Local Pastor Fights for Sexual Abuse Prevention

Darkness to Light is getting increased response for workshops on preventing childhood sexual abuse since the Penn State scandal. A local pastor has spoken out about his experience.

By Adrianne Murchison January 12, 2012

Darwin Hobbs, who is training to become a Darkness to Light facilitator, said he was sexually abused by his stepfather from 10- to 12-years-old.

“For many years I kept it secret and I did not tell a soul until I was about to marry my wife Tracy, in 1993,” said Hobbs, 43, a worship pastor at Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church, in Norcross.

Hobbs said he told his mother just before his 40th birthday, after his stepfather died. He now talks about it openly, as part of his healing process. “There is tons of shame behind that kind of thing happening. You’re flooded with guilt, all kinds of depression…It’s like I literally died. Like all, sense of normalcy for me was no longer possible,” Hobbs said.

The harm is even deeper if an adult witnesses the abuse and doesn’t stop it. “Because you go though life with a sense of fear and not feeling protected,” he said. Referring to the Penn State scandal, Hobbs said, “I can only imagine if someone said, ‘What the hell are you doing?’ and you are rescued.”

One in four girls, and one in six boys are abused by their 18th birthday, according to Darkness to Light.

Yet conversations on sexual abuse can often bring an uncomfortable silence.

It’s something that Sandy Springs resident Kim Cunninghis is used to. Since 2006, she has been talking about sexual abuse prevention as a facilitator for Darkness to Light, the children’s protection agency that Hobbs is training with.

“I would get push back from people saying, ‘I have boys,’ or ‘My kids are older. I would know by now,’ “ said Cunninghis, a mother of two. “I flat out had people say, ‘It’s not in our neighborhood; not in our community.’ “

Since news broke on the Penn State and Syracuse University scandals, people are a little more willing to talk openly about sexual abuse and prevention, Cunninghis said.

Calls have increased and more men have expressed interest in Darkness to Light workshops. The sessions raise awareness for parents and people who work with children. “Then you can start having a dialogue with your kids. Or your child is going to a sleepover and you want to be aware of who is going to be in the house,” Cunninghis said.

She added, “It teaches you kind of what to look for in a perpetrator. The grooming process; how long it takes. It’s not just the child that gets groomed, it’s the entire family. And in [Jerry] Sandusky’s case [at Penn State] that was an entire state.”

These can be scary concepts for a parent, said Daren Roberts, a children’s instructor at Alliance Martial Arts, in Sandy Springs, who took the Darkness to Light workshop.

Unlike, say, bullying, sexual abuse is not something people talk openly about, he said. “It’s very scary for a parent to try to conceptualize that there are [harmful] relationships in your child’s day to day life that you are not aware of,” he said. “And you have to protect other kids too.”

The training helps adults talk about their own experiences. Cunninghis said, “People have come forward and given good feedback [following the workshops]. They’ve said, “Yes it was somebody my family knew…”

Darwin Hobbs, who is training to become a Darkness to Light facilitator, said he was sexually abused by his stepfather from 10- to 12-years-old.

“For many years I kept it secret and I did not tell a soul until I was about to marry my wife Tracy, in 1993,” said Hobbs, 43, a worship pastor at Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church, in Norcross.

Hobbs said he told his mother just before his 40th birthday, after his stepfather died. He now talks about it openly, as part of his healing process. “There is tons of shame behind that kind of thing happening. You’re flooded with guilt, all kinds of depression…It’s like I literally died. Like all, sense of normalcy for me was no longer possible,” Hobbs said.

The harm is even deeper if an adult witnesses the abuse and doesn’t stop it. “Because you go though life with a sense of fear and not feeling protected,” he said. Referring to the Penn State scandal, Hobbs said, “I can only imagine if someone said, ‘What the hell are you doing?’ and you are rescued.”

One in four girls, and one in six boys are abused by their 18th birthday, according to Darkness to Light.

Yet conversations on sexual abuse can often bring an uncomfortable silence.

It’s something that Sandy Springs resident Kim Cunninghis is used to. Since 2006, she has been talking about sexual abuse prevention as a facilitator for Darkness to Light, the children’s protection agency that Hobbs is training with.

“I would get push back from people saying, ‘I have boys,’ or ‘My kids are older. I would know by now,’ “ said Cunninghis, a mother of two. “I flat out had people say, ‘It’s not in our neighborhood; not in our community.’ “

Since news broke on the Penn State and Syracuse University scandals, people are a little more willing to talk openly about sexual abuse and prevention, Cunninghis said.

Calls have increased and more men have expressed interest in Darkness to Light workshops. The sessions raise awareness for parents and people who work with children. “Then you can start having a dialogue with your kids. Or your child is going to a sleepover and you want to be aware of who is going to be in the house,” Cunninghis said.

She added, “It teaches you kind of what to look for in a perpetrator. The grooming process; how long it takes. It’s not just the child that gets groomed, it’s the entire family. And in [Jerry] Sandusky’s case [at Penn State] that was an entire state.”

These can be scary concepts for a parent, said Daren Roberts, a children’s instructor at Alliance Martial Arts, in Sandy Springs, who took the Darkness to Light workshop.

Unlike, say, bullying, sexual abuse is not something people talk openly about, he said. “It’s very scary for a parent to try to conceptualize that there are [harmful] relationships in your child’s day to day life that you are not aware of,” he said. “And you have to protect other kids too.”

The training helps adults talk about their own experiences. Cunninghis said, “People have come forward and given good feedback [following the workshops]. They’ve said, “Yes it was somebody my family knew…”

Story from Norcross Patch.

4 Responses to Local Pastor Fights for Sexual Abuse Prevention

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  • Kim Alvarez says:

    Do you realize what a courageous man you are Mr. Hobbs? It is amazing how healing it is to speak those words and release what has been locked away for years fermenting shame, guilt and devastation in the souls of survivors. It takes great courage to speak out! Frank Warren quoted, “It’s the children the world almost breaks who grow up to save it.” You are now on my hero list!

  • Chanel Chapman says:

    I am a 35 year old African-American mom that has been living in anguish for 5 years now. Like Hobbs, my boys (ages 8 and 5) are being sexually abuse by their father. Unlike Hobbs, they are being abused by their biological father, not a stepfather. I was married to their father back in March of 2003 and we divorced February of 2008. I trusted their dad, we went to the same teacher’s college and we student taught together. He was was tall and handsome and I thought that because he was going into teaching, like me, that meant that he wasn’t a criminal. I thought to myself, “You can’t teach and be a criminal.” I first noticed that something wasn’t right with our oldest son at age 3. I was 8 months pregnant with our second son at the time. My son came home and said that a little boy in his class, stuck his finger in his (my son’s) behind and made it bleed. He went on to accuse his teacher assistant of sexual acts against him. These were his words exactly, “She put my pee pee in her mouth where the pee pee comes out.” To make a long story short I found out that my ex-husband has been sexually abusing both our boys. I have been trying to get help for the past 5 years but no one will help. They assume that it’s just a custody issue between two spiteful parents. I have tried to get help from social services ( they never investigated), the police, the court system, the SAMS Clinic, the Children’s Advocacy Center and the list goes on. My children are fighting at school, they have nightmares almost every night about snakes & spiders. My 5 year old doesn’t want to sleep at all. My oldest son has said that he locks their bedroom door at night so their dad can’t come in and touch their privates. Both boys have said that their dad gets on top of them and licks them in the ear and touches their privates. They say that he sticks his hard nail in their bottoms, and makes them suck his penis and kiss his bottom. They have also said that he takes pictures of them with no clothes on and threatens to put it on facebook if they don’t perform certain sexual acts for him. I took my 5 year old to the police station because he told me that his dad made him suck his penis and that it had hair all around it. He told an officer what he told me, but an investigation was never done and both boys were sent back to dad. My 5 year said that his dad put him in the basement and cut the lights out. He said dad was laughing when he heard me scream. This is what happened to my child because he told on his dad. This has been going on for 5 years now and I get stomache pains every time I have to send them back. When I took my son to the police station because of what he told me, I was called in to the station 3 days later by a detective. She told me over the phone that she wanted me to come in and give her more info. about the situation. When I arrived at the station she interrogated me in a hostile manner and arrested me for in her words, falsifying a report. I was finger printed, my mug shot was taken, and I was made to sit in a jail cell until they finshed booking me. After that, I was threatened never to say anything else about my children being sexually abused, if I did they said, I would be arrested. I pray that someone out there can help me! I promised my boys that I will get them out! I’m in a desperate situation and my boys need help. I believe that their are other children out there that need help too. My ex husband has been an elementary school teacher and basketball coach for 10 years now. I believe that he is not just doing this to his own children, their are others. He was asked to resign from his 2nd year teaching position or he would be fired. He resigned and his family members got him a teaching position in another state, where he is currently teaching. Sexual abuse is an epidemic! We need more laws and less bystanders to be enforced to help save our children!

  • Tameka Bob says:

    It is so important that we talk about these issues. As a Counselor, I understand that this is a topic that is brushed under the rug. And as long as we do that, we can’t help. Thank you Pastor Hobbs for sharing your story. It will definitely minister to others. As a screenwriter also, I am currently writing about this topic in my upcoming short film. I invite you to visit http://www.indiegogo.com/falsetruth to learn more about it. I would love your support. Be blessed in all that you do!