15-Year-Old Allegedly Raped, Then Forced to Confess to Church

New Hampshire man arrested for alleged 1997 rape; police mull cover-up charges.

ByABC News
June 2, 2010, 12:03 PM

June 3, 2010— -- Tina Anderson was only 15 when she said she was forced to stand terrified before her entire Baptist congregation to confess her "sin" -- she had become pregnant. What she wasn't allowed to tell the group was that the pregnancy was the result of being raped by a church deacon, a man twice her age.

She says her New Hampshire pastor, Chuck Phelps, told her she was lucky not to have been born during Old Testament times when she would have been stoned to death.

While questioning the girl before church officials crafted the speech she would deliver, Anderson said Phelps' wife asked her, "Did you enjoy it?"

That was only the first step in Anderson's "church discipline," one of many ritual practices in the Independent Fundamental Baptist Church (IFB), which Anderson, now more than a decade later, says preys on the vulnerable.

"I was completely in shock, but too scared to go and tell anyone because I thought I would get blamed for what happened," Anderson said.

"I truly believed that it was my fault," she told ABCNews.com through tears.

Her mother sought help from the pastor and they agreed to send her thousands of miles away to Colorado to live with another Baptist family.

There, she reportedly was homeschooled and barred from seeing others her age until she gave her child up for adoption.

But in February 2010, after keeping her secret for 13 years, Anderson -- a 28-year-old mother of three more children who lives in Arizona -- was contacted by police and agreed to press charges.

All the years that she lived with the memory of the alleged abuse, she held it tight. "You are told not to talk about it," according to Anderson, who also accuses the pastor of concealing her whereabouts.

Today, the man charged with rape has been arrested and Concord's Trinity Baptist Church is at the center of that scandal for allegedly protecting one of its members and perhaps hiding the victim from police scrutiny.

Ernest Willis, now 51 and a former church member who lives in Gilford, N.H., is accused of raping Anderson twice -- once at Anderson's home where he showed up when her parents were away and a second time in the backseat of a car when he was teaching her to drive.

In a seven-page statement to police obtained by ABCNews.com, Anderson said Willis offered to take her out of state where abortions for minors are legal, then asked if she wanted him to "punch me in the stomach as hard as he could" to trigger a miscarriage.

Willis has been charged with four felonies -- two counts of rape and two counts of having sex with a minor. He was released on $100,000 personal recognizance bail and will be arraigned June 16 in Concord District Court. Calls to his house seeking comment were not returned.

"We just received the files and have not had a chance to review them," said Assistant City Prosecutor Tracy A. Connolly, who would not say if there were more alleged victims.

Police have told the Associated Press that they are looking into obstruction of justice charges against the church for possibly sending the victim away so they could not prosecute.

"Without a victim, it makes it very difficult to have a case," Lt. Keith Mitchell told the Concord Monitor newspaper. "That basically made the investigation very difficult."

Police records do not show whether the church assisted detectives in finding Anderson or whether they were silent. Willis refused to give a statement at the time, according to the Monitor.