LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A Kentucky woman is suing her father and the Southern Baptist Convention for sexual and physical abuse.
Hannah Kate Williams and her attorneys filed a lawsuit Friday afternoon alleging her father, James Ray Williams, a former pastor, sexually and physically abused her and her siblings.
Part of the complaint released via a statement from Hannah Kate's attorneys said, "years of sexual and physical abuse that started when Ms. Williams was just four or five years old, beginning with Defendant holding Ms. Williams underwater in the bathtub for extended periods of time to 'baptize' Plaintiff for her 'sins.'"
It goes on to say, "when Ms. Williams was eight years old, James Ray Williams began sexually abusing her."
The lawsuit is also filed against James' former employer, Lifeway Christian Resources of The Southern Baptist Convention, as well as The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary Inc. (SBTS), where James is a former seminary student.
Also being sued is the Southern Baptist Convention, its affiliated religious nonprofit entities, and the Executive Committee of The Southern Baptist Convention.
The statement from Hannah Kate's attorneys said, "SBTS negligently failed to act to protect Ms. Williams or other children in Defendant’s care after SBTS learned of the abuse from an employee."
It goes on, "Ms. Williams reported the abuse to Defendant’s employer at an SBTS-run day camp; the report was spurred by Ms. Williams experiencing extreme fear of water while other children were playing in the camp pool. After Plaintiff’s report, based on information and belief, SBTS was notified of Defendant’s conduct toward her and took no action against Defendant, despite Defendant’s proximity to other children, including Ms. Williams’ much younger siblings."
"We're dealing with evil that spans over the years across our nation in these churches and in the denomination as a whole," Hannah Kate said when speaking to the media Friday afternoon.
The statement also said SBTS relocated James to other facilities and allowed him to remain an employee in different roles and locations.
Hannah Kate claims that when she attempted to address the abuse, Southern Baptist Convention and the Executive Committee, "engaged in a concerted effort to undermine Plaintiff’s credibility, malign her character, and threaten her through social media (YouTube, Facebook, Twitter) and at several public church-sponsored events."
A Kentucky law passed last year extends the statue of limitations to 10 years for victims of childhood sexual abuse to pursue legal action.
Hannah Kate's attorney said a section of that law keeps them from disclosing more details of the complaint, because it is a sealed document.
Some details of the complaint were released because Hannah Kate's attorney said it was "ethically allowed."
A motion to unseal the complaint has been filed by Hannah Kate's lawyers.
"She's fighting for accountability and transparency, and is unable to fight for accountability and transparency in a way that's public," said Hannah Kate's attorney, Vanessa Cantley of Bahe Cook Cantlet and Nefzger Law Office.
An SBC Sexual Assault Task Force plans to release a 300-page document this weekend. It is an independent investigation into 20 years of mishandled sexual abuse claims.
Hannah Kate said that's part of the reason she's bringing the lawsuit to light now.
"There is a legitimate fear that all of the work that went into that investigation and making that investigation happen, that they'll come back with thoughts and prayers, but no action," said Hannah Kate.
WDRB News reached out to the SBC Executive Committee for comment, but they were unavailable.
Copyright 2022 WDRB Media. All Rights Reserved.