What you are about to read should serve as a warning for anyone working to navigate the current tides of hot-button issues in evangelicalism, especially the emotionally-charged issue of sexual abuse.
About a week ago, I was put in touch with a young woman who claimed to be friends with Julie Roys. The information she gave me – being cited on Roys’ podcast, doing political work, being known within the so-called “victim community” – all checked out. She had even been willing to allude to some of Julie Roys’ supposed bad behavior publicly, despite the risk to her job and her relationships at her new church.
I told this young woman that I’d be happy to talk with her about her experience, and she responded with terrible allegations:
This sounded almost unbelievable. Yet the woman followed up with more circumstantial evidence, sharing screenshots of emails purporting to show her inexplicably losing the free housing Julie provided for her to attend Julie’s Restore Conference the next month:
So far so good, yet the woman didn’t seem interested in exposing what she knew in a published story. No problem, I have other things to do. A couple of days later (and after some other qualifying chit chat), she messaged:
Knowing from the prior conversation what the story was about, I began working on an article. The only thing missing was the emails proving what she was claiming. She began the Signal conversation by saying she expected “full confidentiality,” which I agreed to, later clarifying that I agreed she could back out of the story if after it was written she was uncomfortable with it coming out. I made it very clear that this special consideration was contingent on her being entirely honest with me. She agreed, and sent these screenshots (I did the redactions):
The email discussion proved that Julie was encouraging this young lady – an abuse survivor(!) – to sling allegations online with no regard for their truthfulness! Yet in all of my time reading Julie Roys, this seemed brazen – almost reckless. Very different from the Julie I knew. Sure, with what she had written about her relationship with “Sarah” recently coming under scrutiny I knew such a blind lack of awareness was possible, but this seemed too good to be true. Julie’s website is the digital embodiment of, “It’s not the nature of the evidence, it’s the seriousness of the charge,” and what these emails showed fit my view that Julie uses her sources and witnesses as journalistic human shields – making sure any pushback (especially legal pushback) against what she publishes ultimately entangles her sources rather than herself.
Yet these emails didn’t pass the smell test. The formatting looked odd, but sometimes mobile screens can do funny things. I informed my source that I was ready to publish on Monday, and reminded her that although I had prepared a redacted, anonymous version of the story, enterprising internet sleuths would certainly figure out who she was. Obviously, Julie would know immediately. Yet since the story was true, I probed, she must obviously still be brave enough to go through with this. I sent her a rough draft with names, then later one redacted after she claimed that she needed “time to figure out how to proceed” and that “if anything comes out now, I’m going to be fired” (she said she worked for a state Governor).
I continued to push her to “do the right thing,” suspecting that all was not what it seemed. She began to malign my motivations:
At this point, I needed proof she was lying and proof of what she was lying about. I had already teased the publishing of this information, and now I had a witness who was unreliable at best or quite possibly fabricating the evidence she provided. She had broken the terms of my promise to keep things confidential.
So I arranged for one of the screenshots to be released anonymously on Twitter, for a small amount of time, targeted at a Twitter account I knew she would see but very few others would. Almost immediately, she began texting, calling, and messaging everyone she could, hysterically claiming that her boss the Governor had been made aware of the tweet and was going to fire her. My gambit had worked and exposed her for the liar I had come to suspect she was. There was simply no way a state Governor was immediately aware of a Twitter screenshot from a small, anonymous account, linked it to her (just her first name was in the image, and no names in the text), and called her to threaten to fire her within just a few minutes. Her lying narrative had been found out.
To confirm this new assessment of my source, I spoke to other pastors who have had similar experiences with this woman, including her bizarrely trying to fake a video call as her boss the governor. I’m distressed that anyone would go to such lengths to abuse the sympathy we all have for abuse survivors to feed her own need for attention.
At this point, you may be wondering why I’m not revealing the identity of this con artist. Simply, it’s because I believe she has serious mental and/or emotional problems that need professional help, and I’m not convinced that revealing her identity here will aid that process.
As far as Julie Roys is concerned, I remain convinced that her journalistic technique is reprehensible and motivated by false doctrine. And while she clearly was in contact with the young woman in this article, I believe only one of the emails I was sent between Julie and the woman is legitimate, and nothing that I was sent demonstrates Julie had done anything wrong. In fact, the emails showing the woman’s housing for the Restore Conference becoming unavailable seem perfectly reasonable. I would have done the same thing.
We reached out to Julie last night to confirm what we already suspected – the “smoking gun” emails were fake. Yet I alluded to an expose near the end of a recent podcast, and in social media posts, claiming I had yet unknown proof of Julie’s misdeeds. I was led to believe that the actual emails were coming, and was too trusting of my supposedly abuse-surviving source. While I was simply the latest target of this woman’s con, it was wrong of me to get ahead of the evidence, and I have apologized for this to Julie via email.
I hope this story can serve as a warning to be very careful with what we are told on the internet – especially if it feeds our suspicions or desires. I’m thankful that this con was exposed before it caused hurt or damage to anyone involved in exposing abuse, discerning the truths surrounding the issue, or any actual victims/survivors.
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