We filed a lawsuit yesterday on behalf of a man who was sexually abused by his Methodist pastor in the early 1980s, when he was 11 years old. The pastor, William Walker, died of AIDS in 1992, according to newspaper reports at the time.
As allowed by court rules, the case does not use the victim’s name, but refers to him as Jack Doe. The defendant is the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, the organization that operates the First United Methodist Church in Eugene, Oregon where Walker was the pastor from around 1980 until his death.
It is not unusual for victims to file lawsuits many years after they were abused. As a result of the trauma caused by childhood sexual abuse, very few sexual abuse victims ever report what happened to them. It can be years and even decades before those who do report come forward. Simple telling their story is a huge step towards healing.
The law in many states recognizes that child abuse victims can take years or even decades to figure out that problems they have as an adult were caused by the abuse they suffered as kids. These states allow victims to file lawsuits many years after the abuse. In Oregon, for instance, child abuse victims can file a lawsuit before they turn 40, or even later, as long as they file the case within five years of when they make the connection between their adult problems and their earlier abuse.
Our client himself explained, “For years, I put what happened to me when I was a kid out of my thoughts. But the abuse severely affected my life, and I am just now able to face my fears, come forward to make sure the church is held accountable for its actions, and try to help prevent this kind of abuse from happening to someone else.”
The lawsuit we filed alleges that Pastor Walker abused his position of leadership, trust, and respect as a church Pastor and mentor to repeatedly sexually abuse Jack Doe when he was only about 11 years old, both at the First United Methodist Church in Eugene, as well as at Camp Magruder, a Methodist church camp. The abuse included kissing, fondling, and anal sex on multiple occasions.
A newspaper article published after Walker’s death revealed that he died in July 1992 from “complications related to AIDS[,]” and that he had several bisexual relationships. According to The Register-Guard article, “Painful Revelation,” published on December 6, 1992, Walker was diagnosed with AIDS in 1989, but “sought to keep [his diagnosis] secret[.]” The article also details how church officials told church members in November 992 that “[h]e was a minister . . . who had abused his power as a religious leader by attempting to seduce emotionally vulnerable young men.” “In all, at least 12 males, including six or more ministers and one minor, . . . told church leaders that Walker made sexual advances toward them [,]” the article states.
Based on these reports of Walker’s history of sexual activity with minors, and what we know about pedophiles in general, it is likely that there are other victims of Walker or other witnesses with relevant information. We want these witnesses or other survivors of abuse to know that, if they come forward, they will be listened to and treated with respect.
Anyone with additional information about William Walker or any of the events at issue in this case is encouraged to contact us at 888-407-0224.