The following is an open letter to Derek Hagland, who was the former youth pastor of Grace Baptist Church. This letter has been submitted by Naomi Perez, who was a member of Grace Baptist Church and a student at Grace Baptist Christian School.
Derek Hagland, I don’t need to introduce myself. You know exactly who I am. I respected you more then any other human while you were my youth pastor. You and I both know the day that the respect ended. I truly believe you were following Jon Jenkins lead in covering up what Aaron Willand did to my sister, I truly believe you were used by him. He made you believe it would “hurt the churches cause”. That’s the past, that’s done and over with. You knew, you looked away and stayed quiet while a pedophile was sent to another church to be a youth leader. You cannot change the fact that my little sister was then harmed, simply because you didn’t nothing. I told you and you denied I told you to my mom, making it look like I made it all up. Sadly, the pedophile later told a judge the truth, he did harm on CHURCH PROPERTY. The truth unfolded and my mother sincerely regrets listening to “men of god” over her 16 year old daughter. But again, that’s the past. You are the youth pastor, yet again. So I ask, with recent events of assault, what will you do??? Turn your head again? Ban and disown the victims while embracing the family of the criminal?? Will history repeat itself? Or will you finally stand up against these heinous crimes. Jenkins clock is ticking, don’t go down with his sinking ship simply because you feel loyal. If he was loyal to you he would have told you the moment he was made aware so you could protect the rest of the girls in your youth group. Including your own daughters. He only cares about his image. I can line victims up and even though we haven’t met our stories are the same, Jon Jenkins only cared about image, not one victims was instructed to contact police. Every girl was made out to be a whore. What if it was your daughter? 12 years old, dropped off early for teen church, only to be groped and raped by her volleyball coach who was also her Bible and Math Teacher. What would you do? Brush it under the rug? I don’t hate you, I forgive you. I’m just pleading with you to not continue this path, to admit the past was a mistake, apologize to those victims who were in your youth group and when a new victims comes to you, you go to police prior to Jenkins. You do what’s right for the victim. I truly believe that doing right is never a grey area. I truly believe that doing right is never covering up a sex crime. Doing right is what actually saves a churches reputation, not covering up sex crimes to make the church look like it’s filled with perfect people.
All these young girls who were scared to speak up, they are Mom’s of daughters now. Hell hath no fury like a mother who knows pure evil. They will not go away quietly, they will protect the generation coming up under neath them. They will do it all for their own daughters. Tonight they get their voices heard. I hope this reaches you in time so you can sit and watch it with your own daughters and explain your mistake from the past and then remind them that if anyone every hurt them they are to never feel ashamed or cover it up. That they are to report it and then slowly as they rebuild their life they will find strength again. I hope you remind them that you will be there the entire time, that you won’t chose a church over them and that sexual assault doesn’t happen because of how they dressed, acted, looked, breathed....it happens because of evil men and woman. The survivors are blameless. 💜