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Oklahoma Baptists Settle Lawsuit Over Rape Of 13-Year-Old Girl

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Joshua Gill Religion Reporter

The Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma settled a lawsuit with the family of a 13-year-old girl after an employee pleaded guilty to raping her at a church camp.

Benjamin Petty raped the girl in 2016 while working as a cook at Falls Creek camp, which is owned and operated by the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. Details of the convention’s settlement with the girl’s family have not been released, except for the fact that the convention agreed to take steps to improve the safety of the camp. (RELATED: Southern Baptists Pass Resolutions On Abuse And Dignity Of Women In Wake Of Abuse Scandal)

Petty pleaded guilty to raping the girl in January in a plea deal that saved him from jail time and instead earned him a sentence of 15 years’ probation. Investigators said he bound the girl’s wrists with rope, raped her and then coerced her into silence by threatening to harm her if she reported what happened.

The plea deal infuriated victims’ rights advocates, though the case’s prosecutor defended his decision to accept the deal on the grounds that Petty is legally blind. Despite escaping jail time, Petty will have to register as an aggravated sex offender and will have to undergo polygraph tests, thorough assessments and comply with reporting requirements throughout his probation.

“Failure to hold perpetrators accountable regardless of their disabilities sends the wrong message to victims of crime,” said Candida Manion, executive director of the Oklahoma Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, according to the Associated Press.

“There is a lack of knowledge about sexual assault within the criminal justice system, and what we know about violent offenders is that they will reoffend,” she added.

Murray County District Attorney Craig Ladd claimed he was unaware of the details of Petty’s plea deal and that he did not authorize it.

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