Hillsong Church leader Brian Houston has been accused of telling a victim of sexual abuse by Houston’s late father, Frank, that it the victim’s fault.
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse heard yesterday that Brian Houston, who had previously described his father’s molestation of a 7-year-old child as “repulsive”, reportedly told the victim he had “tempted” his abuser into committing the acts.
The victim (pseudonym AHA), now aged 52 and living on a disability support pension, told the Commission that Pastor Brian Houston had phoned him and said “You know it’s your fault. You tempted my father”, Fairfax Media reported.
Frank Houston died in 2004. The Royal Commission heard that the Houstons would stay at AHA’s family home in the seaside Sydney suburb of Coogee and that the boy would wake with Frank Houston in his bedroom molesting him. The abuse continued until puberty, but it wasn’t until AHA turned 16 that he told his mother about it. He said “It was very difficult for her to accept and she was worried people would leave the church “sending them to hell”, so she asked him to stay silent.
AHA’s evidence included a claim that when he asked Houston whether he had also been abused by his father, the Hillsong leader promptly hung up the phone.
In a written statement released earlier this week, Brian Houston denied these claims.
AHA’s mother reportedly first disclosed the abuse to a senior pastor at the Emmanuel Christian Family Church in 1998. The pastor said she would refer it to the Australian Assemblies of God, associated with Hillsong Church, instead of the police.
AHA said Frank Houston then got in touch with the victim, met and offered him $10,000 compensation.
“I want your forgiveness for this. I don’t want to die and have to face God with this on my head,” AHA claimed Frank Houston told him.
Brian Houston, national president of the Assemblies of God in Australia from 1997 to 2009, suspended his father from the church when the sex abuse allegations surfaced. AHA told the Commission he and his family were deeply involved with the Assemblies of God, now known as Australian Christian Churches.
Here’s Brian Houston’s statement on the Royal Commission hearing.
Statement from Brian Houston, Senior Pastor, Hillsong Church
RE: Royal Commission – Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, 7 October
Hillsong Church welcomes this Royal Commission and fully supports its objectives. We believe that exposing child sexual abuse and the response of institutions to that abuse, and allowing survivors to share their traumatic experiences, is a powerful step in the healing process.
While our involvement in this commission does not involve abuse that happened at our church, and there are no allegations against me or Hillsong, I have been touched by the horrific act of child sexual abuse in a very personal way. Having to face the fact that my father engaged in such repulsive acts was – and still is – agonising.
However as painful as this is for me, I can only imagine how much more pain these events caused to the victims, and my prayer is that they find peace and wholeness.
Hillsong Church has zero tolerance for sexual abuse and has comprehensive child protection policies that are continually reviewed. We also welcome any recommendation of the commission that would assist us to improve on these policies even further.
This Royal Commission reminds us of the vulnerability of our children and should compel every organisation responsible for the oversight of children – churches, schools or other institutions – to ensure that the abhorrent acts of the past will never happen again.
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