Youth Group Leader Charged With Criminal Sexual Conduct
A youth group leader from Immanuel Community Reformed Church in Lansing has been accused of sexually assaulting three members of the youth group, according to police. Jessica Leese, a volunteer youth group leader at the church, became friends with several members of the group.
Between May 2016 and July 2017, she is accused of inviting a 14-year-old youth group member to her home several times. She allegedly bought him video games, brought him to restaurants, and had sexual contact with the teen in her vehicle, her home, and her husband’s truck.
A second teenager was 17 years old when Leese had sexual contact with him. Similar to the first case, Leese is said to have bought him gifts and brought him out to restaurants. The boy has told investigators that Leese sexually assaulted him in the water at Hawk Island Park, at her home, and at his apartment.
The third victim told police that he had sex with Leese in her car in the parking lot of a movie theater after seeing a film. This victim was 18 years old at the time – however, the sexual relations were still illegal because Leese was in a position of authority and the teen was not legally allowed to consent.
Leese has been charged with seven counts of third-degree criminal sexual conduct and one count of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct.
Legal Options For Victims of Church Sexual Abuse
Attorney contributor Brian Kent of AbuseGuardian.com helps survivors of sexual abuse find justice and financial compensation in civil court. Here is his perspective on the legal options available to those who have been sexually abused by church leaders:
Tragically, many sexual predators are people in positions of authority and trust. These predators exploit their positions in order to sexually abuse innocent victims. We see this in many fields, such as education, healthcare, youth organizations, and religious organizations – just to name a few common examples. The victims of these heinous crimes often struggle to come forward for fear of reprisal and other reasons related to their abuser’s authority.
When a religious leader commits sexual abuse, there are many concerns to address. The perpetrator must be punished and taken off the streets, the victim must get all of the support they need, and the organization must be held accountable if they enabled or failed to prevent the abuse. For example, a religious organization that covered up reports of sexual misconduct could be held liable if the victims choose to file a lawsuit.
If you or someone you love has been sexually abused by someone in a religious organization, you have options for justice. You can learn more about your legal rights by speaking to an experienced sexual abuse survivors lawyer.