New claims of sex abuse at a former Germantown Church. After watching a Local I-Team Report about abuse allegations against a volunteer associate youth pastor, former church member stepped forward claiming she was raped by a Sunday school teacher.
“It was about five to six months from around the time he started talking me to when he forcibly raped me,” said Karen Trotter, claims abuse from church volunteer.
Trotter claims that she suffered almost two years of repeated abuse from a Sunday school teacher at Immanuel Baptist church 25 years ago. The Germantown church changed names, and no longer exists, but, for Trotter, the nightmares continue.
“I verbalized ‘stop no I don’t want this.’ And I believe he said ‘no you really do.’ And I physically tried to stop him. It was not up to me,” said Trotter.
Trotter was 15 years old, below the age of consent in Tennessee. She says the Sunday school teacher who attacked her was about 30 years old and married.
We tried to talk to the former Sunday school teacher about these accusations, but he refused.
Although Trotter waited until last year to file a police report, she says her father reported the alleged abused several years after it happened to the church’s Pastor, Scott Payne.
“He did not take responsibility, he created no accountability, he had no accountability himself,” Trotter said.
We asked Pastor Payne about Trotter’s claims. He did not respond directly about his own actions, but he did say Trotter’s parents served in church ministerial positions at his most recent church.
Trotter is the latest person to file a police report alleging sex abuse at the same church and under the same pastor’s leadership. As the Local I-Team first reported in November, three men recently filed police reports claiming sex abuse by a different church volunteer. Michael Hansen and two of his friends say they were abused about 20 years ago.
“The lack of action by the church is what sticks with me the most I think because those are the people who are put in place to protect kids,” said Hansen.
Pastor Payne admits after two of the men, then teenagers, complained directly to him, he did not report the allegations to authorities as Tennessee law requires. But Payne told us he did oust the accused person.
“After we took the immediate action that we did, it was like the remedy had come,” said Payne.
When Pastor Payne spoke to the Local I-Team in November, he had a message for the men.
“To these young men I would say I still love you I am sorry that you went through what you did I am sorry I didn’t do more to protect you,” Payne said.
Gary Smith, a local attorney with experience trying child sex abuse claims against religious institutions, spoke with the Local I-Team about his experience.
“The first response institutionally is normally sweep it under the rug: let’s pretend it didn’t happen; let’s don’t report it to the police; let’s don’t do a thorough investigation. That is exactly the wrong thing to do because all that does is assure it is going to happen again,” said Smith.
Maria Hallas, Local I-Team: “Do you believe even 20 years later that they [religious institutions] should reach out to police?”
“Absolutely because you got an allegation of sexual abuse from someone in your employment or under your control and you better find out everything you can find out because you are going to be responsible for them when it happens on your watch,” Smith.
For churches that wish to avoid liability, Smith recommends thoroughly investigating all concerns, getting victims help, and reporting allegations to the authorities. He also recommends the following proactive steps:
“Training, monitoring, screening, new employees doing everything you can to prevent that from happening. It is not unique to religious denominations but it is certainly prevalent in all of them,” Smith said.
Trotter realizes the statue of limitations is up in her case but encourages other victims to come forward.
“It’s a feeling of relief to finally get the truth out there,” Trotter said.
In addition to Trotter, after our initial story aired in November, Kenny Stubblefied, Michael Hansen, and Brooks Hansen claim eight people contacted them claiming sex abuse from the same associate youth pastor who the three men say abused them.
The three men say they are now advocates for protecting children. Stubblefield is planning to open a Memphis chapter of SNAP, a victim’s rights group which fights child sex abuse in all religions.
If you have claims against any religious organization, please contact your local police force. The Local I-Team Reporter would like hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org.