On Wednesday, May 31st, 2017, a rape and sexual assault trial began in Pennsylvania, with prosecutors alleging that Lee Donald Kaplan had sex with numerous girls under the age of 18.
A Bizarre Story Of Manipulation
In June of 2016, the police were called to Kaplan’s home after an anonymous source made a children’s health and safety complaint. When officers arrived, they discovered a total of 12 females from 6 months of age to 18 years, despite the fact that he had told neighbors no children were on the property.
When questioned, the 18-year-old, informed the police that two of the others, a 3-year-old and the 6-month-old were her children, fathered by Kaplan. She also told them that she had been having sex with him since she was 14-years-old.
This shocking revelation was just the first of many to come.
Parents Gave Him Girls As “Gifts”
As investigators dug deeper into the situation, they found out that Daniel and Savilla Stoltzfus, a couple who had left the Amish community and the parents of 14 children, had been assisted financially by Kaplan after the family business and home were lost to foreclosure. Instead of simply paying him back, the couple agreed to give him their daughters as a “gift”.
Sevilla Stoltzfus’s Testimony
One of the first people to take the stand was the mother of the girls. For two hours, she described how Kaplan had provided her family with spiritual, educational, and financial guidance to the point where they believed him to be a prophet. After he helped them financially, they had promised their then 9-year-old girl to be his wife and sent several of the girls to live with him, although she said there was initially an understanding that he wouldn’t have sex with the child until she was 18.
But not long after the girls were sent to him, she discovered that the older child, who was 14 then and is now the mother of two of his children, was pregnant. At this time, the Stoltzfus mother herself decided to leave her husband and join her daughters. It wasn’t long before she and her six oldest daughters considered themselves to all be his wives.
She also believed that the relationships were “in God’s leading” and that they were all well loved – although it was expected all the females would be submissive or they would be disciplined and he forced them to compete for his attention.
One of the prosecutors involved in the trial stated that the case is about “power, manipulation, and control,” and that “he was able to brainwash an entire family.”
Pennsylvania Age Of Consent Laws
Throughout the United States, each state has an age of consent. This means that unless a person is of the age or older than the age specifically listed in the law, they are not legally able to consent to sexual activity. In Pennsylvania, the legal age of consent is 16, however, if their partner is 18 and considered an adult, statutory rape charges may be brought against them.
In this case, some of the girls reported that sexual contact with Kaplan began to occur as young as 7-years-old, at an age where clearly an adult is taking advantage of a child and sexually assaulting them, regardless of what their parents believed.
As a result, Kaplan has been charged with rape and sexual assault and the Stoltzfus’ have been charged with child endangerment for the part they played and for knowingly allowing their children to be essentially used as a “sex toy”.
Criminal Charges vs Civil Lawsuits
Although the charges brought against Kaplan will hopefully place him behind bars and keep other young girls safe, it won’t provide those found in the house with any sort of compensation. However, the victims do have the option of filing a sexual assault lawsuit against him.
This lawsuit could possibly provide plaintiffs with compensation for the horrors they have endured and provide them with an additional sense that justice has been served.
Anonymity Is Possible
One reason that victims usually hesitate to report their assault is that they don’t want others to know their identity. But it is possible to file a lawsuit under Jane or John Doe and to keep the victim’s identity private.