MERCED, Calif. (CN) - A homeless women claims in court she was coerced to perform sexual acts in exchange for food at a shelter.
Cheryl Foursha sued Merced County Rescue Mission employee Elden McDaniel for sexual assault, battery and false imprisonment. She accuses Merced County Rescue Mission of negligent hiring and retention of an unfit employee.
According to the lawsuit, Foursha would often turn to the rescue mission for shelter, showers, clothing and essential food without hesitation since it is open to the public as a place of safety. She asserts that as a homeless female, "she is one of the most fragile and vulnerable classes of individuals in our society."
Foursha says the abuse began in November 2013 when she was late for the dinner the rescue mission had served. Having not eaten for a while, Foursha says she began to cry because not only was she starving, she was cold from being outdoors.
Seeing her desperate state, Foursha says McDaniel told her he would get her something to eat from the kitchen if she showed him her breasts. Foursha gave in to the request and was awarded with food and a jacket to wear.
A short time later, McDaniel built upon this incident by taking Foursha to Subway to buy her a sandwich so he could tell her that he would continue to give her food, shelter and clothing if she provided him sexual favors, the complaint continues.
Throughout 2014, many of the times when Foursha sought the rescue mission's help McDaniel sexually harassed her in various ways. These included grabbing his crotch with both hands and pulling back and forth while telling her, "You can have some of this," "You can sit on this" and "You can suck on this," the complaint says.
He also forced Foursha to endure unwanted groping and touching which included "offensive contact" with her vagina, breasts and buttocks while she was at the rescue mission, according to the complaint.
Foursha says that that on several occasions, McDaniel forced her to go with him to another location where he would sexually assault her.
McDaniel told Foursha she could be his girlfriend if she gave into his sexual advances. When Foursha attempted to deny his requests, McDaniel would ban her from the rescue mission until she was hungry and desperate enough to return and submit to his demands, the complaint continues.
Foursha says that she told the rescue mission about McDaniel's behavior after the 2013 incident, but nothing was done to protect her from the pattern of abuse that continued over the next two years.
The abuse Foursha claims to have endured parallels other allegations against Merced County Rescue Mission, a nonprofit organization that provides meals to the homeless and needy seven days a week. The Merced Sun-Star reported in May 2014 that mission CEO Bruce Metcalf hid turkeys and canned food from the public before Thanksgiving to boost donations, and then sold the turkeys to a church for $5 apiece.
The organization's website claims to serve by adhering to the following biblical quote, "For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me. I was sick and you looked after me."
It also offers chapel services, showers and a place to sleep.
Foursha seeks general, special damages and punitive damages and any other just relief.
She is represented by Jason Helsel and Adam Benkoski of Fowler Helsel Vogt in Fresno, California.
Benkoski told Courthouse News, "This is the worst case of exploitation of a homeless person I have ever seen. These are the people I feel we are supposed to protect the most; it just turns my stomach"
He added, "What frightens me most is if this is possible, what happens to other women in the same situation?"
The rescue mission's CEO Metcalf did not respond to an emailed request for comment by press time, and attempts to reach McDaniel were unsuccessful.
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