Two additional survivors have come forward to file civil lawsuits in Los Angeles Superior Court against the Living Word Fellowship Church and any related persons and entities. In these lawsuits, the victims — Kristina Pfeifer and Shalom Caples — allege they were sexually assaulted numerous times throughout their childhood by adult church leaders while they were members of the church and attended its religious school in North Hills, California. The Zalkin Law Firm and Gallagher Law Group’s Attorney Lyndsey A. Gallagher will be representing these survivors.
These suits come on the coattails of lawsuits filed by three sexual abuse survivors in May 2019 in which plaintiffs allege they were similarly sexually abused by the same church. Commenting on the matter, Attorney Irwin Zalkin of The Zalkin Law Firm explained:
“Kristina, Shalom and the Plaintiffs in our other lawsuits are brave survivors who have stepped forward to tell their stories of the rampant sexual abuse suffered by what could be hundreds of children who were under the control of the Living Word Fellowship leaders including those at the highest level of the organization. This is a story of an insular communal cult in our community that was led by male pedophile predators who used their positions of power to subjugate women and prey on children, ruining their lives forever.”
About the Living Word Fellowship Church
In the past, the Living Word Fellowship Church was often informally referred to as “The Walk” or “This Walk.” These nicknames are believed to reference the notion that every Christian should embark on a personal walk with Jesus Christ. Founded in 1951 by John Robert Stevens, the fellowship reached its height in the 1970s, with about 100 member congregations. It aims to celebrate the Jewish Old Testament festivals and believes that no fault can be found in the passages of the Scripture. Although it was founded in South Gate, California, its oversight during the 1970s was based at a farm and retreat site close to Kalona, Iowa by the name of Shiloh.
Caples’ and Pfeifer’s Lawsuits
Caples’ and Pfeifer’s lawsuits provide details of the operations of the Living Word Fellowship Church and how it is meticulously controlled by what the suits name as Defendant Doe 1 “Supervisory Company,” located in Kalona, Iowa and Defendant Doe 2 “Family Ministry Corporation,” a California corporation in North Hills, California. The lawsuits allege that these two parties controlled each and every decision made by more than 100 local branches of the Living Word Fellowship Church.
Furthermore, the lawsuit requests a total of six actionable causes for damages against multiple defendants named as Does, including the Supervisory Company, the Family Ministry Corporation, the local Living Word Fellowship Church in Los Angeles, the church’s school, as well as other Does that may be named in the future. The Zalkin Law Firm is seeking a trial by jury on behalf of Caples and Pfeifer, requesting compensation for pain and suffering, loss of earnings, and their expenses for the medical and psychological treatment needed for them to find closure and move on from their childhood trauma.
Plaintiff Shalom Caples’ Open Letter
Caples posted an open letter in 2018 on social media that alleged the existence of pervasive sexual abuse at the Living Word Fellowship Church during her childhood. Her brave step toward justice inspired other victims to come forward about their own trauma, leading to the resignation of Gary Hargrave, the church leader at the time the letter went viral. In the letter, Caples gives great insight into the harmful workings of the church.
The Zalkin Law Firm stands beside her in her allegations that she was subjected to three different series of sexual assaults from the time she was 8 years old until she was well into her teen years. These assaults were committed by two adult church leaders, according to her claims. Sadly, Caples was under the full control of the church at the time, as she fulfilled her church duties and lived at the church’s compound in Iowa. Allegations claim that church leaders were very aware of what was happening and did nothing to stop these horrific crimes against the children at the compound.
Plaintiff Kristina Pfeifer’s Case
Born and raised in the Living Word Fellowship Church, Kristina Pfeifer and her family were very close to the church’s founder, John Robert Stevens, and his wife. Although her family left the church when Pfeifer was 13 years old, she had already been forced to work for church businesses and was exposed to a hypersexualized environment as a minor. In her complaint, she alleges that she witnessed church leadership view pornography and comment inappropriately on women’s bodies in the knowing presence of her and other minors. Worst of all, from the ages of 8 to 10, she was repeatedly sexually assaulted by two church leaders on multiple occasions. Unfortunately, from age 10 to 13, one of these perpetrators sought her out on a daily basis to molest her.
Allegations Paint a Horrific Picture of a Hypersexualized Cult Culture
Attorney Zalkin explains that the way the Living Word Fellowship Church is organized easily allows for child sexual abuse to run rampant among church members, as the plaintiffs describe the lifestyle of the church as close to communal. The church employs what members call “Designated Relationships” (DRs), which entail the assignment of one child to one non-parent adult in the church. Children are not only expected but compelled to tell their DRs everything
about all aspects of their lives. On top of that, the children are then expected to follow their DRs’ guidance.
According to Attorney Zalkin, DRs create “a perfect haven for child predators” due to the fact that “children are forced to obey adults, other than their parents, who have almost unfettered control of their lives.”
The Zalkin Law Firm Provides Caring Legal Counsel to Victims
It can seem very intimidating to take action against your abuser, which is why The Zalkin Law Firm is committed to fighting on behalf of sexual abuse and assault survivors. We have represented hundreds of survivors and won myriad high-profile cases throughout the nation. We are not afraid to take on big corporations and religious groups, having fought against abusers who were part of the Catholic Church, foster care system, Boy Scouts of America, Jehovah’s Witnesses, education institutions, and more.
Our firm’s most notable wins include the global settlement totaling almost $200 million for more than 144 child sexual abuse victims of the Roman Catholic Bishop of San Diego, as well as participation in the $660 million global settlement against the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Los Angeles. We know money cannot make up for the terrible trauma you were subjected to, but it can prevent others from being abused in the same way. It can also help you get back on your feet and move on from these horrible experiences. That is why we are committed to giving sexual abuse survivors a voice.
When you’re ready to speak to a caring, honest lawyer, contact The Zalkin Law Firm online for a completely confidential consultation — free of charge and obligation.