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Portland Woman Sues Church, Pastor for Human Trafficking, Sexual Harassment

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A former member of a communal religious group in Portland is suing the church and its former pastor for sexual harassment and human trafficking, among other charges. 

The civil suit alleges that Jimmy Ellis Wicks Jr., 53, who was the lead pastor of Adsideo Church, forced the victim to work without pay and sexually abused her. A co-pastor is named as a conspirator. 

The Living Room Coffeehouse, one of several businesses collectively owned by church members, also is named among the defendants. 

The Oregonian/OregonLive reported that the woman filed a civil suit after complaints that she and others filed with the Portland police about the pastor failed to result in criminal charges. Police reports show the case was referred to the state Department of Human Services and victim advocates, the Oregonian reported. 

The suit seeks compensation for unpaid labor from 2015 through 2021, $50,000 for future medical expenses, and $1.5 million in non-economic damages.

About 35 adult members of Adsideo and 14 children live together and worship in several houses in the community, with Wicks acting as the “father figure,” the Oregonian reported. 

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The woman became part of the church, which welcomes people recovering from substance abuse, in 2015 after treatment for a drug overdose. The suit said she turned over her phone and purse and took up residence in the house where Wicks lived with his family, and she was not allowed to leave the home or businesses alone or access her phone after that. 

She said the money she earned working at the coffee house and other businesses collectively owned by church members was taken for housing and mandatory tithing. 

The lawsuit alleges that Wicks sent the woman text messages directing her to masturbate as “therapy” and forced her to have sex with him from January to April 2021, and that the co-pastor, who also claims to be a victim of Wicks, provided her with sex toys. 

Several other women also reported receiving explicit text messages from Wicks, and that he had masturbated near them or that he had fondled them. 


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Anne Stych

Anne Stych is a writer in Charlotte, North Carolina.