West Michigan youth minister accused of sexual assaulting a minor

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OTTAWA COUNTY, Mich.- Two church congregations were recently warned during mass that their youth minister is accused of sexually assaulting a minor more than a decade ago.

The church pastor says the suspect, William Miller, 61, grew up in St. Catherine’s parish in Ravenna and St. Francis Xavier parish in Conklin and had been a youth minister for at least seven years.

This decade-old allegation has shocked the church communities.

“What the research is telling us is that probably less than half percent childhood abuse victims actually disclose during childhood," said Tom Cottrell, vice president of counseling services at the YWCA. "Most of them are disclosing actually when they're adults."

Miller is accused of sexually abusing a young person on an Ottawa County farm roughly 10 years ago. Miller currently lives on Rolling Acres Farm in the Conklin area.

Court documents allege Miller coerced the victim by exerting his authoritative position, something Cottrell says is all too familiar.

Though the suspended youth minster’s alleged victim is not believed to be connected either church, a statement was read at all masses Sunday, encouraging any other potential victims to come forward.

Miller was arraigned on the charges last week. He posted bail and is prohibited from having contact with any farm employees under the age of 18.

We approached him but were told to speak to his lawyer. The sheriff's department says the investigation is still open.

Cottrell says the most important thing victims need to know is that it's never too late to come forward and that there are services available to help victims of abuse no matter how many years later.

“The more that anyone can come forward and talk about what’s happened in their childhood, the more they’re giving a voice to those who aren’t coming forward yet and really starting a community conversation protecting our kids,” Cottrell said.

A preliminary exam has not yet been set for Miller.

The YWCA has a 24-hour hotline for any victims of sexual abuse or domestic violence at 616-776-7273.

This statement was released by the Catholic Diocese of Grand Rapids:

"William Miller, a part-time youth minister at St. Catherine Parish in Ravenna and St. Francis Xavier Parish in Conklin, has been arrested and charged with criminal sexual conduct with a young person. The incident is believed to have occurred approximately 10 years ago, away from church property and unassociated with church activities. Upon hearing of the arrest and allegations, Mr. Miller was suspended from all ministerial activities. An announcement was read at Masses at the parishes this past weekend and a letter was sent to parents in parish youth ministry and school programs. We encourage anyone in our Catholic community who believes that they or their child may have been a victim of sexual abuse to contact the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Department or Silent Observer. You may also contact Deb Nykamp, diocesan victim assistance coordinator, who can be reached at 616-243-0491. We ask you to pray for healing for all of those people whose lives and families will be deeply impacted by these events."

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