Statements to the media and details of in the lawsuits filed by the four men paint the picture a man who qualifies not only as an “emotional predator” (a term I wasn’t aware of until just now), but show several characteristics of a classic sexual predator.
As documented in a study done in an Irish prison, many sexual predators are frightened or extremely uncomfortable with adult intimacy. For some, this stems from being abused as a child, which leads to a distorted view of sexual intimacy. That is not to say that intimacy in this case is purely sexual in nature; rather, it includes emotional intimacy such as meaningful relationships. Sexual predators often report having few close friends or confidantes and coming from strained families where nurturing support was rare or completely absent.
Control and Power
The Irish study also dealt with the predators feelings concerning control. Many reported feeling a lack of control in their own lives due to socioeconomic or emotional factors. For sexual predators, sexual crimes are seen as a way of exerting control, resulting in pleasurable feelings of power that are less concerned with sexual gratification, and more with emotional validation. By forcing their advances on other people, they experience one area of their lives where they were the controlling factor.
A study conducted by the Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety in West Virginia reported that 88.5 percent of all studied sex offenders knew their victims prior to violating them. 48.7 percent of these victims were simple acquaintances that the sexual predators admitted to having built relationships with for the purpose of assaulting them. Typically, predators seek out women or children who are vulnerable and lacking a strong support network of family or friends. Oftentimes, they build some levels of trust or familiarities with the people before victimizing them.
The West Virginia study reported that over 36 percent of victims blamed their actions at least partially upon drugs while over half did the same with alcohol. This is evidence of an overall trend that points to the fact that sexual predators often do not take full, if any, responsibility for their actions. Often, they blame outside forces or the victim themselves. This tendency of blaming others frequently extends to other areas of their lives where failures at work, school and personal lives are viewed as the fault of other people and not their own.
While I haven’t found much published about his childhood, the court filings, the public statements of the four men, and some of Long’s own statements provide details that fill in the picture painted in broad broad strokes by the quote above.
Long, according to reports, quickly moved to establish his authority upon taking over the pulpit at New Birth. Anointing himself as “Bishop,” an unusual title for a Baptist, is one sign. Another is that Long’s church is not associated with or subject to the governance of any Baptist denomination. News reports suggest that Long, soon after being installed as pastor, took steps to make sure the church was not subject to any governance except his own. Rev. Kenneth Samuels, who had been New Birth’s minister until he clashed with the deacon board and was ousted, described how Long took unilateral control of the church.
In 1987, he began working at the church that would become his legacy. New Birth Missionary Baptist was a modest church of about 300 members. The church’s founder and former pastor, the Rev. Kenneth Samuel, had been ousted after clashing with the deacons who ran the church’s affairs.
Long was much more adept at church politics, Samuel said.
“After some years of dealing with (the deacons), he dismissed the whole board,” said Samuel, who now leads the 3,000-member Victory for the World Church in Stone Mountain, Ga. “He just took unilateral control over the church. He was more savvy at church politics than I was.”
This is more in keeping with Long’s brand of “muscular christianity,” than his protestations of being a “David” up against a “Goliath.” Likewise his Longfellows Academy, which Jamal Parris’ legal complaint describes as purporting to “train young men to live, love and lead as they proceed on their masculine journey. Even the name of the group, Longfellows, implies a certain sense of “ownership” (“Long’s Fellows”?) and definitely makes clear Long’s authority over the young men.
The allegations against Long, juxtaposed against the image he has long projected, suggest Longfellows was a Long’s personal stable of “Davids” — teenage boys, just a few years shy of manhood, several of whom were economically disadvantaged, and many whose fathers were whose fathers were absent, estranged or uninvolved — from which Long selected some to be his “spiritual sons.”
News stories, the legal complaints filed by the four men and their public statements, if true, paint a picture of Long as a man who exercised a great deal of control over the young men he allegedly chose as his “spiritual sons.” The term itself, “spiritual sons” and reports that Long allegedly had the young men call him “Dad,” imply a relationship in which long was the authority figure, and one whose authority was backed up by God. The New York Times article describes a “covenant ceremony” allegedly performed to seal the relationship.
The boys went through a bonding ritual, known as a “covenant ceremony,” in which Bishop Long gave them jewelry and exchanged vows with them while quoting from Scripture as ceremonial candles burned, according to court complaints filed against the pastor. Reciting Bible verses, the pastor promised to protect them from harm and called them “spiritual sons.”
The legal complaint of Maurice Robinson paints a picture of the kind of gradually expanding power and control a predator might exercise over a victim he has targeted and is grooming. Like the news articles, the document describes Long as selecting his “spiritual sons” from the young men enrolled in his Longfellows Youth Academy, and then using monetary funds from Longfellows as well as non-profit and corporate accounts to “entice the chosen spiritual sons with cars. clothes, jewelry and electronics.” They are also “given access to numerous celebrities including entertainment stars and politicians.”
These practice are allegedly directed at young men at an early age. Robinson was 14 when his mother enrolled him Longfellows Academy. When Robinson was 15, the complaint alleges that Long began spending personal time with him. At some point, Robinson was placed on the payroll of New Birth. A Chevrolet Malibu was purchased for Robinson’s use, and during this time Long allegedly had Robinson accompany him to the gym and have Robinson rub lotion on him as he directed.
By the time Robinson turned 16, he allegedly accompanied long on several trips, including one to Aukland, New Zealand on Robinsons 16th birthday. after which Long allegedly began sexual touching with Long that escalated in to a sexual relationship. But it would be a relationship during which Long made Robinson more dependent upon him by giving Robinson money and paying his college tuition.
Jamal Parris legal complaint parallels Robinsons’ and paints a similar picture. Like Robinson, Parris joined the church along with his mother at 14, and his father was not — the complaint says — “a positive figure in his life.” Long, according to the complaint, said he would be be to Parris was Parris’ own father wasn’t. Long also obtained employment for Parris at the New Birth’s Missionary Summer camp.
Hearing Parris’ story in his own words is perhaps more arresting than the legal statement, and more indicative of the kind of control Long is accused of having over his “spiritual sons.”
Since last week, none of the four young men have talked publicly about the lawsuit– until now. We found Jamal Parris shopping at a 24-hour store in Colorado. Initially, he was reluctant to talk.
But once he started, he told a riveting story about how as a young teen– a 14 year old with no father in his life– he joined New Birth Missionary Baptist Church. Bishop Eddie Long came into his life. He said Long said to call him “daddy” and to trust him with spiritual guidance.
“I loved him,” Parris said. “I’m always going to have love for the things that he taught me. But how he left us hurt worse than anything I ever felt in my life.”
Parris claims in his lawsuit the father-like figure used scripture to justify sex. And he lavished money, cars, jewelry, trips in the Bishop’s private jet, even homes on the teens, sometimes with funds from the church coffers.
“You finally have a father that you’ve always wanted for and always dreamed of,” Parris said. “He would just walk away from you if you don’t give him what he wants. So you end up turning into something you never thought you would be, which is now a slave to a man that you love.”
As he claimed in his lawsuit, Jamal says the bishop began a slow sexual seduction, which became more intimate and more intense after the young boys became of legal age.
As extreme as Parris’ story sounds. the legal complaints tell a story of Long’s control over his “spiritual sons” increasing until they were isolated from family and friends, surrounded by his employees and congregation, dependent on him, employed by him, etc. The remaining legal complaint only add to the picture.
Anthony Flagg’s legal complaint alleges that things moved faster than with Parris or Robinson, as Flagg joined the church and Longfellows Academy at 16, and was thus already at the legal age of consent in Georgia. Like Parris, Flagg opened up to Long about his relationship — or lack thereof — with his father. And, as with Parris, Long’s complaint alleges that Long said he would fill the void left by Flagg’s absent father.
Flagg’s complaint indicates a greater degree of control. About May 2007, Flagg was arrested for simple assault, and Long asked Flagg to move into a house, the location and ownership of which are redacted in the statements posted online. Flagg’s mother agreed, thinking that the move would provide her son stability and that Long would be “an important spiritual mentor in her son’s life.”
Shortly after moving in, Long allegedly gave Flagg and Mustang convertible to drive, just as with Robinson. As with both Robinson and Parris, Flagg was placed on payroll of New Birth, though his legal complaint does not indicate that he was given a position. The handling of his paycheck, according to the complaint is suspicious, at least.
Plaintiff Flagg’s paychecks were delivered to him personally by Long.
Plaintiff Flagg would endorse the payroll check and return it to Bishop Eddie Long and in turn Eddie Long would give Anthony Alonzo Flagg cash roughly equivalent to the amount of the payroll check.
During this time, the complaint alleges that Long came to the house, where Flagg was living at Long’s request, and slept in the same bed as Flagg. From there activity began with sexual massage and graduated to oral sex. As with the other legal complaints, Long is said to have taken Flagg on several overnight trips to various locations around the country.
Spencer LeGrande, like the others, joined the church with his family. Like the others, LeGrande’s father was absent from his life, uninvolved since infancy. Like the others, LeGrande shared this with Long, and the complaint alleges that Long said to LeGrand, “I will be your dad,” had his assistant take Long’s contact information and told LeGrande that he would call him.
LeGrande’s complaint says that Long did call, and became angry if LeGrande failed to call him regularly. and told LeGrande to call him Dad.
Unlike the others LeGrande lived in Charlotte and attended New Birth Charlotte, a satellite of New Birth Atlanta. He would see Long when Long was in Charlotte, and when the LeGrande family traveled to Atlanta.
As with the others, when LeGrande turned 16 — the legal age of consent in Georgia — the complaint alleges that Long escalated his control of and access to LeGrande, employing the predatory tactics of isolating LeGrande and manipulating LeGrande into becoming dependent upon Long. As with the others, LeGrande’s complaint says that Long took him on several trips — Kenya and Nairobi, in this case. However, LeGrande’s complaint also makes the charge that, during the trip to Kenya, Long called LeGrande to his hotel room, gave LeGrande an Ambien and took one himself, before initiating sexual contact.
Afterwards that, like the others, Long allegedly bought LeGrande a vehicle (a Dodge Intrepid), showered him with gifts, and put him up in a church owned property, where LeGrande lived rent-free. Long would also go one to pay LeGrande’s tuition and expenses at the school Long encouraged him to attend in order to study for the ministry. But there were conditions.
LeGrande, who says he was showered with gifts, including a Dodge Intrepid, was expected to “have no girlfriends.” In return his tuition and expenses at Beulah were covered, the suit alleges.
The freshman college student was allowed to live, rent-free, in the Harwell House, owned by another New Birth minister.
After a few months, LeGrande was moved into a church-owned community center on Parsons Road. The suit alleges the two had sex in that home along with other church properties, including the bishop’s private office.
Their relationship crumbled in early 2009 as LeGrande became “disillusioned and confused by Long’s actions and began pulling away from [the bishop],” according to the suit. Around that time, LeGrande dropped out of Beulah University and sought to distance himself from his spiritual mentor.
“From the Spring of 2009 up through October 2009, Long continued to contact LeGrande,” the suit states.
If the details in the legal complaints are indeed true, then Long moved in on the “Longfellows” he targeted as “spiritual sons,” and proceeded to isolate them from family members and just about any adults who weren’t on his payroll, associated with his church, or otherwise under his influence. His alleged habits of showering his “spiritual sons,” taking them on trips abroad, introducing them to celebrities also serves to to further cement his control over young men whose economic circumstances meant that they could only dream of such things.
That Long knew his victims well is confirmed by the legal documents which, if true, suggest that Long usually met his potential “spiritual sons” when they were at least a year or two shy of the age of consent in Georgia, and used that time to get to know them. It also suggests this was a tactic of Long’s, and was perhaps designed to protect him from criminal charges if or when everything was revealed.
Finally, responsibility perhaps the most clearly displayed of those above in the past week. For Long’s part, his declarations that he is “under attack” and a target of “spiritual warfare.” Some members of his church were skeptical, but others claimed it was all a conspiracy against Long, either by the four young men or the gay community seeking to strike back at Long for his opposition to same-sex marriage.
But f the legal charges against Long are in fact true, then responsibility must be assigned to Long. But it does not stop there. The legal documents include charges against Long’s employees, whom the complaints say were aware of Long’s alleged predatory practices but did nothing to stop it or to warn the young men involved. In fact, charges are leveled against New Birth itself, for allowing Long to continue by either ignoring or keeping quiet about his activities, and thus providing him a “bubble” in which he could act with impunity.
True or not, however, the scandal surrounding Eddie Long is not an “isolated incident” in black churches. The names are different, the circumstances slightly changed, and the scale far less grand, but it happens black churches all over the community. And it happens because people and church culture support and perpetuate the circumstances that make it not just possible, but probable, and almost inevitable.
There is, as with the allegations against Long, responsibility to go around.