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NC Sunday School Teacher Found Guilty of Rape

According to WRAL, a jury found a former Sunday school teacher guilty of multiple counts of rape, sexual abuse, and indecent liberties with underage children at the Firstborn Baptist Church located at 10781 NC-50, Benson, NC 27504.

The three victims met 38-year-old, Jonathan David Young, at the Firstborn Baptist Church where he served as the Sunday school teacher and a youth pastor for several years. Authorities said the abuse took place on multiple occurrences between 2003 and 2014 on the church property.

One victim shared her story of abuse that began when she was just nine years old. She claims Young began rubbing her leg during bus rides but grew more intense over time. After assaulting her in the church basement, he would threaten to harm her or her family if she told anyone. She found the courage to come forward in 2017. A year later, Young was taken into custody and charged with sexually abusing three girls, including a 7-year-old and her sister. Young has been sentenced to a minimum of 87 years in prison.

Did the Church Know About the Abuse?

Many former church members claim that the elders knew of the abuse but failed to put a stop to it. The lead pastor is Jonathan Young’s great uncle. He admits to knowing of allegations as far back as 2014 but says no charges were filed, so they let it go. He went further to declare Jonathan as a “model employee” and suggested that many were devastated to hear about the charges and that “the young man is ruined now.”

Was There a Culture of Abuse in the Church?

As the jury found the youth pastor guilty, more people are stepping forward to accuse the church of having a dark history that dates back to the 1980s. At least seven former members claim the church encouraged abuse, both physical and mental. Aside from being told how to dress, the children that attended the church’s school were forbidden to have contact with outsiders. Punishments included being shut inside a dark closet for a day with only one meal. More intense punishments included beatings that took place within hearing distance of the other students and church members. Victims that attempted to expose the abuse were forced out of the church while the alleged predators remained in power.

Both men and women who used to attend the church spoke with WRAL and shared similar experiences. One of the women claimed that the church leaders sexually abused her and others. Another victim compared the church to a cult, stating that you do not see the abuse “until you’re out of it.” These stories have encouraged further investigation by the Johnston County Sheriff’s Office.

Can Victims of Church Abuse Seek Justice?

Attorney contributor Kristen Beightol is a sexual assault lawyer in North Carolina. Kristen has represented numerous victims of sexual assault in civil lawsuits over the years. Recently she sat down with Laurence Banville from the Legal Examiner to discuss how victims abused by a church Sunday school teacher could seek justice.

Laurence: Can a church be held liable when a child is sexually abused by a youth pastor or Sunday school teacher?
Kristen: It is no secret that church sexual abuse has become a worldwide crisis. A church has a legal duty to protect its congregation from preventable dangers, and this includes sexual abuse. When they fail to prevent sexual predators from taking positions within the clergy, they can be held liable. It is important that they conduct background checks on all clergy members.

Laurence: What can a church do to protect its congregation?
Kristen: Aside from the background checks, a church can make sure they have a working security camera system on the property.

Laurence: Does a church have a responsibility to report any misconduct, even if it involves a church leader?
Kristen: All members of the church clergy have a responsibility to report any allegations of misconduct. By ignoring known abuse, the church can be held accountable for allowing it to continue.

Laurence: How can victims of church abuse get justice?
Kristen: Victims can often file criminal charges directly against the perpetrator. This can lead to them being charged and sentenced. However, they may also have grounds to file a lawsuit against the church if it was deemed negligent. A negligent church would be one that failed to prevent the abuse or knew about it but failed to follow up in order to stop it.

Laurence: Is there a deadline to report sexual abuse by a youth pastor in North Carolina?
Kristen: In the state of North Carolina, there is no deadline to report childhood sexual abuse from a criminal standpoint. However, victims of misdemeanor child abuse must file a lawsuit before they reach the age of 28. The state does not have a statute of limitations for felony sexual abuse. Victims should learn more about their individual rights by speaking with an attorney.

Sources:

WRAL

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