NBC2 reported that the DeSoto County Sheriff's Office (DCSO) has launched an investigation into Redemption Church Pastor Scott Erickson, following allegations of child molestation made by two individuals residing in separate counties who do not know each other. The disturbing revelations have raised concerns within the community and cast a shadow of doubt over the esteemed clergyman at the Arcadia church located at 319 S Lee Ave, Arcadia, FL 34266.
According to a recently released report by the DCSO, two victims have come forward, recounting incidents of abuse that occurred more than five years ago. One victim, now a teenager, disclosed being subjected to inappropriate sexual comments and actions by Pastor Scott Erickson when they were between the ages of 10 and 11. The minor further alleged being coerced into performing oral sex and enduring repeated instances of unwanted physical contact. Although the explicit details are too graphic to divulge, the victim reported statements from Erickson expressing his desire to engage in sexual intercourse. Additionally, the victim detailed instances where the pastor would offer massages, claiming they were a means to "butter me up" for his nefarious intentions. The victim also noted feeling manipulated by Erickson, who allegedly warned against revealing the abuse, citing potential legal consequences.
The report from the DeSoto County Sheriff's Office also includes additional allegations by the second victim, who claims to have been molested by Erickson in Fort Myers in 2009, when the victim was only six years old. These revelations further compound the seriousness of the accusations and emphasize the need for a thorough investigation.
The investigation into these serious allegations began in April 2023, initiated by the DCSO. However, as of now, no arrest has been made, and charges have not been filed against Erickson. Investigators have compiled a comprehensive report, which has been forwarded to the State Attorney's Office. It is now in the hands of the attorney's office to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to pursue criminal charges against the pastor.
In the wake of disturbing allegations surrounding clergy abuse within religious institutions, it becomes crucial to shed light on the path to justice and accountability for survivors. We had the privilege of sitting down with attorney Mike Haggard, Esq., an experienced clergy abuse lawyer based in Florida, to discuss the options available to survivors seeking recompense.
Darla Medina (DM): With the recent allegations of child molestation against Redemption Church Pastor Scott Erickson, our viewers want to know what survivors of grooming and sexual abuse, not just within religious institutions but also within churches, can do to seek justice. Could you provide some insight into pursuing civil cases against those who enable abuse?
Mike Haggard (MH): Absolutely, Darla. When it comes to cases of grooming and sexual abuse within religious institutions or churches, survivors have legal options to hold both the abusers and those who enable the abuse accountable. One avenue available to survivors is pursuing civil cases against these enablers.
DM: Could you explain how a civil case works in such instances?
MH: Certainly, Darla. In a civil case, survivors have the opportunity to seek compensation for the damages they have suffered as a result of the abuse. This includes physical and emotional harm, medical expenses, therapy costs, and other related losses. It's important to note that a civil case focuses on holding the enablers accountable for their negligence or misconduct, rather than the criminal charges against the abuser.
DM: What types of enablers can survivors pursue civil cases against?
MH: Survivors can file civil cases against various entities or individuals involved in enabling the abuse. This may include religious institutions, church leaders, administrators, supervisors, and anyone who had knowledge or should have had knowledge of the abuse but failed to take appropriate action to prevent it or protect the victims.
DM: Are there any specific legal challenges or obstacles survivors may face when pursuing civil cases against religious institutions?
MH: Unfortunately, pursuing civil cases against religious institutions can be complex and challenging. However, there are legal strategies that skilled attorneys can employ to navigate these challenges and seek justice for survivors.
DM: What advice would you give to survivors who are considering pursuing a civil case?
MH: My advice to survivors is to reach out to an experienced clergy abuse attorney who specializes in handling these types of cases. They can provide guidance, support, and help survivors understand their legal rights and options. It's crucial for survivors to know that they are not alone and that there are professionals dedicated to advocating for their justice and healing.