CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — A pastor was charged with sex crimes against a teenage member of his church.
48-year-old Roger VanRaden was involved with the girl for four years, since she was 14. The teenager (now 18) came forward, VanRaden confessed, and now he’s facing jail time for sexual assault.
Lt. Curt Apperson with the Champaign County Sheriff’s Office says this was happening often and, most often, it was at the church.
VanRaden was a youth pastor at Faith Baptist Church. He oversaw the victim.
Deputies say they don’t believe the sex acts were forced, but a 14-year-old girl cannot legally consent to sex, especially with a man who, at the time, was more than three times her age
They believe VanRaden was using his position to influence her. That was happening until August of this year.
Just recently, with the support of her family and friends, the teenager came forward and told investigators what happened.
Apperson says this sort of thing is rare for Champaign County, but he’s afraid some of that is because victims have a hard time coming forward.
“The main thing is, it probably happens more than what we know,” said Apperson. “People have to have the strength and courage to report it. That’s was the biggest fear that I have.”
The lead pastor at Faith Baptist Church, Bob Hassel, confirmed VanRaden is no longer employed there and he is banned from the congregation. In a statement on Tuesday Hassel said, “What he did was wicked, evil, and we don’t stand for it. I never saw any sign that this was happening.”
As of now, the Champaign County Sheriff’s Office doesn’t have any reason to believe there are other victims, and they hope that remains true.
VanRaden was charged with three counts of criminal sexual assault, and one count of criminal sexual abuse. If he’s convicted of sexual assault (the more serious charge), he faces four to 15 years in jail.