NBC Washington has reported that two victims have accused a former youth pastor of sexual assault at the Pilgrim Community Church located at 4925 Twinbrook Rd, Burke, VA 22015.
Police were informed in August 2021 that a minor had a sexual encounter with the youth pastor, Sung Woo Hong, also known as "Pastor Sam." As they were conducting an interview, they discovered another victim, also a minor. The abuse was said to have occurred between 2016 and 2019 in an office inside the church.
Hong was a pastor at the church from 2015 to 2019. He also served as an intern pastor before taking on the youth activities and teaching the church's youth band. He was fired from the church in 2019 and returned to South Korea. The church has not responded to any requests for comment. The FBI and police are working with South Korean authorities to extradite him.
Attorney contributor Kevin Biniazan has been fighting on behalf of survivors of church sexual assault for years in Virginia. As an experienced church sexual abuse lawyer, he discussed the legal options available to victims sexually abused by a youth pastor, including when they can sue a church.
"Churches should be a haven to gain a sense of community and connection, in addition to embracing one's faith. However, when a person in a position of authority or power, such as a youth pastor, sexually exploits a child to satisfy their own desires, it is considered church sexual abuse. This differential of power, similar to a patient's trust in their doctor, allows the victim to be manipulated and controlled. Too often, we hear reports of this occurring across denominations and nationwide. The responsibility of the church has grown greater as the risks seem to increase."
"Churches have not only the moral obligation to their congregation but also a legal obligation to ensure the protection of their members from preventable abuse. By conducting periodic background checks, having security monitoring systems throughout the church property, and reporting any misconduct to the authorities, they can reduce the risk of abuse to their congregation."
"Victims or their parents should seek the counsel of an experienced church sexual abuse lawyer to explore their legal options. Some church abuse occurs due to the church's negligence and its officials. For instance, officials could be deemed liable if they were aware of prior misconduct but ignored them. In such cases, the victim's families should know they may have grounds to file a civil lawsuit against the church."