Victory Christian Center: When Child Rape is not Child Abuse

 

VCC Staff members charged with failure to follow mandatory reporting laws include Pastor Sharon Daugherty’s son John and his wife Charica, bottom left. The five have been temporarily suspended pending the proceedings of the charges.

Suppose you were the person a distraught girl sought out to report that a youth minister had raped her in the stairwell right before church services. Suppose that young girl was only 13. Suppose you were on staff at that Mega-church. What comfort would you have offered that child? What action might you have taken to address the allegations? Would you have called local authorities immediately? Her parents?

Or would you have waited, as staff at Victory Christian Center of Tulsa, Oklahoma chose to do.

Police have arrested Chris Denman, 20, and charged him with raping a 13-year-old in the stairwell of Victory Christian Center, the 17,000-member Tulsa Mega Church run by Sharon Daugherty, whose daily broadcasts are beamed to more than 200 countries. Denman also faces charges of molesting another 15-year-old girl and making a lewd proposal and using a computer to commit a sex crime involving a 12-year-old girl. Daugherty, who knew about the abuse allegations, did nothing. She trusted her employees to handle it all.

Oh. Wait. I got that wrong.

She and her staff prayed for the victims.

What the staff didn’t do for two weeks was report it to authorities, or to the young girl’s mother.

They, like so many others, made the gargantuan mistake of assuming that they had to get all their facts straight before calling law enforcement. They did their own internal investigation first. Undoubtedly sought God’s clear direction in the process.

What they failed to do was follow their own written procedures for mandatory reporting of child abuse.

Let me pause to rant here for a moment: That we, a country of grown adults, need a law to mandate that we report the abuse of a child just goes to show how messed up we are and helps explain why our child abuse rates have reached epidemic proportions. (*One Houston hospital reports that 38 percent of all their deaths in 2010 were the result of child abuse, more than cancer, more than heart attacks. Nearly forty percent of all their deaths hospital wide involved children tortured.) These mandatory reporting laws identify people who, if they suspect child abuse, are required to file an official report. People like pastors, and teachers, and coaches, and such.

Does that make any sense to you?

If you are an adult and you suspect a child is being abused, do you need a law to instruct you to file a report? Wouldn’t your own conscious mandate it? Wouldn’t your own concern for humanity demand it?

Apparently not.

The people at Victory Christian Center didn’t call police. Instead they decided they’d handle it. Make sure the rape really happened, first.

Denman, by the way, isn’t the only former employee of the church being charged. Israel Shalom (insert eye roll over that misnomer) Castillo, 23, was charged with making lewd comments to a child and using his computer to commit a sex crime.

Oh. Don’t be so quick to judge. Following the investigation these good Christian people conducted themselves, the HR department at Victory did try to fix the problem: they fired Denman and Castillo before they called police.

The Dallas News reported:

The HR director, Sullivan, fired the two men Aug. 24, and then left a message with a member of the church who works with an anti-child trafficking organization to seek advice on whom to contact. Sullivan was advised to call police on Aug. 27. The ministry said Sullivan exchanged voicemails with an officer until Aug. 30, when they finally connected and the officer told Sullivan to dial 911, which he did that day.

“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,” the church said in the statement to AP. “Our internal response was unacceptable, and we are taking the proper steps to correct it.”

Prosecutors have charged five church employees with failing to report the alleged assault according to mandatory reporting laws.

The employees involved were a high school outreach program director, an associate youth pastor, the director of the Human Resources department, and John and Charica Daugherty, (Sharon Daugherty’s son and wife) who work at the church as Senior high youth pastor and assistant Senior high youth pastor. (As an aside: Why do mega-churches always hire the family members of their lead pastor to populate the staff?)

But Wait!

There’s More!

Those good Christian people are upset. They insist they have been wrongly accused. Persecuted as it were. And they are fighting back!!

John Daugherty, and his wife, Charica, and their attorney are claiming that the mandatory reporting laws do not apply in this case and they want the prosecutor to drop the charges against them and their good Christian buddies.

The Washington Post reported: 

The motion, filed Friday in Tulsa County District Court, states that state law defines child abuse as an act committed “by a person responsible for the child’s health safety or welfare.”

The document says that 20-year-old Chris Denman, who is charged with first-degree rape of the girl and other sex crimes, was not a church employee at the time of the Aug. 13 assault, was not responsible for the girl and cannot under state law be charged with child abuse.

State law “applies to a very specific event, abuse by a person responsible for the child’s health, safety, or welfare,” according to the motion. “The facts of this case do not meet” state law.

The motion filed by these good Christian people claims that Castillo and Denman were not employed by the church as youth ministers but rather as janitors. Thus, they were never by law responsible for the health, safety or welfare of children and had not committed child abuse. Moreover, lawyers noted Denman and Castillo have been charged with sex crimes, not child abuse. And since these two didn’t actually get charged with child abuse, then the five people on staff who knew about the allegations did not fail in their obligation of mandatory reporting of child abuse, since no child abuse was ever committed.

Are we clear on that?

Apparently raping a child doesn’t constitute child abuse under Oklahoma law. Or in the eyes of Victory Christian Center.

And that, good people, is how we parse the law in the Tulsa Mega-Church that collects millions from victims around the globe and bills itself as a place where all people are loved. 

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To read Karen’s book on God & money, check out: Will Jesus Buy Me a Doublewide? ’cause I need more room for my plasma TV. 

To read Karen’s book on child abuse in America, check out: A Silence of Mockingbirds: The Memoir of a Murder. 

About Karen Spears Zacharias

Author. Speaker. Journalism Instructor. Four kids. Three dogs. One grandson.

  • Chris

    The rant I could go on about this situation would take up far too much space here. I am furious that these idiots waited even 5 minutes to contact authorities and did nothing to protect other children or see to it that this child was taken care of physically, emotionally, or, God forbid, spiritually. The evidence that was lost by their delay alone merits charges against them. What Christians do to further mar the name of Christianity is unbelievable.

    • http://karenzach.com Karen Spears Zacharias

      The problem Chris is that the general public is more concerned about false allegations than the welfare of a child. Sigh.

    • http://karenzach.com Karen Spears Zacharias

      The problem Chris is that the general public is more concerned about false allegations than the welfare of a child. Sigh.

      • Chris

        As you’ve said above, it is not the job of the public to made a determination about true or false allegations. Having been in law enforcement myself and having been married to an investigator, I’m aware of the extensive training those responsible for investigating child abuse and child rape allegations have gone through, at least in our local department. The welfare of a child should trump any potential fear of being “wrong” in reporting. Let the trained investigators determine validity. If it’s false that usually is readily apparent. It’s interesting how quick people are to call the police if their neighbor has taken their parking spot, if the car in front of them is swerving in their lane, or if the garage band next door is disturbing their peace but won’t get involved when a child tells them they have been sexually assaulted!

  • Jerry lynch

    Sick sick sick sick sick times sick sick sick sick sick.

  • Jerry lynch

    Equals Vile (an anagram) to the tenth power. It is horrifically unfathomable. Although I am not a big fan of M. Scott Peck, he wrote a book called People Of The Lie that speaks directly about such disturbing wackos.

    • http://karenzach.com Karen Spears Zacharias

      One of my favorite books, Jerry.

  • Samantha Clough

    There are no words for how much this infuriates me. That adults would not do everything in their power to protect a child is a concept beyond my understanding. I have worked with children since college. I can’t tell how many times people have been reluctant to get involved. I can’t imagine not doing everything in my power to protect and nurture them. That others wont do the same is a crime on every level.

    • http://karenzach.com Karen Spears Zacharias

      They rationalize it by saying they don’t want to file a false report.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-Evans/1017276335 John Evans

        Innocent until proven guilty should cover that. Unfortunately, failures in the justice system and the travails of the court of public opinion can be very damaging to the innocent – which leads people to hesitate to take actions they feel may harm someone unnecessarily. I wish I knew what could be done to reverse this trend.

  • Anne

    The leadership at VCC seem to think that the law is like their bible – they can parse and interpret it to make it fit whatever they believe their god given “anointed” agenda/vision is. Investigating it themselves before calling law enforcement seems to be SOP in way too many churches and organizations. Saw it way too often as an investigator. Beyond disgusted when I witnessed it at my former church. Each new case in the church, breaks my heart afresh.

    • http://karenzach.com Karen Spears Zacharias

      You are absolutely right, Anne. It is SOP for so many, who I suspect are more concerned about negative press than the welfare of a child. I am sorry that you witnessed it at your former church.

  • Julie Anne Smith

    This infuriates me so much. In my defamation case brought on by my former pastor, he was livid that I said something to the effect that he (the pastor) turned a blind eye to a known sex offender who had access to the nursery. The one good thing about this Oklahoma case mentioned above is that there are mandatory reporter laws in Oklahoma that require clergy to report. These folks didn’t report and were caught. In my home state of OR, there is a loophole for clergy so that my former pastor was not required to report. In fact, my friend knew of the incident and reported it to the pastor who said he would handle it. Eight months later, she finally reported it to authorities because she didn’t trust the pastor to “handle it”. If she hadn’t reported, the sex offender could still be free, having access to children. (He was convicted of gross sexual offenses against children.)

    We have a problem in that there are many states with the clergy exemption loophole. In the recent Sovereign Grace lawsuit that just came out yesterday, the same thing – -some pastors failed to report. I did a blog post about mandatory reporting and clergy exemption. It is a very important topic that needs to be discussed. Pastors should not have loopholes when it comes to abuse and children. Mandatory Reporting Laws for Clergy: Loopholes fo…

    • http://karenzach.com Karen Spears Zacharias

      Julie: I wasn’t aware of this abuse but hopped over to your blog to read about it. ( I encourage you all to visit Julie’s blog: http://bgbcsurvivors.blogspot.com/). I was unaware of the clergy exemption loophole (Thanks for cluing me in). There shouldn’t be an loopholes in reporting, but sadly, there are many. Thank you for the efforts you are making on this front. So, can you explain how the law allows for pastors to be exempt from reporting?

      • Julie Anne Smith

        Sorry – Karen – it’s very confusing to me and in fact a lot of articles that I read allude to the conflicting laws and legal wording on the definition of pastoral confidentiality. You may find this helpful (the whole article is informative): http://enrichmentjournal.ag.org/201002/ejonline_201002_Pastor_Confid_.cfm – - Confidentiality places a duty on clergy not to disclose information shared with them in private. Confidentiality is also the ethical and often legal responsibility to safeguard congregation members from unauthorized disclosures of information given in the context of a confidential pastor-parishioner relationship. Historically, pastors have had only a moral obligation to maintain the confidentiality of information given to them by congregation members.

  • TD

    I hate to see this kind of thing, and feel terrible when I think of the damage done to these girls physically, emotionally and spiritually. But can someone help me a bit with the story?

    Was Denman a youth minister (I think you introduce him that way) or a janitor or not an employee at all at the time of the rape? And am I correct there were apparently at least two days between when the rape occurred and when the victim reported it? (Not that that’s surprising or casts doubt on the story. Just trying to get clear on what kind of scene it was when she brought the story to them.) Did they have reason to doubt her story? Were her parents cooperating? Were all of these people charged with failure to report equally guilty, or what were their precise roles? We seem to get some information regarding the HR guy. While the head pastor should have made certain that the case was reported immediately, if she directed her staff to follow the procedures and they did not follow them, then her failure is still bad, but a bit limited.

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with defining the rape of a 13-year-old as rape of a child, but identifying “child abuse” for legal purposes as something that occurs between a child and a person entrusted with the child’s care (parents, teachers, coaches, pastors). And I do potentially see reasons to mandate *immediate* reporting of a child abuse accusation — since the child could still be under the care of, and thus vulnerable to, the alleged attacker — in a way that might be different from a rape accusation. Obviously I think a person should report either; I’m just saying that making some legal distinctions might not be unjustified.

    • http://karenzach.com Karen Spears Zacharias

      TD: I am not sure whether any of us can determine whether Denman was a youth minister or a janitor. He was most certainly employed. Initial reports say that he was a youth minister at VCC. Folo up reports say he was a janitor. At any rate, the church human resource officer fired him and Castillo, weeks after the accusations were reported. That HR director is one of the five charged with failure to report child abuse. As to whether all five were equally guilty, I guess I’m not clear on that question. Are there degrees of guilt in failing to report child abuse/child rape? Was Joe Paterno more guilty than Mike McQueary? Or did they both fail? Pastor Sharon Daugherty was not charged with failure to report the abuse. Her son, a Senior High Youth Minister, and his wife, also a Sr. High Minister, were charged. Your comment about whether the staff had reason to doubt the child is indicative, I think, of the problem. It is not our job as the public to investigate. It is our job to report. Law Enforcement’s job is to investigate. If the report is false, they will figure it out. Church officials failed to even call the child’s mother for an extended length of time, which I think reveals the culture at VCC — more concerned with image than the welfare of children.

  • AFRoger

    Went to the first of a six-week workshop designed to help people understand the changing world in which the church finds itself today. A couple of things to note: 40% of mainline churches will close within the next 8 years. Many churches today survive on retirement income of members, not earned income. Only 1 in 8 Americans under the age of 45 will ever affiliate with a church in their lifetime. Oregon is no longer the first or second most unchurched state in the US. We’ve dropped to somwhere around eighth, not because we are suddenly more churched. It’s because so many people in other states have left the church in response to clergy sex abuse scandals. Our culture has several gods: wealth, fame, sex and entertainment. Responsibility didn’t make the list.
    Meanwhile, a friend who devotes much of her life to organizing and working on Habitat for Humanity housing projects reports that by far most of the work being done is by non-church people. So, go find the kingdom of God in this picture. Not where we’ve said it was.

    • http://karenzach.com Karen Spears Zacharias

      Roger: And child pornography is rampant due to advancements in the very same technology that has contributed to the decimation of many of our traditional structures.

  • pagansister

    Shades of the Catholic Church—–and just as sad and horrific! All involved should be punished to the fullest extent of the law! IMO, there should not be a statue of limitations on child molestation. Wonder how long it will take legal folks to change the law as it stands now?

    • Lady_Coast_Guard

      These statutes may never be changed in this manner – and
      there is no incentive to do so. Although I would very much like to agree with
      your proposal – how could this ever be proven – beyond a doubt? It cannot. So
      many, many people today would claim that this happened to them; stats are 1:3 Americans. Shameful.

      This is a moral – and human – disgrace and disaster -
      that vulnerable people, both children and adults – are preyed upon by other
      humans in this manner. Very sad. Such is a huge warning – for vigilance and caution – for everyone – to protect those who are vulnerable – and that’s each other.

      We need to live with our eyes open – and teach all of our children to be aware
      this could happen to them – as well as how – exactly – to protect themselves.
      That may be the best we can do.

      Does anyone have any other ideas? Let’s post them!

    • Kelli

      Way to unfairly bash Catholics!

      http://mag.newsweek.com/2010/04/07/mean-men.html
      -someone who was propositioned by an Evangelical pastor as a child


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