As many as 380 Southern Baptist church leaders and workers were accused of sexual misconduct since 1998 by more than 700 victims. These numbers were released by two newspapers — the San Antonio Express-News and the Houston Chronicle — on Sunday as a part of their six-month-long joint investigation.

The investigation also revealed that most of the victims were shunned by their churches after they filed complaints. However, at least 35 pastors, employees and volunteers who had the predatory behavior did manage to continue working at the churches, while some registered sex offenders returned to the pulpit later.

Dale “Dickie” Amyx, who was a pastor at the Bolivar Baptist Church in Texas, allegedly molested Debbie Vasquez since she was 14 and later impregnated her when she was 18 and he was 28 years old.

Vasquez met Amyx when she was 14 and since he was one of the volunteers for the church’s bus ministry, he would often pick her up to go to the junior church services. Coming from an abusive family, Vasquez believed, she found a confidante in Amyx and began sharing her problems with him. He would often take her on long drives in the country to discuss her issues and that was when he began touching her inappropriately, she told the Houston Chronicle.

According to Vasquez, Amyx began molesting her when she was 14 years old and started having sex with her regularly three years later. At that time, he was married and was a youth pastor at a Lewisville Church, Calvary Baptist, which has since become defunct. When she became pregnant, the church leaders made her ask the congregation for forgiveness as an unwed mother. The church leaders reportedly knew Amyx had fathered the child but refused to share the information with the congregation.

Amyx said he became attracted toward Vasquez when she was either 16 or 17 and believed that Vasquez was 17 when he’d started having sex with her. He said he did regret it but thought Vasquez was okay with it.

“I hated it, that it happened. I told her many times that I never meant to hurt her, and if I did, I am sorry,” he told the church officials at the time.

This, however, was not reason enough for the church to fire him or report him to the police or even prevent him from leading congregations. Till 2006 when the reports of the case came out, Amyx continued to rise to ranks in the church and was also transferred to Arizona and later also worked at a high school there. Vasquez said he told her that some of the girls at the school talked to him about their sexual exploits.

Fearing there could more victims, Vasquez tried to get the names of other girls Vasquez interacted with, but was unsuccessful.

According to the report, the church was aware of Amyx and his sexual relations with Vasquez at the time of his hiring and yet he was not fired. When the case became public, Amyx was put on paid leave. While he hasn’t preached a sermon ever since, he and his wife, Melinda, still remain members of the church. His number is also registered in the Yellow Pages as that of a church parsonage. Melinda continues to teach at a Sunday school and also plays piano for the church.

The Baptist General Convention of Texas has a list of clergy members who were found by their churches to have conducted themselves in an unethical way. This list is confidential and only a church can add to it. After filing the lawsuit, Vasquez asked the church to report Amyx to the general convention but the church denied her request. The attorney for the Bolivar Baptist Church, Brian Cartwright, wrote a letter to her about how having Amyx’s name in the list will be a violation of the church bylaws and its method of governance.

Like Vasquez, most of the victims were adolescents, some of whom were molested, received explicit photos and texts, shown pornography, photographed nude or raped repeatedly by young pastors. Some of the victims were as young as three and were raped and molested inside the pastors’ studies and even in Sunday school classrooms. There were a couple of adults as well among them, men and women who went in for pastoral guidance and were seduced and sexually assaulted.

Though 220 of the offenders were convicted, there are more than dozens of cases that are still pending. While nearly 100 offenders are in prisons, several of the accused are still working in the churches, continuing to exploit and abuse their power and the people who seek their guidance.

church As many as 380 pastors and volunteers from Southern Baptist churches were accused of sexual misconduct since 1998, with many of them still serving the church as pastors or as volunteers. This is a representational image of the New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit, Aug. 16, 2018. Photo: Bill Pugliano/Getty Images