Church Files Petition to Publicly Identify Child Abuse Victims

KansasIn response to a sexual abuse lawsuit, the Westside Family Church has petitioned the court to publicly reveal the names of two victims.  Both girls were younger than 14 years of age at the time of the incidents.

The abuse lawsuit against the Baptist church in Lenexa, Kansas involves abuse at a summer Bible study program.  Church volunteer Kessler Lichtenegger pleaded guilty to attempted rape and attempted electronic solicitation for his conduct with girls at the summer program.

Lichtenegger is serving a 17-year sentence for the Westside vacation Bible school sex crimes. The civil lawsuit against the church says he also pleaded guilty in 2012 to another sexual assault of a 15-year-old girl with developmental problems and to another previous sexual felony.

The two victims filed a lawsuit in June alleging that church officials knew about Lichtenegger’s past sexual conduct and crimes involving children. As is typical in cases involving child sexual abuse claims, the victims filed the cases using pseudonyms instead of their real names.  The church’s motion asks the court to require the two victims to proceed with the lawsuit using their real names, arguing that these victims of sex crimes “should not be able to hide behind pseudonyms.”

The church’s hardball legal strategy has been criticized by veteran sexual abuse victim advocates.  “I’ve never seen a defendant try to ‘out’ kids who are still kids in a child sex case,” said David Clohessy, director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP). “It will also rub more salt into the already deep and still fresh wounds of this suffering family,” Clohessy said. “It is a shameful move by officials who profess to be ‘Christians.’”

In most court proceedings, minors are allowed to proceed anonymously, as are sex abuse victims of any age. Doing so does not prevent the church from using the names of the plaintiff victims to investigate and otherwise defend the case. It is unlikely the church will succeed in persuading this judge to reveal the identities of these minor abuse victims. But that does not excuse the outrageous and reprehensible behavior of the Westside Family Church and its lawyers.




Dumas and Vaughn Attorneys at Law has law offices in Portland, Oregon and serves clients in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and other states.

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