Prophetic Survivors: Kelly Haines
Kelly Haines began her freshman year at Faith Baptist Christian Academy playing softball, studying, and cutting herself. A teacher named John Longaker learned of Kelly’s emotional distress, eating disorder, and self-harming. His counseling seemed to offer the hope of healing that Kelly’s fourteen-year-old heart longed to experience.
During Kelly’s first two years of high school, Longaker met with her regularly for private counseling sessions. And then, in the fall of Kelly’s junior year, Longaker sat behind her on the bus to softball practice and rubbed his foot against the back of her leg. Kelly turned to see Longaker smiling behind her.
“I knew it was weird that a teacher would touch my leg but in a strange way I felt like he was trying to show me he loved me and cared for me,” Kelly wrote. “So I took it as a way to continue feeling comfortable with him and it was enabling me to share some problems I still had not shared.”
By Kelly’s junior year, Longaker met with her daily. Foot touches became back touches. Then Longaker began brushing up against Kelly and feeling her breast. Soon, he would rub against her leg or pull her hand to his genitals when erect.
Eventually, Longaker and his wife adopted a little boy and hired Kelly as a babysitter, which led to sexual encounters between Longaker and Kelly in his home as well as at school and its associated church.
“I thought he loved me and that he would always be there for me,” Kelly told me. Maybe, she hoped, Longaker’s attention could be the totem that would keep her grounded in a tumultuous world. Maybe that promise of healing was coming true.
When Kelly left for college, Longaker initially emailed her every day, but then his correspondence quieted. Upset by his gradual distancing, Kelly arranged to spend a week with Longaker in New Hampshire, where he had recently moved. While there, she realized “he was showing the same affection to the girls in his new school like he did with me. I confronted him one evening and he denied that anything was happening but in my heart I knew. I was crushed. I remember saying to him, ‘If you’re not gonna be in my life then I just wanna die.’ He said, ‘Well you do what you have to do.’ I asked him if he would come to my funeral and he said, ‘Yes.’”
Kelly found the hope of healing bitterly estranged. She longed for a man who didn’t really love her but abused her—a fact she’s still reckoning with twenty-six years after their first encounter. Longaker’s rejection of Kelly left her desolate, suicidal.
Kelly told me it’s as though Longaker showed her black and called it white when she was learning her colors. Like everyone in their formative years, Kelly wondered, “What does love look like?” A predator convinced her that it looked like abuse. Today, despite years of therapy, a flourishing marriage, and a resilient faith, Kelly cannot simply erase such deeply embedded grooves in her heart and mind.
A Turning Point
After her disturbing farewell with Longaker, Kelly went home with his wife who took her to meet a friend of Kelly’s, Jason, who would drive Kelly the rest of the way home. During the trip, Jason asked Kelly what had upset her. Kelly told Jason not to tell anyone what she confided. In an act of true friendship that changed Kelly’s life, Jason did not follow orders.
Instead, he went to Pastor Paul Auckland of Faith Baptist Church, the church behind Faith Baptist Christian Academy. Jason told Pastor Auckland what Kelly had said and told him to call the police. Pastor Auckland did so, and both he and the police met with Kelly, who divulged the full story.
Originally charged with involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, aggravated indecent assault, endangering the welfare of children, and indecent assault and corruption of minors, Longaker pled guilty to lesser charges of corrupting the morals of a minor and endangering the welfare of a child. This plea kept Longaker from being listed on the sex offender registry. He almost avoided a prison term as well, but the judge felt a prison sentence fit the crime and sentenced him to twelve-and-a-half to twenty-four months. Longaker served the first year in prison and the remainder of his term on probation.
By 2005, Kelly’s emotional issues escalated to the point that she began to suffer from undiagnosed PTSD and Disassociative Identity Disorder. Afraid that Longaker was following her and her children, Kelly called a police officer who investigated her claims and found that Longaker had not been in the area. Though Kelly explained her history with Longaker and how it led to her fear manifesting so viscerally, the officer pressed charges against Kelly for filing a false police report. Kelly was sentenced to one year of probation before her record was expunged.
Soon after this, Kelly and her husband began to attend a new church where Kelly met with the pastor for counseling. He concluded that Kelly needed support beyond his expertise and referred her to a professional counselor who diagnosed Kelly’s PTSD and DID. Over the next several years, Kelly engaged in intensive therapy to regain the ability not to be controlled by her alternative identities.
And then, in 2015, Kelly learned that John Longaker had become a pastor at Fellowship Bible Church in Castleton, Vermont. She contacted the previous pastor of the church to find out who she could inform about Longaker’s history, then sent a few articles about Longaker’s charges, arrest, and imprisonment to some members of Fellowship Baptist. Though one memeber believed her and promotes the truth in the church, a man named Mike Adams wrote to Kelly, accusing her of an “ill-willed stunt” and “harassment of Mr. Longaker.” Adams threatened criminal charges if Kelly continued to warn the Fellowship Bible congregation about their new pastor’s history.
“Move on to your next prey Mrs. Haines,” the letter concluded, as though Kelly were the aggressor instead of the full-grown adult who had sexually targeted a vulnerable teenager.
A Way Forward
Kelly Haines does not hide. Throughout our interview, this thought played like a looping background track behind the melody of Kelly’s voice and the harmony of my furiously typing fingers.
Kelly discusses her legal charges and sentencing despite the fact that her record has been expunged. Her mental health diagnoses do not control her but motivate her on the journey toward truth and healing. Church triggers her, but she goes anyway because she wants to love what God loves. She cries throughout the first day of school every year because her daughters are now the ages she was during Longaker’s abuse, but, after doing all she can to ensure their safety, she sends them anyway.
Trauma tells Kelly to cower every day. Though she may shake in the face of it at times, she stands.
Kelly told her story publicly just last month and the weeks since have hit her hard. While some wounds have healed through sharing her story, still others have opened. “I don’t regret it for one second, though,” she told me.
I ask her why not. She’s feeling so much new pain. What keeps her from wishing she’d kept her story off the internet?
“I have found that I am not alone,” she replied.
Kelly told her story because she needed to affirm to herself that Longaker really had abused her. She needed to know more deeply that her teenage heart had been entangled with a predator and not a lover. By connecting with fellow survivors and sharing her story publicly, Kelly resisted Longaker’s voice in her head saying that black is really white. People like Jules Woodson helped her see more clearly that her thoughts and feelings, while valid, were not right.
And then, Kelly heard from a woman named Christy who had also been abused by Longaker. Their accounts now stand together—two women of valor imploring a church to understand who they’ve named as a pastor. Longaker’s congregation may not listen, but Kelly isn’t just telling the truth for them. She’s telling the truth for victims who remain isolated, who think they’re the only ones who were taught that black is white.
A Message for the Church
I asked Kelly at the end of our interview if there was anything she else she wanted to say, anything that was important to her to make perfectly clear. There was. This is what Kelly Haines, a woman abused by a Christian school teacher turned pastor wants us to know.
“I want it to be known that there are wonderful and amazing people, pastors, and churches out there,” she said.
I let out a sigh that made me cringe as I listened back to the recording of our interview. In the moment, though, I couldn’t help it. The sound just came. Kelly’s focus, her faithfulness to the church despite the predatory actions of a Christ-claiming man against her, floored me.
“You can’t walk into a church and not do your homework. You have to watch. You have to be vigilant. Don’t just send your kids off to youth group that first week and assume they’ll be fine,” Kelly warns. She and her family have gone to a lot of churches. They’ve spent a tremendous amount of time finding a church home they can trust. It’s been hard, and she knows it’s hard for others too.
“But don’t give up. I wish you could hear the hearts of my pastors. While they fall short of being perfect, they do everything in their power to meet people where they are. It’s healing in many ways.”
Some of the harm her soul has known will not be undone this side of eternity. Kelly is sure of this. Yet she remains determined to tell her story, certain that the truth sets hearts free. And as she refuses to remain hidden, the healing her heart longed for all those years ago draws nearer than ever before.