HONOLULU — A woman’s lawsuit against the Salvation Army claims she was molested by a minister as a child in the late 1950s and that when the organization found out, he was simply moved from Oahu to Maui.
Nancy Spencer’s lawsuit filed on Maui this week claims she was about 11 years old when Maj. Richard Taba molested her several times in his Salvation Army office. Her family was receiving religious counseling from the Salvation Army on Oahu at the time.
She believed he had been terminated after her mother went to the police.
But she was reading the newspaper last year when she came across a painfully familiar name on an obituary.
The photograph was of a man, who was smaller and grayer than she remembered. “I’ll never forget those eyes,” she said Thursday. “I just knew it was him.”
News of his death brought back memories but the most painful detail was that he continued to serve at the Salvation Army’s chaplain on Maui for the past 40 years.
She called her mother and then contacted an attorney.
The lawsuit is possible because of 2012 state law that suspends the statute of limitations for sex abuse cases until April 2014. The lawsuit only identifies Spencer by her initials, but after it was filed, she decided against anonymity. “The more I thought about it, I have nothing to hide anymore,” said Spencer, 65, of Honolulu. “I want to come forward.”
Spencer’s attorneys believe there are more victims on Maui.
The lawsuit claims Salvation Army “engaged in a pattern and practice of shuttling perpetrators … to distant and sometimes remote locations.” Taba’s estate is listed as a defendant.
Even though many of the people who were around back then have likely died, “we’ll do our best to investigate,” said Kathy Lovin, manager of public affairs and communications for the Salvation Army’s territorial headquarters in Long Beach, Calif. “We don’t tolerate this kind of stuff.” The organization makes efforts to protect against abuse, including stringent background checks, she said: “We take these kinds of things very seriously.”