Tulsa Church Questioned About Handling Of Sexual Assault Allegations

Thursday, September 13th 2012, 10:04 pm
By: News On 6

Court records show Victory Christian Center in Tulsa waited two weeks before reporting allegations that a man had raped a 13-year-old girl.

Tulsa Police said two employees are accused of having sexual relationships with two underage girls.

But, before officers were called, they said Victory interviewed the victims and the suspects, then fired the two men before notifying the girls' parents or police.

Oklahoma law says any person who suspects child abuse must report it in a timely manner.

Child Crisis detectives said they are surprised Victory Christian did not have a protocol or policy in place to handle this type of situation.

Court records state the two Victory Christian adult employees met the two girls at summer camp and stayed in touch with them through Facebook and cell phones, exchanging sexually explicit messages and engaging in sexual relationships, however neither girl is old enough to legally consent.

9/5/2012 Related Story: Police Arrest Man For Teen's Rape At Victory Worship Center

Records show staff was notified and interviewed the men and the girls and fired the men on August 15.

Records show they contacted parents and police on August 30.

One of the girls told police one of the men, Chris Denman, forced her, even hitting her when she resisted.

Officers arrested Denman last week, and he's been charged with four crimes, including rape and child molestation.

Police say having weeks between the incident and them being notified did affect the case.

"I do think it did have some harm, because we had forensic evidence that was gone by the time we were notified," said Corporal Greg Smith. "There were persons we needed to talk to, who were no longer there and it took time to track them down. There have been some problems with the delay."

Detectives served a warrant at Victory Christian and collected carpet samples and records of Victory Christian's internal investigation.

Police said the time to gather evidence is always sooner rather than later.

"We can prove our case, but it would've been easier and much more solid a case, had we been involved from the beginning when we could gather all the evidence available then—not what's left over two to three weeks later," Smith said.

Smith said he wants everyone to know they have a legal obligation to report suspected child abuse in a timely manner.

He also said interviewing suspects and victims should be left up to specially-trained professionals.

"They use proven methods that get the most accurate answers out of kids, open ended," Smith said. "Every time I've seen a lay person question a child about abuse, it's almost always been an improper question."

One prosecutor told me it's hard to believe an organization the size of Victory Christian wouldn't be aware of the reporting requirements, especially after all the publicity at Penn State recently.

Failing to report suspected child abuse, in Oklahoma law, is a misdemeanor.

None of the authorities we talked to could remember anyone being charged with violating that law in Tulsa County.

News On 6 left messages with four staff members at Victory Christian, but didn't hear back.