How a Tulsa Megachurch Handled the Rape of a Thirteen Year Old Girl By One of its Employees

Yesterday, a judge declined to dismiss a civil case against Victory Christian Center, a megachurch in Tulsa, OK that allegedly failed to report the rape of a thirteen year old girl on its campus by a church janitor for two weeks.

The janitor in question, Chris Denman, has already been sentenced to fifty-five years in prison for the rape, as well as other sex crimes.  Another employee, Israel Castillo, sent explicit messages to an underage girl - he was also fired and arrested, but his case has not yet gone to trial.

	The girl's mother sued the church for $75,000 in damages for not reporting the rape in a timely matter. The church moved to have the entire case dismissed. The church also moved to have misdemeanor cases for failing to report sexual abuse against five church members, including the daughter and son-in-law of the church's head pastor, thrown out. A statement by the church claimed that the employees of the church who reported the rape had already been disciplined by the church itself (they were all suspended and forced to change jobs within the church, which feels more like a cover-up than an earnest attempt at change.) 

Victory Christian Church also alleged that their employees had not violated the law of Oklahoma. It is, however, pretty clear that it took five days for news to make its way from the youth group leaders who the victim told about her rape, to upper-level church officials, and it took church officials four days to get around to firing the janitors, and six MORE days for them to even contact a member of law enforcement (they left a message). Maybe they were busy, but according to the lawsuit, four church employees did find the time to tell the rape victim that the rape was her fault. At any rate, all these employees really face under the law is a potential fine - far from what they deserve.

Our friendly nonreporters - Paul Wilemstein, Anna George, Harold Sullivan, Charica Daugherty and John Daugherty.

Unfortunately, our culture is prone to seeing survivors of sexual violence as potential liars, which is doubtlessly why church officials delayed reporting the crime for two weeks while they conducted their own "investigation". No doubt this is also why they decided to tell a minor that a violent rape was her fault.

Massive churches, like all large organizations, have an incredible amount of resources with which to put together legal defense teams. And if institutional bias and incredible resources aren't enough to beat the charges, Victory Christian, with a 17,000 member congregation, can certainly afford to pay 75K - which is less than five dollars a member. American law, as it stands, doesn't have a way to appropriately punish organizations for such criminal negligence - particularly given the special status America gives to religious organizations.

Timeline available here.

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