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Yakima Union Gospel Mission sued over alleged child sex abuse

YAKIMA, Wash. - The Union Gospel Mission of Yakima is facing a lawsuit over allegations a male employee repeatedly sexually abused a little boy in the mid-1990s.

The lawsuit says the employee groomed the boy for sexual abuse — starting when he was nine-years-old — and that the abuse took place at the mission itself.

"As a young boy, the plaintiff lived in poverty. He and his family sought help from [the mission] for meals," the lawsuit said. 

Because few people paid attention to the little boy and he had little to no support network, the lawsuit says the boy was particularly vulnerable to the abuse. 

"[The emlployee] continually showed affection to the plaintiff," the lawsuit said. "[He] ultimately sexually abused the plaintiff on a regular basis at the Union Gospel Mission of Yakima." 

The lawsuit argues that the mission's negligence in hiring the employee was a key factor in the sexual abuse. Essentially, if the employee had not been hired, the boy would not have suffered abuse by him.

"The plaintiff does not and has not understood the full effect of the childhood sexual abuse sustained at the Union Gospel Mission of Yakima," the lawsuit said. 

The lawsuit was filed June 10 in Yakima County Superior Court. 

Yakima Union Gospel Mission CEO Mike Johnson issued the following statement in response to the lawsuit: 

The Mission became aware of this filing today. It would be premature to comment about this claim right now. While we get more clarity on this matter, the Mission will continue our focus and commitment to helping people in a safe and uplifting environment.

We want the community and our supporters to know that everyone involved in our programs with youth-- staff and volunteers alike-- must pass extensive background checks. These workers then receive additional safety instruction and supervision. 

For over 82 years, the mission has worked hard every day to bring hope and opportunity into the lives of people dealing with enormous challenges. Today is no different. We ask for the community's continued prayers and support.

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