"If anyone is aware that there is child abuse taking place, they need to report it immediately to police. It's a crime if you don't report child abuse. It's a crime if you don't report a felony."
Cpl. Steve LeSueur, Odessa (Texas) Police
As our readers know, child abuse has always been a hot button issue here at TWW. Churches should be the last place where children are abused. Tragically, there have been far too many cases of molestation and cover-up within the 'house of God'. As the above quote indicates, law enforcement is now taking a strong stand for the children who have been hurt, and for that we are extremely grateful!
Last week's arrest of Don and Gina Haislett may be an indication that the police are really cracking down on people in positions of authority who fail to report child abuse. The Haisletts, who together pastor Life Church in Odessa, Texas, were arrested and charged with failure to report child abuse – a Class A Misdemeanor.
According to court documents obtained by NewsWest 9, the married couple allegedly knew that Angel De Los Santos (one of their volunteer youth ministers) was sexually assaulting multiple underage girls from the church and did not notify authorities within the mandated 48-hour period. Furthermore, arrest affidavits indicated that
Gina Haislett sent a text message to the minister's then-wife, telling her she "should not volunteer any information" when questioned by Odessa Police Department detectives.
Here is how the local media reported the news.
Odessa Police indicated that the Haisletts had taken matters into their own hands by conducting an internal investigation regarding an alleged sexual relationship Angel De Los Santos had with one person and the inappropriate text messages he allegedly sent to others. They relieved De Los Santos of his youth pastor duties and took three weeks to investigate during which time officials were not contacted.
As the news clip indicated,
De Los Santos was arrested in September and charged with six counts of sexually assaulting a child, a second degree felony.
"Investigation revealed [Angel De Los Santos] had been having a sexual relationship with a teenage girl," said LeSueur.
"They were having sex once a week for a two and a half year period, which began when she was fourteen."
De Los Santos pleaded guilty and received a 20-year sentence.
With the many stories of child sex abuse we have shared over the years, we wholeheartedly agree with the Odessa Police spokesman – this goes on far more than people realize. We must continue to call attention to these horrific situations and stand up for the victims!
We will be following this case and we will let you know the outcome. In the meantime, we hope these pastors will serve as a example of what happens when people in positions of authority fail to report alleged sex abuse. It is not up to pastors, etc. to decide whether the abuse occurred – that is the responsibility of the police!
Lydia's Corner: Genesis 32:13-34:31 Matthew 11:7-30 Psalm 14:1-7 Proverbs 3:19-20