An Indiana woman is suing the First Baptist Church of Hammond, alleging its youth minister repeatedly raped her as a teen girl in the late 1970s.
Joy Ryder, who now runs a support group for sex abuse victims, said she is trying to win justice not only for herself, but others similarly abused by the fundamentalist movement’s clergy over the decades.
She alleges officials of the church and Hyles-Anderson College put her at the mercy of David Hyles, son of the church’s charismatic leader, the late Jack Hyles.
She said once her family accused David Hyles of sexual abuse, the church covered up his wrongdoings.
Ryder, who spoke this week with The Times and gave permission to identify her by name, said the federal lawsuit is the only way left to hold church officials publicly accountable.
“You couldn’t go up against their authority. (David Hyles) told me that nobody would believe me,” she said.
She said the statute of limitations has passed on criminal charges, and the church hierarchy has repeatedly refused to respond to her accusations.
Her attorney, Robert Montgomery, filed a civil suit Monday in U.S. District Court in Chicago.
It alleges David Hyles, Hyles-Anderson College in Schererville and the First Baptist Church of Hammond violated state and local law as defined by the RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) statute.
Neither David Hyles, who now is affiliated with a different church out of state, nor a spokesperson for the First Baptist Church of Hammond, were immediately available for comment Tuesday.
The new lawsuit marks the latest in a history of civil and criminal accusations of sexual abuse of underage girls made against officials of the church, which was founded in 1887.
A Lake Criminal court jury convicted A.V. Ballenger, a deacon of the Hammond Baptist Church, almost three decades ago of fondling a 7-year-old girl in the summer of 1991 in her Sunday school class.
Jack Schaap, a son-in-law Hammond Baptist church founder, the late Jack Hyles, was pastor of Hammond Baptist Church and a married man with two children when he pleaded guilty in 2012 to transporting a teen female student of the church's high school to Illinois and Michigan for sexual encounters. Schaap also had sex with the underage victim in his church office earlier that year, according to court filings.
Schaap, 62, is being held in the Federal Correctional Institute in Ashland, Ky., and he isn't eligible for release until April 20, 2023.
In the case surrounding the recent lawsuit, Ryder said her parents were church members and employees when she was being raped by David Hyles, then the church’s youth minister and son of Jack Hyles.
She attended Hammond Baptist Schools and Hyles-Anderson College during the 1970s and early 1980s.
She said David Hyles was 25, and she was 14 when he began to pull her aside from church youth groups to flatter her, select her as a member of the church’s traveling music group and gain her trust.
The suit alleges Ryder became concerned about David Hyles stalking her with repeated calls to talk and be with him. It alleges that when this was brought to Jack Hyles' attention, he responded that Ryder “wasn’t special” and his son “did that with everyone.”
Ryder said she was a high school sophomore when David Hyles first assaulted her in his office at the church’s youth ministry building in downtown Hammond.
The suit alleges David Hyles “pinned her to the floor in his office and raped her.”
The suit alleges: “Multiple other girls accused (David) Hyles of sexual misconduct, similarly, to no avail.”
The suit alleges David Hyles sexually abused Ryder more than 50 times over two years inside church buildings as well as other locations during her travels with the church music group.
The suit also alleges David Hyles once ordered her to his home when his wife was out of town and threatened to reveal her to the congregation as a “slut” and have her parents fired from their church employment.
The suit alleges that once she arrived at his house, he forced her to perform oral sex and later laughed, “Bet you didn’t expect that, did you?”
It alleges David Hyles secretly put drugs or alcohol in her food and drink to make her more compliant.
The suit alleges Ryder finally informed her parents of the rapes after two years and brought her father with her to a meeting with David Hyles to confront him.
It alleges that after their meeting, her father personally informed Jack Hyles of the son’s wrongdoing.
It alleges the church responded by giving her father a lucrative job at Hyles-Anderson college “in exchange for his silence and agreement not to take the allegations to law enforcement.”
The lawsuit also alleges the church then moved David Hyles to a church in Texas, where his father had previously been a pastor.
The suit alleges child rape and sexual abuse by all church clergy, including those of the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist movement, “are widely known” and have led to numerous later investigations, trials and convictions.
David Hyles doesn’t face criminal sanctions, but Ryder's civil suit seeks a monetary award for damages she has suffered. No trial date is set in the matter.
Ryder, who formed the non-profit support group, Out of the Shadows more than six years ago to help other victims of sex abuse, said her lawsuit against David Hyles and the Hammond Baptist Church is more than a personal demand for justice.
She said it is meant to encourage all who have been similarly victimized to stand up for their rights.
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