Despite the public gestures made by celebrities at the Golden Globes, the topics of sexual harassment and sexual assault won’t be going away anytime soon. Recent reports detailing allegations against figures as celebrated as Michael Douglas and Stan Lee have driven this point home. So too have scandals outside of the entertainment world, like a recent New York Times story detailing the accusations against a megachurch pastor in Memphis, Tennessee. After admitting to committing a “sexual incident” 20 years ago on Sunday, Andy Savage received a standing ovation from the audience at Highpoint Church, as shown in the above CBS News clip.
According to the Times, Savage did not explain to the congregation precisely what happened while he was serving as a Houston, Texas church’s youth minister in 1998. Instead, the admission and apology came as a response to Jules Woodson, the woman he assaulted when she was 17 years old, only after she wrote a blog post detailing the incident. “Until now, I did not know there was unfinished business with Jules,” Savage said during his live-streamed sermon. “Jules, I am deeply sorry for my actions 20 years ago. I remain committed to cooperate with you toward forgiveness and healing.”
Speaking with the Times about the video of the church applauding Savage, Woodson called it “disgusting” and said the incident had not been “dealt with.” Citing Matt Lauer’s firing from NBC as her inspiration, Woodson offered an account of the night Savage offered to drive her home from church when she was a teenager. Instead of taking her home, however, he “turned onto a dirt road” and coaxed her into giving him oral sex. “I just hope that by me coming forward that I would give courage to one other person,” she said. “It doesn’t matter if I was his only victim. What matters is that this was a big problem and continues to go on.”