Five Former Members File Suit Against California Church, Alleging Sexual Abuse Spanning Decades
Five victims have filed lawsuits against a Riverdale, California, church and school alleging sexual abuse over the past 30 years against children as young as age 8.
The lawsuits accuse church employees, including Charles Spencer Jr., the son of Riverdale Assembly of God’s founders, of a “persistent pattern of grooming and sexual abuse,” said Steven Dias of Dias Hall, the plaintiffs’ attorney.
“We believe there was a pervasive and persistent pattern of grooming and sexual abuse that took place in the church and the school,” Dias told local ABC affiliate 30 Action News.
A spokesperson with the Fresno County sheriff’s office said deputies are investigating recent reports of sexual misconduct at the church and its affiliated school, Riverdale Christian Academy.
The four lawsuits filed on behalf of the five plaintiffs claim Spencer groomed children for sexual contact. Dias said victims were shamed by the elder members of the church and forced to admit they were the ones who had triggered the sexual contact.
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The church referred ABC to its attorneys and has denied causing the damage claimed in the charges. The National Assemblies of God said they could not comment about pending litigation, but said the organization exercised reasonable care to prevent inappropriate behavior.
The church also has objected to California’s temporary extension of the statute of limitations for childhood sexual abuse cases, which permits cases from any timeframe in the past to go forward. A complaint to the sheriff’s office in 2015 had been dismissed because of the statute of limitations.