Last Update: 7/13/2020
Thousand Oaks police arrested a man last week after two female alleged victims accused of him of sexually abusing them over a period of several years when they were children.
On December 14, the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department released a statement that said that an investigation had begun in September after deputies received a report of suspected child crimes in Newbury Park. A 16-year-old girl had come forward to tell police that she had been sexually abused between ages 5 and 11 by the suspect, Steven Skyler Abbott.
Detectives from the Thousand Oaks Police Department’s Major Crimes Sexual Assault Unit eventually found a 24-year-old second victim. This second victim told police that Abbott had sexually abused her when she was between ages 3 and 7.
Investigators eventually determined that Abbott had met his victims through the congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Newbury Park.
Abbott has been charged with two counts of continuous sexual abuse of a child and one count each of a lewd act upon a child and a forcible lewd act upon a child. He was arrested at his home on December 6.
A generous legal contributor to Legal Herald, attorney Bobby Thompson helps survivors of sexual violence find justice in civil courts by bringing forth church sex abuse lawsuits. We’ve asked him to discuss the legal options available to those who have been sexually abused in the Jehovah’s Witnesses community, and he kindly shared the following insight.
“It is regrettable to see how the Jehovah’s Witnesses community has been in the midst of a sexual abuse scandal in recent times. Brave victims of sexual abuse by congregation members and clergy have come forward with lawsuits against the organization, alleging that church policy encourages handling allegations of sexual abuse in-house instead of contacting law enforcement. As you can imagine, this can allow predators to go unpunished and continue abusing their victims,” Bobby explained.
Mr. Thompson also added, “In most states, religious leaders are legally required to report suspected child abuse to law enforcement. However, church leaders have been accused of pressuring their victims to let the church settle accusations of sexual abuse instead of contacting the police. When sexual abuse occurs in a religious organization, it’s important to determine if the organization’s negligence allowed the abuse to occur. These organizations can be held liable for negligence like failing to report suspected abuse to law enforcement, both by the criminal and the civil justice systems.”