Crime

Six Women Claim Evangelical Rehab Director Groped, Harassed Them

| by Sarah Fruchtnicht

Six women are suing the director of a San Diego evangelical megachurch-affiliated rehab program for sexual battery and harassment.

They say David Powers, 54, fondled, groped and even hit recovering addicts in treatment at ABC Sober Living, which is affiliated with The Rock Church.

Among the plaintiffs in the civil suit is a former employee who left after she says the work environment “became unbearable,” according to NBC San Diego.

“These are the most vulnerable of the population. They’re people who are really trying to deal with the horrible disease of addiction, and they’ve gone there to seek sanctuary. They’ve gone there to seek healing and what they get is a sex fest,” said the plaintiffs' attorney, Irwin Zalkin. “I mean, that’s really what this place is - it’s a cesspool of sex.”

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Taylor Peyton, 20, was a heroin addict who took part in the program for four months beginning in September 2013. She said Powers came to her room at the Soledad House, laid on top of her, kissed her neck and grabbed her buttocks.

“I was terrified if I told anyone I wouldn’t be able to complete my treatment,” Peyton told NBC.

Jaycee Peacock went into treatment at Soledad House in July 2012 for addiction to alcohol, cocaine and ecstasy.

“As soon as I arrived, David began making inappropriate comments to me. Soon enough, he was slapping my butt and walking into the room when I was naked,” Peacock said.

“David made disgusting sexual comments and found a way to touch me every single day that I was there,” she said.

“The environment of the program excused and normalized behavior that would never be tolerated in any other setting,” said plaintiff and former employee Andria Donovan.

The defendants named in the suit are The Rock Church, Rock Church Ministries, Recovery Housing and ABC Sober Living.

"While these accusations are very concerning,” the church said in a statement, “none of the alleged misconduct took place on property owned or managed by the Rock Church or was committed by anyone under the authority and control of the Rock Church. They were allegedly committed at a recovery center owned and operated by ABC Sober Living. It should be noted that none of the accusers were referred to ABC Sober Living by the Rock Church.”

Zalkin says the church wants to distance itself from Powers although his title is a “Rock Church Recovery leader” with an email address through rockrecovery.org.

“To suggest that David Powers is just some third-party, uninvolved, unassociated to the Rock Church to whom they occasionally refer people is a farce; that’s not the reality,” Zalkin told NBC News.

“His conduct was so open and notorious you’d have to be blind, deaf and dumb not to know. If you were involved at all with him you’d have to know. It was so obvious it’s astounding to me that he’s been able to get away with it for so long,” he added.

Sources: NBC San Diego, New York Daily News