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Local Church Blames Survivor of Childhood Sexual Assault for Being Assaulted

Seacoast Grace Church Says Survivor is at Fault for Sexual Assault Perpetrated Against Her When She Was 12 Years Old

(Los Angeles, CA) – In response to a lawsuit filed by survivor Julie Poole Lusk in July of this year, Seacoast Grace Church (North Long Beach Brethren) in Orange County filed papers in court alleging that Ms. Lusk was at fault for the sexual assault perpetrated against her by a church pastor when she was just 12 years old.

Seacoast Grace’s filing, which responds to Ms. Lusk’s allegations of repeated sexual assault at the hands of Kenneth McCall, who was in charge of the church’s Youth Group, accuses Ms. Lusk of “fail[ing] to exercise ordinary care for her own safety” as a child, and claims that, as a 12-year-old girl attending youth programs at the church, she “knew of the dangers and risks . . . but nevertheless freely and voluntarily exposed herself to all risks of harm.”

“When I read Seacoast Grace’s pleading, in which the church blamed me for the sexual assaults, I was devastated,” said Ms. Lusk. “I don’t understand how a religious institution can place guilt on a child. It is a shameful and malicious response.”

Attorneys from Greenberg Gross LLP and Jeff Anderson & Associates filed two lawsuits in July on behalf of plaintiffs Julie Poole Lusk and Carrie Denise Dial against McCall and Seacoast Grace Church, formerly known as North Long Beach Brethren. McCall was employed by Seacoast as a pastor in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The complaints detail the survivors’ allegations of how McCall sexually groomed adolescent girls, including both plaintiffs, in an effort to establish trust so that he could isolate and assault them. The complaints explain how McCall began his pattern of grooming and assaulting both Ms. Lusk and Ms. Dial when they were each 12 years old.

“The response from Seacoast Grace Church harks back to a time when women and children were forced into shame and silence by those in power,” said attorney Mike Reck of Jeff Anderson & Associates. “The law in California no longer protects those in powerful positions. Survivors now have the right to seek full accountability and justice against those who assault children and those who act to cover up abuse.”

In her lawsuit, Ms. Lusk alleges that the abuse happened with the full knowledge of the Church’s leadership, and she describes the decision by Church leaders to eventually allow McCall to quietly resign, which permitted him to continue to work with young children throughout Southern California.

“A survivor of sexual assault is not culpable for the abuse they’ve suffered, particularly when that abuse was inflicted on them as a child,” said attorney Matthew Ingles of Greenberg Gross.  “For Seacoast Grace to point the finger at Ms. Lusk and say that she, as an adolescent, was somehow responsible for the reprehensible acts that are detailed in this lawsuit is telling.”