Christian Youth Theater says abuse allegations will be investigated

EL CAJON (KUSI) – The head of the Christian Youth Theater said Friday the company will investigate the accusations of child sex abuse that have surfaced on Facebook.

CYT President Janie Russell Cox said the El Cajon based theater is committed to transparency and doing what is necessary to obtain healing for every person who was affected.

Allegations of abuse by CYT teachers and staff surfaced over the last eight days on social media.

In a news conference Friday, Russell Cox apologized, saying “We are grieving, for every single individual who we love and care so deeply for, who are hurting right now. We apologize – and we love you.”

The theater company said it’s working with the San Diego and El Cajon Police Departments to investigate the claims of abuse that go back ten to 25 years. Russell Cox said there are no current cases that involve law enforcement.

However, as the theater president was pledging safer protocols and more transparency, a group of former students was making its own statements outside the CYT offices, with homemade signs accusing the faith-based organization of failing to stop the abuse.

Attorney Jessica Pride, who represents four abuse survivors, said the founder of the theater, Paul Russell, and father of the current president was fully aware of the children who were abused.

“Instead of helping the children that he was tasked to protect, he asked their families, he asked them to ask for forgiveness – to forgive their perpetrators and to allow them to repent, and to allow them to still continue to teach these children.” Pride said.

The attorney said Russell did not report the abuse to authorities as required by law. “That is illegal.” Pride said.

The theater in El Cajon will remain dark until further notice and because of the pandemic, its programming for the fall has been discontinued.

Categories: Local San Diego News