18 April 2021 | According to an April 16 article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, police in Atlanta have arrested a member of West End Seventh-day Adventist Church suspected of molesting a number of children under the age of 12 at a camp run at the church.
According to Lt. Felicia Claxton, commander of the Atlanta Police Department’s Special Victims Unit, the alleged abuse took place between 2016-2018.
An investigation began after an Atlanta woman brought her granddaughter to APD headquarters, saying she had suffered abuse at a camp at West End Family Life and Community Center, a facility owned by West End Seventh-day Adventist Church.
At the time of the alleged abuse, the girl was not yet 10 and the man was in his 50s, said the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, citing a police report. The girl had waited to report the alleged abuse until now because, according to the police report, “she didn’t feel comfortable saying anything.”
Investigators believe other children were also violated.
Although the name of the alleged abuser has not yet been released by Atlanta Police, Lamar Law Office and Beasley Allen Atlanta appear to represent the family of the above victim and encourage other victims to come forward.
The law office identified “Jared Watson, an employee of Atlanta West End Seventh-day Adventist Church, (who) sexually abused the child who was attending the church’s summer camp in 2018. The victim was 8 years old at the time of the alleged incidences, which continued over two months that summer.”
The release from Lamar Law Office states Atlanta Police Department is charging Watson with sexual battery, cruelty to children, sexual assault, aggravated child molestation, aggravated sodomy, and child molestation.
The law firm further states the APD is “investigating two other males employed by the church who may have been involved or failed to protect the child from the alleged perpetrator.”
Adventist Today reached out to the South Atlantic Conference for comment on the allegations against Jared Watson, as the West End Seventh-day Adventist Church is in its territory.
The conference responded with the following statement:
It has come to our attention that an alleged child molestation incident may have occurred in the West End Community Center.
The West End Church affirms the dignity and worth of each human being and decries all forms of physical, sexual and emotional abuse. We are saddened to hear that such actions may have occurred in our facility, and we are praying for the victim and his/her family during this difficult time.
The West End church is committed to fully cooperating with the authorities during their investigation and will therefore have no additional comment at this time. Any update will be made available at such time as appropriate.