Portland Pastor Faces Felony Sex Abuse Charges 18 Years After First Allegations Made

michael-sperou-06232014An Oregon pastor dogged for nearly two decades by allegations of sexual abuse has finally been charged with three counts of first-degree unlawful sexual penetration of a child under the age of 12 – two counts relating to incidents alleged to have occurred in 1993-94 and one in 1995-96. All are Class A felonies. Sperou remains pastor of Portland’s Clackamas Bible Community church.

In 1996, seven girls, ranging in age from 11 to 16, went to local law enforcement with claims of sexual abuse at the hands of their pastor Mike Sperou, a charismatic pastor of a small bible church in Happy Valley. However, the police didn’t believe they could win a case in court against the pastor. According to the Oregonian, “Portland police investigated and turned over their findings to the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office. That’s when the case, which included no physical evidence or medical tests, failed to reach prosecutors’ benchmarks for ‘winnability.’ After reviewing police reports, a deputy district attorney wrote a memo declining to prosecute.”

However, in 2013, one of the women, Shannon Clark, went to the police with new information that she had previously withheld because she believed “the culture of the church was to please Sperou” and because sexual contact from him “gave her validation within the church.”

This is not an uncommon phenomenon in sexual abuse cases involving church leaders. As a sexual abuse lawyer, I have heard similar stories from adults who as children were abused by Catholic priests. The aura of authority and the belief that somehow the pastor or priest is close to God makes it seem to a churchgoer that these religious leaders are immune from wrongdoing.

While the other women’s cases are closed because of intractable statutes of limitations, Shannon Clark’s case will go move forward based on this new information. These tragic cases are precisely why the civil statutes of limitations for child abuse should be lengthened. Present statutes prevent justice from being served and prolong the suffering of the victims.

In Oregon, the civil statute of limitations allows victims to bring claims prior to the person’s 40th birthday, or even later in certain circumstances. Depending on the situation, victims may have claims against the perpetrator, the church, or other organizations with which he was involved.

If you or a loved one was a victim of sexual abuse as a child and you have questions about the law, please contact me directly at 503-952-6789. You may also email me at gilion@dumaslawgrou.com

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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