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PAUL -- A teenage girl says a religious leader sexually abused her the past three summers at a Christian retreat north of Detroit Lakes. A federal civil lawsuit was filed Wednesday, five months after the Becker County attorney decided there was not enough evidence to press criminal charges, by the St. Cloud girl and her mother.
They sued the leader of Gospel Crusades for what the federal lawsuit calls repeated incidents of sexual abuse while she was 11, 12 and 13 years old. Documents with the suit content that the Rev. Gerald Derstine kissed her on the mouth and touched her breasts, among other improper activities, at Gospel Crusades' Strawberry Lake Christian Retreat.
Paul attorney Patrick Noaker said the goal of the suit is two-fold: to make the retreat center safe for children and to get money to fund the St. Cloud girl's treatment. Fellow attorney Sarah Odegaard said the girl is not being treated, although the lawsuit claims she suffered "emotional distress, embarrassment, loss of self-esteem, humiliation and psychological injuries.
Derstine's secretary said that the year-old minister was not available to comment and no one else in the organization would talk about the case. In a letter Noaker said Derstine sent to the girl's family, the minister said he only was trying to be a father figure to the girl, who did not have a father at home. Fritz said that he will watch progress of the federal civil case to see if new evidence comes forward. Those bringing civil cases, such as filed Wednesday, have a lower burden of proof than when authorities file criminal charges. The St.
Paul lawyers released a transcript they said came from a telephone conversation supervised by St. Cloud police between the girl and Derstine.
During the call, the girl asked Derstine: "Do you think it was OK that we were kissing on the mouth and hugging? The girl is identified only as "Jane Doe " in the court case and her mother as "Mother Doe The lawsuit claims Derstine used his authority as a religious leader to influence the girl. It also says that others at Gospel Crusades should have known what was going on and did nothing to prevent it. Noaker and Odegaard said all but one of the alleged incidents occurred in Derstine's Strawberry Lake office.
The other, they said, was in a motel room at the rural Strawberry Lake facility. The girl's mother had been a long-time volunteer at the retreat center, often working in the laundry room.
Noaker said the mother angrily confronted Derstine after the girl told her about the minister's actions. Gospel Crusades began in and Derstine became its leader in Its Web site claims 1, active members in more than two dozen countries. The Strawberry Lake retreat, near the small town of Ogema, has been in operation for more than 45 years.
Riham Feshir of Detroit Lakes Newspapers contributed to this story. Don Davis reports for Forum Communications Co. Trending Articles. Health News. News Youth accuses minister of sex abuse at lake retreat ST. A federal civil lawsuit was filed Wednesday, five months after the Becker County attorney decided there w Written By: Pioneer staff reports am, Jul.
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