Women claim they were abused by church leaders at SoCal's Church of the Living Word

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Several women are suing Southern California's Church of the Living Word, claiming they were abused by church leaders as children.

The church operates both in San Diego and Los Angeles counties.

Three women are filing civil lawsuits, saying a cult-like culture existed as they grew up in the fellowship. They said it allowed for sexual battery and harassment by church leaders.

Some women say the church knew about the alleged abuse and did nothing to stop it.

One alleged victim, Anaiah Shehori, said she's speaking out to let people know what happened. She alleges that between the ages of 6 and 14, she and another girl were molested and raped by a fellowship member who babysat them. She also said another member who is well known in the fellowship for being an alleged predator also assaulted her.

"I am 36 years old. I was also born into the Living Word fellowship in Los Angeles, California... I also attended the church school for my entire life, and for as long as I can remember, I was sexually abused and emotionally abused by members of the Living Word fellowship," she said.

Shalom Abrahamson Caples is another alleged victim. She published an open letter on Facebook last year, talking about the alleged abuse. Her attorney said that after that was published, the fellowship came out with a statement saying that they condemn all misconduct and sexual harassment.

The statement reads in part, "We recognize that any such occurance without a strong and immediate response would produce a systematic problem within our church culture, so leadership practices must be addressed. We are heartbroken over this and deeply apologize to anyone who has been hurt by a member of our pastoral team and by leaders who knew you were hurt but did not properly respond to inappropriate behavior."

The statement goes on to say that they have removed leaders who have been involved in misconduct or did not call out any of the issues.
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