds of allegations of abuse against independent fundamental Baptist church officials nationwide.
On Wednesday we reported on Aaron Willand, a former teacher at Grace Baptist Christian School in Gaylord.
He left the school in the mid-2000s.
Later, he was sent to prison in Washington, convicted of raping a former student.
Now another woman has come forward claiming she was abused by a different former teacher, when she was a student at Grace Baptist Christian.
Brianna Stevenson says her former teacher began abusing her at 16 and it lasted until she was 19. She says she never told anyone out of fear.
“I had to live a double life most of my life and pretend that never happened because I was so scared,” Stevenson, said.
Stevenson says the teacher acted like a father figure at first.
“Everything about it was strange but I didn’t have a great father figure at the time, I just didn’t know, I was very naïve,” she, added.
She says over time it got worse.
“He gave me more hugs and kisses on the cheek and he was say oh it’s just father and daughter stuff. When I confronted him I was crying I said I don’t understand I thought you wanted me to be like a daughter not something else and he just got so angry and say how could you accuse me of doing something wrong, I would never hurt you I love you too much,” Stevenson, added.
Brianna says she was so scared to leave, she even went to stay with him in West Virginia after he left the school.
“Once he started touching me it was like I was his and that was it and that was my life. He made me think that I would have nowhere to go,” Stevenson, added.
The church says the teacher left in 2007 and they were made aware of the allegations when Brianna called them in 2011.
Brianna called police around the same time but says police never pursued it.
The church did not want to do an interview but in an e-mail said they contacted police when they learned of the allegations and said:
“We are interested in anything that can be done to help the victims of these two former employees of our ministry. Words cannot fully describe the depravity of those that hurt children.”
Their full statement is below:
“As a church ministry, we are always dismayed when any former employee is accused of and convicted for breaking the law. Aaron Willand was a teacher fifteen years ago whose contract was not renewed for violating ministry policy and procedures. He left without any support or recommendation from our ministry regarding any future employment. After his termination, the victim reported to her mother, who then informed Pastor Jenkins, that Aaron Willand, a former school employee (8/13/2001 – 6/4/2003), had raped her in Washington state. Pastor Jenkins was horrified, and along with the victim’s mother, immediately reported this crime to the authorities in Otsego County. Aaron Willand was immediately arrested in Washington, convicted, and served five years in prison, a sentence that does not seem severe enough.
David Beckner was a former school employee (8/30/2004 – 6/1/2007). He resigned and returned to his home state of West Virginia. Years later Pastor Jenkins received a phone call from a former student who stated Beckner had abused her. As in the Willand case, Pastor Jenkins was devastated for her and immediately called local police. The victim filed a restraining order against David Beckner in 2011.
As a matter of policy, Grace Baptist Church reported these abuse accusations to the authorities. The church and school position regarding these and any other potential victims is that transparency, safety, and accountability are essential. Pastor Jenkins and the Grace Baptist Church stand with and support the victims of sexual assault. To cause a victim to feel condemnation violates Scripture and is a sin. Victims need to know that they are supported, loved, believed and prayed for.”