The Salvation Army’s Global Abuse (Or: It’s Still Happening, Worldwide)


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Whenever child sexual abuse by clergy is revealed, the church involved always says that these things happened decades ago, and that procedures are in place to ensure such crimes can no longer occur. This has been the theme at the recent New South Wales State government and Victorian State Parliamentary enquiries. It has also been used by the Catholic and Anglican churches, the YMCA and Scouts Australia at the hearings of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

At the Royal Commission hearings, due to begin 28th January, the Salvation Army is most likely to say the same thing about abuses at its Children’s Homes.

However, such things are still occurring in recent years, not just recent decades. Further, since the Salvation Army is a multinational organisation, operating in 126 countries at last count, the total number of such recent offences is very large. Because a full coverage would constitute a book, a few cases have been selected, randomly (really!), from the many reported elsewhere.

When caught out in these more recent cases, the response has been altered to indicate, usually, that the organisation is co-operating fully with the relevant authorities, and reviewing its practices. It also is in the habit of claiming these are very rare, isolated cases. The Salvation Army’s many corporate business “partners” are having to review their associations with the organisation. For example, Target stores have banned the Salvo’s “red kettle” collections at Christmas outside its stores.

In El Paso, Texas, U.S., a 16 year old girl had been helping a Salvation Army officer, Luis Leonel Valdez, load toys in a warehouse, for distribution to poor children at Christmas. Afterwards, he took her to McDonalds for a meal which they ate back at his house. The girl said that the coffee “tasted funny” so she stopped drinking it after a while, and fell asleep watching television.

Next thing she knew, she awoke in Valdez’s bedroom without pants or underwear and with her blouse pulled up. She also felt pain in her vaginal area. She ran out of the house and called police on the American emergency number, 911.

The girl was taken to hospital, where it was determined that she had been raped. A DNA test matched Valdez. He made no statement about the DNA match. Investigators believe that there could be other victims, and have set up a telephone line for victims to call.

A Salvation Army spokesman,”Major” Michael Morton, said that: “The Salvation Army has strict policies with respect to officers being alone with children.  Under no circumstances are officers allowed to take them to their homes… The officer has been suspended.”

In another case, at the Granville Salvation Army community center, Michigan, U.S., parents were attending services, and the children were attending Sunday school. Afterwards, one mother could not find her two-year-old daughter, at first. Later, she found her alone in the dark of the church basement.

The mother reported to police that her daughter “was fully nude and screaming for me. I honestly think I went into shock. Seeing her standing there crying I can only imagine how she felt. Like my mom wasn’t here for me.”  Seconds later, the pastor was telling her “We don’t need to call the police. You can’t go up and down the street talking about this. Meet me up here tomorrow.”

However, the woman had no intention of keeping quiet. Later, at a Children’s Hospital, the doctor who examined her daughter told the mother to be strong. She said that her child had been sexually assaulted. A rape kit and DNA evidence were collected. Tests indicated rape did not occur, but the exam states there were “numerous lacerations to the child’s genital area.”

A Salvation Army spokesman said: “Our prayers and thoughts go out to her and her family. We continue to assist the police with their investigation…. We continue to express deep concern

Here is another case from earlier this year. A Mr. Peterson worked at the Salvation Army shelter in Bentonville. A family with a 10 year-old son stayed at the shelter. The boy slept overnight at Peterson’s house several times. Peterson admitted that he helped the boy shower, and slept naked in the same bed, but denied abusing him.

The Salvation Army released a statement saying that “We express deep concern for the child involved… and are cooperating fully with the authorities… Peterson was immediately suspended.”  Peterson had been convicted of indecent solicitation of a child in 1982.

Last year, Jim Summers a Salvation Army official, was sentenced for the rape of several girls. Mr. Summers was in the habit of insisting his victims call him “Uncle Jim.” One victim told the court that “people weren’t believed” when they reported Summers at the time. “Everybody had suspicions, and knew that the children Jim abused were ‘Jim’s girls’… but people didn’t believe us”, she said.

In sentencing, Judge Jane Mowat described Summers as “someone who could properly be described as a paedophile predator“. A Salvation Army spokesman said: “As soon as these allegations were brought to our attention, we looked into it immediately, co-operating with the police and removing Mr Summers from all acting positions.” He added the Salvation Army’s “prayers and heartfelt sympathies” were with the victims.

Recently, a married Salvation Army officer couple, based at the British Bielefeld army base in Germany, were arrested and charged on suspicion of operating a child pornography ring, according to the U.K. Ministry of Defence. The matter is sub-judice. Because of police concerns for the young people involved in the investigation, the law forbids details that will lead to their identification.

The Salvation Army made no comment.

Back in the U.K., Salvation Army “major” Graham Jones, was convicted of child sexual abuse of a boy, who had been helping him sell copies of the organization’s publication, “War Cry”. DNA tests on a rag matched both the boy and “major” Jones, causing the judge, James Stewart, to comment that “the jury had seen through your account that the discovery was just a coincidence, as an affront to common sense“. Jones received an eight year prison sentence.

A spokeswoman for the Salvation Army said Jones’s membership of the organization would be terminated. She said that “The Salvation Army deplores such behaviour and abuse of position and has co-operated fully with the police’s investigations. Strict child protection policies were now in place.”

Is there a pattern beginning to emerge here?

In Canada, the Salvation Army is responsible for sexual abuse committed by one of its officers, a Newfoundland Supreme Court judge has ruled. Gerald Fifield admitted he used pornography to convince a then nine-year-old boy that sex between adults and children is acceptable.

The Salvation Army had arranged for Fifield to live with the boy’s family. He stayed with them for nearly a year, during which time he abused the victim. A publication ban covers the identity of the victim, as well as the name of the village where he lived. Justice Maureen Dunn determined that because the Governing Council of the Salvation Army of Canada arranged Fifield’s accommodation, the council is also responsible for Fifield’s actions.

The Salvation Army argued that it should not be held responsible for the actions of Fifield, but in her decision, Dunn said the Salvation Army opened the door for a higher level of friendship and intimacy when it arranged for Fifield to reside with the victim’s family.

Colin Tones ran the Salvation Army Corp Cadets when he sexually abused a 13 year-old boy, and another boy.  At the trial, it was revealed that Tones had a previous conviction for sexual abuse, of which the Salvation Army was aware.

The Salvation Army did not comment.

In New Zealand, Jonathan Matthew Tremain was a 23 year-old volunteer youth group leader at the Salvation Army Westgate Church in Henderson when he befriended boys aged 8-14, buying them gifts and babysitting them while their parents were out. He pleaded guilty to 13 charges in Waitakere District Court; including four of sexual violation by unlawful sexual connection and nine charges of indecent assaults on boys aged under 16.

The case is reminiscent of the Jonathan Lord case, of the YMCA, recently investigated by the Australian Royal Commission (see previous postings).

Also in New Zealand, Salvation Army “Captain” Troy Trickle was sentenced to 3 1/2 years in prison after being convicted on one consolidated charge of second-degree sexual abuse of a minor having been accused by three sisters and another girl who say they were abused by Trickle at his church.

Still in New Zealand, Salvation Army officer, Raymond Vince, was jailed for seven years for raping several girls at the Salvation Army’s Bramwell Booth Children’s Home in Temuka. He had also worked at other Salvation Army Children’s Homes over many years.

When one victim and her mother approached the Salvation Army about the matter, she said that “Before we could even name him, the Salvation Army officer in the room said, ‘is it Raymond Vince?’ which we confirmed. We finished the interview and I’ve never heard from them again.” They had hoped Vince would be suspended or removed from working with kids, but instead, they claim, he was relocated and continued to work for the Salvation Army.

The Salvation Army apologized to its many victims in Children’s Homes in New Zealand during a radio interview, which was not pre-announced, so none of the victims heard it. The majority of complaints originate from the Hodderville Boys’ Home in the Waikato town of Putaruru and Whatman Children’s Home in Masterton.

The Kiwi Salvos have their very own media spokesman for sexual abuse against children, “Major” Ross Gower, who said “The salvation army certainly apologizes, carte blanche to anyone who has been offended whilst in care… changes have been made. It would not happen today. We have very tight protocols.”

Glen Brown, a Salvation Army carer, has been jailed for six years after an anonymous tip-off revealed he had been sexually abusing boys as young as seven. Brown, of Grangewood Close, Brentwood, committed the offences over a 14-year-period. The Salvation Army did not comment.

Poor old Cambridge University will never be the same again, after the apparent suicide of its director of studies in theology and religion, Ian Thompson, a former Salvation Army officer from Glasgow. He had been at the centre of a child abuse investigation in Scotland since 2007. The allegations related to the sexual of abuse of a number of children in the Glasgow area.

The Salvation Army did not comment, because Thompson had gone over to a rival Christian organization.

To finish off, there is one more case which will be particularly relevant to the Australian Royal Commission during its Salvation Army hearings. It is the case of Salvation Army swim coach, Robert DeHaan, at the organization’s aquatic centre near Seattle, in the U.S., who abused several boys. It, too, has parallels with the YMCA hearings.

A civil case awarded one victim $500,000. Dan Woods, a Salvation Army lawyer, said DeHaan had no criminal convictions when he was hired as a part-time swim coach, so the Salvation Army was not responsible. “We dispute that the Salvation Army had any prior knowledge that this fellow had any tendencies toward child abuse,” Woods said. The Salvation Army admitted no wrongdoing in the settlement.

DeHaan was first registered as a sex offender in King County in 1992, stemming from 1988 convictions in Oregon for sodomy, compelling prostitution, and furnishing alcohol to a minor, according to the police records. Also, in 1995, DeHaan had been sentenced to more than three years in prison for statutory rape and communication with a minor for immoral purposes. He remains registered as a Level III sex offender in KingCounty.

This has been a long posting, but, as pointed out before, it reveals only the tip of the ice-berg of child sexual abuse offences within the Salvation Army organisation around the world. Soon, the Royal Commission will be adding four more Salvation Army Children’s Homes in Australia to the list.

Should the New Zealand government follow the lead of the Australian government in holding an enquiry; many dozens of cases in New Zealand Salvation Army Homes across the Tasman will finally see the light of day.

[Postscript: The Salvation Army apparently now operates the Joyville Children’s Home in the Philippines.]

Read more here:

Previous postings on the Salvation Army:

TOMORROW: The Salvos and asylum seekers

That’s all I can say

Lewis Blayse (né Lewin Blazevich)


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