PA youth pastor accused of sexually abusing 14-year-old girl

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A former Bradford County youth pastor has been accused of sexually abusing a 14-year-old more than 20 years ago after his church approved him being ‘engaged’ to the teenager, according to the Attorney General of Pennsylvania.

Between 1996 and 1998, when Robert Fenton was 26, the 52-year-old allegedly abused and sexually assaulted a 14-year-old girl.

Robert Fenton allegedly claimed God wanted him to marry his sexual assault victim.

According to the announcement from the attorney general’s office, Fenton had a vision in which “God wanted the victim to be his bride,” and so sought church approval for an engagement.

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Abide in the Vine church leaders approved and agreed to “engage” the girl to him “knowing that no sexual activity would occur.”

However, the victim came forward to the police about the abuse in 2019, according to the criminal complaint published with the announcement, which describes the abuse she suffered.

The victim said that after the “engagement”, Fenton allegedly convinced her parents to take her out of public school so he could visit her at home.

It was there, she says, that Fenton touched the girl’s genitals and forced her to touch him.

When Fenton and the victim got engaged in 1998, he allegedly forced her to perform oral sex on him, according to the affidavit.

Fenton allegedly had pancreatitis around this time and had to call off the wedding. This finally ended their relationship around August–September 1998.

He then allegedly told the victim that she ruined her ministry before moving to Australia and becoming a minister in Queensland, matching information available to the Attorney General.

The Attorney General seeks Fenton’s extradition to the United States from Australia.

In July 2021, the Attorney General’s office resumed the investigation and began interviewing friends of the victim, members of the congregation, and her relatives.

Her parents explained that they were aware of the engagement and agreed, even sharing that church elders had set up a 6-month ‘no contact’ period during which Fenton and the girl could only write letters .

Of course, he was “pushing the envelope” on that too, according to the parents.

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The church pastor at the time was allegedly against the relationship between Fenton and the victim, according to the pastor’s son, but was pressured by his parents and the youth pastor to accept the ” engagement”.

The pastor’s son said they compared their relationship to Mary and Joseph, with Mary being much younger, but he said he had no idea the relationship had been sexual.

Another of the elders, who is also a lawyer, reportedly said he would call the police in Fenton if the relationship had taken place.

The criminal complaint, however, did not specify whether or not this ultimately happened.

Fenton was charged with indecent assault of a person under 16, involuntary deviant sexual intercourse with a person under 16, aggravated indecent assault, corruption of minors and assault. legal sex.

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“The defendant used his power and authority in his religious community to regularly lie, manipulate and abuse a young girl in his community. I promised we would hold accountable anyone who abused children – and Robert Fenton is no exception,” Attorney General Shapiro said.

The Attorney General’s Office revealed that it was working with the United States Department of Justice and the US State Department to extradite Fenton from Australia to stand trial.

“Survivors live lives of anguish and trauma trying to overcome the impact of abuse,” Shapiro said.

“I want survivors to know – we believe you and we won’t let predators get away with child molestation.”

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Isaac Serna-Diez is a writer who focuses on entertainment and current affairs, social justice and politics. Follow him on Twitter here.

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