‘It became our normal’: 8 women say they endured mental, physical abuse from Jacksonville church leaders

Lawyer said sexual and physical abuse of minors in the church spanned 40 years

Eight women say they are survivors of mental, physical and emotional abuse from people at the Jacksonville Assembly of the Body of Christ Church.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Eight women say they are survivors of mental, physical and emotional abuse from people at the Jacksonville Assembly of the Body of Christ Church.

Now they want others to come forward.

On Monday, the women shared their experiences at the Jacksonville Assembly of the Body of Christ Church, following the arrests of three men, on charges of capital sexual battery.

Church pastor Paul Dyal was arrested Wednesday night and Jerome Teschendorf and Vernon Williamson were arrested in Oklahoma. Williamson was extradited to Jacksonville on Saturday and is in the Duval County Jail. Teschendorf should be extradited soon.

The women believe this abuse went on after they left. They also say this could be happening at other churches affiliated with this assembly.

The survivors shared Monday how it wasn’t just physical abuse from the people here but mental, emotional and financial.

They said was only a matter of time before arrests were made and they could tell their story.

Attorney Cynthia Crawford (left) shown with three of the eight women who came forward Monday with allegations of abuse involving members of the Jacksonville Assembly of the Body of Christ Church. (Copyright 2022 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.)

The women all had different experiences at the Jacksonville Assembly of the Body of Christ.

At the old church, they remembered the strict rules they had to follow, which date back to the 70s.

“Oppression doesn’t seem like oppression if it’s really all you’ve ever known,” said Lisa Stroud.

She told News4Jax that Teschendorf would force her and her brothers to eat expired food and would spank her.

At the head of the church was Dyal.

He, along with Vernon Williamson and Jerome Teschendorf are all charged with capital sexual battery following reports of abuse inside the church.

Stroud was Teschendorf’s stepdaughter.

“The church made him the youth leader at one point, he’s hurt a lot of people and I think that as this case continues that’s going to come out,” Stroud said

Their school was on the church grounds. When they weren’t in church they were at school.

“It was isolation,” said Jennifer Belariger.

Stroud said they were segregated from the outside world and ostracized.

“We were made to look extremely different so that other people looked at us like we were the odd people,” Stroud said.

They said they were shamed for cutting their hair, unknowingly enticing men at the church and were even set up with men at other churches.

I’m 16 or 17 years old and you’re sending a 40 something-year-old man to try and court me,” said one woman who remained anonymous.

They say they were also beaten with paddles.

“And when he hit you with it, like Paul Dyal hit me with it, he hit me as a little child, I would fly across the desk and he would pull me back by my ankle, so I’ve had bruises that come from my neck all the way down to my ankle,” the anonymous woman said. “One time I looked at him the wrong way, I did not have the proper reaction, and he did physically grab me and I had a mark on my neck, and he chased me through that church trying to catch me.”

Some of them expressed relief that all of this is finally coming out.

“With being brought up in it it was normal...it became our normal,” Belariger said.

They say it was like being in their own world not knowing how they were treated wasn’t OK.

Their attorney Cynthia Crawford said some other survivors are not speaking on all of their experiences because that’s essentially their case with the State Attorney’s Office.

The women are asking anyone who is a survivor of abuse at this church to come forward. You can reach Crawford at 904-422-4634.


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