In what is widely referred to as the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) sexual abuse scandal, hundreds of SBC church leaders and volunteers have been accused or convicted of various sexual abuse offenses.
Since 1998, more than 700 sexual abuse survivors have brought allegations against about 380 individuals, including pastors, ministers, teachers, and church volunteers.
How did the SBC Handle Sexual Abuse Allegations?
A 2019 investigative report published by journalists from The Houston Chronicle and The San Antonio Express-News stated that more than 260 SBC church leaders and volunteers have been convicted of sex abuse crimes, many of whom are currently imprisoned. However, several of those accused of sexual crimes, including pastors, are still working within SBC churches. In fact, investigators found that since 1998, at least ten churches had hired individuals who previously faced sexual misconduct charges or were registered sex offenders.
The Guidepost Solutions Task Force Investigation
In 2021, the SBC Sexual Abuse Task Force (SATF) commissioned Guidepost Solutions to investigate SBC committee procedures and actions concerning sexual abuse allegations. The results released in May 2022 found that:
- SBC committee leaders had mishandled sexual abuse allegations and mistreated survivors and their supporters.
- Some SBC committee leaders had a pattern of intimidating survivors and their supporters.
- SBC committee leaders had resisted various reform initiatives over the past twenty years.
The SBC Sexual Abuse Offenders List
According to National Public Radio (NPR), the SBC was engaged in a large coverup operation and kept a “secret list” of abusers since 2007 that grew to over 700 names. This list was kept from authorities for many years, and the SBC disparaged or silenced many victims who tried to speak out against the abusers.
Following the task force report, SBC leaders publicly released the partially redacted list of pastors and other church workers who have been credibly accused of committing sexual abuse.
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What Notable Lawsuits Have Been Filed Against SBC Leaders?
Vasquez v. Amyx
According to Chron, an SBC pastor in Texas, Rev. Dale “Dickie” Amyx, was accused of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old female, Debbie Vasquez, in the mid-1970s, which resulted in pregnancy.
The woman says she was assaulted when the pastor was at the Calvary Baptist Church in Lewisville, Texas, which no longer exists. The lawsuit claims individuals at this former church helped her offender get another pastoral job in Arizona.
Amyx confessed to the paternity, and the lawsuit was settled out of court in 2008 for a cash payment and included an apology from the pastor.
Rollins v. Pressler
According to Ministry Watch, the Texas Supreme Court ruled in 2021 that a lawsuit filed against Paul Pressler, a former judge who was also an influential SBC leader, could proceed, despite the expired statute of limitations.
The claim was filed by a former assistant, Gareld Duane Rollins Jr., who said the defendant began sexually abusing him in 1980, when he was 14 and a bible study group member, and continued for 24 years.
According to WORLD News Group, several other men have also accused Pressler of sexual misconduct.
What Damages Can You Recover in an SBC Sexual Abuse or Assault Lawsuit?
Sexual abuse and assault are horrific crimes, and criminal punishments are insufficient to fill the emotional void that survivors experience. Although nothing can make up for such egregious misconduct, survivors can take their abusers to civil court and pursue compensation for their many losses.
Depending on the unique details of each case, civil claims against the SBC and individual offenders may allow sexual abuse survivors to recover compensation for various forms of damages, such as:
- Costs of past and future medical and mental health treatment for physical and emotional injuries
- Past and future lost wages
- Diminished earning capacity
- Physical and emotional pain and suffering associated with injuries, treatment, and recovery
- Past and future loss of life enjoyment
- Possible punitive damages
The Long-Term Consequences of Sexual Abuse
Sexual abuse or assault can have life-long psychological and physical effects on a survivor. The emotional effects of sexual violence can be devastating, particularly in instances where the offender is a trusted adult, such as a pastor or minister.
Unfortunately, this disparity in power may prevent those who experience sexual abuse at the hands of a religious authority figure from coming forward and seeking the restitution they deserve.
Resources, such as RAINN crisis support services, are available if you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted.
If you would like to report an instance of abuse in a Southern Baptist church or entity, you can contact the SBC by phone or email.
Consult with a Southern Baptist Convention Sex Abuse Attorney Today
Our team at Isaacs & Isaacs Personal Injury Lawyers is here to help if you or a loved one is a survivor of sexual abuse or assault by a member or leader in the SBC. Darryl “The Hammer” Isaacs and our other team members are ready to fight for you.
We encourage you to contact our law office and consult with one of our team members today to learn how we can protect your legal rights, explore your options for compensation, and work to see that justice is served.