World-renowned apologist Ravi Zacharias engaged in "sexting, unwanted touching, spiritual abuse, and rape,” according to a report released by his own ministry organisation.
On Thursday, Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM) released the full and unedited report into Zacharias' history of sexual misconduct. The report revealed damning testimony of sexual assault against a number of female spa workers and detailed a pattern of sexually explicit communication with multiple women across the world.
"We are devastated by what the investigation has shown and are filled with sorrow for the women who were hurt by this terrible abuse," RZIM said.
The investigation, undertaken by law firm Miller & Martin, described the horrific experiences of several spa workers who said that Ravi had spiritually manipulated them into performing sexual acts in exchange for money.
One of the workers alleged that she had been coerced into having sex with Ravi on multiple occasions, describing the encounters as "rape".
"This witness told us that their relationship began as a normal massage therapist-client relationship, and she came to think of him as a father figure," the report detailed. "He elicited information about her faith and her financial situation. She reported that after he arranged for the ministry to provide her with financial support, he required sex from her. According to this witness, Mr. Zacharias used religious expressions to gain compliance, as she was raised to be a person of faith."
The witness also described being spiritually abused by Zacharias:
"She reported that he made her pray with him to thank God for the “opportunity” they both received. She said he called her his “reward” for living a life of service to God, and he referenced the “godly men” in the Bible with more than one wife. She said he 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."
Miller & Martin added that this particular account involved similar behavior to the accounts of other therapists "who would not have known each other and who treated Mr. Zacharias in different contexts over time".
The law firm also engaged in a forensic investigation of Ravi's mobile phones. They discovered photos of numerous women, many of which were explicit. They also found that Ravi was using encrypted communications platforms and would connect to a separate WiFi network when working at RZIM's headquarters in Alpharetta, Georgia. He also chose to use a private email address rather than an official RZIM one.
"He claimed this was for security reasons," the report noted, "but the end result was that no one at RZIM would have had administrative access to his devices or email communications".
When looking through his "Notes" app, investigators found that Zacharias had jotted down translations of certain words and phrases in Thai and Mandarin, including “I miss you so much. I want to see your face” and “little bit further”.
Other suspect phrases included “softer, lighter”; “U R beautiful”; “not enough”; “I hope our love lasts forever”; “I love you from the bottom of my heart”; “I’d like to have a beautiful memory with you”; “Life is so wonderful because [sic] I could meet you”; “Your lips are especially beautiful”; and “I love you darling".
RZIM said that Zacharias managed to keep his behaviour secret from all those close to him. "Ravi engaged in a series of extensive measures to conceal his behaviour from his family, colleagues, and friends" they said, before admitting that in cases of prolonged abuse, "there are often significant structural, policy, and cultural problems". RZIM promised swift organisational change and acknowledged that they had "fallen short, made mistakes, and failed to love well".
The Zacharias Trust - which is part of the UK arm of RZIM - has refused multiple requests for interviews.
Speaking to Premier, Justin Humphreys from the safeguarding charity Thirtyone:eight said that questions remain for RZIM as to "who knew what, and when" regarding Ravi's behaviour.
"What we see in these sorts of situations is that these sorts of harmful behaviours take place within a wider culture and context," Humphreys said. "And it's right that we focus upon the specific behaviours of certain individuals and the impact that they have upon their victims, however, to take our focus away from the context and the culture, and the setting within which those have happened, would mean that we only then pick up part of the picture."
Humphreys insisted that "any degree of collusion, cover-up or 'looking the other way' needs to be understood in its fullness".
The safeguarding expert said that RZIM needs to address issues related to transparency and the structures required to ensure a safer environment and culture. "How open genuinely are they to hearing concerns, low-level concerns or serious concerns about behaviour, about attitudes that they may be witnessing within any given environment?" Humphreys asked. "And what is the messaging that's going on both inside and outside the organization about the way that it manages such challenges?"
Humphreys said that he was "pleased that there seems to be some indication that they are going to look at things such as that culture" but that the "proof is in the pudding as to just how effective that exploration will be and what change it will result in".
Lori Anne Thompson
RZIM also made specific reference to Lori Anne Thompson, a victim of Zacharias whose testimony the organisation attempted to discredit. Lori was groomed by Zacharias over a number of months after meeting him at a radio event and engaged in electronic communication with him of an inappropriate nature. When she suggested telling her husband about the situation, Zacharias threatened to commit suicide.
The situation led to Lori and her husband becoming embroiled in a protracted legal battle with Zacharias, culminating in the apologist filing a federal lawsuit against the couple under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. RZIM continued to put its weight behind Ravi's false claim that the Thompson's were extortionists.
The two parties eventually settled out of court.
Zacharias repeatedly rejected the accusation that he had solicited explicit photos from Thompson. He apologised for being in contact with a woman who was not his wife but denied any sexual wrongdoing. Zacharias held on to this false narrative until his death in May of last year.
RZIM now admits that Thompson's story was, in fact, correct.
"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," the group said.
"This leaves us heartbroken and ashamed."
RZIM added that were "deeply grateful for [the Thompson's] longstanding commitment to making the truth known and admire their strength to carry on even when they were not believed", and noted that they "hope to seek a redemptive way forward with Mrs. and Mr. Thompson and seek their forgiveness".
On Twitter, Thompson said she was "overwhelmed with emotion, information, and correspondence" following RZIM's statement, and referred followers to a Victim Impact Statement she released earlier this week. "The truth of it still stands," she said.