According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, a youth paster at Harbor Baptist Church has been charged for sexually exploiting boys online.
Sean Higgins, 30-years-old, faces charges for coaxing boys on social media to send him nude videos and pictures. He then allegedly used the images and videos to blackmail them into performing sex acts, reported the Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office. Higgins’ alleged victims range from the ages of 12 to 15 and live in the following states: Alabama, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and South Dakota.
He allegedly would pretend to be a teenage girl and start conversations over Snapchat and Instagram with his victims. Higgins’ would then send naked photos of an unnamed girl and receive naked photos of the boys in return, authorities reported. He allegedly threatened to send the photos to the victim’s friends unless the boy followed his demands. In most cases, the demand was for the boy to go to the bathroom and touch himself while Higgins’ recorded. When victims allegedly asked to stop engaging, Higgins would demand they continue.
Higgins’ was taken into custody after investigators forced their entry as Higgins’ refused to open the door. Investigators had warrants for his home and the church. He is charged with six counts each of manufacturing and possession of child sex-abuse material, five distribution counts, one count of aggravated sexual assault, and other related offenses.
Attorney contributor Brian Kent, an experienced sexual assault lawyer, has represented numerous sexual abuse victims in civil lawsuits. In an interview, we asked Brian to share insight on victims’ rights who were sexually assaulted by a clergy member. “In many sexual abuse cases, abusers place themselves in positions of power to abuse their power within their community. We see this in cases across the country as pastors, priests, and other religious clergy members have been prosecuted for sexually abusing members in their religious organizations.
These religious organizations are legally obligated to keep their members safe and must do everything possible to protect their congregation members from sexual predators. Churches should ensure they do not hire predators and run thorough background checks.” “Victim should ask whether the church did everything possible to prevent a crime from occurring. A church can be held accountable for not upholding the safety of their followers.
If a church is deemed negligent, such as ignoring previous sexual assault complaints or failing to implement safety measures, they can be held accountable in a court of law. Another example of negligence is if there was previous misconduct reported, but the clergy member was permitted to continue working. In negligence cases, the victims and their families should know they may have grounds for a lawsuit.”