$2 million lawsuit filed in Manitoba sex-abuse case
A Winnipeg, Man., woman who was sexually assaulted by a Mennonite Brethren youth pastor in 1996 has filed a $2 million lawsuit alleging his church fostered a climate that aided in the abuse of children.
The Winnipeg Sun reports Brian Douglas Porisky, 56, pleaded guilty to sexual assault in October and was sentenced to six months in prison for kissing and fondling the women, at the time 14 years old, when he was youth pastor at The Meeting Place.
The lawsuit goes further, alleging repeated intercourse and other sexual acts at church functions and Porisky’s home — allegations that have not come up in court. The Sun reports the lawsuit says the church “failed to recognize that a certain percentage of pastors would become sexually deviant and would make sexual advances on children,” failed to instruct pastors about these possibilities and taught the woman that pastors are “chosen representatives on earth of God and have special powers.”
The lawsuit says MB rules and ideologies created an opportunity for Porisky to exert power and authority, and that he “was aware of the low risk of getting caught due to his power, and therefore, [the church] put the plaintiff at risk of being abused.”
The Mennonite Brethren Church of Manitoba is named as a co-defendant. MBCM executive director Elton DaSilva said in a March 11 statement to MBCM churches that The Meeting Place learned of some of the issues at the time and acted promptly, including dismissal of Porisky and counseling for the female.
“We take such allegations very seriously,” he said. “We have stringent ‘safe place’ and sexual abuse policies in place, which apply to all of our churches and to all of their personnel and all of their volunteers.
“We ask for your prayers and discretion. . . . MBCM is doing everything possible to conduct itself in a manner reflective of our Christian faith.”
Since further allegations are in the court system, DaSilva was unable to comment further.
Barbra Graber, leader of the Anabaptist-Mennonite chapter of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said in a statement that when churchgoers, especially children, are taught that pastors are chosen representatives of God, a dangerous situation is created.
“Time and time again we have seen children sexually groomed and assaulted because they felt they could not say no to a man of God,” she said. “We hope this lawsuit will force church officials of all denominations to become more vigilant in their hiring of pastors, to use their resources to educate the congregation about abuse prevention and to work with civil authorities in reporting and prosecuting these crimes.”
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