A lawsuit has been filed on behalf of a local woman who said she was repeatedly sexually assaulted as a child by an elder at the Rockland Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Rockport.

The lawsuit was filed Sept. 30 in the Knox County court against the Rockport congregation and Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.

The woman said she was molested multiple occasions between 1993 and 1996 when she was 11 to 13 years old. The victim disclosed to her mother about the abuse in 1996 and the mother immediately informed the other elders of the congregation, the lawsuit stated.

Instead of investigating the allegations or removing the elder from his position, the elders threatened a lawsuit against the victim’s family if they went public. That pressure led the family not to report the abuse to law enforcement, according to the lawsuit.

Shortly after the woman reported the abuse, the congregation disfellowshipped her, with the elder who said she abused her being on the judicial committee that took the action.

The newspaper is not identifying the woman because she is alleged to be the victim of sexual assault.

The public information desk for Watchtower issued a statement Friday in response to a request for comment by the newspaper.

“Out of respect for the judicial process and the privacy of those involved, we do not comment on the details of pending litigation. For more information on the scriptural position of Jehovah’s Witnesses, please visit jw.org,” according to the statement.

The woman is represented by Maine attorney Michael Bigos of Berman & Simmons, and California attorney Devin Storey of the Zalkin Firm, who both have specialties in pursuing sexual abuse lawsuits.

“Our client is a survivor of horrible abuse. She was threatened with church disfellowship and adverse consequences in her afterlife if she brought a claim or asked for help outside of the church. Now she realizes that she was not alone. She sought help from medical providers and trauma-informed advocates and is now ready to come forward. She wants to hold her abuser accountable and make her community safer by preventing this from ever happening again.  This is not her fault.  She is not alone,” Bigos said in a statement Thursday, Oct. 7.

Bigos said the Washington man who molested the young woman remains an elder and is the registered agent for the congregation.

According to the lawsuit, at age 17 the victim wanted to rejoin the Jehovah’s Witnesses along her with then-boyfriend but she was told she would need to recant her abuse allegation.

The lawsuit stated that it was well-known in the congregation during the time of the abuse that the elder was treating her differently than other girls in the congregation. The elder would regularly have her spend the night at his residence in Washington after bible studies at his home. The elder also provided one-on-one bible study to the girl despite a policy that did not permit elders to be alone with minor girls.

The lawsuit also alleges that Watchtower would issue policies to elders and among these recommendations were to report allegations of child molestation to Watchtower rather than law enforcement. The elders should also not warn the congregation of threats posed by an accused child abuser, and the elders should not cooperate when confronted with a search warrant but instead contact Watchtower.

Watchtower had supervision over the elder accused of the molestation at the Rockland Congregation, the lawsuit states.