Family reacts to TN youth pastor sex charges

SMYRNA, Tenn. (WKRN) – A former youth pastor in Smyrna has been charged with five counts of statutory rape by an authority. Jacob Woods has worked with children at Rutherford County Baptist Church in Smyrna. A member of the victim’s family told News 2 that’s where he started grooming the victim when she was 15 years old.

“No is disgusting. I’ve been to that church or I’ve been going for 15 years,” explained a relative we are choosing not to be identified.

According to a reception at the church, Woods had not worked there in a while and they were not available to comment on the investigation.

The family was outraged to learn that someone they trusted had other plans. “We have all been there for many years, they always help our family. We have never had a young pastor take advantage of us like that. They have always been there for us. They have to help us, never being allowed to cross the line and take advantage of a child.”

Relatives said the relationship turned into a sexual relationship when the victim was 16 years old, after a church camping trip in Indiana, and lasted about two years. The indictment against Woods says the sexual acts were committed between November 2021 and March of this year.

“She sees him as a father and she even got him a Father’s Day card and it’s like you’re the father I never had and he’s trying to step into that father figure in her life and somehow took it too far,” the relative explained.

It’s behavior that the Clinical Director at Volunteer Behavioral Health says they often see in victims groomed by sexual predators. “You see that a lot of times people get complicated when they don’t want to report their abuser and things like that, because they love them or things like that, so I think part of that is too much. Grooming has been going on for weeks, says Beth Walser, months or even years in advance.

She advises parents to watch for symptoms of degenerative disease and other signs from their children to make sure they’re not being preyed on.

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“If suddenly they don’t want to go to church and they always want if they’re closed at home, if they want to be alone, if they’re a little sadder, if they’re crying a lot,” Walser lists as an example.

Behavioral Health volunteers provide a number of services to help victims of traumatic events. For more information, click here. Family reacts to TN youth pastor sex charges

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