Victim of sexual abuse by firefighters sues township, Scouts

Kent County

CASCADE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — The teen girl who suffered sexual abuse at the hands of a pair of Cascade Township firefighters while working in a mentoring program is suing them, the township and the Boy Scouts of America which initiated the program. 

The suit filed Friday includes details from the incidents two years ago that put the firefighters behind bars and led to the oust of the township’s chief and deputy chief

The girl was 16 when the abuse occurred, and in the suit she is known only as “Jane Doe.” Because she was a teen victim of sexual abuse, 24 Hour News 8 is also not revealing her identity. 

In June of 2017, Clem Bell and Steven Drake were sentenced to eight months in jail after pleading guilty to child pornography charges for pictures they took and sent the girl.

Bell and Drake met the girl as a result of the Boy Scout’s Explorer program, which put the girl who hoped to become a firefighter at the Cascade firehouse where she would get some training on how real firefighters work. 

Instead, she was targeted by Drake and Bell who made lewd sexual advances and entered into a sexual relationship with Drake, a 32-year-old father of two, and Bell, a 51-year-old father of four daughters, one of whom attended school with the victim. 

According to court records, Bell’s relationship became more intense as he forbade the girl from seeing boys her age and threatened her if she ended the relationship. 

Bell also hired the girl to become his campaign manager in a run for township clerk. 

Bell made veiled threats and comments which made Jane believe that he had killed his ex-girlfriend and ex-wife and that he would kill her if she left him, according to the suit. 

The suit claims that the township and the scouts failed to train and supervise the firefighters and failed to follow their own rules including limiting her hours at the station where she was the only female there. 

The suit claims that other firefighters were concerned about the relationships and reported their concerns to Deputy Fire Chief John Shipley, who allegedly did nothing and would later be fired as a result. 

According to the suit, one firefighter forced open a locked door to find Bell and the girl behind it. 

The suit says the girl suffered a concussion as a child which caused a slight condition that causes her to have “deep-seated respect for authority figures, and her naivety. Jane had virtually no capacity to resist the advances proposed by Drake and Bell.” 

The suit alleged gross negligence and asks for damages, but does not specify how much. 

Both Bell and Drake were out of jail after about six months and now continue to live in Kent County according to their Sex Offender Registry entry. 

Since the suit was filed on a Friday in Grand Rapids Federal Court, the defendants have not had a chance to see the suit yet, but they have about a month to file a response. 

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