FINAL REPORT FOR THE INDEPENDENT REVIEW OF
ALLEGATIONS MADE AGAINST REVEREND ZHIMING YUAN
IN PARIS, FRANCE IN 2013
June 22, 2016
INDEPENDENT REVIEW OF ALLEGATIONS MADE AGAINST
REVEREND ZHIMING YUAN IN PARIS, FRANCE IN 2013
In December 2014, a group of concerned Chinese American pastors were first informed of an allegation of possible sexual misconduct by a Chinese American preacher named Yuan Zhiming. Reverend Yuan is the Chief Director of China Soul for Christ Foundation1, headquartered in Rohnert Park, California2. In January of 2015, this group of concerned Chinese American pastors learned of additional allegations against Reverend Yuan and consequently formed an investigative committee in February of that year to review these allegations. This committee reviewed four separate allegations made against Reverend Yuan and documented their findings in an Investigative Report that was completed in February 2015, and published through Chinese Christian Life Fellowship.3
In 2015, CCLife contacted GRACE to request that GRACE conduct an independent review4 of specific allegations of misconduct made against Reverend Yuan in Paris, France5. GRACE and CCLife agreed that the scope of the review would include only allegations made against Reverend Yuan in Paris, France and would not include any other reported allegations of misconduct against Reverend Yuan.6
2 See www.chinasoul.org for more information. This organization will be referred to as “CSFCF” throughout this report.
3 See www.cclifefl.org for more information. This organization will be referred to as “CCLife” throughout this report.
4 GRACE conducted an independent review. Independent reviews differ from internal reviews in that independent reviews operate with complete autonomy from 1) the individuals or institutions that are the subject of the review and 2) the individuals or institutions that have requested the review. GRACE remained free during the entirety of the review to make its own decisions without any input from anyone outside of GRACE, including CCLife, about any and all matters relating to the review. Such decisions included but were not limited to requests for interviews, questions asked during interviews, all investigative processes and policies, and all content contained within the Final Report. This report is also therefore completely autonomous and independent from any other review, reports, or statements previously given on these matters. A reader of this report therefore should not conclude that the inclusion or absence of a particular fact or other piece of information in this report means that a witness either added to or omitted specific information previously noted in another report or review. GRACE has made every effort to provide accurate, complete, and relevant information specifically relating to the scope of this review.
5 CCLife desired that an outside independent entity with professional experience in conducting investigations proceed with a review of the matters in question. As a result, CCLife engaged GRACE to complete a thorough and independent review of this matter.
GRACE is a non-profit Christian organization that provides training, consultations and independent reviews related to faith communities and sexual misconduct or abuse7. GRACE’s team has extensive professional experience interviewing victims of abuse, perpetrators of abuse, and witnesses with relevant testimony.8
In preparation for this review, GRACE reviewed the Investigative Report prepared by CCLife in order to obtain some background information about the matters in question. At all times, GRACE made independent decisions about which witnesses to interview and extended invitations to witnesses with relevant information pertaining to the scope of this review. 9These interviews were conducted face-to-face during the spring of 2016 in Paris, France with the assistance of an interpreter. The interpreter attended the in-person interviews and translated in both Chinese and English. GRACE’s selection of the interpreter was based upon skill, training, and experience.10 The interpreter used throughout this process had no prior knowledge of the allegations and had no prior relationship with any of the participants in this process.
An invitation to interview with GRACE was also extended to Reverend Yuan. He was informed that he would have the opportunity to provide GRACE with any information he believed would be helpful or relevant to this review. Reverend Yuan was also informed that he would be able to provide GRACE names of prospective witnesses to be interviewed. Through his attorney, Reverend Yuan declined to be interviewed by GRACE.11
7 See netgrace.org for more information.
8 GRACE’s Board of Directors includes current and former child abuse prosecutors, psychologists, counselors, theologians, pastors, and other professionals whose work surpasses more than 100 years of training and experience in assisting individuals and institutions with matters concerning child maltreatment, sexual misconduct, assault, and abuse.
9 GRACE interviewed some but not all of the same witnesses who provided testimony in CCLife’s investigation. GRACE also extended invitations to other witnesses to provide relevant testimony who had not previously participated in CCLife’s investigation.
10 The interpreter GRACE used in this review is employed by an agency specializing in expert linguistic translation. The interpreter was fluent in several languages, including Chinese (her native tongue) and English. The interpreter earned a Master of Arts in Conference Interpreting from Ecole Supérieure d’Interprètes et de Traducteurs (ESIT) at Université Sorbonne Nouvelle in Paris. Shortly thereafter, she began her professional interpreting career both in the private market working for various multinational corporations and in the UN system in Europe and in Africa.
11 Participation in this review is not compulsory, but a voluntary decision for each witness. Since a prospective witness may have a myriad of unstated reasons for refusing to be interviewed, GRACE does not speculate as to why witnesses decline to participate in this voluntary process.
The GRACE investigator12 interviewed each witness separately and did not share the content of interviews with any of the participants. For purposes of this report, the real names of interviewees have been excluded and only randomized initials have been used to protect each witness’s privacy.13 A total of six witnesses voluntarily participated in this independent review and provided information regarding allegations made against Reverend Yuan in Paris, France in September of 2013, and their testimony has been summarized into the Review Findings below. The witnesses include VC (the complainant), GF (a female friend of the complainant), DW (a male friend of the complainant), OK (an elder in the complainant’s church), JH (a witness with knowledge of relevant information pertaining to Reverend Yuan), and SS (a character witness from the complainant’s church).
In the spring of 2013, VC was a twenty-three year old university student living in Paris in her …year of studying …. (Information omitted from the original report in order to protect the victim) Because the university required VC to complete an internship, her father suggested she contact China Soul for Christ Foundation (hereinafter referred to as “CSFCF”) regarding a possible internship with Reverend Yuan. VC emailed CSFCF, and her emails were relayed to Reverend Yuan. VC stated that Reverend Yuan then began communicating with her directly and stated that he would be in Spain in September of 2013 and could stop over in Paris to meet her and discuss a possible internship.15 VC mentioned to a few people in her church the possibility of an internship opportunity with Reverend Yuan16 and that she would be meeting with him in September to discuss the internship opportunity.
12 The GRACE Investigator was a prosecutor for eleven years who specialized in sexual abuse and assault cases and is an attorney with extensive experience in conducting witness interviews as well as collecting and reviewing data related to adult sexual assault, child sexual abuse cases, and other forms of maltreatment.
13 GRACE has not used real names or the actual initials of any witnesses who provided testimony during this review. GRACE selected witness initials at random to represent the witnesses’ identities. These initials have no bearing or relationship whatsoever to the witness’s real name.
14 This review and the findings resulting therefrom are determined by the cooperation of voluntary witnesses and may be limited by the production of available information, testimony, or evidence (such as emails, text messages, photographs, etc.). Because the review was and has been at all times voluntary, no party in the review has had the power to compel by subpoena or court order the production of witness testimony, documents, or other information. This review was initiated by CCLife and was not in response to any known pending legal complaint or action. The process has not been supervised by court officials and is not akin to a legal proceeding. Furthermore, GRACE draws no legal conclusions whatsoever about whether Reverend Yuan has in fact committed any offense or act, or violated any laws as these judgments are reserved exclusively for judges, juries, or other legal professionals who must apply governing laws to the specifics of any particular case.
16 VC’s church members and others within her Chinese community regarded Reverend Yuan as a well-known evangelist, preacher, and film-maker.
VC stated that Reverend Yuan arrived in Paris in September and had asked her to meet him at his hotel.17 She stated that she thought this seemed odd, but because he was her elder and a pastor, she wanted to be respectful and meet him where he requested. She expected that when she arrived, that they would leave to speak about the internship at another location such as a café. However when she arrived at the hotel, he invited her into his hotel room where they discussed the internship for about an hour. While in Reverend Yuan’s room, VC stated that they also discussed a documentary project his institution was going to film regarding the work of foreign missionaries in China.
Eventually, Reverend Yuan suggested that the two of them go down to the hotel restaurant for lunch. After lunch, VC requested to pay for her meal, but Reverend Yuan insisted on paying. After lunch, they returned to his hotel room where she believed they would discuss the internship further. However, upon returning to the room, Reverend Yuan informed VC that his assistant had downloaded some movies onto his computer and invited her to watch them with him. She stated that the film he turned on was a Korean film that was unfamiliar to her.18 VC recalled that she and Reverend Yuan were initially either sitting on the edge of the bed or on chairs while watching the computer, which was placed on the bed. After some time passed, Reverend Yuan suggested he and VC lie down on the bed to watch the movie. They then moved onto the bed and lay down side by side while watching the film. VC also stated that Reverend Yuan asked her to get under the covers and told her “it was better for me to get under the cover to get warm.” VC explained that she complied with his requests because “I respected him and out of courtesy I did what he asked me to.” VC stated that the film became “more and more embarrassing to watch with him” and contained sexually erotic scenes. She recalled being disturbed that Reverend Yuan did not seem embarrassed or bothered by the film because it contained sexually suggestive scenes. VC also stated that even though she was very embarrassed, she finished watching the film with him out of courtesy. At the time, VC also thought Reverend Yuan would meet with other church leaders while in Paris. However, when she asked him about this, Reverend Yuan replied that he had not told others that he was in Paris “and he especially stressed that I shouldn’t tell anyone else that he was in Paris.”
17 As noted in Reverend Yuan’s email exchange with VC on 9/11/13, the hotel was the Hotel Kyriad near the Orly Airport, just outside of Paris, France. See Appendix A.
18 The Chinese word for the name of the film VC provided in Chinese is translated “Belly Button” in English.
After the film was over, VC informed Reverend Yuan that it was time for her to go home. He replied that it was too late and that her home was too far. He told her that he could book another room so that she could spend the night at the hotel. However, VC again stated that she wanted to leave and subsequently departed from the hotel. VC also noted that Reverend Yuan took a photograph of her while she was in his hotel room on that particular day.19
Prior to leaving the hotel that evening, Reverend Yuan asked to see VC again on the following day. When VC arrived home that evening, she called someone to go with her the next day so that she did not have to see Reverend Yuan alone. Initially, VC contacted DW, a male friend from church, who was also a university student. However, DW was unavailable to go with her the next day because of his school commitments. DW remembered asking VC why she wanted him to go with her. She told DW that Reverend Yuan had been “too friendly” with her, and “she was a bit scared.” DW recalled joking back to VC that “maybe he had a crush on you or he has feelings for you.” VC then called and asked her friend GF to go with her the next day so that she did not have to be alone with Reverend Yuan. GF agreed to go. On the following day, VC informed DW that she had found another friend to go with her to meet Reverend Yuan.
On the following day, VC met GF at the metro station on their way to Reverend Yuan’s hotel. On the way to the hotel, VC informed GF how disturbed she felt during her time with Reverend Yuan the previous day. When the two women arrived at the hotel, they waited for Reverend Yuan to come down and meet them in the lobby. When Reverend Yuan arrived, VC noted “[i]t was very obvious when Pastor Yuan saw [GF], he had a very complex expression on his face. He was surprised or upset when he saw that there was someone else [who had come with me to the hotel.]” GF similarly noted how surprised Reverend Yuan seemed upon discovering that VC had brought along a friend. At that point, the girls suggested to Reverend Yuan that they leave the hotel and walk around to see Paris. As they started to leave the hotel, Reverend Yuan mentioned that he had not notified or informed anyone from the Chinese community in Paris or Parisian church members that he was in town. GF noted, “Actually, he has a very high social status in the community, and it was very strange that he did not let others know that he was there.” The three of them left the area of the hotel, walked around Paris, and had lunch.20
19 VC reported that a few days after Reverend Yuan left Paris, he sent her an email containing the aforementioned image taken in his hotel room, which she forwarded to the pastors conducting the previous investigation. Since these events occurred in 2013, VC stated that she has changed phones and that she did not save any of Reverend Yuan’s communications. However VC verified the authenticity of all of the emails she received and sent to Reverend Yuan. The email dated 9/15/13 from Reverend Yuan to VC states, “Peace be with you! Please see the photo, I just picked one to send it to you. I am in Birmingham, leaving for London the day after tomorrow and following that back to U.S. I changed my plane ticket, I am flying to D.C. to attend a sister’s funeral. (The information is posted on my Facebook) How are you with everything? Looking forward to hearing back from you. Brother Yuan.” Though this particular photo has not been retrieved, the attachment sent with this email contains an icon indicating that an image was sent to VC, as she reported. See Appendix B.
20 GF specifically noted a particular comment made by Reverend Yuan during their lunch that she found “weird and inappropriate.” GF had ordered a hamburger and french fries, but could not finish all of her french fries. GF asked VC if she wanted to have any of her fries. GF recalled Reverend Yuan replying, “Don’t let her eat that because otherwise she will get fat.” GF reported, “I was pretty shocked. I don’t think that is something that a Reverend or man would say to a woman that he just met. So that made me very surprised that he said that.” VC indicated that she did not recall hearing Reverend Yuan’s comment.
After lunch, VC stated that she and GF wanted to show Reverend Yuan around the Latin Quarter of Paris and they began to walk around a bit. However, Reverend Yuan did not seem interested at all in walking around. GF stated that “[a]fter lunch, I was asked to leave because the reason why [VC] was seeing the Reverend was to talk about the internship so the Reverend asked me to leave so they could meet and discuss the internship issue.” GF further explained that she initially “insisted on staying,” however “…the pastor said that I should go now and that [he and VC would] go back to the hotel to discuss the internship issue.” Consequently, GF said she finally let the issue go and left Reverend Yuan and VC alone together in the streets of Paris. After GF departed, VC and Reverend Yuan eventually returned to Reverend Yuan’s hotel.
As VC and Reverend Yuan were waiting for the bus to return them to his hotel, Reverend Yuan asked VC why she brought GF. She recalled Reverend Yuan being very upset that she brought along someone else. VC also stated that Reverend Yuan asked, “if I was afraid that he would do something harmful to me.” VC explained that she felt very embarrassed by his questions. She also stated that because he is a pastor and because she had respect for him, she replied, “No, no, don’t worry.” During their bus ride back to his hotel, Reverend Yuan told VC that he had seen a movie theater nearby, and he wanted her to go with him to watch a movie. Shortly thereafter, the two of them exited the bus and walked to the theater. Upon arriving at the theater, Reverend Yuan suggested that VC choose the film because he did not speak French. Consequently, VC selected a movie21 that she had already seen because she wanted to be on guard as they were sitting alone together in a dark theater. She recalled, “I was still scared he would do something to me so I chose one I had already seen.” VC reported that Reverend Yuan did not engage in any misconduct during the film. Afterwards, VC and Reverend Yuan left the theater and returned to the hotel.
21 VC stated that she selected an American science fiction film called “Elysium” that she had seen before that contained no pornographic scenes. Elysium is an American science fiction film that was released August 9, 2013.
Because it was late in the afternoon and VC wanted to go home, she told Reverend Yuan that she would accompany him to the hotel lobby and then leave. However, when they arrived at the hotel, Reverend Yuan insisted that they go to his room so that they could talk and spend some time together. VC reluctantly complied with this request and returned to his room. When she entered his room, she stated that she was going to leave. He then began to ask her to stay the night with him in his room. VC stated “He was asking me to stay in his room and spend the night in his room and he said that he was leaving the next morning and we only have one more night [before Reverend Yuan was leaving Paris]. It became really strange. The whole atmosphere became very odd. He started staying that he was lonely and that he needed to have company.” At the time they were having this conversation, VC and Reverend Yuan were standing by the desk in his room. VC again stated that she needed to leave. At that point, Reverend Yuan asked VC to give him a hug to say goodbye before leaving. Believing it would be “a casual hug,” VC complied with his request thinking that it was perhaps a common American departing gesture. However, when Reverend Yuan hugged her, she recalled, “He hugged me pretty tightly and he wouldn’t let me go.” She also noted that Reverend Yuan was hugging her with the front of his body touching the front of her body for about a minute. But because Reverend Yuan was taller and she was not looking up at him, Reverend Yuan asked VC to look up into his face. VC did not do as Reverend Yuan asked and did not look up at him, fearing that he would try to kiss her. VC recalled, “….when he hugged me he had some kind of physical reaction.” VC explained that the front of his body was touching the front of her body and “he got really hard.” VC stated, “While he was hugging me he was again asking me to stay and not to go and I said, ‘No, no, no.’ I was refusing [to stay]. In the end I was struggling. I was fighting back really hard.” When asked further about this, she stated that though she did not physically fight him, she did not hug him back and finally Reverend Yuan stopped embracing VC. VC immediately prepared to depart the room, but as VC was leaving, Reverend Yuan gave her 50 euros. When she attempted to give it back, he continued to insist that she take it. VC noted that it was “very strange” and “embarrassing” as if Reverend Yuan believed he was paying VC for some type of service. Reverend Yuan then walked her outside to the bus stop in front of the hotel where she left to go home.
After VC left the hotel, she immediately called GF and told her what had occurred at the hotel with Reverend Yuan. GF noted that VC “was scared and she was in a shock” at what had just occurred. GF attempted to comfort VC, while also expressing profound disappointment with Reverend Yuan. GF described VC as “shy” and remarked that she has known her for a long time, trusts her, and that she believed everything VC told her regarding her encounters with Reverend Yuan. These disclosures were corroborated by GF’s own observations of Reverend Yuan on the day that she had accompanied VC to meet with him. She noted that Reverend Yuan seemed “weird” because he wanted to spend time with VC alone in his hotel room and had not informed anyone that he would be in Paris.
The day after Reverend Yuan left Paris, he sent VC a text message.22 She did not reply. A few days later, Reverend Yuan also emailed her the photograph he had taken of her in his hotel room on the first day they met.23 Approximately one month later, VC also received a phone call from Reverend Yuan. VC stated that she did not recognize the call and answered the phone. Reverend Yuan was on the line and asked her if she was mad at him and why she had not replied to his previous communications. She stated that he did not raise the issue of the internship but only wanted to know if she was mad at him. VC did not recall the specifics of the conversation but remembered that though she was very upset at his misconduct, she did not want to appear rude and told Reverend Yuan on the phone that she was not angry. After everything that occurred, VC stated she no longer had any interest in the internship at CSFCF. GF remembered VC telling her about Reverend Yuan’s phone call, namely that Reverend Yuan acted as if nothing wrong had ever happened and that he did not apologize for his behavior.
A few weeks after Reverend Yuan left Paris, VC met her friend DW to go to church. DW recalled his previous conversation with her regarding wanting him to go with her to meet with Reverend Yuan. When DW asked VC how their meeting had gone, she replied, “Let’s not talk about it.” He also remembered that VC then said, “You got it right.” DW did not initially remember or understand what VC was referring to, but then remembered the joke he had made to her at the time. DW inquired if Reverend Yuan had implied or insinuated anything to her during their meetings. At that point, VC blurted out, “He even hugged me.” DW said he was very shocked and could tell that she did not want to discuss it further. DW further noted that they had discussed the matter on a few later occasions and that VC told him that upon leaving Reverend Yuan’s hotel on the bus ride home, she had cried, prayed, and asked God why this had happened to her.
22 Since these events occurred in 2013, VC stated that she has changed phones and she did not recall the specific content of his text message, nor did she retain any of Reverend Yuan’s communications.
Some weeks after the incident, GF sought advice from a theology teacher in her school about whether or not she should disclose to anyone what had happened to VC. GF stated that her teacher advised that it was important to provide support to VC, but that there was insufficient evidence for them to sue or to report Reverend Yuan’s behavior at that time. The teacher also noted that if additional individuals ever reported similar behavior by Reverend Yuan, VC’s experience could help others. GF explained, “I wasn’t there to see my teacher to see how we can sue him, it was more of knowing what to do at that time.” At the time, GF and VC did not know of any similar situations involving Reverend Yuan.
DW stated that he had mixed emotions about what to do regarding what he had learned about Reverend Yuan from VC. On one hand, he thought it was a serious issue, noting, “Yuan had a lot of influence and if we don’t tell this to others, there might be more victims.” However, on the other hand, DW explained that so many people in the Chinese community have a very high opinion of Reverend Yuan. He also noted that he wanted to protect VC. Consequently, DW decided not to tell anyone what had occurred at that point because he did not personally witness the misconduct. He also concluded that if VC and GF had decided not to tell anyone, it was not his place to do so.
In June 2014, DW and VC were visiting the home of a church member named OK. DW noted that OK and his wife often have students over and that they had been very kind to them. On this particular day, DW and OK were cooking together in OK’s kitchen and began speaking about a large upcoming church event in January 2015, in which Reverend Yuan had been invited to preach. OK was unhappy that Reverend Yuan had been invited because he was aware of sexual assault allegations that had been raised against Reverend Yuan.24 DW stated that during this conversation in the kitchen, OK mentioned to him that Reverend Yuan had been accused of sexual assaulting a woman many years earlier. DW stated, “Then [OK] said that when he talked with other Christians about this rape or these events, others would always reply that ‘that happened before Yuan became a Christian.’” DW explained that he was already feeling badly that he and VC had not told OK and his wife about what had occurred to VC at the hotel with Reverend Yuan. Consequently upon hearing this news, DW could not contain himself and stated to OK, “But after he [Reverend Yuan] became a Christian, he didn’t stop. He didn’t behave right.” DW said he told OK that he knew of something similar that had occurred involving Reverend Yuan. DW recalled that he immediately regretted making the disclosure and consequently, would not identify the victim to OK.25 OK similarly recalled this moment in the kitchen and said that DW blurted out, “And I know that in 2013, he tried again to rape someone, but he didn’t succeed, and I am not going to tell you who that person is because I shouldn’t.” OK noted, “I was really surprised. I was very shocked because I think we can forgive what Yuan did before he became a Christian, but then if something bad or immoral happened again in 2013, it was completely unforgiveable.” OK stated that he also asked GF whether she knew about the incident DW had disclosed. Initially, GF refused to identify VC as the person aggrieved by Reverend Yuan. Eventually, both GF and DW confirmed the identity of VC to OK.
24 OK stated he was aware of two sexual assault allegations raised against Reverend Yuan. OK stated that he first learned about a 1989 sexual assault allegation raised against Reverend Yuan by a female refugee in Paris approximately ten years ago from a friend after viewing Reverend Yuan’s movie, “The Cross,” in a Chinese church in Paris. OK stated that when he initially heard the allegation, he did not give it a great deal of consideration because the sexual assault allegedly occurred before Yuan converted to Christianity. OK noted that he also became aware of another sexual assault allegation against Reverend Yuan. OK stated that in April of 2014, an alleged victim had publicly disclosed that Reverend Yuan had sexually assaulted her while they were both at Princeton University in 1990.
25 DW also noted that though he initially regretted blurting out his statement, he was also glad to hear OK mentioning Reverend Yuan’s prior behavior. He stated, “I felt relieved to hear that- I was like, okay, finally someone had found out his true face. I really felt relieved, and I think that is why I said that.”
Another individual named JH reported that he had been made aware of Reverend Yuan’s 1989 alleged sexual assault of a female refugee.26 JH expressed disgust with Reverend Yuan and stated he knew VC and DW and was “furious” upon learning of these more recent 2013 allegations from OK. JH explained his frustration with Reverend Yuan:
I have heard of [Reverend Yuan’s] speeches. Of course he was despising his former self in his speeches that he was a bad person and all that, but now he is claiming he has become a good person because he has become a Christian and then he is doing all of these things. In a way, he is doing them in the name of God, and that is why I am furious. Okay if you are not a Christian or if you are not giving all of those glorious speeches, okay, but now you are saying something and you are doing the opposite, so that is even more unacceptable in my eyes.
After OK learned of the 2013 misconduct allegations against Reverend Yuan, he decided to publish a blog post that exposed these actions along with other abuse allegations known to him relating to Reverend Yuan. Eventually CCLife pastors contacted him and the other relevant witnesses, and CCLife’s investigation relating to these allegations ensued.
As previously noted in the Investigative Background portion of this report, Reverend Yuan declined to participate and be interviewed for this review. The only known public response Reverend Yuan has offered regarding these allegations appeared on the CSFCF website on March 2, 2015. 27 Though Reverend Yuan admitted having “weak moments,” he denied any accusations involving “rape,” “attempted seduction,” and “sexual assault.”28 Reverend Yuan also indicated he had resigned from all pastoral duties and ministries.29 However as of the date of this report, Reverend Yuan has resumed preaching and traveling to foreign countries.30
26 JH stated that he had personally known both the alleged victim and Reverend Yuan in 1989 as they were all living temporarily in a refugee camp in a Paris suburb after leaving China in exile. During this time in late 1989, JH stated that the alleged victim approached him and told him that Yuan had sexually assaulted her at the camp. JH recalled that when he spoke to her, she “was traumatized, and she was suffering.” JH further noted that the sexual assault was well-known by many in the community (including members of the press) and stated that the victim was deeply hurt. JH stated, “she didn’t see the justice actually performed, so she was really disappointed, and the result was that she stayed away from the group and cut contact with other people and we lost touch with her. But from what I heard, apparently she didn’t have a smooth life afterwards. Apparently this event had a negative impact on her life and things hadn’t been easy on her from what I heard. And from what I heard, from my perspective, I don’t think I did the right thing about what I should have done. I regretted that deeply and I repented…. What happened is that [Yuan] wasn’t punished or he didn’t receive any penalties at that time. He wasn’t punished of course. Actually, we should have at least done something to give some comfort to [the alleged victim]. It is not so much about punishing him, but we should have done something to comfort [the alleged victim]. Let me tell you something about Yuan: he is an incredibly good speaker. He could give speeches and he could convince anyone of anything. Even when he describes himself, he will say he was a very bad person before he became a Christian- he admits it and he says it in a very beautiful way. I don’t know if he admitted [the sexual assault].” JH further explained that while they were at the camp, he does not remember Yuan ever denying that the sexual assault occurred. He stated, “I don’t think [Yuan] ever denied it….from what I had known, the little I had known about Yuan, if he had not done it, he would have told me himself, but he had been avoiding it forever at that time.” JH further noted that this incident was never reported to the police.
27 Rev. Yuan’s complete statement regarding these allegations appears on the CSFCF website. See http://www.chinasoul.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=3804%3A2015-03-02-20-32-08&catid=25%3Anewsevens&Itemid=48&lang=en-VC, retrieved 5-14-16.
28 Id. In this post, Reverend Yuan states:
1. I do admit that I am a sinner, and it was by the grace of God that I am what I am. For the extramarital sexual iniquity that I once committed in 1990 before I became a born again Christian, I once again confess my sins to God and seek His forgiveness, and offer my apologies to the party that was involved in that relationship. I am also deeply sorrowed by all the harms and troubles that have caused among the brothers and sisters at God’s church. I beg for their forgiveness.
2. I do admit that even after my salvation I have had my weak moments. I could only stand firm through God’s undergirding.
3. To God and to the public, although I could quietly endure the false accusations, I, however, could not and would not admit those sins which I have not committed. I deny all of the defamatory accusations involving “rape, attempted seduction, and sexual assault.”
4. I shall openly and willingly cooperate with the CFSCF’s board of directors in its investigations concerning the accusations.
5. I have temporarily resigned from all pastoral duties and ministries, so as to retreat in the Lord and seek renewal.
Dated: March 2, 2015
30 See http://www.chinasoul.org/, indicating that Reverend Yuan traveled to Sidney, Australia to preach March 26-27, 2016. The website also indicates that Reverend Yuan preached in Moscow on March 13, 2016.
It is not an infrequent occurrence in today’s society for some to suggest that a victim’s disclosure of abuse should be discounted (or even doubted) because it is merely a “he said/she said” scenario. This pattern of flawed thinking is problematic for two reasons. First, it marginalizes a victim’s eyewitness account of his or her own abuse. Second, reason and experience ought to remind us that offenders commonly conceal their offenses by deliberately choosing to commit them in private places. Because offenders are more likely to isolate unsuspecting victims in locations where no one else is likely to witness the offense, labeling sexual offenses as merely “he said/she said” scenarios and brushing these offenses aside without a reasoned analysis of the credibility of the evidence ignores the realities of sexual misconduct dynamics, plays into the hands of sexual offenders, and hurts victims.
While it is true that no one other than Reverend Yuan and VC were present at the time of their alleged encounter in the hotel room, it is nonetheless significant that a total of six witnesses voluntarily participated in this independent review. The testimony provided by the witnesses was detailed, consistent over time, and was often corroborated by other testimonial or extraneous evidence. In addition, all of these witnesses affirmed their belief in VC’s character and credibility.
Black’s Law Dictionary defines corroborating evidence as “Evidence supplementary to that already given and tending to strengthen or confirm it; additional evidence of a different character to the same point.”31 During the course of this review, a significant amount of corroborating evidence has been uncovered that strengthens and confirms VC’s disclosure regarding her interactions with Reverend Yuan. Below is a summary of this critical corroborative evidence:
A. Personal Contact in Paris
The undisputed evidence is that Reverend Yuan met VC at a hotel near Paris. Apart from the alleged victim’s own eyewitness testimony, GF also provided an eyewitness account of being with VC and Reverend Yuan in Paris at both the hotel and in the Latin Quarter. In addition, Reverend Yuan’s own email corroborates his arrival at the hotel in the Paris vicinity. Lastly, the email and the image Reverend Yuan sent to VC after his departure from Paris also corroborates the eyewitness testimonies of these two young women.
B. Troubling Behavior
VC was not the only person who witnessed Reverend Yuan’s troubling behavior. GF also observed Reverend Yuan acting strangely when she accompanied VC on her meeting with him. GF reported that Reverend Yuan appeared to be “surprised” when he discovered that VC had not come alone to meet with him at the hotel. GF also noted being very disturbed that Reverend Yuan commented inappropriately about VC’s physical appearance and stated that VC would “get fat” if she ate the french fries during lunch. The physical appearance of VC had nothing to do with the internship that he supposedly wanted to discuss with her. Finally, GF was uncomfortable with the insistence by Reverend Yuan that she leave him alone with VC under the pretense that they needed to discuss the internship. These troubling public behaviors of Reverend Yuan that were witnessed by GF tend to corroborate VC’s reports regarding his troubling private behaviors.
C. Immediate and Distressed Disclosures
Two witnesses have corroborated the fact that shortly after her first meeting with Reverend Yuan, VC contacted them and expressed concern about his behavior. VC first contacted DW and asked if he could accompany her to the hotel for the second meeting with Reverend Yuan. When he could not go, VC reached out to GF and asked that she go with her the following day to meet with Reverend Yuan. What would prompt such persistent requests other than the fact that Reverend Yuan’s behavior made her feel uncomfortable to the point of not wanting to be alone with him? GF also corroborated that VC expressed concerns about Reverend Yuan’s prior behavior as they were traveling to meet him at the hotel on the second day. Furthermore, GF corroborated the fact that VC contacted her immediately after leaving the hotel on the second day and disclosed what had occurred in Reverend Yuan’s hotel room. GF reported that VC was in shock and sounded scared about what had just transpired.32 Two separate witnesses have corroborated the fact that VC immediately contacted them regarding Reverend Yuan’s behavior. The immediacy, consistency, and manner in which these disclosures were made contribute significantly to their underlying credibility.
32 In addition, DW confirmed that what had occurred with Reverend Yuan was just as he had previously joked about. When VC told DW what had occurred, DW could tell that VC did not want to discuss it further at that time. DW also noted that VC told him some time later that she had been very upset immediately after leaving the hotel and had cried and prayed asking God why these things had occurred. (CCLiFe Notes: DW finally agreed to publish this report on the condition that all the personal details are removed from the original report. That's why the version published here ommitted several sentences from the original one.)
D. Timing of Subsequent Disclosures
No evidence was uncovered that indicates VC had knowledge of any previous misconduct allegations made against Reverend Yuan until after she reported her own experience. After GF sought advice from her teacher who advised them not to report the misconduct, the witnesses had no intention of reporting Reverend Yuan. In fact it was DW’s accidental disclosure to OK of Reverend Yuan’s alleged misconduct that eventually brought the matter to the attention of CCLife. At no time during DW’s disclosure did he intend that Reverend Yuan’s misconduct become public.33 Furthermore, the accidental nature of DW’s disclosure about VC strongly suggests that the disclosure was not fueled by any motive to bring a false accusation.34
Credibility of the Alleged Victim (“VC”)
The GRACE Investigator met with several individuals who testified about VC’s character and her reputation for truthfulness. OK described VC and his knowledge of her character over the last five to six years stating, “[s]he is a lovely person actually…. she is very simple. She doesn’t dress up and wear makeup and make herself pretty. She has been studying here for many years and she has never asked for money from her parents. She always worked …in …to support herself, so she is a very nice and lovely person.” (Information omitted from the original report in order to protect the victim) When asked specifically about VC’s credibility, OK said that VC “is a very simple and truthful person. I have full confidence in that.” He also stated, “I completely believe in her and have trust in her,” noting that there is no reason for VC to make up something like this.35 In addition, JH reported that he has known VC and DW for two years. JH described VC as “shy” and also stated that he believes both VC and DW, noting that they are “trustworthy.”
33 DW still wishes that the final written report not be made public and stated, “I don’t really want for the report to go public for all the people to read- that is not what I want.” This report has been provided exclusively to CCLife and to the complainant who participated in this review. GRACE is not publishing this report on any public websites, blogs, or in other forums. However, as GRACE informed DW, GRACE has no control over what is done with this report by those who receive an exclusive copy.
34 We also note that VC appeared to have no motive to harm Reverend Yuan by making up a sexual lie about him. First, the evidence demonstrates that VC did not initiate personal contact with Reverend Yuan but instead contacted his organization, CSFCF. Reverend Yuan then began to contact and communicate directly with VC. In addition, GRACE found no motive for a twenty-three year old university student who was required by her university to complete an internship to falsely accuse a powerful and well-known evangelist of sexual misconduct. Furthermore, if VC planned to make up a lie about Reverend Yuan and report sexual misconduct, it certainly could have been much more egregious and far less detailed than what VC reported. Lastly, other witnesses who provided testimony also appeared to lack any motive to lie about Reverend Yuan. If anything, Reverend Yuan’s prominent reputation in their community initially prevented some of the witnesses from immediately coming forward. Consequently, they appear to have neither sought nor gained anything by raising this allegation.
35 OK stated, “There was like zero link or contact between them, so there is no ground for them to want revenge for Yuan. When [VC] contacted Yuan, she wasn’t writing to him directly actually, she was writing to the studio where they make all these films and everything, so it was Yuan who contacted him herself and that he wanted to meet her, and what was more serious was that he wanted to meet her at his hotel in his room. Normally in our discipline, it is not allowed to see another woman when it is only two of them in a hotel room outside the presence of anyone else.”
Another church member named SS who has known VC for five years stated of VC that she she is the church’s … and prepares dinner for after-fellowship gatherings. (Information omitted from the original report in order to protect the victim) SS further noted that VC is “down to earth, very timid, and quiet.” When asked about these allegations, SS stated, “based on my years of relationship with [VC and DW], I believe [VC] is honest and she would not lie on such a thing. She felt wronged by Zhiming Yuan when he deceived her in 2013, yet she did not take any actions to expose his evildoing. At the time, we didn’t know about it.” SS further explained her belief that VC’s testimony is “trustworthy” by noting that when the Chinese pastors conducted their investigation, the condition of the witnesses’ consent to provide testimony was anonymity. SS stated, “They wanted to expose Yuan to the public out of their sense of justice and their hope for a ‘cleaner’ church, not out of any personal gain.”
Reverend Yuan’s alleged actions have had wide-ranging impact on each of the interviewees. When asked how these events impacted VC, she explained, “Of course when it happened I was disappointed and wondered why it happened to me, and I was asking myself questions. Of course [Reverend Yuan] is a pastor, and I was asking why he would do that, but I recovered very soon actually.” Rather than feeling permanently destroyed, VC stated, “It actually strengthened my faith because I realized it is not a human being that I should put my faith in, but that I should put my faith in God.” DW similarly noted that though he perceived that Reverend Yuan’s actions had initially betrayed VC, he has come to realize that VC has a strong faith and seems to be doing well now. However if VC were to have her wish regarding the result of this review, she stated, “At least he should be fired. He should not be a pastor anymore.”
GF noted, “I am not here to sue the pastor. I am not against him personally, but I think what happened, affected, or had a very negative impact on my church, so that is why I am witnessing here.” OK similarly noted that the only thing he wants from this review is truth. He stated, “What I want is truth. I want to get the truth and justice and reconciliation and repentance.”
One participant in this review, JH, who does not identify as a Christian reported that all of these events had impacted him quite negatively over time. JH stated that one of the reasons he is not a Christian is “…because of people like Yuan. I know what kind of person he is, and I don’t really admire him, and at the same time he is preaching and he is supposed to be a good preacher. So that kind of puts me away from Christianity.” JH further explained, “[b]ut someone like me, actually [Reverend Yuan] is not putting Jesus Christ in my heart- actually he is taking Him away from me. He [Reverend Yuan] is saying that he is close to God, then of course I will be away from God because of people like him.” When asked what he would like to see happen as a result of this review, JH stated, “I don’t think it is appropriate for [Reverend Yuan] to speak in public or to preach in public, especially because maybe some people who don’t really know who he is or how he is, because he comes out with all of these beautiful words.” JH concluded his comments by hoping that this review has a positive result, stating, “If you can do a good investigation and it has a good result, it will only make me closer to God.”
Fortunately the alleged misconduct committed by Reverend Yuan against VC did not result in a more damaging consequence. VC removed herself from the hotel before Reverend Yuan had the opportunity to engage in more egregious behavior. Nonetheless Reverend Yuan’s actions betrayed the trust VC had placed in him as a leader of a Christian ministry. These events have also betrayed the trust of many who have stood ready to support this ministry.
Without complete and sincere repentance for the damage caused, healing is extremely difficult not only for the individuals harmed by these offenses, but also for any institution(s) that participated in, tolerated, minimized, or aligned itself with the offender’s actions. True repentance requires full acknowledgment of one’s abusive actions, deceptions, and the harms caused.36 We also note that “repentance of habituated sin is never immediate. It is not possible for it to be immediate…. Repentance is not seen in tears; it is not seen in words; it is not seen in emotion. Repentance is long, slow, consistent change over an extended period of time because it is from the heart outward.”37 We pray that Reverend Yuan will begin this process by fully disclosing the truth about what happened to VC and any others he has allegedly betrayed and victimized.
36 Repentance means, “to have another mind” about something. It really means to have the mind of Christ about the offense(s) we have committed. At the very least, repentance will include: 1) the truth about the offense, the events surrounding it, ourselves, and its impact upon others; and 2) a humble spirit. This means that we will recognize that we have demonstrated a lack of wisdom and discernment. Having demonstrated the “wrong mind,” we will be humble enough to submit ourselves to those who give evidence of the mind of Christ, 3) empathy for those who have been wronged and damaged by our sin, 4) an awareness that the offense is against the goodness and holiness of God, not merely a behavior that hurt others, and 5) a desire to make restitution. This definition is adapted from an article written by Diane Langberg. See “An Inward Look (Part One and Part Two),” Christian Counseling Today Vol. 9 No. 2 (2001).
Some Christians fear that exposing sexual misconduct within Christian institutions will bring shame upon the name of Jesus. Consequently, offenders within these institutions are often empowered to continue hurting and destroying lives while others remain silent. In fact, Holy Scripture teaches us that the very nature of Jesus is defined as both truth and light.38 Thus, sin that remains in the dark out of concern for bringing shame upon the name of Jesus is actually what brings shame upon the name of Jesus because it is contrary to His nature. As children of God, we are each called to live in truth and light, both personally and institutionally. The failure to condemn and report these offenses not only shames Jesus, but it also destroys the very institutions we were trying to protect. Dr. Diane Langberg describes the internal institutional problem this way:
We have seen it in the church, in missions, in Christian organizations or communities around the world. There is the cancer of immorality, theft, corruption or sexual abuse and all the energy of that system goes to maintaining itself and a good appearance while ignoring the disease. Thinking they are preserving the system, called God’s, they fail to see and deal with the disease hidden within. They actually think that if they acknowledge the presence of disease and work to stop it, they will in fact, destroy the work of God. It is however no step towards the recovery of a sickly system, to disguise the worst symptoms of that system to itself. We say it is the work of the Lord and that we are using the power of the system to protect that work…. No system – family, church, community or institution – is truly God’s work unless it is full of truth and love. Toleration of sin, pretense, disease, crookedness or deviation from the truth means the system is in fact not the work of God, no matter the words used to describe it. I fear we have a tendency as humans to submit ourselves to some command or idea of men, of the past, of tradition, of a systemic culture and in so doing, refuse to listen to and obey the living and ever present God.39
Tragically, victims of sexual abuse and misconduct are often turned away from Jesus by the very institutions that proclaim Him because these institutions do not exemplify Christ’s love, care, and concern for them. However, CCLife has demonstrated a real concern for “the least of these”40 by courageously initiating an independent review of allegations of a prominent leader and preacher in the Chinese American Christian community. We pray that Reverend Yuan, CSFCF, and all of the individuals within this community will be motivated by truth and love to show the same care and concern for victims, for Christ’s church, and for the watching world. We also pray that any others who may have been similarly victimized will step forward with the same courage demonstrated by VC and the other participants in this review. Remaining silent only empowers abusers and subjects others to being similarly victimized.
38 See John 14:6 and John 8:12.
Reverend Yuan and CSFCF stand on the threshold of a unique opportunity that could allow them to be a powerful example of authentic Christian repentance to those inside and outside of the Chinese community. It is our prayer that this Report will honor God by encouraging CSFCF and Reverend Yuan to humbly step forward in truth and transparency. It is also our prayer that this Report will help motivate and inspire others within their own respective faith communities to respond to abuse allegations with courage, transparency, and a love that reflects Jesus to those who are so often overlooked and devastated by abuse.
Respectfully submitted this 22nd day of June, 2016.