An Illinois youth pastor has reportedly admitted to sexually assaulting a young girl for years at the church where she was a member, beginning when she was just 14 years old.
Roger VanRaden, a 48-year-old who frequented the “teen room” where the victim spent time, was charged with criminal sexual assault and aggravated criminal sexual abuse for actions that occurred between 2015 and this year. (He was released from jail after posting a $7,500 bond.)
[Champaign County sheriff’s Lt. Curt] Apperson said the alleged victim, now 18, told a trusted adult that she and VanRaden had been engaging in various sex acts for about four years. That adult arranged for her to meet with her family then make the report to the sheriff’s office.
Surprisingly, VanRaden admitted the girl was telling the truth, which suggests there’s a good chance there will eventually be a plea deal on the table. Authorities say he assaulted the young girl mostly at church, but that they are “also looking into church camp retreats.”
As one detective made clear, this was not consensual because of the victim’s age and the pastor’s manipulative tactics.
While there was no suggestion that the girl was physically forced to engage in the alleged conduct, [Detective Dwayne] Roelfs said she was not old enough to consent to it.
“She was manipulated through trust and control,” he said.
This is exactly why pastor abuse is so rampant in the United States. Aside from the fact that churches thrive in an environment of unaccountability, religious leaders often acquire unearned trust. Some of them, as we’ve seen far too many times, are all too eager to take advantage of that authority.