It was 19 February, 2013 when Mum and I walked into the police station in Cairns and reported decades of crimes that had taken place in our home over the forty years leading up to that day. A few weeks ago, more than ten years later, we finally closed that chapter as the judge read out the sentence against my father, Rev. Larry Harris (Illawarra Mercury).

He has now been convicted on nine criminal counts in two states. Most recently, in New South Wales, he was convicted on seven counts including sexual assault and weapons offences after an arduous two-week trial and sentenced to five years in prison.

In 2016, in Queensland, he was charged with five counts of rape and secured a plea deal by pleading guilty to two counts of rape. He was sentenced to five years in prison, suspended after twenty months.

First, several things I want to clarify. Prosecuting was entirely Mum’s choice. I warned her the cost would be high if she went forward and she took her time in deciding that this was something she needed to do. I was merely along for the ride. And to support her in the process.

Second, this is not easy to write. I’m not gloating about this. I feel like any son would feel after seeing his father led off to prison in his old age. It is a terrible thing to see. It was a painful, sober thing to testify against my own father in court. My goal here is to explain why I did it.

Why I took part in this

First, I took part in this because I grew up in a world that was so unsafe that even now, decades later, I live with the debilitating effects of complex trauma every day. My mother experienced sexual violence and mind-bending abuse for forty years. My siblings lived in the same world. They—we—deserve justice. What happened was not ok. And criminals must understand that even if you get away with it for decades, your crimes will eventually catch up with you and you will pay your debt to society. So I took part in this because I wanted to make the world a safer place. For women. For children. For the vulnerable. That’s primary.

Second, I took part in this because it happened in the name of God. My father said God wanted this. But God has never endorsed, and will never endorse, this sort of perversion. As a survivor of this domestic violence, I’ve wrestled with the Christian Scriptures and found that men like my father do not know the Christian God. What they do does not come from an over-enthusiastic devotion to the Christian God, but from a narcissistic—even sociopathic—insurrection against him. Taking part in this prosecution allows me to clarify this.

Third, I took part in this because the Independent Baptists (IBs) in Australia still don’t get it. Let me take you on a tour of five responses so far.

1) Rev. Richard Shellabear is currently the Pastor of Shoalhaven Baptist Church which was founded by my father in 1994. He testified in writing due to poor health. In his testimony, he tries to distance himself from my parents saying that he hardly knew them and had little contact. He then goes on to admit that my mother disclosed the domestic violence to him soon after these crimes took place while he was visiting at Valley Forge Baptist Temple. He describes eating in the church cafeteria and my mother disclosing, but his primary concern is to defend himself from any suspicion of speaking to “another man’s wife” without the husband present, especially about the marriage itself. In other words, he admits that his response to a disclosure of domestic violence is to shut down the disclosure if possible and if not, to subject the victim to the control of her abuser. I sat in court astounded that he would admit this openly. In writing. In court. Under oath.

2) Rev. Jon Hall is currently the Assistant Pastor of Shoalhaven Baptist Church. He was Assistant Pastor at the church under my father in the years leading up to the particular crimes prosecuted in this trial. He testified on behalf of the defence. When I challenged him about this, he said that he was not defending my father but was rather defending the reputation of Shoalhaven Baptist Church, the IBs, himself, and Jesus Christ. This based on his view of the tone of a 60 Minutes episode aired in 2017. It takes a fair bit of untwisting to even understand how testifying on behalf of the defence in a rape trial says “I’m not like that. And neither is God, our church, or the IB movement.”

3) Rev. Andrew Otte, the Senior Pastor of Clontarf Beach Baptist Church, a Queensland Baptists (Baptist Union) church wrote two letters of reference for my father to be used at his sentencing. And placed him in a ministry where he was counselling vulnerable people. This is a man—my father—who has a decades-long pattern of harming vulnerable people. Criminal convictions. A record of being removed from such positions again and again after causing harm. And Otte was my father’s pastor before he served his first prison sentence and remained his pastor after his release. He knows what happened. He not only gave him two reference letters, he put him in a position of influence over vulnerable people after he got out of prison.

4) Of course Rev. Kevin Harris has not changed his position since he condemned his own mother for leaving her rapist. Because he believes husbands have a biblical right to demand sex from their wives and wives must never say no. He believes there is no such thing as rape in a marriage. In the seven years since the launch of The Files, I have had a standing offer to correct any mistake and publish any clarifications or corrections he wants to make. He has made no attempt to refute any of the facts documented there.

How has he behaved in relation to this prosecution? Well, he started several blogs leading up to this trial in which he made a point of describing his upbringing as “a wonderful childhood under purposeful, loving Christian parents” (source). Just over a month before the trial began, he published an article about his parents in which he goes to great lengths to describe our home as the perfect, happy Christian home. “I grew up with parents who loved each other and were committed to each other… Each family meal would begin with Dad kissing Mum… I highly value their example of love for each other, and love for their children.” On and on he goes paragraph after paragraph. All true. All part of the tapestry into which the terror was woven. A perfect, happy Christian home. Where sexual and physical violence was a normal part of life. Kevin admits that his “wonderful childhood” involved serious violence against himself, his siblings, and his mother. But in this article, just before trial, he goes out of his way to present a narrative that protects the abuser and isolates the victims.

5) The final example is a person who is very close to my mother; someone who will soon take up a role as a pastor. He wrote a reference letter for my father to use at his sentencing. When confronted about this, he apologised and said he didn’t mean to take sides. So here’s someone who will soon be appointed as a pastor who thinks that when someone is convicted of committing violent, armed crimes against a woman, you should stay neutral. That even when a man is legally convicted of raping his wife, it’s important not to take sides.

I give these five examples to support the point I made: The Independent Baptists in Australia still don’t get it. But note that one of these churches isn’t even IB. The Queensland Baptists also have a problem here. Christian churches still aren’t reliably safe. Indeed, many are reliably unsafe. And this is worse than a tragedy. It’s a blasphemy. It’s not good enough. It must change.


There is more I could say. And will, no doubt. I’m weary because I hear story after story of vulnerable people who went to the church for help and were let down, betrayed, even violated. But it is a profound privilege to hear these stories. And it is a profound privilege to have an opportunity to stand up for the vulnerable.

And this brings me to the ultimate reason I took part in this. Because an evil man took advantage of my mother’s vulnerability, pointed a gun at her, and raped her. And the fact that he knew her, was her husband, her pastor didn’t make it ok; it made it much, much, much worse.

Again and again, Christians can’t seem to see this. But they must. It’s not just my opinion. It’s God’s.

Grace to you.

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About Jason Harris

Dr Jason Harris is a writer, pastor, and academic. He has authored multiple books, articles, and papers including his book Theological Meditations on the Gospel. Jason has a PhD from James Cook University as well as degrees in theology, music, accounting, and research. Jason has lived in Cairns, Australia since 2007 and serves as pastor at CrossPoint Church. You can contact Jason at