The family of a girl who was molested by a former Jehovah's Witnesses church elder has filed a civil lawsuit against the former leader and the church.
Last October, Edward N. Davis, 40, was sentenced to 90 days in jail for molesting Aimey M. Vigue, 19. The abuse began when Vigue was 10, according to Superior Court records. Davis was an elder at the Jehovah's Witness Opportunity Kingdom Hall when the abuse occurred. Vigue's parents were close friends with Davis, according to the lawsuit.
Church officials declined to comment about the lawsuit.
Davis was convicted of sexually abusing Vigue during a vacation with her family in 1994, say court records. During the summer of 1997, while on a camping trip at Priest Lake organized by the church, Davis fondled the girl, the lawsuit said. And, in 2002, when Vigue turned 18 and moved out of her parents' home, Davis frequently called her, seeking to have sex with her, according to the lawsuit.
Vigue's parents, Robert Vigue and Kay Vigue, became aware of the abuse in 2002, court records state. Kay Vigue confronted Davis over the phone and he admitted the abuse, according to court records. The family approached other elders of the Opportunity Kingdom Hall to ask for guidance. Jehovah's Witness elders are unpaid volunteers who are selected to lead the congregation, making them similar to pastors.
Church elders agreed to "disfellowship" Davis and removed him from the church for two years. But just six months into his removal, he was back in the church, though not as an elder, records say. That's when the Vigues went to police.
"The Vigues were required to show respect and obedience at all times to the elders and officials of the Jehovah's Witnesses Church," said the lawsuit, drafted by Spokane attorney David Miller.
"The church knew, or should have known that Davis posed a clear and present danger of sexual assault on minor children coming into contact with him," Miller wrote.
Miller, in an interview on Thursday, said: "In cases like these, victims feel they need to be forgiven when in fact it's the church that should be asking the victims for forgiveness. People in these types of positions of power need to earn the respect of their congregants and not automatically get it."
The lawsuit alleges Vigue continues to suffer emotional trauma and harm as a result of the assaults.
Davis was originally charged with first-degree sexual misconduct and stalking. He pleaded guilty to second-degree sexual misconduct with a minor. In addition to jail time, a judge gave Davis two years' probation. He also is required to register as a sex offender.