Three leaders of a church in Maryland have been officially charged with targeting and sexually abusing at least four vulnerable teenage girls from a group for at-risk youth.
Pastor Joshua William Wright, his minister son William Joshua Wright, and Donald Jackson, another leader at the church, were charged with crimes that allegedly occurred between 2001 and 2008. The victims who have been identified were between the ages of 15 and 18, and they were all a part of a group called Children Having Overcoming Power (CHOP), which was designed to give living accommodations to young at-risk kids.
Police say the girls were abused at the suspects’ homes, at various parks and inside the church itself.
“What’s really disturbing about this is that these children were vulnerable. They were coming to a program to get assistance, and they became victims,” Maj. Anthony Schartner said.
The victims, now adults, came forward earlier this year to report abuse they said they suffered when they were under the care of the men when they were teenagers.
If proven true, these are some pretty horrific charges. According to the victims, these men took advantage of them everywhere from their homes to their actual church. That would be bad enough on its own, but it seems even worse when the alleged abusers were people who claim to have a divine moral code and are held out by society as higher authorities.
To make matters even worse, one of the alleged offenders was actually a part of the police department.
William Wright is a U.S. Capitol Police officer who has been placed on non-duty status. The department takes the charges “very seriously,” a spokeswoman said.
“Upon notification of the investigation by the Prince George’s County Police, the Department immediately placed him in a non-duty status. As this is an ongoing investigation, the USCP will continue to monitor the outcome of this matter in Prince George’s County,” a statement said.
This pattern of abuse seems to emanate from nearly every religious denomination. I often wonder if these stories pop up so often because abusers seek out positions that get them access to children, or if power in a church breeds corruption, or because the abusers think their status gives them license to abuse. Whatever it is, churches need to do more to make sure they have better oversight and regulation over their staff.
It’s depressing to realize these stories aren’t going to let up anytime soon.