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Appeals court docket choice permits intercourse abuse lawsuit towards SBC’s Paul Pressler to proceed

A civil sexual abuse lawsuit against Paul Pressler of Southern Baptist Church continues, a Texas appeals court ruled last week in a reversal of an earlier lower court ruling.

The case was put on hold because the lower court ruled that Pressler’s accuser Duane Rollins had missed the statute of limitations on filing a claim. In Texas, courts allow victims of child sexual abuse to bring civil suits against perpetrators for five years.

“We are excited about the Court of Appeal decision that will finally bring Duane to his long-awaited day in court,” said Michael Goldberg, an attorney representing Rollins.

The court overturned the decision because it found that Pressler was unable to report the abuse earlier due to limitations, including post-traumatic stress disorder.

“The court’s opinion recognizes the impact childhood trauma can have on people like Duane and represents a reasonable exception to the legal obstacles that so often prevent sexual assault victims from hearing their allegations from a jury of their peers.” said Goldberg.

Pressler, a retired Texas Appeals Court judge and a leader in the conservative movement within Southern Baptist Church, is charged in the lawsuit of repeatedly raping a boy, which began in 1980 at the age of 14 and for 24 years persists. Several others have accused the now 90-year-old Pressler in other court cases of having sexually abused her as children and adults for a period of 40 years.

Pressler was a youth pastor at Bethel Church in Houston, First and Second Baptist Churches, a state representative, and served as an appellate judge for 14 years. Pressler has denied the sexual abuse allegations. Attempts to reach him for comment on Friday were unsuccessful.

Rollins said Pressler manipulated him not to report the abuse by saying the rapes were “divinely approved” and must be kept secret because “no one but God would understand,” court documents said.

A 2003 argument between Pressler and Rollins in a Dallas hotel room resulted in a simple assault settlement. Pressler agreed to pay Rollins $ 450,000 if Rollins did not publicly disclose the cause of the fight or details of the settlement. Pressler said these payments had deterred him from filing a sexual abuse lawsuit earlier.

Rollins said he first realized that Pressler committed abuse after a psychiatric counseling session in 2015. Rollins was in jail at the time and filed the lawsuit when he was released in 2017.

Rollins’ attorneys argued he was “insane” on the charges until his breakthrough in therapy in 2015. Dr. Harvey A. Rosenstock, Rollins’ psychiatrist, filed affidavits stating that the man had suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder as well as drug and alcohol abuse.

The psychiatrist said Rollins was “insane, making him unable to diligently investigate the reasons for his repeated poisoning, followed by appropriate action.”

The abuse Rollins suffered was “traumatic enough to defensively repress and dissociate these overwhelmingly painful memories for a safer time in the name of survival,” Rosenstock said in an affidavit.

Lawyers representing Pressler argued that Rollins was sane in filing the simple assault suit in 2004, which challenged Rosenstock’s credibility.

However, the court ruled in favor of Rollins’ appeal and stated in its statement that the associated post-traumatic stress disorder and associated memory loss can legally be considered insane.

The case can now be returned to the court. Rollins’ claim is asking for $ 1 million in damages.

hannah.dellinger@chron.com

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