Minnesota minister told girls that ‘God’s word’ made raping them normal
Authorities in Minnesota have launched a manhunt for a minister who is facing 59 counts of first-degree sexual assault in cases against girls — called “Maidens” — as young as 13.
The Star Tribune reported that authorities announced on Tuesday that the two women who had come forward with allegations against 59-year-old Victor Barnard, the former minister of a cult-like faith community in central Minnesota, were not the only girls raped by the religious leader.
In a phone interview with the paper, one of the women, Lindsay Tornambe, confirmed the details of charges that were filed in court documents by prosecutors.
Tornambe, now 27, said that she met Barnard at the age of 9 as a part of her parents’ home schooling. At age 11, her family joined the “Shepherd’s Camp.” And then, Barnard chose her to be “sacrificed to God” by raping her at age 13 in 2000.
The rapes continued over the course of nine years.
“If I wasn’t being spiritual or following his orders, he wouldn’t have sex with us,” she recalled. “If we were doing well, it was almost like he rewarded us.”
In the charging documents, the second victim explained how Barnard compared their relationship to Jesus and Mary Magdalene. And he spoke of the concubines of King Solomon. He allegedly told the girls that sex with him was normal because of “God’s word.”
Tornambe said that she tried to run away at the age of 15, but Barnard threatened her with “damnation.” So, she decided to stay. But a few years later, she did escape. And in 2012, she reported the ordeal to authorities.
“For so many years it seemed like I’d never have the chance to … even know who I was … we didn’t really have a chance to think for ourselves,” she pointed out. “We were told what time to get up, what time to go to bed, what we were eating, when we were going to sew.”
“I definitely don’t want Victor hurting anyone else.”
A nationwide warrant has been issued for Barnard’s arrest. He was thought to be hiding in Washington state.
Watch the video below from KMSP, broadcast Feb. 26, 2014.