Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Sex-abuse allegations in rural congregation

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A rural Manitoba church has been hit with allegations of sexual abuse and negligence in a pair of separate court filings.

Documents obtained by the Free Press on Monday confirm a member of the congregation was recently arrested following a lengthy RCMP investigation. The man has been charged with sexual assault against a young woman who also attended the church, although the incidents allegedly occurred outside of the church in a work environment. He is also facing the rare Criminal Code offence of "surreptitiously observing by mechanical device."

None of the offences has been proven and the accused remains before the courts. The Free Press is not naming the church or the accused to avoid identifying the alleged victim.

The young woman has also taken civil action, filing a statement of claim on Monday against the church and her pastor. She is seeking unspecified financial damages. In her lawsuit, the woman claims the pastor was aware another member of his congregation was abusing her but took no action to stop it. She claims he turned a blind eye at a time she went to him seeking "spiritual guidance and emotional care."

"As a result of (the pastor's) failure to provide the appropriate care and protection, she suffered emotional harm, stress, anxiety, frustration, embarrassment and loss of enjoyment of life," the statement of claim reads. "He knew, or ought to have known, that failing to take steps to stop (the accused) from continuing his inappropriate conduct toward her would result in her continuing to be subject to ongoing sexual interference and harassment."

The Free Press spoke Monday with the pastor, who wasn't aware a lawsuit had been filed against him.

"I'm shocked. This is the first I've heard about this," he said before declining to comment further. He planned to contact his lawyer immediately and will have a month to file a statement of defence.

The woman claims the sexual abuse occurred at her workplace, where the accused would "observe and record video surveillance footage of her without her knowledge or consent while she was naked and showering at work." He was in a supervisory position over her and even attempted to secretly impregnate her by placing semen in her underwear, according to her lawsuit.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 15, 2013 B2

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