According to Delaware Online, Maranatha Fellowship Church youth group leader John C. Sapp Jr. has been charged with sexual assault for his sexual relationships with two teenage girls.
Sapp Jr. requested a meeting with Maranatha pastor, where he confessed to inappropriately touching a girl. Investigators questioned the girl who admitted to having a secret relationship with Sapp at 15 in 2017. The two allegedly most commonly performed sexual acts inside Sapp Jr.’s truck and engaged in sexual acts at Sapp Jr.’s house, the church, and on some youth group camping trips. These encounters occurred over two years, about two to three times a month. The relationship ended in June of 2019.
After the meeting with Sapp Jr., the pastor became aware of other youth group members who may have had similar relationships with Sapp Jr. He now faces 89 charges.
Attorney contributor Brian Kent represents victims of sexual abuse and their families in civil lawsuits. In the below commentary, Kent provides insight on victim’s rights when sexually abused by a clergy member.
“Churches must uphold its members’ safety, as it is the church’s legal obligation to their congregation. The exploitation of congregation members is seen across religious organizations, as numerous religious leaders have been charged with sexual abuse. Unfortunately, this abuse occurs at all ages, including children. These organizations are obligated to do their best to stop the harm of sexual exploitation of their members.”
“Churches could be held liable in a civil lawsuit if a congregation member is harmed due to negligence on the church’s behalf. An example of negligence is if active clergy members had previous sexual misconduct complaints filed, and the church failed to perform a thorough investigation of said member. Additionally, religious organizations should implement safety measures to protect their members. If the church doesn’t implement adequate safety measures or investigate allegations, they may be considered negligent. Sexual abuse victims and their families should know they may have grounds for a lawsuit in negligence cases.”