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VanVeldhuizen v. Netherlands Reformed Church of Rock Valley

1997

Type of Case: Legal

Location (State or Country): Iowa

Civil or Criminal: civil

Form of Corroboration: witness of event, other victims

Description:

VanVeldhuizen v. Netherlands Reformed Church of Rock Valley was a 1997 civil case from Iowa in which Peter VanVeldhuizen sued on account of recovered memories of childhood sexual abuse perpetrated from 1966 to 1968 by Reverend J. Van Zweden of the Netherlands Reformed Congregation Church. VanVeldhuizen repressed the memory and did not recall the abuse until February, 1991, while undergoing psychotherapy. To avoid litigation, Dr. VanVeldhuizen agreed to the request of the Netherlands Reformed Church to submit the claim and all related evidence to the Institute for Christian Conciliation. In a 9-page letter, the Executive Director noted that, “[I]n the twelve years that I have been working in sexual abuse cases, I do not recall meeting a more credible witness.” Dr. VanVeldhuizen introduced a variety of corroborating evidence, including (1) testimony that Rev. Van Zweden sexually abused his grandson and (2) eyewitness testimony to one of the incidents of sexual abuse of Peter VanVeldhuizen by Rev. Van Zweden. The mediator concluded that “Peter has more than met the highest biblical standard of proof, which is actually required only in capital offenses, namely, that the sin be confirmed by the testimony of at least two witnesses.” After insisting on Christian Conciliation, the Church refused to go along with the findings. Dr. VanVeldhuizen sued and proved his case (again) in court. A Sioux County jury awarded compensatory and punitive damages, after VanVeldhuizen proved that Albert Bakker, a church official at the time, witnessed the acts but did nothing to stop them or to report them to the appropriate officials.

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