A woman who claims she was sexually abused by her now-deceased adoptive father throughout her childhood is suing her mother, the Seventh-day Adventist Church and two of its schools, alleging they knew about the abuse but failed to protect her.
Alicia Koback, who was adopted shortly after her birth in 1964 by Bob and Constance Heitsman of Aldergrove, says in a statement of claim filed in B.C. Supreme Court that the abuse began when she was a toddler and continued until she left home at 16, pregnant and traumatized.
Her mother, church officials and teachers at two schools — Fraser Valley Adventist Academy in Aldergrove and Cariboo Adventist Academy in Williams Lake — knew about the abuse but did not try to stop it or report it to authorities, she claims.
The statement was filed Friday by lawyer Jim Poyner, but the allegations have not been proven in court and the four parties named in the lawsuit have yet to file a statement of defence. Contacted by The Vancouver Sun at her Aldergrove home on Friday, Connie Heitsman reacted with surprise but declined to comment.
The church also wouldn’t comment on the case, saying it had no information as of Friday.
“The Seventh-day Adventist Church does not condone any type of abuse of children or, for that matter, any individual. Our position with regard to alleged acts of molestation of a child is to report all such allegations to the appropriate authorities and to cooperate with the investigation conducted,” communications director Stan Jensen said in an email.
The two schools did not respond to The Sun’s request for a comment.
Koback, 49, said her parents were deacons of the Seventh-day Adventist Church and she was raised in a devout household with two brothers, also adopted, and a younger sister who was the Heitsmans’ only biological child. Family and religious rules were plentiful and included obeying elders, not questioning authority and distrusting non-believers.
The abuse began with sexual touching when she was two or three years old and advanced to rape several years later, the court document says.
“Constance was aware of the many occasions on which the plaintiff was raped and sexually abused in many other ways by Bob but took no steps whatsoever to report or prevent the continuation of this behaviour,” it states.
Furthermore, officials and employees of the two schools and the church became aware of the many times Heitsman abused his daughter but “failed to take any steps whatsoever to stop, prevent or report this unlawful behaviour,” the statement of claim says.
Some of the abuse occurred on a school bus after her father, a driver with the Fraser Valley independent school, had dropped off other students, it says.
Koback was born in California but taken to Kersley by her adoptive parents and lived on a farm there for several years, attending the public elementary school for a time before her parents withdrew her in favour of home-schooling using church lessons. She said she felt isolated, was often scared and hid in her room a lot. Through it all, she said, “I loved God and I was trying to be a good little girl.”
Later, she attended Cariboo Adventist Academy and, after her family moved to Aldergrove, the Fraser Valley Adventist Academy. But whenever she timidly confided in Adventists about her unhappy home situation, she said she was called a liar and a troublemaker and told to pray for forgiveness for making derogatory comments about her father, a devout Christian man.
She concluded that she was to blame for everything and, desperate to leave home in her teens, she became pregnant by her boyfriend, married him and had a baby a few months later. “I was a 17-year-old lost, sick mother,” recalled Koback, who had a second son 14 years later.
The death of her father in 1998 didn’t ease her troubled mind or end her self-loathing, she said, and in 2012 she decided to take action. “I was so angry,” she told The Sun. “I had thought it was all my fault because that’s what they told me. But I didn’t feel like that anymore.”
Poyner said he knows of no other lawsuit in Canada linking sex abuse to the Seventh-day Adventist Church, although there have been cases and settlements in the U.S. Koback, who claims post-traumatic stress disorder and is seeking unspecified damages, said she is going public because she doesn’t want any other child to have her experiences and she isn’t confident Adventists have done enough to stop sex abuse.
In 1997, the general conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church issued a statement, noting the community “is not immune from child sexual abuse. We believe that the tenets of the Seventh-day Adventist faith require us to be actively involved in its prevention. We are also committed to spiritually assisting abused and abusive individuals and their families in their healing and recovery process, and to holding church professionals and church lay leaders accountable for maintaining their personal behaviour as is appropriate for persons in positions of spiritual leadership and trust.”
© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun
What is your motive for posting this ?
What is your motive for your response?
I asked first ?
Because this Woman is a Child of God and apparently she was sexually abused, went to the church and to her church school and no one believed her--including (possibly) the mom. Big problem.
We need to be aware of this as it impacts our ability to minister, especially with this major evangelistic thrust that is supposed to be coming, starting in New York. This is going to put that on halt until this situation is resolved.
I see why she posted now, kevin..
You're welcome. :)
My heart goes out to this woman for the pain that she has endured all of those years. My heartfelt prayers are for her healing and restoration.
If indeed those individuals in the church school did nothing--and especially the local church connected to it--they are legally libel. However, I am not sure on the legalities in Canada and whether the World-Wide Church will be held responsibility, as THEY did not know, have a clear policy and protocol in place and have demonstrated that they take this seriously in corrective action.
the guy is dead but now she is suing the church
I wonder why she waited so long, and never contacted the police as a teenager? She waited until she was 49? She never attempted to turn over her adopted father as a grown woman, and now he is dead. Could there be an alternate motivation? Cash perhaps?
I find that hard to believe.
If you will read the article, it said why. With no one to validate the truth for her, she believed that it was all her own fault.
Why don't we let her be innocent until proven guilty?
I agree with him. But I think she should keep this matter in the family.
I think she should keep it in her family...
Are you serious?
Her own family are the perpetrators of the crime and the church and the school are the alledged accomplices.
Anyone who put there hand to do evil to this woman will be held accountable before Yahweh. Why should they not be held accountable before man?
Shalom haShem Yahshua,
What makes you find it hard to believe? That a person who was a Seventh-day Adventist was not a Christian and had immorality issues or that a church and church school full of Seventh-day Adventist Adults were not Christians and did nothing?