Graphic report accuses Christian evangelist Ravi Zacharias of sexual abuse

Last September, Christianity Today‘s Daniel Silliman published a piece citing allegations by three anonymous sources who said that the late evangelist Ravi Zacharias sexually harassed them at two spas he co-owned. (I must admit that I was less surprised by the allegations than the news Zacharias was in the day spa business). Ravi Zacharias International Ministries hired a law firm–Miller & Martin–to investigate the allegation. The firm released an initial report in December 2020.

Today Miller & Martin released its final report in the Zacharias investigation. If you are interested in the graphic details you can read it here.

Ruth Graham summarizes things in her piece at The New York Times. Here is a taste:

The full report paints a stark portrait of that misconduct. The law firm interviewed more than a dozen massage therapists who treated Mr. Zacharias. Five of them reported that he had touched or rubbed them inappropriately, and four said he would touch his own genitals or ask them to touch him. Eight said he would either start the massage completely nude or remove the draping sheets during the treatment.

One massage therapist “reported details of many encounters over a period of years that she described as rape,” the report says. She said Mr. Zacharias talked with her about topics including her faith and her finances, and she came to think of him as a “father figure.” After he arranged for his ministry to provide her with financial support, however, he demanded sex, according to the report. Mr. Zacharias, it says, “warned her not ever to speak out against him or she would be responsible for the ‘millions of souls’ whose salvation would be lost if his reputation was damaged.”

The law firm also found a pattern of intimate text and email-based relationships with women. In reviewing his electronic devices, they found the phone numbers of more than 200 massage therapists and more than 200 selfies, some of them nudes, from much younger women. Mr. Zacharias also used the nonprofit ministry to financially support some of his long-term therapists. The report also reveals that he owned two apartments in Bangkok, where he spent 256 days between 2010 and 2014. One of his massage therapists stayed in the other apartment.

Mr. Zacharias said in 2017 that in 45 years of marriage, “I have never engaged in any inappropriate behavior of any kind.”

Read the rest here.

Ravi Zacharias International Ministries released this statement:

It is with shattered hearts that we issue this statement about the allegations against RZIM’s Founder, Ravi Zacharias.

Following allegations made in late August of 2020 that Ravi had engaged in sexual misconduct and abuse in connection with two day spas, we commissioned Miller & Martin PLLC, a law firm with experience in corporate and sex crimes investigations, to conduct an independent investigation. We gave Miller & Martin a broad scope to pursue any avenues that they judged to be relevant to the accusations, and we emphasized that our only purpose for the investigation was to ascertain the full truth.

Having received the results of the investigation, we are publicly releasing the investigation report in the exact form that we received it. We have been waiting to make an extended statement in the hope that the full findings of the investigation would allow us to speak more accurately and meaningfully. We also wanted to ensure Miller & Martin’s independence in their investigation, assessments, and reporting of the findings.

To be victimized by unwanted sexual contact, advances, and behavior is horrendous. It is diametrically opposed to everything we believe about the value and dignity of every single person. We believe not only the women who made their allegations public but also additional women who had not previously made public allegations against Ravi but whose identities and stories were uncovered during the investigation. Tragically, witnesses described encounters including sexting, unwanted touching, spiritual abuse, and rape. We are devastated by what the investigation has shown and are filled with sorrow for the women who were hurt by this terrible abuse.

These women told their stories on conditions of confidentiality and anonymity, and we fully intend to respect their wishes by not disclosing their names or any other identifying information. We are deeply grateful to all of the courageous women and other witnesses who came forward in this investigation.

We would like to thank each journalist, advocate, and concerned member of the public who brought accusations of sexual misconduct and abuse to our attention. Their efforts paved the way for us to recognize the truth and to have the opportunity to respond to the truth. For that we will always be thankful. We would also like to thank all of those, including our own staff, who raised questions and concerns. Input from all of these sources was of great help, especially in enabling us to identify and begin to take responsibility for our failures.

The investigation’s conclusions have caused us to think very differently about the allegations Mrs. Lori Anne Thompson made against Ravi in 2017. We were wrong. Our trust in Ravi’s denial of moral wrongdoing and in his deceptive explanations of emails and other records that became public was severely misplaced, and our failures in 2017, including our failure to commission an independent investigation at that time, allowed tremendous pain to continue to be caused in the Thompsons’ lives.

We believe Lori Anne Thompson has told the truth about the nature of her relationship with Ravi Zacharias. It is with profound grief that we recognize that because we did not believe the Thompsons and both privately and publicly perpetuated a false narrative, they were slandered for years and their suffering was greatly prolonged and intensified. This leaves us heartbroken and ashamed. We are deeply grateful for their longstanding commitment to making the truth known and admire their strength to carry on even when they were not believed. It is our hope to seek a redemptive way forward with Mrs. and Mr. Thompson and seek their forgiveness, while recognizing that we have no right to this and wanting to be led by them in terms of what might be most helpful.

It must have been deeply painful for the victims of Ravi’s abuse and misconduct to tell their stories and to relive their terrible experiences as they participated in this investigation. To you we say directly: Words cannot come close to expressing the sorrow that we feel for what you have been through or the gratitude we feel for the bravery with which you have responded. We are so thankful to you, and we are so sorry.

The findings of this investigation and their public release will be devastating to Ravi’s wife, son, and daughters, and to his entire family. Our hearts are broken for them, and we grieve with the weight of being part of this unimaginable pain. We pray for the Zacharias family and mourn with them in this time of severe loss. It is our hope that they will receive the healing and restoration that God alone can provide.

Read the rest here.