OH! DID I TYPE THAT OUT LOUD?
A woman who says her daughter told leaders of a McMinnville church that her father was sexually abusing her has filed a $5.2 million lawsuit, faulting church leaders for keeping quiet.The girl, starting at age 6 or 7, confided in various church leaders over the course of nearly two years, but they didn’t report the alleged abuse to police or child protection workers as required under Oregon’s mandatory reporting law, according to the suit.The leaders — including teachers and clergy — also didn’t say anything to the girl’s mother for nearly two years — and the girl ultimately ended up contracting herpes from her biological father, the lawsuit claims.Leaders of the Church on the Hill — also known as McMinnville Church of the Nazarene — mistakenly thought at first that the girl was accusing her stepfather and didn’t believe her, Portland attorney Randall Vogt said in a statement of facts he wrote about the case. The stepfather worked for the church and was well-liked, said Vogt, who represents the girl’s mother.”They essentially said, ‘He’s a good guy. He wouldn’t do something like that,'” Vogt said.The girl’s mother filed the suit Monday on behalf of the girl, now 12, in Multnomah County Circuit Court. The lawsuit alleges that the girl was molested in Multnomah County.The father hasn’t been charged with any crimes. The Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office declined to comment because the case involves alleged child abuse.A church business administrator declined to comment, saying the church can’t discuss pending litigation. The church — at 700 N.W. Hill Road — averages about 1,000 attendees at its services, according to a recent church report.The girl’s parents were divorced when she was a toddler, but she regularly visited her father over the years. The girl’s mother remarried, and the mother, stepfather and the girl began attending the Church on the Hill, according to the suit.From 2010 to 2012 — when the girl was between about 6 and 8 — she told trusted leaders in the church that her dad was having sexual intercourse with her, the suit alleges.The girl eventually confided in her mother and a counselor, Vogt said, and the counselor contacted the Oregon Department of Human Services.The girl was later diagnosed with oral and genital herpes, according to the suit. A judge terminated the father’s parental rights in 2013, when the girl was 9, the suit says.The girl suffered psychologically from the abuse and tried more than once to kill herself, the suit says.The lawsuit contends that not only did church officials fail to abide by their duties as mandatory reporters under Oregon law, they also didn’t follow their own church’s nationwide policies to report abuse.The suit lists the McMinnville church and the national organization it’s associated with as defendants.The suit seeks $200,000 for the girl’s past and future medical expenses and counseling costs. The suit also seeks $5 million for the girl’s pain and suffering. Under Oregon law, if she’s determined to be a “vulnerable person” because of her age, the total amount sought could triple to $15.6 million.– Aimee Greenagreen@oregonian.com503-294-5119
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