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HomeHealthSister-in-law: Ex-MI Home Speaker Lee Chatfield sexually assaulted me as teen

Sister-in-law: Ex-MI Home Speaker Lee Chatfield sexually assaulted me as teen

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The assaults continued, Rebekah Chatfield stated, for years earlier than and after the Chatfield household pressured her and Lee Chatfield’s youngest brother, Aaron Chatfield, to marry once they had been each 19.

Rebekah Chatfield stated she saved the incidents secret for greater than a decade as a result of she was too ashamed and fearful to inform anybody, together with buddies, relations, even her husband. She informed Bridge she didn’t maintain a diary, texts or another writings or proof of her encounters with Lee, saying she feared Aaron or others would uncover them.  

She stated she lastly shared what occurred together with her husband Aaron, her mom and a few household and buddies in December, after the emotional trauma grew to become insufferable. That was additionally when she reached out to Lansing Police about Lee Chatfield. 

Rebekah Chatfield stated she was a weak high-schooler from a struggling household when Lee Chatfield took her below his wing, permitting her to remain in a single day at his household house together with his spouse and their younger kids, who Rebekah generally babysat.  

“I had a variety of household stuff occurring in my life,” she informed Bridge. “My dad was a recovering alcoholic, and so I imagine that Lee used these (circumstances) in opposition to me and helped benefit from me. So he would manipulate me, he would mess with my feelings.”

What started with undesirable touches in his basement stairwell finally changed into undesirable intercourse, and the alleged assaults continued “extra occasions than I can rely” over the following years, Rebekah Chatfield stated. She informed Bridge she couldn’t recall exactly when in highschool the touching progressed to intercourse. Ultimately, she stated, she stopped resisting.

She stated she is coming ahead now to publicly accuse her brother-in-law partially to encourage different weak younger girls to talk up in comparable conditions. She additionally stated she feared that when her police report grew to become public, the encounters can be painted as consensual, making it extra vital for her personal voice to be heard. 

Bridge Michigan doesn’t typically establish individuals who alleged they had been sexually assaulted with out their permission, which Rebekah Chatfield supplied.  

Michigan felony legislation typically places the age of consent to intercourse at 16. Michigan legislation additionally makes it a criminal offense for a instructor to have any kind of sexual penetration with a pupil below the age of 18, although some prices can solely be introduced inside 10 years after an alleged crime.

Rebekah Chatfield’s legal professional, Jamie White with White Legislation PLLC, stated Thursday that his agency has been in touch with the Lansing Police Division and Michigan State Police and that, due to jurisdictional issues, the case might finally find yourself within the palms of the FBI.

White stated his agency has obtained a personal investigator and can “commit any assets we’ve to handle it.”

White additionally stated he has beneficial investigators look into attainable misuse of public funds “to help conduct that’s extraordinarily inappropriate.” He declined to elaborate. 

Aaron Chatfield, Rebekah’s husband, additionally spoke on the report with Bridge in December and stated he helps his spouse. He stated he didn’t know in regards to the alleged assaults by his brother however had suspicions years in the past about his brother’s shut conduct with Rebekah.

Aaron Chatfield informed Bridge his brother had few ethical boundaries when it got here to girls. He stated he labored for a time in Lansing as an unofficial driver for his politically highly effective brother, and stated a part of his job was taking Lee Chatfield to strip golf equipment or night rendezvous with numerous girls, inside and outdoors of presidency, together with a former staffer.

“Lee portrays himself as a household custom, conservative man who believes within the Bible and the Bible is so vital,” stated Aaron, 26. “No, it couldn’t be farther from who my man was as an individual.”

In a cellphone interview Thursday evening, Paul Chatfield, one other youthful brother to Lee, questioned Rebekah Chatfield’s timeline and stated he needed to see outcomes of a police investigation earlier than drawing additional conclusions.

Whereas Paul, 27, stated he believes Lee engaged in “inappropriate conduct” with Rebekah, he stated he doesn’t know the way far it went and indicated he doesn’t suppose the alleged sexual contact started as early as she alleges.

“What she is saying, I do not imagine,” Paul Chatfield stated. He added that “the best-case state of affairs is, I am dissatisfied” in Lee. 

Rebekah Chatfield, then Rebekah Leonard, stated she was in fourth grade when her household first joined the Chatfield-run church. Her household was reeling from her dad and mom’ divorce and her father’s alcoholism. 

She stated her household had just lately left a Gaylord Baptist church that may later turn into embroiled in a nationwide sexual abuse scandal, once they joined Northern Michigan Baptist Bible Church, the Burt Lake congregation led by Rusty Chatfield.

Rebekah and her two youthful brothers quickly enrolled within the church-affiliated college, Northern Michigan Christian Academy. There, she stated she befriended and would later start relationship classmate Aaron Chatfield, one of many pastor’s seven kids, who is sort of seven years youthful than Lee. 

Lee Chatfield was a younger instructor and coach on the college. Rebekah stated he had taught her in a number of lessons, and served as an assistant coach for Rebekah’s soccer staff. 

By means of thrice-weekly church companies, day by day college classes, common after-school occasions and frequent visits to the Chatfield household houses, Rebekah Chatfield stated, the church and its founding household gave her a way of belonging throughout a traumatic and weak time in her life. 

Additionally they instilled in her an obedience to church hierarchy, male superiority, sexual purity and mistrust of the surface world, she stated. Ladies had been anticipated to marry younger, have kids, and obey the lads of their households. 

“They preach on the pulpit that the lads are all the time proper, the ladies haven’t any say,” she stated. 

The college can be the Leonard kids’s academic house till 2011, when Rebekah’s mom, Debbie, informed Bridge she moved to tug her kids from NMCA after she and her new husband, Jeff Newbury, grew annoyed with what they characterised as the varsity’s intensely conservative and patriarchal teachings.

Debbie Newbury stated she was additionally uncomfortable with Lee Chatfield’s flirtatious posture towards the varsity’s teen women. She stated he would lean down when speaking to them, or contact their shoulders. 

“You simply brush it off, pondering, ‘Effectively, , he’s an authority,’” she stated. “But it surely bothered me.”

Because the household ready to maneuver to Harbor Springs, Jeff and Debbie determined to ship their kids to public college. However 16-year-old Rebekah, who had recognized solely non-public Baptist colleges, stated she was petrified of attending public college and hooked up to the Chatfield household. She needed to remain.

Lee Chatfield inspired the Leonard kids to withstand the transfer, Rebekah and her mom stated.

“As a substitute of him saying, ‘Hey, it is best to take heed to your dad and mom’ – what they’re supposedly preaching from these pulpits – they…began planting seeds in my head of why I shouldn’t take heed to them, and why I shouldn’t belief them,” Rebekah Chatfield stated.

When Debbie and Jeff Newbury took the matter to Rusty Chatfield, Debbie stated, he additionally pushed for Rebekah to remain. However Rebekah, then 16, was “sufficiently old to make her personal choices,” Debbie Newbury informed Bridge. 

So Rebekah stayed on the Chatfield college, transferring in together with her organic father, who lived almost an hour away from the church and college compound in Burt Lake.

“Lee rapidly took me in,” Rebekah Chatfield stated, in what she now characterizes as grooming, a time period for the techniques abusers use to achieve entry to their victims, normalize the abuse and maintain it a secret. 

As a result of the church discouraged teenage {couples} from socializing with out a chaperone, Rebekah Chatfield stated, Lee steadily inspired her and Aaron to spend time on the house he shared together with his spouse and their younger kids. He invited Rebekah to remain in a single day after babysitting the younger household’s kids, or returning late from college soccer video games. 

The abuse started, she stated, on a kind of nights when she was 15 or 16. She stated she couldn’t ensure of the precise timeframe, however her reminiscence of the encounter is obvious. 

Late at evening, she was within the basement of the Chatfields’ house watching TV when she stated Lee Chatfield joined her. When she tried to go upstairs, she stated, he blocked her manner after which started groping her by her garments whereas she stood, frozen and confused.

“Ultimately he stopped after which he received up, walked to open the door and he let me return as much as my room,” she stated. “That was simply the beginning of it.”

The subsequent morning in school, she informed nobody. 

“I simply needed to push it down” out of her reminiscence, she stated. She attended class whereas Lee was seen lecturing throughout the corridor.

She stated she didn’t inform Aaron, or anybody else, fearing repercussions. The Chatfields “ran that entire church and college,” she stated. In the meantime, her father’s well being had worsened, making her house life worse and growing her dependence on the Chatfields.

“My entire world was the Chatfield household,” she stated. “So if I informed (the Chatfields), that may, that may destroy all the things. I could not see what would occur previous then. I did not know there was an choice to report. I did not know there have been choices for remedy. ”

Thomas Plante, a professor of psychology at Santa Clara College and an knowledgeable in church intercourse abuse, informed Bridge Michigan it’s not unusual for folks to keep away from coming ahead for years and even conceal proof of abuse, believing it to be their fault or petrified of being disbelieved or punished.

Over time, Aaron Chatfield grew to become suspicious of Lee’s interactions together with his girlfriend, he stated in a separate interview with Bridge. Lee had all the time appeared “too sensitive” with Rebekah, he stated. Lee would make jokes to him, like: Who’s butt is best, mine or hers?

“I all the time had questions,” Aaron Chatfield informed Bridge. “I do not keep in mind how I requested, I simply keep in mind saying, ‘Is one thing occurring between you and Lee?’”

“I simply noticed the best way he checked out her,” Aaron stated. 

Rebekah Chatfield stated the abuse escalated over the subsequent two years of highschool. She stated Lee would discover excuses to textual content her late at evening when she stayed at his household’s home — as an example, inquiring about whether or not the warmth was on. He would then enter the visitor room the place she slept, groping her whereas she lay shocked and scared. The encounters had been usually brief, she stated, as a result of Lee feared his spouse would awaken within the couple’s close by bed room. They finally escalated into intercourse.

“I needed out,” she stated, however Lee took pains to maintain Rebekah within the household’s orbit. When she tried to distance herself from him, he would discover causes to textual content her. Every time she and Aaron broke up, Lee would counsel them again collectively.

And as an omnipresent coach, instructor and mentor determine on the church college, she stated, “he made certain that my life was that church and college.”

Ultimately, she stated, emotional and psychological manipulation by Lee wore her down, and she or he stopped resisting. He warned her that she had extra to lose than him if anybody discovered, she stated, and grew irritated when she rejected his assertion that she loved the encounters.

For a time, the considered telling anybody stopped crossing her thoughts. She described it as “residing in survival mode.”

“Once I was in my darkest place, I did not know what else to do, and he continued to remind me that I did not have, actually, anybody else however him,” she stated.

Debbie Newbury stated she seen a change in her teenage daughter across the time that her daughter stated Lee Chatfield started grooming her. Rebekah had turn into distant and emotional. She would pull her eyelashes out. When her mom questioned Rebekah about what Debbie noticed as an unnatural attachment to the Chatfield household, she stated Rebekah would withdraw.

“She couldn’t speak to me, and I didn’t know the way to attain her,” Debbie Newbury stated.

Rebekah stated that when the Chatfield household found she and Aaron had been having intercourse, Rusty Chatfield pressured them to get married. The pair had been engaged in June 2014, and married two months later, when each had been 19 years previous.

Neither of them gave the impression to be prepared. 

Because the Chatfield clan gathered on the household homestead in Levering on an evening quickly earlier than the marriage, the couple stated Aaron was exterior having second ideas whereas Rebekah cried in the home. 

Lee got here to her, providing reassurance, Rebekah Chatfield stated. Then, she stated, whereas she was crying, he pulled her right into a closet and made her carry out a intercourse act. 

“After he completed he stated, ‘Don’t be concerned. I will speak to Aaron, you guys are getting married.’” Rebekah Chatfield recounted to Bridge. “And he walked out.”

In a separate interview with Bridge, Aaron Chatfield acknowledged he had “chilly toes” within the run-up to the marriage and stated Lee inspired him to undergo with it. However he didn’t suppose that was uncommon on the time, and knew nothing about Lee making advances on his girlfriend. 

Now, “I am rethinking each dialog I ever had with Lee,” Aaron Chatfield stated.

Among the many seven Chatfield grownup kids — two sisters and 5 brothers — Lee was the charismatic chief. Youngest sibling Aaron knew him not simply as a brother, but additionally as his schoolteacher, soccer coach and mentor. Aaron sat out a semester of faculty to knock on doorways for Lee’s first Home marketing campaign in 2014. Later, the younger star of the Michigan Republican Celebration secured Aaron a political job in Lansing. 

“So the extent of damage,” Aaron stated, “goes very deep.” 

Rebekah Chatfield stated her marriage to Aaron additional strained her relationship together with her dad and mom, who didn’t approve. That, she stated, left her ever-more remoted. 

In the meantime, Aaron informed Bridge, his highschool suspicions about Lee and Rebekah finally pale. 

Rebekah stated the encounters with Lee continued, although extra sporadically, after she and Aaron went off to non-public Christian schools in Illinois and Indiana. In a single occasion, Rebekah claims, Lee Chatfield came around together with his dad and mom and two sons.

“And through my husband’s soccer recreation,” she stated, “he took me again to my home and assaulted me.”

Two years after Lee gained election to the state Home, Aaron stated he stop college early to observe him to Lansing, calling his older brother “the individual I appeared as much as most on this planet.” Lee secured Aaron a job and helped the couple land an condo simply blocks from his personal. 

Aaron Chatfield, and brother Paul, labored within the Michigan Legislature in 2017 and 2018. They didn’t work straight for Lee however left their jobs to keep away from a possible battle of curiosity when their brother assumed a supervisory position as 76th Speaker of the Michigan Home of Representatives. 

Each Paul and Aaron remained energetic in Lansing politics whereas their brother served in some of the highly effective positions within the Legislature. 

Aaron went to work for Grand River Methods, a political consulting agency that was contracted to assist run the Home Republican Marketing campaign Committee. However actually, Aaron stated, he labored for Lee as his private driver, a job that uncovered him to a different facet of his brother.  

Lee Chatfield would request rides always of the evening, Aaron recalled. They made common journeys to satisfy up with girls in “ritzy” Birmingham, frequented the Legends strip membership in Detroit and would keep at costly locations like Detroit’s Shinola Lodge. 

Since Rebekah informed him on Dec. 8 about her alleged assaults, Aaron stated, he’s supportive of his spouse and wracked with guilt that he didn’t acknowledge what she stated was occurring, given what he knew about his brother. 

Aaron’s position as Lee’s driver and unofficial assistant gave Lee appreciable energy to create eventualities that left Rebekah alone with him, she stated. On one event two years in the past, Rebekah stated, she and Aaron had been visiting Lee’s workplace on the Capitol when he despatched Aaron to select up a pizza. She stated he then took her to a different room and pressured her into undesirable intercourse earlier than Aaron returned. 

Stu Sandler, co-founder of Grand River Methods, confirmed that Aaron Chatfield labored for him in 2019 and 2020 and was assigned to the Home Republican marketing campaign.

“I did not maintain monitor of the place they went or what they did,” Sandler stated of Aaron and Lee Chatfield, denying any data of allegations that Aaron would typically drive Lee to strip golf equipment or meet-ups with girls. “I definitely did not pay (Aaron) to do this.”

Aaron Chatfield additionally periodically labored for his brother’s political committees. In 2019 and 2020, the final two years earlier than time period limits prevented him from operating for re-election to the Home, Lee Chatfield’s marketing campaign and management PAC reported paying Aaron Chatfield almost $20,000 in wages, in keeping with marketing campaign finance disclosures.

Rebekah described her husband as suspicious of her and Lee — generally checking her cellphone or asking questions. She steadily deleted texts and social media messages from Lee, she stated, afraid that somebody would uncover the encounters, which continued into 2021. 

In an more and more darkish place in her psychological well being, with Lee exerting affect over her household’s funds along with the psychological manipulation that she stated begun in her teenagers, Rebekah acknowledged that she initiated the contact with Lee on some events.

However “in actuality,” she stated, “it was by no means consensual, as a result of it began once I was a minor — the brainwashing, the mentality, the manipulation, the psychological, the emotional — he groomed me into being who he needed me to be.”

This previous July 25, she stated, Chatfield contacted her through textual content message or the Snapchat messaging app, wanting to come back over to her condo in Lansing whereas Aaron was away. She resisted, telling him Aaron would quickly be house. Chatfield responded that he would get there first. He was on his manner, she stated, when he received right into a fender-bender in downtown Lansing. 

When Lee knowledgeable her in regards to the collision, she stated, “I actually threw my cellphone and I used to be like, ‘thanks, God.”

Lansing Police data affirm Chatfield was concerned in a crash on the intersection of South Walnut Road and West Kalamazoo Road on the evening of July 25. 

Since then, she stated, “I’ve actually considered each exit technique.” However she felt there was no person she might inform, as a result of almost her whole social circle is folks from the Chatfield household or the church.

Struggling in early December, she took a weekend journey out of state to go to a childhood good friend, hoping the space would deliver peace. The morning she was purported to return house, she confided in her good friend. 

Rebekah Chatfield by no means boarded the airplane again to Michigan, saying she feared repercussions after she lodged her criticism with Lansing Police. She stated she plans to remain out of state till additional discover.

She’s coming ahead now, she stated, after psychological well being points tied to the alleged abuse reached a breaking level. She was experiencing suicidal ideas and deep despair. Her marriage was struggling. She needed out. 

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