The controversy surrounding Victory Christian Center intensified Friday, as the mother of an alleged sexual abuse victim filed a lawsuit against the church, claiming employees willfully concealed allegations of rape on the church campus.
According to the petition, the mother is accusing the megachurch of gross negligence and intentional or reckless infliction of emotional distress, with regard to the way church leaders handled her daughter's allegation that she was raped on the Victory Christian campus.
The suit claims that Chris Denman, 20, who was arrested and charged with rape and child molestation on September 5, forced the 13-year-old into sexual intercourse and forced her to perform oral sex.
The mother alleges that the church failed to do a proper investigation into Denman's background before he was hired to work at the church's Camp Victory, which is where the mother claims her daughter first met Denman, and then, once notified of the alleged assault, failed to report it to the proper authorities and the parents.
The suit also claims youth leaders at the church conducted their own investigation into the incident, during which they told the 13-year-old girl that it was her fault.
The mother claims the rape occurred on August 13, just prior to a church service, and that her daughter reported it to youth leaders at Victory Christian on August 15. The documents say the church employees failed to report the assault to the police or to the parents until August 30.
Also, despite the church leaders' knowledge of the allegation, the suit claims they failed to fire Denman immediately.
The suit states that Youth Director Paul Willemstein and High School Outreach Program Director Anna George sat down with the young girl and attempted to intimidate her into concealing her rape from the public and her parents, telling her that the alleged assault was her fault.
The mother claims that when she was notified of the allegation, Harold Sullivan, the Human Resource Director at Victory Christian Center told her that her daughter was having a consensual relationship with Denman. She also claims Sullivan told her falsely that the church had notified the police.
In a press statement, Victory Christian Center admitted that their written policy for handling allegations of abuse was not followed by the employees involved.
Five of those employees, including Willemstein, George and Sullivan, as well as Youth Pastors John Daugherty and Charica Daugherty, who police believe also had some knowledge of the incident, were charged with failure to report child abuse on Monday.
The suit claims that Victory Christian Senior Pastor, Sharon Daugherty also knew of the alleged assault and failed to inform authorities, though she was not charged.
The mother is asking for actual and exemplary damages, amounting to at least $75,000, including costs and attorney's fees.
Victory Christian Center released a statement Tuesday, stating that Denman and another Camp Victory employee, accused of having sexual contact with a minor, Israel Castillo, 23, passed a screening process before they were hired, and that neither had any history of criminal activity.
Denman has pleaded not guilty to charges of rape and child molestation.
All five employees charged with failure to report child abuse were arrested this week and bonded out of jail. They will go for arraignment on September 26.