- This photo of shattered safety glass taken in 2004 by one of our female students represents the shattering that occurred in a ministry that should have been safe.
In September 2005, former VPC Student Ministries Director, Eric De Vries, was asked to resign as a result of allegations of sexual misconduct. The staff confronted his abuse of one female student. Eric De Vries was arrested and the matter was turned over to Fairfax County Child Protective Services and detectives, who presented findings to a Fairfax County court. In early 2006, De Vries, who had relocated out of the DC area, was found guilty of "contributing to the delinquency of a minor" as a result of a plea bargain which reduced the original charge of "taking indecent liberties with a minor." He was sentenced to 12 months in jail. The sentence was suspended pending completion of 12 months of counseling and no further contact with the young woman. News of Eric De Vries’ abuse shocked our church community. It was a traumatic, painful time for our students, their families, and congregation.
Although we have subsequently come to know better, at the time we thought that the situation involved limited improprieties and that it had been dealt with appropriately. We now know a quite different truth. We have since learned that his offenses against our students were far more egregious and extensive than the church had first realized. Eric De Vries acted as a sexual predator during his time with our youth, and a number of students have come forward confidentially who were victimized by his behavior, in different ways and with varying severity.
We do not yet know the full extent of the damage done by Eric De Vries. The Session of VPC and staff humbly and sincerely apologize to all survivors and their families for what occurred here.
As the months and years have unfolded it has become clear that Eric De Vries manipulated and preyed upon students, causing emotional, spiritual, psychological, and physical harm to them. Since his departure, a number of students have come forward confidentially to identify themselves as victims of Eric De Vries’ abuse. It is imperative for the healing of these victims, their families, and our church family to bring this abuse out of the darkness into the Light and to learn from it.
There will almost certainly be more unpleasant news as we learn more and continue our relationships with other survivors, hearing their stories as they become healthy enough and ready to come forward. We have learned that many young people at the fringes of the abuse drifted away from their faith as a direct result of the abuse situations and their perceptions of the actions and inactions of VPC that followed the abuse. We have an obligation to learn more about this group of young adults and what we may be able to do to assist them.
As a church family we must commit to being educated and informed, and to work toward creating a culture of healing, vigilance, and safety for our community and beyond. To this purpose, in September of 2009, we introduced a new ministry called “NewSpring: Hope for the Sexually Abused.”
NewSpring | Our Story | About Abuse | Abuse in Church | Affected? | Training | Resources