SANTA FE, N.M. — A woman who claims she was sexually abused by two teachers at the Temple Baptist Church in Santa Fe when she was a child is now suing the church after she married and had children with one of her alleged abusers.
A lawsuit filed in Santa Fe District Court last week maintains that the woman, identified only as “Jane Doe” in the document, was abused hundreds of times while she was enrolled at the church’s school, across Yucca Street from Santa Fe High, in the mid ’90s.
She married one of those men when she turned 18 and she started having children with him at 19, the complaint says, but the couple is now divorced. Neither alleged abuser is identified in the suit.
The abuse happened at the church, as well as homes of church members, including the victim’s home, according to the suit.
The filing says the church had a culture “wherein male leaders held substantial power over the lives of minors – particularly minor female students at the Church and School” and says they “used the power vested in them as teachers, supervisors and as religious figures to sexually abuse Plaintiff as a minor.”
Levi Monagle, one of the woman’s attorneys, said Wednesday that the plaintiff wasn’t ready to speak with a reporter. He said it’s not uncommon for a childhood victim of sexual abuse to continue a relationship with their abuser when they get older.
“It confuses some people, but it’s something you see in a lot of circumstances,” Monagle said. “Someone enveloped in that at a young age sees that as normal. We’re hoping to help people understand these grooming dynamics.”
Monagle said the woman’s ex-husband isn’t named in the suit because it would be too traumatizing for the children to deal with, but said he could be included at some point. The woman claims the church didn’t do enough to protect her and made no effort to report the abuse to law enforcement. She’s asking for punitive damages and court fees.
Officials at Temple Baptist could not be reached for comment this week. Voice messages couldn’t be left at the church, and calls on a phone number for someone with the name of the church pastor weren’t returned.
The suit says the one teacher first “sexually contacted” her when she was 10 or younger. A second teacher, who later became her husband, “developed a fondness” for her when she was 11 and he was in his 20s, and sexually abused her dozens of times until she was 15, “essentially openly dating” her, the complaint says. He left the state when she was 15, but came back to the church when she was 17, and “re-kindled” his interest in her and married her “immediately upon her turning 18.”
The woman started experiencing unexplained anxiety and depression, and sought legal separation from her husband in 2006, but they reconciled through marital and church counseling, and she moved with him and her children to the Phoenix area. She claims that in her marriage that she was not allowed “uncontrolled” access to social networks, computers, friends or employment.
In 2015, the woman’s complaint says, a coworker became familiar with the situation and told her that what happened to her as a child was sexual abuse, and that realization caused a “psychological triggering effect” that caused debilitating trauma. The couple underwent divorce proceedings and have shared custody of their children, the suit states.
The woman says in the suit she doesn’t have enough money to pay for the therapy she needs and that the church should pay for it.