Tulsa Church Asks for Dismissal of Civil Suit in Rape Case

In August 2012, a 13-year-old girl was raped in a stairwell at a Tulsa megachurch by a church worker, and several members of the church staff were accused of covering up the incident by failing to report it for more than two weeks. On September 5, police arrested Victory Church janitor Chris Denman, 20, who subsequently pleaded guilty to first-degree rape, forcible oral sodomy, lewd molestation, making a lewd proposal to a child and two counts of using a computer to facilitate a sex crime. On December 13, Denman was sentenced to 55 years in prison plus five years of probation for the rape of the girl and sex crimes against two other girls. For four of his crimes, Denman must serve at least 85 percent of his sentence. Five church staff members were each charged with misdemeanor counts of failure to report child abuse, after police say they waited more than two weeks to report the rape. The mother of the 13-year-old victim has filed a civil suit against Victory Church as a result of their failure to report the incident to police. She alleges gross negligence, intimidation, and intentional or reckless infliction of emotional distress, and is seeking more than $75,000 in damages from the organization. She accuses the church of concealing the rape of her daughter in an attempt to do "damage control." The church, however, is asking a judge to dismiss the civil suit, saying that the mother is not entitled to damages under the law. USLegal.com provides a general overview of civil damages which may be available to victims of rape:

In civil actions based on rape, damages can be awarded in various circumstances. Some of the elements of recoverable damages in a civil action for statutory rape are physical pain and mental anguish, including humiliation and embarrassment by the severance of social relationships.

Damages are recoverable for mental suffering consisting in a sense of wrong or insult, indignity, humiliation or injury to the feelings. Elements that may be taken into consideration in determining mental suffering damages include the affront to a plaintiff’s personality, and the indignity, disgrace, humiliation, and mortification to which he was subjected by the defendant’s conduct[vii].

In addition to the civil and criminal penalty, the court can order restitution for any sexual offense[viii]. The order of restitution will direct the defendant to pay to the victim the full amount of the victim’s losses as determined by the court.

The full amount of the victim’s losses includes any costs incurred by the victim for:

  • medical services relating to physical, psychiatric, or psychological care;
  • physical and occupational therapy or rehabilitation;
  • necessary transportation, temporary housing, and child care expenses;
  • lost income;
  • attorneys’ fees, plus any costs incurred in obtaining a civil protection order; and
  • any other losses suffered by the victim as a proximate result of the offense.
These damages are generally associated with a complaint against the perpetrator of the rape. However, in premises liability cases, the owner of an establishment may be held liable for a crime if the nature of the premises facilitate the perpetration of a crime. Furthermore, those charged with the protection of a vulnerable person may be held accountable if the are negligent in carrying out their duties. EDIT:  A judge rejected the church's request to dismiss the lawsuit.

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