Woman settles sex abuse suit against Spring Grove Jehovah's Witnesses
The lawsuit was settled on Monday in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas.
A woman has settled a lawsuit against the Spring Grove Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses and two of its supporting organizations, which alleged that elders failed to report instances of sexual abuse to law enforcement to protect their own reputation.
In the lawsuit, the woman said she’s suffered physical and emotional injuries after being abused between ages 14 and 16 by Terry Monheim, whom she met through the church.The Jehovah’s Witnesses became aware of it and “did nothing” to protect her, according to court documents.
The lawsuit was settled on Monday in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas. The terms of the agreement are confidential.
“A matter with the Jehovah’s Witnesses has been resolved,” said Jeffrey Fritz, an attorney who represented the woman, now 28, of Lancaster County. The York Daily Record/Sunday News is not identifying her because she’s the survivor of a sexual crime.
The abuse took place between 2003 and 2005, according to the lawsuit. The woman later went to the Southwestern Regional Police Department, which filed charges against Monheim.
Monheim, now 64, of Hanover, pleaded guilty in 2012 to indecent assault and corruption of minors. She was sentenced to serve three to 23 months in York County Prison, as well as five years on probation.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses “exercise control in all aspects of congregants’ lives,” according to the lawsuit. If someone is accused of child molestation and denies wrongdoing, the complaint states, the congregation will not act unless there’s at least two eyewitnesses.
“It is outrageous conduct in this or any other society to have knowledge of past instances of abuse of children and fail to report same to law enforcement authorities or put into place any protective measures to protect children against abuse,” the lawsuit states.
Louis Lombardi II, an attorney who represented the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York Inc. and Christian Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses Inc., which provide support to local congregations, could not be reached.
Neither could Jud Aaron, an attorney who represented the Spring Grove Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, nor Monheim.
Contact Dylan Segelbaum at 717-717-2012.