"When I was molested it just made me feel totally isolated, totally alone. You just feel so disconnected," says Ashley, 23, who was molested over three years as a teenager by a church pastor. "When the molestation started, I didn't really know if it was wrong or not. It's almost like you're in a haze."
By the time Ashley was 14, she and the pastor were sexually involved. "He really just preyed on my insecurities. I felt fat, so I just needed to hear someone say, 'I love you,' and, 'You're so pretty,' and 'You're skinny.' He was a man of God. He was very well respected. I wanted his approval."
She explains that she didn't have a father figure in her life. "Having come from a broken home, I needed that security. I didn't tell anyone I was molested because I did feel like my mom would disown me.
"When I was 17, I told this man that I didn't want to see him anymore, and he would call me and basically stalk me. When I was 19 years old, I came to the conclusion that I had an obligation to tell the police, and I did report it to the police at that time. He was indicted, but due to a plea bargain he was only convicted of misdemeanor stalking.
"The basic misconception of molesters " old men who are ugly and not friendly " but yet they're the coaches, they're the pastors, they're your uncles. These are the people who you would least expect."
Dr. Phil asks Ashley if there was anything her mother could have said or done at the time that would have caused her to reveal what was going on.
Ashley dabs at her eyes as she recounts, "She did ask me point-blank, 'Is there something going on?' and my initial response, of course, was no because of the shame and guilt I felt. I felt like if she would have persisted and asked me constantly and just " because I remember thinking to myself at one point, oh, I wish you'd just ask me one more time, at that point, and I feel like I may have said something."
"Now, he pled out to a misdemeanor charge for stalking," says Dr. Phil, "but what's he doing today?"
"He's a pastor at a church," says Ashley.
"He's a pastor at a church," repeats Dr. Phil, as the news sinks in. He then praises Ashley's courage. "You are a brave woman to be here and talk about this."