A man who says he was assaulted two decades ago by an Iowa pastor has filed a civil lawsuit against St. John’s Lutheran Church in Des Moines. The victim’s attorney says the church knew or should have known its associate pastor had previously been investigated for alleged child abuse in another state.
In 1983, Duane Martinson was hired to be a youth minister at the church in downtown Des Moines. In 1985, the pastor pleaded guilty to assault with intent to commit sexual abuse on up to seven teenaged boys. One of the victims, now in his 40s, has filed a lawsuit, seeking damages.
The man’s attorney, Joseph Galligan, says the Des Moines church should have known Martinson had been accused of abusing children while at a church in Bloomington, Minnesota. Galligan says his client has repressed memories of the abuse.
“This is not uncommon in that a person will repress memories for long period of time,” Galligan says. “In fact, at our client’s age, he has children who are coming upon the same age as when he suffered abuse.” The lawsuit names Martinson and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. The former pastor now runs a laundry supply company in Minnesota.
“There are triggers that people go through. Quite frankly, he hadn’t even thought about it for 25 years,” Galligan says. “Repressed memory is quite common and such is the case here.” The current senior pastor at St. John’s says she has not fully reviewed the allegations concerning the events of 25 years ago.
Reverend Rachel Thorson Mithelman says the church takes the lawsuit very seriously and will fully investigate the allegations.