An Arizona woman has filed a lawsuit against Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Lake Oswego, accusing church leaders of allowing her former youth group leader to sexually abuse her when she was growing up in Lake Oswego.

Cristie Marie Prasnikar, now 34, filed the lawsuit Feb. 14 in U.S. District Court in Portland. It names Ralph “Woody” Veerkamp, the local church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. The Review generally doesn’t publish the names of victims of sex crimes but has in this case because Prasnikar chose not to use an alias when filing public pleadings.

Veerkamp was reportedly chairman of a committee overseeing the Great Commission Subcommittee, known by many during the 1990s for its popular youth choir, which involved hundreds of youths from Lakeridge and Lake Oswego High as well as other area schools. In that role, Veerkamp provided educational, spiritual, moral and ethical guidance along with religious instruction to young people, including Prasnikar, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit accuses Veerkamp of using his position as an appointed youth minister to gain her family’s trust, allowing him to spend a significant amount of time alone with her and to begin a “grooming” process that culminated in sexual abuse. The lawsuit contends that sexual abuse and molestation began in 1994, when Prasnikar was 15 years old, and escalated, continuing almost daily for years.

Prasnikar is seeking $6 million for noneconomic damages, at least $300,000 for economic damages and $10 million for punitive damages.

It’s unclear whether Veerkamp remains connected to the local church. He could not be reached for comment last week.

Kim Frenz, pastor at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church, declined to comment on the case but said he was unaware of any similar past complaints against the church. He came to the church in 1999.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America did not respond to a request for comment.

Attorneys with Johnson, Johnson, Larson & Schaller in Eugene and Lawrence Law Office in Portland are representing Prasnikar.

Jennifer Middleton of Johnson, Johnson, Larson & Schaller declined to say what caused her client to file the lawsuit at this time or to provide additional details about the case.

However, Middleton said, “It’s important to seek accountability on behalf of victims like Cristie Prasnikar and hopefully prevent similar conduct in the future and hold parties accountable. We’re looking forward to securing justice on her behalf.”

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