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
In a nutshell- Jimmy Saville was a famous UK presenter- he passed away in 2011- about a year later in 2012 allegations emerged that he had sexually abused children.... it caused a huge scandal and since then more high profile figures in the media have been arrested who had abused children also in the past. It started a chain reaction where victims no longer felt that no one would believe their story and came forward as the abuse had been done by a high profile figure in the Media
For more info see link or Google ...
I feel sorry for her,it is just because she was a child and that those times she did not have someone who she could speak to about this issue as a matter of fact these are family issues that can only be solved by the family and then the necessary steps can be taken to bring justice to the affected.....
Sad to read about this case. These things are real within the church. I'm aware of an Adventist school in which students confided in a teacher about sexual abuse by another teacher. The "suspect", the students said, was also involved with a senior church official's wife and they had caught them in a compromising position in a secluded room. After months of "investigations" and threats to the teacher who reported the incidents was fired with the suspected pedophile still on board. After a short period, he was also fired, several weeks after the students had left the school. Their parents refused to allow them to testify and actually threatened students giving information about the suspect.
Now that the people most involved with the case are no longer in church employment, we may never know the truth unless someone comes out with it.
Abuse should be reported, regardless of what we think the consequences will be. I'm wondering though why in this case Koback has sued the church and why she has done so after so many years. It is possible she thought she was protecting the church's name by keeping silent. Or she was so traumatized she didn't know what to do.
In cases like this, I think individuals in church institutions should be held responsible.
We live in a cruel world. Christ is coming soon. Maranatha!
brave women. I'm glad someone is being held accountable. Some may feel like this is a meaningless symbolic gesture only benefiting this women's healing and needlessly bringing shame on the church, but I think that allowing the truth to be told may set in place a fear in the church/people not to repeat this mistake. That's what accountability does, it allows a sin to be dealt with so it can be removed. When we silence a sin we justify it and ultimately become partakers. Who knows, this story could possibly prevent a situation like this from happening again.
What I fail to understand is she is now 49 years old and waited for the, perpetrator, her adopted father to die. Obviously, she knew where he was, she knows where her adoptive mother is. She should have pursued criminal charges against him while he was alive. That is the part that does not make any sense.
I think it's hard to understand because we don't understand victim mentality. She was raised to keep this a secret. It probably took a lot of counseling for her to realize that she was capable of telling her story. People need people to validate them, and when everyone who is supposed to love you is telling you to not talk about what is going on, you second guess everything. People say something similar about abusive relationships "why did she stay?". Once again we have to understand the victim mentality. I had an English teacher who took her father to court for sexual abuse 20 or so years after it happened. It takes time to find our voice, and especially when abuse happens to us as children.
I don't know where my perpetrator is. By now, if he isn't in jail, or dead, he is probably a 56 year old Japanese guy somewhere. I fantaized for years about finding him and puting a bullet in the back of his head execution style. But, I got past it, and am no longer angry or wanting to find him and kill him. Nobody wanted to listen to rambling of a five year old boy. Nobody did. That was 35 years ago. Should I try to track down his mother and father and him if any of them still alive and sue them all? I am pretty sure the statue of limitations is over on all accounts. Had they been within my grasp for years on end, I think the end result would have been different. I would have taken them all to criminal court.
She didn't. It is what I can't understand. The ramifications of this problem colored my world view well after I was married and had children. I told my wife I did not want to see my children without clothes. I refused to bathe them, or change them because it felt wrong. Now, I am over it, all of it.
It didn't require years of expensive counseling, it did require some research on my own. For instance, I finally learned the difference between pederasts and homosexuals in college. I used to think they were one in the same and felt violent rage toward them. Now, they just disgust me.
I guess life is what you do with it. Play the revenge card or heal. I have healed. I am happier for it.
I'm sorry that happened to you, and good for you for being willing to allow yourself to heal. I would say if the mother and father knew about what happened to you they should be held accountable, but That's just my feeling on the matter. Now the question "should you sue them" isn't a moral one but rather one that is up to the person who is healing, and everyone's journey is different. There are a lot of things we don't understand, but I think that is where grace comes in.
I don't, I have forgiven there too. The way I grew up, if something was too hard to deal with it was shoved into denial. So, for the hard things, I didn't have a lot of support. What hurt the most, I guess, is after I told and it was swept under the rug, when I adressed it years later, the response was, "You should have let us know, because what if something like that happened to your sister." That stung, I told them, I had told them and the pain and resentment I felt over being ignored and then having that thrown in my face. But, we are good now. I am the kind of person, who looks at it this way. Harboring resentment, only hurts me. It doesn't bother anyone else.
It sounds like this lady has been hurting herself for years, after being hurt, and revictimizing herself. Jesus tells us in order to be forgiven, we must forgive. Some things take a long time to forgive and forget. But, I think He does this not only to teach us to be like Him. Also, to give us another benefit, or gift, that of having internal peace. That is a rare comodity it today's society.
It is not revenge....The safest place IS supposed to be the church and school in community at large. After all God is there, right?
Can you imagine the damage to her spiritual walk with Christ and believing that God will take care of her? This is a PR nightmare at the core for the Seventh-day Adventist Church in evangelism. If you are not going to protect "the least of these", what would make me listen to anything you have to say? About the LORD? Not working.