Angela Paterson is now 49 years old and living openly as a lesbian, but told the i that she’ll “never forget” her horrific experiences of conversion therapy as a vulnerable teenager.
Paterson joined Lancing Tabernacle Church in West Sussex, which at the time was led by reverend Max Donald, when she was 14.
When she was 19, in 1990, she became homeless. Donald was aware that the teenager was vulnerable, with a history of sexual abuse, and asked her to move in with him and his wife.
Paterson said knew she was a lesbian, and believed what her evangelical church taught her – that being gay meant going straight to hell. Donald initially sent her to a counsellor for conversion therapy, but when that was ineffective, he embarked on four years of abuse in his mission to “heal” her.
The abuse began gradually, Paterson explained: “I’d be in bed and he would come into my room with a cup of coffee, sit on the bed and on the odd occasion touch my hair and say, ‘We really want to look after you.’ Then we would be in the lounge and he would just grab my hand.
“I was confused but I also thought, ‘This is a pastor, someone I can trust.’ Then I was at the fridge one night and he grabbed me and kissed me on the lips. I was really taken aback but he was trying to reassure me, [saying], ‘It’s OK, I just care about you.’”
Donald would tell her that the rape was “OK by God”, and she added: “As far as I was concerned, he was closer to God than anybody else… I thought it might work. I was a broken person when I moved there. So I stayed.”
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