The third lawsuit under Georgia’s Hidden Predator act has been filed.
Once again it includes allegations of sexual abuse of a man connected to our area. This time in Vidalia.
“Individuals who violate and sexually abuse children should be put on notice that we survivors are breaking our silence and rising up with courage to fight for justice.” explained Angela Williams, an abuser survivor and founder of Voice Today.
One of those survivors is named Matt Stanley.
Stanley filed a civil lawsuit in Toombs County Court claiming from 1996 to 2002 he was the victim of repeated abuse by a former youth volunteer at First Baptist Church Vidalia.
Jim Collins, currently a political consultant, is accused of telling boys to perform “individual sexual acts” and in at least one case, videotaping them doing it while at the Vidalia church.
Stanley claims while Collins was a chaperone on church youth out of town trips, he engaged in “highly inappropriate, sexualized physical contact with many of the boys” including Stanley himself. The lawsuit adds, this happened “more than a hundred times” from 11 until he was 18.
“Matt could have sued under a pseudonym, he could have sued and asked this case be filed under seal but he didn’t, and I think its very brave,” said Carroll.
READ THE ENTIRE COMPLAINT Stanley Complaint (Collins Only)
Stanley tells News 3 has has forgiven Collins for what he did, but will never forget.
“There are consequences even for forgiven actions and Mr Collins must give an account for his actions. Today i’m doing my part to make sure his perpatrations of the innocent stop once and for all.”
Also named in the suit – 50 “Doe’s”. Those are unnamed organizations who the lawsuit claims “negligent” by not protecting children from Collins.
Under the current law those organizations, churches or businesses cannot be sued.
RESPONSE FROM ATTORNEY BARBARA MARSCHALK ON BEHALF OF FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH, VIDALIA:
The leadership and entire Church family at First Baptist Church, Vidalia are deeply
saddened by the allegations raised in the Complaint brought by Mr. Stanley against a
former member of the Church who volunteered to work with youth.
Mr. Stanley has not sued First Baptist Church, Vidalia or any of its employees.
Furthermore, the Church strongly denies the completely unsubstantiated and unspecified
allegations made against it. First Baptist Church, Vidalia did absolutely nothing wrong.
The Church is not responsible for the alleged abuse of Mr. Stanley: legally, ethically or
Mr. Stanley failed to come forward to Church leadership, or anyone else, with any
allegations until nearly a decade after the alleged abuse ended. Despite the delay in
reporting by Mr. Stanley, the Church responded swiftly to those allegations in partnership
with Mr. Stanley and his family. Despite Mr. Stanley’s decision not to report the alleged
abuse to the police, the Church has cooperated fully with the authorities as they have
investigated claims against Mr. Collins. Despite the lack of any criminal prosecution
against the accused, the Church forced him to resign from any volunteer position with the
Church and forbade him from having any contact with any youth member of the Church.
Indeed, the volunteer was later forbidden to come onto Church property for any reason
and was removed from the Church membership rolls.
While the leadership of First Baptist Church, Vidalia makes no judgment about the
allegations against the accused, it recognizes that it must exercise extreme caution and
prudence in making appropriate decisions affecting the entire Church community. The
Church wants to be clear that its swift action in responding to the allegations against the
former volunteer does not reflect in any way upon the accused’s guilt or innocence.
First Baptist Church, Vidalia believes that the abuse of anyone is deplorable and is
absolutely counter to everything for which First Baptist Church, Vidalia stands. The
Church takes the protection of youth very seriously, which is why it has continuously
enhanced its multi-tiered policies and procedures in the youth protection arena. First
Baptist’s comprehensive youth protection program includes various safeguards to help
protect against child abuse, including education, volunteer selection procedures, criminal
background and other checks, and other barriers to abuse. First Baptist fully recognizes
the responsibility it has when parents entrust the development and safety of their children
to the Church, which is why First Baptist’s internal policies and procedures have
consistently evolved along with increased knowledge and best practices. First Baptist
remains committed to the ongoing enhancement of these policies and procedures in a
continued effort to protect its youth from any type of abuse.
As always, First Baptist Church, Vidalia remains committed to its foundation and
mission: ministry to the community and spreading the Good News of the Gospel. The
Church will continue to keep Matt Stanley and his family in its prayers.