By Lyna Bentahar
SILVER SPRING – Montgomery County Police (MCP) announced on July 16 that they charged a Silver Spring pastor, Jeankite Joseph, with sexually assaulting an 11-year-old girl. The girl was the pastor’s step-niece and a member of his church when the assault took place in 2014, according to police.
The child was attending Joseph’s New Year’s Eve prayer service at the pastor’s house on Cedar Creek Lane in Silver Spring, which doubles as their church, Church of Messengers of God. After the service, the child’s mother left for work at the time of the incident and left the victim in the custody of Joseph, his wife, his grandmother and his four children.
The family, except for Joseph’s wife, was watching a movie on the lower level of the home. As the family slowly made their way upstairs, Joseph and the child were allegedly left alone watching the movie. Without warning, Joseph allegedly began touching her, stopping only when she told him “no.” Joseph was 43-years-old at the time.
The police were made aware of the incident on May 31. MCP issued a warrant for Joseph’s arrest a month later, on June 25. Joseph was then found and arrested by law enforcement officers in Atlanta, Georgia, on June 28 and, on July 12, was extradited to Montgomery County. Joseph was charged with sexual abuse of a minor and a third-degree sexual offense. He was released on bond, set at $20,000, that same day.
The arrest comes four months after the release of the 2018 crime report by MCP. The report showed that while crimes such as murder and theft have declined overall, sexual assault has seen a steady increase in the past decade. As of 2018, reported rapes in the county had gone up by nearly 28% in the previous four years: 509 rapes were reported in 2018, compared to 398 in 2017 and 124 in 2009. In the 2018 crime report, police say, survivors knew their attackers 86% of the time.
The report directly attributed the increase in rape to the #MeToo Movement – and greater reporting – and to the FBI changing their official definition of rape in 2015. A significant portion of the reported incidents in the crime report detailed assaults more than a year after they occurred.
Rape cases, however, are closed only about half the time, according to the performance management and data analytics team within the county executive office. This is a significant decrease from the more than 80% of cases closed in January 2015.
“The decline in the closure rate may be attributed to a process implemented last year in which the State’s Attorney’s Office reviews all cases before they may be closed or unfounded,” wrote the data analytics team, “thereby increasing the amount of time it takes to change the offense/case status.”
The MCP Special Victims Investigation Division is seeking to improve their performance through collaboration with the Family Justice Center, an agency that provides services to those impacted by domestic violence and the Department of Health and Human Services, which remains “committed to reducing the total number of rapes.”