SAN DIEGO — A lawsuit was filed in San Diego Thursday on behalf of six women who claim they were the victims of sexual battery and harassment at a drug and alcohol recovery program affiliated with the Rock Church Ministries of San Diego.
The lawsuit claims the women — five participants and one former employee — suffered sexual misconduct at the hands of a recovery program director. It names husband and wife David and Tina Powers and the ABC sober living facilities they run, which are affiliated with the Point Loma-based Rock Church, according to the lawsuit.
Attorney Irwin Zalkin said the plaintiffs were exploited because they were vulnerable.
The lawsuit alleged that David Powers behaved inappropriately toward the women at different periods between 2010 and 2013 and that his wife was aware of it. One of Powers’ employees, Fred Murray, is also named as a defendant.
One of the alleged victims Taylor Peyton said she went to the San Diego Police Department to file a complaint. SDPD told Fox 5 an investigation was launched in the fall but no criminal violations were found. The investigation is no longer ongoing.
“As soon as I arrived, I was subjected to constant sexual conduct from David that escalated to the point that he finally began sexually assaulting me,” said Peyton in a press conference Thursday.
Another claimant Jaycee Peacook made similar allegations.
“As soon as I arrived, David began making sexual inappropriate comments to me,” she said. “Soon enough, he was slapping my butt and walking into the room while I was naked. David make disgusting inappropriate comments and found a way to touch me every single day that I was there.”
David Powers’ company, ABC Sober Living, denied the allegations in a statement published by NBC 7 San Diego.
“At the end of January 2014, a female resident with mental health issues alleged that while she lived in a facility other than ours that one of our principals imposed himself on her in a sexual manner. We categorically deny this allegation.
“We take things of this nature very seriously and we have always had a zero tolerance for this type of behavior. We have been helping people get sober for 17 years, and this is the first time a rumor of this kind has ever come up,” the statement continued.
“Our company is a high profile target in our community and has its share of people who dislike us. Of those people, one person in particular took this girl to a law firm in hopes of taking us down. The law firm hired an investigator who did an extremely thorough investigation and turned their findings over to the law firm. The investigation ended more than two months ago.
“We deal with a fragile population and people look to move out for any reason possible. No one left our program except one girl who immediately relapsed. Additionally, no staff has left as well.”
Mei Ling S. Starkey, media relations and social media director for the Rock Church and Academy, issued a statement on behalf of the Rock Church.
“While these allegations are very concerning, 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,” the statement read. “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.”
The alleged sexual acts included vaginal penetration, touching of a girl’s buttocks and prolonged inappropriate hugging, according to the lawsuit.
The suit alleges David Powers would walk in on the women when they were naked or would compel them to undress in front of him. Murray allegedly engaged in inappropriate massages.
Attorney Irwin Zalkin said the lawsuit is seeking monetary damages but he wouldn’t specify an amount.
According to its website, the Rock Church was founded in 2000 by Pastor Miles McPherson. More than 16,000 people attend the church each Sunday in person or via online services.