After claims of sexual misconduct have been confirmed by the official ministry of Ravi Zacharias, an alleged victim of the late minister has spoken out.
Lori Anne Thompson,who had reportedly signed a non-disclosure agreement, has broken ranks to release a statement on her website. Stating that she met Zacharias in the fall of 2014 at a UCB Canada businessman luncheon, Thompson, who claims that she is was born into the home of a serial sexual predator, believes that Zacharias, who she refers to as RZ, targeted her from the moment that he saw her.
Zacharias, who’s been hailed as “the greatest Christian apologist of this century,” died on May 19, 2020 after a short battle with cancer.
“I tried to tell a Christian counsellor what was happening to me,” Thompson stated in her victim impact statement,posted to her website. “He told me not to tell anyone, especially not my husband, that he could see RZ’s draw to me, and that if anyone ever found out, the kingdom of God would be irreparably damaged. I became suicidal.
“… Even after the abuse stopped, I stayed in touch with RZ. He was the only person who knew what happened to me. In time, I told my sister but I was never going to tell anyone else what happened.
I travelled to a counselling intensive with Jerry and Denise Basel (they were recommended by friends in the ministry.) I had no intention of telling them what exactly happened or whom it happened with. When I finally disclosed to them, together we drafted an email to cut off all contact with RZ and to tell my husband (Brad) about the abuse. I was contacted by text, email, and phone from RZ once I had sent a final email to him. He threatened to commit suicide if I broke my silence. I was terrified in that moment and for a long time to come. To my betrayer, telling anyone was betrayal. Abusers not only demand silence — they enforce it.
“When I disclosed that same day to my husband what happened to me — he was devastated. Brad had already experienced a protracted history of breech of trust, early abandonment, shaming, and interrupted attachments in his own life. He was crumbling at home with our children and I was in another country in complete collapse. He wasn’t sure he wanted me to come home. I wasn’t sure I would make it home. No one slept that Saturday night and for many years of Saturdays to come. Life as we knew it was ripped apart. We were torn asunder. I can hardly find the words to describe the complete and utter relational, emotional, psychological, and physical implosion.
“I took a leave of absence from my much loved work as I/we could hardly function. A handful of friends knew. We contacted an advocate who put us in contact with a trauma informed therapist. Daily I was not sure if my husband would come home. Daily he was not certain I would be alive when he got home. The lack of any cognitive framework for clergy sexual abuse mixed with deep attachment wounds of his own, leaving my husband drowning in shame and excruciating pain. This led to him to bitterly blame me — even as I struggled under the crushing weight of it all. The intensity of our individual despair, outrage, and felt shame drove us each intermittently deeper into despair. Our whole family was ruptured. All semblance of normal biological and relational rhythm was obliterated. Daily life ground down to trying not to die or kill each other. We did not understand what had happened to me, to him, and to us. It would take a full year and a half of very hard work just to establish some semblance of safety and stability.
“Post disclosure, we started looking at our options for accountability. What were we going to do? We could go to the media, survivor bloggers, the board (which included some of RZ’s family), hire a lawyer to confront him privately, or do nothing. Given the expansive power differential and our desire for privacy we chose to confront RZ with a lawyer. It was not then, and is not now, about the money — it was about accountability. We held the view that powerful people who target, groom, exploit others should be held accountable.”
Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM) had strongly defended Zacharias against such allegations. However the organization’s Board appointed an independent law firm to investigate the allegations. Shortly before Christmas 2020, the Board released a statement, in which they confirmed that the allegations were in fact correct.
“In August 2020, allegations of sexual misconduct were made against our Founder, Ravi Zacharias,” the Board stated. “Unfortunately, Ravi had died several months before we first learned of these allegations, so we were unable to explore them with him directly. We engaged Miller & Martin PLLC to investigate these allegations, while also giving them wide latitude to go wherever their investigation might lead them. We have also repeatedly stated our intention not to comment on the investigation until receiving a final report on it.”
Thompson went on to state that, “When RZ sued us (victims) as alleged extortionists, my husband and I were still staggering under the weight of trauma and struggling with extensive PTSD symptoms. While we were horrified and outraged and had some financial resources to use, we also had limited personal resources with which to fight an individual with as much power as RZ and virtually limitless resources. We were barely surviving as it was.
“RZ reported that he had a donor who was willing to fund the full cost of litigation and that this process could take several more years. To settle with RZ out of court seemed like the only viable and practical option. Both parties signed a NDA and we had no idea that he would break it almost immediately. Even when he broke it so flagrantly, we were still unable to collect ourselves enough to even think about the protracted litigation process we were promised.
“Being abused costs far more than can ever be properly recompensed. It has been reported elsewhere that I had received a financial settlement from RZ. More than half of the money reportedly received was spent on legal fees, approximately another $33,000 was spent on therapy (which is ongoing), and a further $30,000 was invested in a Masters of Child Advocacy in Policy from Montclair State University. I have also lost my annual income as a health professional. Yet, astonishingly, there remains who still accuse me of being in this “for the money.” This false narrative was started by RZ, but has been widely circulated publicly and privately by RZIM.
“When we met RZ, we no longer attended church, but our children were still attending faith based schools, and we took our summer holidays in a faith based community. After the press release issued in Christianity Today on Dec 3, 2107 it became untenable to remain in the same community. RZ portrayed my husband as a man who pimped his wife virtually for monetary gain. This was not only widely believed, it was also untenable. By March of 2018 we had decided to sell the home we built together at a loss, and moved to a smaller home at a higher cost, in another city. I left the work that I loved as a registered health professional and went to grad school to study abuse. The hope was that we could enjoy some semblance of local anonymity and daily safety and stability.
“I knew the world to be an unsafe place before I met Ravi Zacharias — but I yet had hope that there were some safe and sacred spaces. I no longer live with that hope. I trusted him. I trusted Christendom. That trust is irreparably and catastrophically shattered. I yet believe Christ, even if he be not true, as he is the highest ethic I can find. They (the religious elite) stripped him, beat him mercilessly, called him all manner of names, and publicly crucified him too.
“Even though I was a survivor before I met RZ, having met and come to know him was one of the most traumatizing, soul destroying, faith crushing seasons in my life. He tore down everything I had built and that I thought was beautiful. My marriage, my husband, my home, my faith, my families faith, my capacity to mother, my mental and physical health, what little good repute I had, and ultimately my entire career path.”
RZIM has not released a statement on the matter since December 23, however, an official statement is due in the next few weeks.