A couple of weeks ago, Michigan Pastor Mitch Olson was accused of sexually assaulting a woman he was supposed to be anointing with oil. He was conducting a “cleansing ritual” and his hand reportedly slipped into her pants… in addition to touching other parts of her body. You can read the full story here.
It looks like Olson won’t be charged with any criminal activity. The reason? His alleged victim “doesn’t fall under any classes of victims as outlined by state law.”
“The conduct of suspect Mitchell Olson directed towards 19 year old Victim was morally reprehensible. The Grace Ministry Center head pastor’s conduct appears to be highly questionably and not religious in nature. It also appears to have violated the standards of the church. However, based on the information and law cited above, this conduct despite being immoral is not illegal according to Michigan criminal law. For these reasons we are unable to prosecute this case,” said Senior Assistant Prosecutor Paul Soderberg in the case review released Wednesday morning.
In essence, they said, she consented to this. He didn’t force himself upon her; he just took advantage of her. There was no violence. There was no injury or threat of it. Because of that, there’s nothing on the books that prosecutors can point to to convict him.
The victim told a local newspaper that she was “frustrated” by the results but hardly surprised. If the laws were more sensible, then her attacker would have been charged with a crime, especially since no one’s disputing her account of what he did. She added:
“… I have learned through this experience that sexual assault is so minimized and that it’s easier for people to brush it under the rug rather than take action.”
Olson had no comment. Maybe he’s hoping this will just blow over. But it’s scary to think that he could do the same thing over and over again and never get charged for it until state legislators get their act together and pass a law that protects victims from sexual contact by their religious leaders or say consent isn’t a defense in situations like these.
It’s an infuriating grey area here. She consented to the anointing. She thought he was going too far when he began touching her all over the place but didn’t stop it because he was a trusted religious leader. And she only realized what happened after it was all over. It’s so clearly wrong… yet manipulating a member of your congregation, even in a situation like this, isn’t a crime.