Six woman say former EPIC Church leader groomed them as kids

In a news conference Wednesday afternoon five women, who described themselves as “victims of Robert ‘Bobby’ Hawk, spoke about the importance of speaking out against sexual abuse. Hawk is the former pastor of EPIC Church KC who resigned last month amid allegations.

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Five women stood outside the Jackson County Courthouse Wednesday afternoon, each with a story of how they say an area pastor took advantage and groomed them years ago.

Together, they say they’re determined to speak out against the former leader of EPIC Church KC who also, until last month, served as president of the Blue Springs school board.

“We were manipulated by an emotional, physical and sexual abuser,” said Destiny Bounds, who spoke for the group Wednesday. “All victims who suffered at the hands of Robert ‘Bobby’ Hawk.”

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“… And if we don’t stop him, it will happen again to another generation.

The news conference, where Bounds and others say they want Hawk and others held accountable, comes three weeks after allegations first surfaced online about Hawk.

Those allegations were spelled out in a blog post written by Isabelle “Izzy” Davis, 23, who detailed Hawk’s “grooming” behavior, which she alleges began after her family started attending EPIC Church KC in Independence, where Hawk is a founding pastor.

In her post, Davis recalled an encounter with Hawk during a youth group sleepover at his house. She said Hawk grasped her hand and placed it underneath his thigh while the two were watching a movie. She said Hawk told her not to tell anyone.

Soon after Davis’ post, Hawk resigned from his position on the Blue Springs school board. Then, the church placed him on immediate leave and posted a statement on its social media and the homepage of its website.

On June 21, Hawk resigned from his position at the church.

Hawk could not be reached for comment. Blue Springs Police have confirmed they are investigating.

‘Countless stories’

Since the allegations surfaced, several women have come forward. Not just the five at the news conference and Davis, who lives out of state and couldn’t be there, but was able to watch it live, her face filling a small computer tablet that one of the women held.

“Over the last few weeks, we have heard countless stories, and an outpouring of support from women who have had similar experiences as ours,” Bounds said. “And this is so heartbreaking to all of us. Victims who like us six, were silenced.”

Twenty five years ago, Bounds said, she and her sister Danielle Hahn — who was at the news conference — “came forward to speak our truth about Bobby.” The sisters were 13 and 15 at the time.

“We were shamed, told to stay quiet, and (were) pressured by many in the church, including Bobby, to say nothing,” Bounds said, as her older sister stood behind her and nodded in agreement. “That unfortunately led to these other girls up here with me right now on stage, also becoming the victims to assault.”

After reading Davis’ blog post last month, Hahn said she couldn’t sleep or rest.

“Emotions came back to me,” Hahn said. “Triggers came back to me, things that I had buried for 25 years because nobody would listen to me then. And the people that did, didn’t stand up for me the way an adult should.

“Izzie’s story was heartbreaking. There were too many similarities. I knew she was telling the truth. I reached out to her and said, ‘I have been waiting for you for 25 years.’”

Another of the five women outside the courthouse Wednesday said many people from EPIC Church have offered support in recent weeks.

“There are good people in that church who have reached out,” said Kari Jo Crandall. “And I think that the majority of the members of the church had no idea.

“The people in the church are heartbroken. And they are grieving with us.”

Bounds said allegations that have been discussed publicly are “only the tip of the iceberg.”

“We are extremely hopeful that criminal charges will be forthcoming,” Bounds said. “If you were a victim of Bobby Hawk, please come forward and stand with us.

“… We promise until we are heard and there’s accountability, we will not stand down.”

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Laura Bauer, who came to The Kansas City Star in 2005, focuses on investigative and watchdog journalism. In her 30-year career, Laura has won numerous national awards for coverage of human trafficking, child welfare, crime and government secrecy.

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