Woman alleges years of sexual assault at church-run school

Albuquerque Journal [Albuquerque NM]

October 11, 2022

By Olivier Uyttebrouck

A Valencia County woman alleges in a lawsuit that, as a girl, she was repeatedly sexually abused by the youth minister at a church-run school in Truth or Consequences.

The woman, who was born in 1988, said she was abused from sixth through eighth grades while attending a school operated by a church affiliated with the Assemblies of God, the lawsuit alleges. It was filed Sept. 19 in 2nd Judicial District Court.

The unidentified woman alleges the abuse began when she took piano lessons from a man identified in the suit as a youth minister and Sunday school teacher.

The abuse continued in seventh and eighth grades while she was formally enrolled at Appletree Education Center, a school run by the Full Gospel Tabernacle in Truth or Consequences, it said.

Amelia Wilcox, director of Appletree Education Center, said in a phone interview Monday that she was unaware that a suit had been filed and declined comment. Wilcox, who has worked at the school for 18 years, also said she is unfamiliar with the youth minister identified in the suit as the alleged abuser.

The lawsuit names as defendants the General Council of the Assemblies of God in Springfield, Missouri, the New Mexico District Council – Assemblies of God in Albuquerque, and Appletree Education Center.

Michael Dickenson, executive director of the New Mexico District Council – Assemblies of God, said Monday he was unfamiliar with the suit and declined comment. Voice and email messages left at the offices of the general council and district council were not immediately returned on Monday.

The suit alleges the church and school were negligent in supervising employees and failed to ensure the safety of children. It seeks undisclosed damages.

Most incidents of abuse occurred while the girl took piano lessons in an isolated area of the church and school, the suit alleges.

The girl “was always terrified that she would be ostracized and punished if anyone ever found out about the sexual interactions” with the youth minister, it said.

The youth minister frequently told the girl that she risked getting them in trouble if she told anyone about the abuse, it said.

The girl’s family was “extremely immersed” in both the church and the school, the suit said. The abuse continued until the girl was 13, it said.