Mom speaks out about lawsuit against McMinnville church

Church sued for not reporting sex abuse

McMINNVILLE, Ore. -- The Church of the Nazarene in McMinnville is being sued for at least $5.2 million for allegedly not reporting a girl's child abuse accusations to her mother, police or human services.

The lawsuit, filed this week, comes from a former McMinnville mother whose daughter was allegedly being raped by her biological father for several years.  

"It's been a journey that I wouldn't wish on anyone," said Anna, the girl's mother.

Anna says she's prepared for many more years of counseling and medical appointments with her now 12-year-old daughter.

The McMinnville Church of the Nazarene was a huge part of their life Anna's new husband worked part-time at the church.

"We picked it because it had the presentation of the most support for the kids, youth group programs. That was really important to us," she said.

Anna says she had no idea, but at age 6, her daughter started secretly confiding in church pastors and teachers. She told stories of being raped every time she had visitation with her biological dad. Anna and her ex-husband divorced when their daughter was a toddler but she still had visits with her biological father.

"She on the one hand loves her dad, but knew he was hurting her and wanted to protect him, and yet was terrified. So I think she went to a source that wasn't in the family that wouldn't have a huge emotional response," Anna said.

The lawsuit alleges that the church kept the secret for two years, supposedly even telling the girl they didn't believe her, or saying they had told her mother. Anna says it was only when her daughter was finally honest with her, that the secret was out.

Attorney Randall Vogt says the church violated Oregon's mandatory reporter law, which says clergy and any licensed professional must report abuse to authorities. Vogt says the church also violated it's own directives.

The lawsuit cites a 2010 case in Oklahoma, in which the Nazarene Church promised it would invoke a zero tolerance policy against child abuse, and hold trainings, discussions and meetings about how to better protect kids.

Vogt says if church leaders would have spoken up, the abuse would have been stopped.

"She would have been spared a year and a half or so of regrettable sexual contact with her biological father, and she would not have herpes today, which is incurable."

The girl eventually told her mother about the abuse. The lawsuit says the girl has been suffering from psychological problems ever since and even attempted suicide.

Anna said her daughter doesn't want what happened to her to happen to anyone else.

"She wants the church to do what they should do and help kids when they tell you something so sacred and private and vulnerable, listen."

A church leader told KGW, "We are not able to comment on pending litigation."

The father has not been arrested or charged in this case. The Multnomah County District Attorney's Office confirms the case was submitted for review but they declined to prosecute. The District Attorney's Office would not elaborate on why because of "the sensitive nature of the case."

It will be at least a year before Anna's lawsuit goes to trial.


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