That stench—horribly foul, like excrement sprinkled with cheap, rosy perfume. It had been 24 years since she smelled it last, but the odor was unmistakable. Someone had spread powder all over Joy's front porch. That's where the odor was coming from.
She refused to touch it. Rain would wash the powder away. But the memories it brought back to her wouldn't go—the fragmented images of a brutal attack.
His black tasseled loafers. His thick glasses. The long wooden objects draped in a red towel he set on the floor.
The way he crept up behind her in her bedroom and touched her on the side, startling her just before he shoved her facedown onto the bed. The excruciating pain as he jammed a 3-foot club into her rectum and asked repeatedly, "Does it feel good? Does it feel good?"
And the stench—that sickening sweet smell that hung around him.
The powder, she suspected, was tied to a voodoo rite.
When Joy saw it on her porch last year she immediately tracked back to a surprise visitor who'd come just a few days earlier. The visit was odd: Joy hadn't seen or heard from this woman in a long time. All of a sudden, she popped up unannounced, not long after Unfair Park, the Dallas Observer blog, reported that Joy—not her real name—claimed she'd been raped by a Fort Worth preacher in 1983. Turns out this woman was dating the preacher's first cousin.
The visitor came with nosy questions. Was Joy going to testify about the attack? No, the visitor reasoned aloud: If you'd wanted to testify, you would have done that a long time ago. Joy just nodded her head.
The preacher was a nobody in May 1983, when Joy told Fort Worth police that he'd drugged or hypnotized her, beaten her with a paddle and raped her anally with a wooden club. Then, she claims, he sodomized her, slapping his hand over her mouth and cursing at her when she tried to cry out to God. When he was finished, Joy says, the preacher propped her up in front of a bathroom mirror, pried her eyes open so she was forced to look at herself and called her a bitch, a whore, a prostitute, a cokehead.
"God told me to do this to you," she recalled him saying.
And there was more. He knew people in high places, he allegedly told her, so no one would ever believe her. But if she was stupid enough to tell, he'd come back and do the same thing to her 4-year-old daughter.
As she hunched naked on a love seat in her apartment after the attack, numb with pain, hating this God he invoked and hoping she would die, the preacher handed her two rolls of toilet tissue.
He kissed her on the forehead and walked out the door.
Now the preacher was somebody.
The year was 2007, and Sherman Clifton Allen was a man of stature in the black Pentecostal church. Allen, senior pastor of Shiloh Institutional Church of God in Christ in Fort Worth, had become known across the country for his bold, eloquent preaching. He spoke in clipped sentences, with an abundance of big words, but he also knew how to stir a Pentecostal congregation, effortlessly weaving ghetto slang with theology. When the spirit was high, he could let loose from the pulpit with a sanctified scream: Ahhhhhhhh!
He seemed to embody the ideal of the neo-Pentecostal preacher: sophisticated, smart and successful, but true to his roots in the humble but impassioned spirituality of black Pentecostalism.
Observers in his denomination, the Church of God in Christ, assumed he was on the fast track to making bishop. He hung out with top-ranking church leaders, such as Charles E. Blake, now the presiding bishop of COGIC, the biggest Pentecostal denomination in the United States. He personally knew Pentecostal luminaries such as T.D. Jakes and Juanita Bynum. When Allen's first wife died, Jakes, perhaps the biggest name in Pentecostalism, delivered the eulogy.
Allen and his followers saw no contradiction between worldly and spiritual success, and the preacher drove a late-model Mercedes and lived in a $1.6 million parsonage in Mansfield. A retinue of bodyguards and "armor-bearers" attended to his needs—often for little or no pay—and members of Shiloh literally raced each other to the altar to present offerings and demonstrate their devotion to this anointed man of God. They hung on his every utterance—especially when he dropped a word of personal prophecy, pronouncing blessings of homes, cars, financial abundance and fame. At his annual Prophetic Summit, he pulled in big-name speakers such as Bynum and Jakes and sent them away with five-figure checks. It was the event that got people in the local black Pentecostal scene buzzing about his ministry in the first place.