SMYRNA, Tenn. (WKRN) – A former youth pastor in Smyrna was indicted on five counts of statutory rape by an authority figure. Jacob Woods worked with children at Rutherford County Baptist Church in Smyrna. A family member of the victim told News 2 that is where he began grooming the victim when she was 15 years old.
“It’s disgusting. I’ve been going to that church or I was going for 15 years,” the relative who we are choosing not to identify explained.
According to a receptionist at the church, Woods hasn’t worked there for a while, and they have no comment on the investigation.
The family is outraged to learn that someone they put their trust in had another plan all along. “We’ve all been going there for years, they’ve always helped our family. We’ve never had a youth pastor take advantage of us like that. They’ve always been there for us. They are supposed to help us, never supposed to cross that line of taking advantage of a child.”
The relative said the relationship turned sexual when the victim was 16, following a church camp trip to Indiana, and carried on for about two years. The indictment for Woods said the sexual acts were committed between November of 2021 through March of this year.
“She looked at him as a father figure and she even got him Father’s Day cards and was like you’re the father I never had and he was trying to step into that father figure in her life and somehow took it too far,” the relative explained.
It’s behavior the Clinical Director at Volunteer Behavioral Health says they often see in victims groomed by a sexual predator. “You see that a lot of times people have complexes where 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 the grooming process that has happened weeks, months, even years in advance,” said Beth Walser.
She advises parents to keep an eye out for symptoms of regression and other signs from their children to assure they aren’t being preyed upon.
“If they are all of a sudden not wanting to go to church and they’ve always wanted to if they are shutting down at the house, if they want to be just by themselves, if they are a little moodier, if they are crying a lot,” Walser listed as examples.
Volunteer Behavioral Health offers a number of services to help victims of traumatic events. For more information, click here.