LOS ANGELES (CN) – A former Seventh-day Adventist associate pastor says the church fired her for reporting that another pastor had sexually abused her. And she claims that the church tried to justify her firing by saying that she waited for a month before complaining about the sexual assault.
In her Superior Court lawsuit, plaintiff T. Watson claims that Howard Small, a married pastor, sexually harassed and assaulted her repeatedly for 5 months, culminating in rape.
She claims Small began harassing her shortly after the church hired her.
She accuses Small of exposing himself to her several times in the church office, and of repeatedly “forcibly attempting to perform oral sex on her.”
She says Small told her, “God has brought us together for a reason,” and, “If you were not a virgin, you would be pregnant right now.”
When she threatened to denounced him, she says, Small told her that the church would fire her if she complained. He allegedly told her that she “could not trust anyone” and that she “could not talk to any of the church members because he was the pastor and they were the parishioners,” according to the complaint.
One month after that exchange, she claims, Small showed up uninvited at her door, threw her to the ground “and coercively forced her to have sexual intercourse with him.” Afterward, he allegedly told her that he felt “terrible for bringing her down the wrong path,” and falsely promised to leave the church.
One month after that, the plaintiff says, she reported Small’s abuse to Adolphus Garnett, the church’s Los Angeles regional director. She says Garnett promised to protect her, and a personnel committee later determined that she had been sexually abused and victimized. However, the complaint states, Larry Caviness, the president of the Southern California Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, put her on a 9-month leave of absence with reduced pay. After that, Caviness allegedly said, the church did not plan to rehire her.
The plaintiff wants punitive damages and lost wages. She is represented by Landon Vivian.