Monday, November 11, 2013

Teen Challenge : Sex Abuse and Scandal

In our latest installment, we now touch on disturbing subjects--sexual abuse (including a known child molester as a Teen Challenge facility manager) both in Teen Challenge and its parent denomination.
Child molesters in the "Christian" teen rehab?  Heaven help us!
The pattern of abuse doesn't stop there, either.  One of the more decidedly shocking results of Teen Challenge setting up shop in states with little or no regulation of "Faith-based children's homes" is of a known multi-offense sexual assaulter and child molester running one of the Teen Challenge homes in Winthrop, ME--namely, Shondi Fabiano, listed officially as a co-head of Teen Challenge New England by the website of the Northern New England District of the Assemblies of God, andwho is officially listed as a lifetime-registered sex offender for second-degree child molestation and sexual assault in the third degree.  An online check of sex offender registries, including the Florida sex-offender registry run by Florida Department of Law Enforcement, also shows Shondi Fabiano also has a history of 2nd degree sexual assault conviction in Kent, RI.  (To give you an idea just why this may be an issue:3rd degree sexual assault in Rhode Island is essentially statutory rape of a 14- to 16-year old minor by a person over the age of 18, 2nd degree sexual assault is sexual assault of an incapacitated person or sexual assault using force or coercion, and second degree child molestation is what is generally termed as frank pedophile rape--sexual assault of a minor under the age of 14.  And this was probably not a case of "I thought he was legal"; Fabiano would have been nearly 24 years old at the time of the offense)
Fabiano apparently (at least per a search of the records site for Rhode Island's criminal courts) committed the crimes 10 years ago under her maiden name Shondi Barbato; she was originally charged with 1st degree child abuse (which involves sexual penetration of a child under the age of 14).  It also appears Fabiano (under her maiden name of Barbato) has a wee bit of a chequered history even aside from kiddy-diddling; she has a conviction for fraud (specifically attempts to obtain money under false pretenses, insurance fraud, and conspiracy) and a dismissed charge of possession of a controlled substance.
To date, Fabiano is still head of Teen Challenge New England despite not only state laws that prohibit sex offenders and persons convicted of crimes against children from working in children's homes but despite media publicity as well.  (In fact, technically Fabiano should not legally be able to work at Teen Challenge at all, much less have her residence listed as Teen Challenge in Maine's sex offender registry; Maine has some pretty strict laws regarding contact with minors by registered sex offenders.)
And there is a risk of real sexual abuse--in fact, there are indications that sexual abuse is (sadly) not unknown at Teen Challenge facilities--including the very facility that George W. Bush gave the "get out of jail free" card to.  From the Texas Freedom Network report that first broke the info on massive abuse in Texas "faith-based" facilities:
There is no question that eliminating basic health and safety standards made operations easier for a few faith-based programs in Texas, however the lack of minimum standards has threatened the safety of those participating in the program. In 1998, a boy filed suit against Dallas Teen Challenge Boys Ranch and Assemblies of God, alleging that a counselor, who was a convicted drug trafficker, sexually molested him and two other boys. The lawsuit also claimed that the ranch’s Executive Director, the church and the ranch’s board knowingly hired people with criminal histories to serve as counselors. (Austin American-Statesman, 5/13/1998)
The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal gives more details:
DALLAS (AP) - An 18-year-old man and his parents sued the Assemblies of God and the church's ranch for troubled youths Tuesday, claiming the youth was molested by a counselor at the center two years ago.
The alleged victim was 16 when he went to Dallas Teen Challenge Boys Ranch in Winnsboro in January 1996. According to his lawsuit, a counselor and convicted drug trafficker sexually molested him and two other boys, one of whom also was 16 or younger.
"(The counselor) sexually molested (the plaintiff) on at least six different occasions at the ranch," the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit further alleges that the church, ranch executive director Paul Ecker and the ranch's board knowingly employed men with criminal histories as counselors despite being informed by state regulators the practice was illegal.
. . .
According to the lawsuit, most of the residents were there as a condition of probation or deferred adjudication and had psychological or substance abuse problems. During the day, they performed chores, including caring for livestock, and took part in religious education. At night, they were "locked down" and monitored by alarm systems, to prevent unauthorized departures.
Among the employees and volunteers working at the ranch were men in a program called "Life Challenge," designed for adults. Many of them had substance abuse problems and were admitted to the program as part of their probation, the lawsuit states.
"The Assemblies entities would send employees and volunteers to the ranch knowing that they were not allowed to be there because of their criminal records," according to the lawsuit.
"Despite the repeated protests of the ranch administrator and citations from state regulatory authorities, the Assemblies entities funneled numerous Life Challenge men down to the ranch knowing that those men had criminal records involving narcotics and physical violence."
The scary thing is, had there not been a lawsuit, we would have never known about it--Teen Challenge was the first exemptee from licensing and inspection requirements by the state of Texas.
This may be--disturbing as it is--actually an extension of a preexisting issue in the Assemblies as a whole.  Much has been made of the scandals involving sexual abuse of children in Catholic dioceses, but there are a lot of reports of sexual abuse in the Assemblies, including multiple pastors (and which has, sadly, resulted in people being disowned from their own familieswhen they take courage and report the offenders).  In one notable case, a mother had to literally go into hiding with her children to protect them.  One recent case involved a pastor who was busted for sexually molesting a 7-year-old girl.  Another Assemblies man--one which George W. Bush apparently has close links with, and whom he used to promote the child tax credit as a Good Thing in 2004--was a youth pastor who eventually was busted for sexual abuse of a 17-year-old girl in his youth group.  In fact, there's indications that dominionist denominations may well have the most serious troubles of anyProtestant group re reports of child sexual abuse--*definitely* out of proportion to their numbers--and this becomes even more disproportional when one just counts the Assemblies churches.
Unfortunately, due to the almost complete lack of accountability within the Assemblies, it's not uncommon for the abuse to go on until either a parent or the victim files charges--as noted above, often at great risk to themselves.
There are indications, too, that the abusiveness is spreading.  Among other things, Teen Challenge is involved in Assemblies-linked compulsory programs in Australian schools. (Oz in general is starting to get a dominionist problem not unlike that here in the States, and in the case of the Land Down Under the dominionists are almost entirely Assemblies--and in fact largely linked to one Assemblies megachurch, Hillsong A/G, which is widely documented to be coercive, has a large number of frontgroups (including Gloria Jean Coffee's international operations and quite possibly links to the US operations as well), and has been the subject of a recent expose by a walkaway.)  Even worse, Teen Challenge is now explicitly preying on vulnerable populations in India--namely, children sold to the sex trade.
by dogemperor

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