Victory Christian Center in Tulsa, Okla., which is facing allegations that five of its employees failed to report the rape of a 13-year old girl within a two-week period, has been hit by a lawsuit by the girl's mother.
The woman, whose name was not made available, filed the suit on Friday in Tulsa Country District, and is apparently seeking more than $75,000 in damages from the 17,000-member church, accusing officials of attempting "damage control" instead of reporting the incident immediately, The Tulsa World reported.
Chris Denman, 20, a former church employee, was charged with allegedly raping the teen on Aug. 13 on campus. Five church employees were suspected to have been aware of the alleged crime, but failed to report it over a two week period. Those accused include John and Charica Daugherty, the lead pastor's son and daughter-in-law, both youth pastors.
"We deeply regret that our employees did not report these incidents to authorities within the proper amount of time. This failure within our organization weighs heavily on us, because our purpose is to help people and minister to their needs," Victory Christian Center has said. "Our internal response was unacceptable, and we are taking the proper steps to correct it."
The mother of the alleged rape victim, however, has argued that Victory Christian employees falsely told her that the police had been contacted, but that was not the case and she was the first to reach out to authorities.
"Rather than contacting the appropriate authorities, defendant (Victory Christian Center) chose to conduct its own 'investigation' with the ultimate purpose of doing damage control as opposed to protecting the victim", the lawsuit reads.
"There was a couple of weeks in which they were either unsure of what to do or didn't do it, or who knows what," Police Det. Cpl. Greg Smith said when the allegations came to light. "There was a couple weeks where we probably lost some evidence."
The Tulsa Report notes that Victory Christian Center leaders have been urging members to speak up if they see or hear about sexual abuse on campus, and have encouraged people to talk about the issue.
"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," said Victory Christian Senior Pastor Sharon Daugherty, who helped establish the church in 1981, in a sermon on Saturday. "Our children are precious, and we owe them our full protection."
Daugherty added: "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. I was extremely disappointed to later hear of the delay in the time it was first reported."
Church officials also offered a detailed account available on the Tulsa World website of the steps taken by the church employees in the two-week period from the time of the alleged rape incident to the time of the report to the police, which a spokesperson of the church also shared with The Christian Post.
The spokesperson informed CP that an assistant pastor would respond to a request for comments, but no comment had been made by press time.