Former Youth Minister Facing Sexual Abuse Allegations

February 12, 2008

LEE COUNTY: A former Catholic youth minister is accused of sexual assault. An Ohio man filed a lawsuit claiming he was abused more than 30 years ago. The accuser says it took him this long to get the courage to come forward. We found out this was not the only allegation to surface.

Haunted by his past, Tom Ferguson spoke publicly for the first time on Tuesday.

"I am a victim and survivor of childhood sexual assault," said Ferguson.

The Ohio man says it was at the hands of a man he looked up to and trusted. Ferguson says it was his former Catholic youth minister, a deacon named Glen Shrimplin who is now 74-years-old.

"I was 14-years-old when he groomed me - 15 and 16 when he started abusing me," said Ferguson.

"In the Catholic tradition that we come from, we are taught not to question those who were clerics or in a position of authority in our church," said Barbara Blaine of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP.

Shrimplin now lives in Bonita Springs which is why Ferguson filed his lawsuit in Lee County more than 30 years after the alleged abuse.

We tried to get Shrimplin's side of the story Tuesday. We went to his housing complex in Bonita Springs but we were stopped at the gate and there was no answer at his phone.

We did find Shrimplin's new church, the Unity Church in Naples. Workers there say he does attend church and is an active volunteer. But they say he does not work with the youth ministry.

No one there wanted to speak on camera, but insist they are taking these allegations seriously.

"With this lawsuit, I hope to expose Shrimplin as a sexual predator. It's to prevent him from abusing any other children," said Ferguson.

The lawsuit states many detailed allegations against Shrimplin. It says he was a youth leader with the Diocese of Toledo during the time of the sexual abuse. It goes on to say that Shrimplin took Ferguson to Florida in approximately 1975 or 1976 for a one week vacation.

"He repeatedly molested me for one week and left me feeling ashamed, violated, guilty, trapped, with nowhere to turn and no one to turn to," said Ferguson.

According to a Toledo Blade newspaper, two other men brought similar allegations against Shrimplin. But in Ferguson's lawsuit, he's asking for more than $15,000.


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