Former Spiritual Mentor Accused of Sexual Abuse

Former Spiritual Mentor Accused of Sexual Abuse
November 25, 2013, 4:43 pm
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A suburban mom has filed a lawsuit against a female teacher who worked at a Chicago church and religious camp in Wisconsin. The woman says she was sexually abused when she was a teenager and the woman she's accusing has worked with children for decades.

"I am very passionate about Jesus," says this Cherie Carlson in an online video.

The YouTube video shows Carlson conducting a religious seminar.

Carlson is now a middle school teacher in Buffalo Grove but she used to work at the North Side Gospel Center in Chicago in the '90s, and Camp Awana in Fredonia, Wisc.

This woman, whose identity we agreed to conceal, says Carlson was her spiritual mentor back then but began to sexually abuse her when she was 16-years-old.

"It started with holding hands while praying and her hand would touch my leg and move from there. We met at her parent's house for a movie and she put her hand down the top of my shirt and fondled me."

Today, this woman filed this lawsuit under the name Jane Doe, accusing Carlson of sexual abuse including oral sex and penetration between 1996 and 1997.

"She said she was showing me God's love. Eventually the physical demands became constant. Sometimes maybe four times a week," said Jane Doe.

"Did you go to the police," asked Rob Stafford.

"No," responded Jane Doe.

"Why not?" asked Stafford.

"She said it would ruin her life and that she would kill herself if I told anyone," said Jane Doe.

Jane Doe told NBC5 Investigates the alleged sexual abuse happened at a number of places including the Awana Summer Camp and this hotel in Chicago.

The woman's attorney is former Assistant Cook County State's Attorney, Jessica Hegarty.

"This is a serious allegation against a woman with no criminal record, where's the evidence?" asked Stafford.

"Rob, we did a great deal of due diligence before filing this case. We investigated these allegations. We scrutinized the allegations. We are more than confident that we will prevail in a court of law," Hegarty said.

We repeatedly tried to contact Cherie Carlson over the past two days but did not hear back. This afternoon, the North Side Gospel Center released a statement saying in part, "We are shocked, surprised, and saddened by these allegations. We will fully cooperate with any investigation."

Jane Doe told NBC5 Investigates that Carlson sent her love letters and wrote in this diary.

"Holding you. Hugging you. Stroking your hair, " the diary reads. "I long to be with you as much as I can."

And the lawsuit alleges Jane Doe wasn't the only girl who was abused.

"I have information that there was a prior complaint made by a girl who was abused by the defendant before my client was abused," added Hegarty.

The lawsuit accuses the center of knowing that Carlson was a "danger to children" and had a "history of sexually abusing children."

"Having kids of my own, I know I have a responsibility to make sure this doesn't happen again," said Jane Doe. The lawsuit seeks more than $300,000 in damages.