Saturday, March 10, 2012

Lawsuit against Methodist church in Houston: failing to stop abuse

I was interviewed for this story: News Radio 740 KTRH
A local woman accuses Methodist preacher Kendall Graham abused her for years and says church officials did nothing to stop it.  She's seeking $25 million in damages.
Referred to as Jane Doe in court documents, the victim claims Graham and his wife invited her move in with them when she was 10-years-old after her mother died, but by age 14 the pastor was sexually abusing her.
Graham and his wife eventually divorced, the victim gave birth to her own child then married her abuser.
 Defense attorneys say Jane Doe is bitter he filed for divorce from her.
David Clohessy is director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests or SNAP.  He calls it a classic child predator case.
"If you are a child sexual predator, you'll do everything you can to gain more access to kids," says Clohessy.  "And what better way to gain access than to bring her into your home and raise her as your daughter."
The victim declined comment, but her attorney Harrison Fischer tells KTRH News that church officials knew about the abuse long ago and did nothing to stop it.
"It was reported by the members of St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, this pastor had inappropriate contact with Jane Doe on a church trip to Jamaica," says Fischer.  "Nothing was done; it was not reported to Child Protective Services or law enforcement."
Space City SNAP's Amy Smith says the lack of response by church leaders happens time and time again.
"They want to rally around a loved minister, and have a very hard time believing that a man who has a facade of goodness and has done so much for people could be capable of that," says Smith.  "That response does keep victims silent."
Church officials say the local Bishop only learned of the abuse when meeting with Jane Doe last August.  The Bishop then fired Graham, forcing him to give up his credentials.