The pastor of an Oklahoma megachurch said during a weekend service she was disappointed that church employees took two weeks to report the alleged rape of a 13-year-old girl, and urged members to promptly speak up about sexual abuse.
"I want to personally say, that if anybody here is aware of any child being neglected or abused, physically or sexually, that you should please inform the authorities immediately," Senior Pastor Sharon Daugherty of the Victory Christian Center church in Tulsa, Okla., told congregants, according to Tulsa World.
"Our children are precious, and we owe them our full protection," the pastor of the 17,000-member church added.
Earlier this month, the church fired two employees and later police arrested them on charges of sexual abuse. Prosecutors charged five other church employees, including Daugherty's son and daughter-in-law, both youth pastors, for delaying the reporting of two alleged incidents, one of which was rape that took place on Aug. 13. The alleged victim first reported the rape on Aug. 16 during an evening service. The church suspended the five.
Daugherty said she learned about the abuse claims and did not personally report it because her staff members were supposed to handle it. "I was briefly told of an incident involving two ... employees and members of 24/7 (a youth group) ... and was told it was being reported but did not receive any details on the specific allegations," she told the members. "I was extremely disappointed to later hear of the delay in the time it was first reported."
The accused were members of the church who worked as janitors. One was jailed on charges of raping a 13-year-old girl at the church, and the other was charged with making a lewd or indecent proposal to a child and using a computer to facilitate a sex crime.
The five employees who delayed reporting the abuse claims were also jailed on the misdemeanor charges last week. However, they posted bond and were released.
In a lawsuit filed Friday, the alleged victim's mother accuses the church of negligence and causing emotional distress by waiting two weeks to report the allegations to police. "Rather than contacting the appropriate authorities, defendant chose to conduct its own 'investigation' with the ultimate purpose of doing damage control as opposed to protecting" the victim, she stated in the lawsuit.
The lawsuit also claims that a church employee lied to the victim's mother that the police had been contacted. It also says the mother gave the first report of her daughter's rape to police.
Police have said there could be a third suspect, and more possible victims of abuse, but the parents of some new possible victims are not cooperating.