Suit claims years of abuse by father

Daily Press, California/April 28, 2007
By Ryan Orr

Apple Valley — A former Apple Valley resident has filed a lawsuit alleging sexual abuse against the Apple Valley Cheyenne Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses, which is named in the complaint as ROE, and her biological father, a church minister.

Melanie D. Popper, 29, now an attorney in Berkeley, said she is doing this for her healing and for others who might be victims of incest.

The suit alleges that her father, identified in the suit only as “John Doe,” began sexually abusing her when Popper was 8 years old. The alledged abuse continued from 1985 and 1995. The acts may have included rape and oral sex by force or fear, according to the complaint filed in Victorville Superior Court.

Popper, who graduated from Apple Valley High School in 1995, was born and raised a Jehovah’s Witness.

The Apple Valley congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses did not return calls Thursday and Friday.

According to the complaint, when Popper questioned her father about his behavior in 1986, her father stated, “No, no, no darling. That’s our little secret. But if anyone else tells you about a little secret, you come directly to me and tell me, OK.”

Popper filed a police report with the Apple Valley Police Department and San Bernardino County Crimes Against Children Unit in November 2005. There was no corroborative witness to the sexual abuse, so the crimes against children unit could not recommend to the District Attorney’s office to press charges.

In the police report, Popper wrote that she also witnessed the rape of her twin sister.

In May 2004, Popper sent her letter of dissociation to the congregation. She said that she sent them a demand letter and that they have had two investigations but believe that they are not liable.

“If it wasn’t for the very cult-like nature of the church,” Popper said, “I would have had somewhere to turn.”

Popper said that she is moving forward with the lawsuit aggressively and is working toward serving the congregation with the complaint.

Popper did not mind using her name in this article and is trying to find any other members of the organization who may have more information.

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