A victim of childhood sexual abuse told an Australian court on Monday that Hillsong megachurch’s disgraced founder and pastor Brian Houston, whose dad is the accused rapist, told the victim that he invited the abuse. “You tempted my father,” the victim, Brett Sengstock, said Houston told him. He has waived his right to anonymity and accused Houston of failing to report abuse allegations made against his father, Frank Houston.
Brian Houston is currently standing trial for one offense of “concealing a serious indictable offense of another person,” per The Guardian. He has pleaded not guilty and also disputes the phone call in which he allegedly made ghoulish comments about Sengstock inviting the abuse.
Houston’s lawyer maintains that he did not report the incident to the police in 1999 (when he first learned of it, they say) because Sengstock did not want to police involved. “There is one person who did not want to go to the police, and that is the complainant in this case,” Phillip Boulten told the court, according to The Guardian. “Your honor cannot be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that he did not have a reasonable excuse for not reporting this to police.”
Prosecutors are accusing Brian Houston of having covered up the abuse. “The primary prosecution case is the reason he didn’t report it was to protect his father and the church,” prosecutor Gareth Harrison told the court.
Frank Houston was visiting Sydney as a pastor with the Assemblies of God church when he first stayed with Sengstock’s family. Sengstock told the court the elder Houston “repeatedly” raped him in January of 1970, when he was just 7 years old. Frank Houston’s abuse was summarized by The Guardian: “At night, [Frank Houston] came into Sengstock’s room and sexually assaulted him while he was sleeping, placing his hands on his genitals, masturbating him and inserting a finger into his anus.”
Years later, Sengstock’s highly religious family sent Sengstock as a teenager to Frank Houston for counseling. The pastor was masturbating during the meeting, Sengstock told the court. After running out of the meeting and upon making it home, Sengstock finally told his mother that Sengstock had molested him. Sengstock told the court that his mother eventually said it would be “like a mortal sin” to turn in a fellow church member; but she did tell a family member who was senior in the church, who passed the tip onto other church officials.
Sengstock said eventually Frank Houston sought his forgiveness. “He needed his forgiveness because he could not die and face God with this on his head,” Sengstock told the court.
In November 1999, Sengstock alleges that Frank himself bribed him for his silence. The pair met at a Sydney McDonald’s, and Frank Houston offered him $10,000. Of course, Frank failed to send the money. And when Sengstock called Brian Houston to ask what happened to the payout, he says Houston told him he invited the abuse. “You know this is all your fault. You tempted my father,” Sengstock recounted in court.
The horrific situation is a part of a recent documentary about the Hillsong megachurch, which Houston led until earlier this year. He stepped back from his role in late January to devote himself to fully answering the charge in court, but resigned in March after an internal investigation found that he “breached the Hillsong Pastor’s Code of Conduct.”