6 women file lawsuit, claim they were victims of sexual battery and harassment at rehab program

Program affiliated with Rock Church

SAN DIEGO - A lawsuit was filed in San Diego Thursday on behalf of six women who claim they were the victims of sexual battery and harassment at a drug and alcohol recovery program affiliated with the Rock Church Ministries of San Diego.

The lawsuit claims the women -- five participants and one former employee -- suffered sexual misconduct at the hands of a recovery program director. It names husband and wife David and Tina Powers and the ABC sober living facilities they run, which are affiliated with the Point Loma-based Rock Church, according to the lawsuit.

Attorney Irwin Zalkin said the plaintiffs were exploited because they were vulnerable.

The lawsuit alleged that David Powers behaved inappropriately toward the women at different periods between 2010 and 2013 and that his wife was aware of it. One of Powers' employees, Fred Murray, is also named as a defendant.

In a statement to 10News, Powers called the lawsuit frivolous, stating that "... at the end of January 2014 a female resident with mental health issues alleged that while she lived in a facility other than ours that one of our principals imposed himself on her in a sexual manner. We categorically deny this allegation."

Powers told 10News, "Our company is a high profile target in our community and has its share of people who dislike us. Of those people, one person in particular took this girl to a law firm in hopes of taking us down."

"We are in communication with a law firm specializing in libel and defamation issues and we are considering our options," added Powers.

Mei Ling S. Starkey, media relations and social media director for the Rock Church and Academy, issued a statement on behalf of the Rock Church.

"While these allegations are very concerning, none of the alleged misconduct took place on property owned or managed by the Rock Church or was committed by anyone under the authority and control of the Rock Church," the statement read. "They were allegedly committed at a recovery center owned and operated by ABC Sober Living. It should be noted that none of the accusers were referred to ABC Sober Living by the Rock Church."

The alleged sexual acts included vaginal penetration, touching of a girl's buttocks and prolonged inappropriate hugging, according to the lawsuit.

The suit alleges David Powers would walk in on the women when they were naked or would compel them to undress in front of him. Murray allegedly engaged in inappropriate massages.

According to its website, the Rock Church was founded in 2000 by Pastor Miles McPherson. More than 16,000 people attend the church each Sunday in person or via online services.

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