Former Michigan state Rep. Lee Chatfield’s sister-in-law — who accused him of sexually assaulting her for years, according to a recent criminal complaint being investigated by Michigan State Police — has come forward to share details of what he allegedly did to her.
“Ele me destruiu, e tem controlado minha vida desde que eu era 15-16, o passado 10-11 anos,” Rebekah Chatfield told Bridge Michigan em uma série de entrevistas, publicado sexta-feira, sobre as acusações contra seu cunhado. “E eu sei que a única maneira de obter justiça para isso é se apresentar e apresentar um processo criminal [reclamação] contra ele.”
Rebekah Chatfield, agora 26, is married to the former lawmaker’s younger brother Aaron Chatfield, tb 26.
Lee, agora 33, has not been charged and has vowed to “lutar vigorosamente contra essas falsas alegações.” His attorney acknowledged he had a relationship with Rebekah while he was married but said she was mischaracterizing a consensual affair between adults.
Rebekah tells a much different story. Police say they are continuing to investigate.
Rebekah claims the abuse began when she was a student at Northern Michigan Christian Academy, where Lee was a teacher and an athletic director. Rebekah says she spent time in the Chatfield home, babysitting his young children with his wife and spending the night when it was too late to venture home.
“I had a lot of family stuff going on in my life,” Rebekah disse ao Bridge Michigan. “My dad was a recovering alcoholic, and so I believe that Lee used those [circumstances] against me and helped take advantage of me. So he would manipulate me, he would mess with my emotions.”
Lee’s attorney told PEOPLE on Friday that he is “innocent of the false rape claims made against him,” adding that he had an affair with his accuser while he was married but that the relationship was consensual and happened while both were over the age of 18.
“Ele não agrediu essa mulher de forma alguma durante seu relacionamento adulto de anos,” o advogado, Mary Chartier, disse.
In response to the specific claims Rebekah gave to Bridge Michigan, Chartier reiterated that her client had an “affair with this woman [naquela] lasted for years, but they were both consenting adults over 18.”
“During their affair, this woman regularly contacted Mr. Chatfield to initiate sexual encounters, and she took steps to hide the affair from others, including her husband. The actions that she took prove a consensual affair and not an assaultive relationship,” Chartier also said.
“Sr. Chatfield did not ‘brainwash’ the complainant, as she now claims. She was an adult woman when their affair began, and she chose to continue the affair,” the attorney continued. “Whatever ‘details’ this woman is now claiming are irrelevant because Mr. Chatfield did not rape her, and he will provide evidence to the police as they conduct their investigation.”
Rebekah says the alleged abuse began with unwelcome touching and escalated to unwanted sex, which happened “more times than I can count.” She said that she eventually stopped resisting.
“My whole world was the Chatfield family,” said Rebekah, who also attended the school-affiliated Northern Michigan Baptist Bible Church where Rusty Chatfield, her father-in-law, é um pastor. (Rusty has told local news outlets her claims are false.)
Rebekah told Bridge Michigan she felt she had no way out from the relationship.
“If I told [the Chatfields], that would, that would ruin everything. I couldn’t see what would happen past then. I didn’t know there was an option to report,” ela disse. “I didn’t know there were options for therapy.”
She also described a sense of belonging within the school and church community — with the Chatfield family at its center — and a culture that valued hierarchy, male superiority and sexual purity. “They preach at the pulpit that the men are always right, the women have no say,” ela disse.
Em um ponto, her family discussed sending her to a public school. But she and her mother, Debbie Newbury, both told that Bridge Michigan Lee urged her to stay in his family’s orbit.
“Instead of him saying, 'Ei, you should listen to your parents’ — what they’re supposedly preaching from these pulpits — they … started planting seeds in my head of why I shouldn’t listen to them, and why I shouldn’t trust them,” Rebekah said.
Newbury told Bridge Michigan her daughter, então 16, era “old enough to make her own decisions” and so Rebekah moved in with her father, who lived about an hour from the school and church compound in Burt Lake, Michigan.
“Lee quickly took me in,” Rebekah said, adding that her father’s health began to decline and she became more involved with the Chatfield family.
After the first alleged instance of unwanted sexual contact, Rebekah said, she didn’t tell anyone about it because she was afraid of how the Chatfields would react. Elas “ran that whole church and school,” ela disse.
According to the Bridge Michigan report, state law generally sets the age of consent for sex at 16 but it’s illegal for a teacher to sexually penetrate a student under the age of 18, though there is a statute of limitations on bringing some charges.
Rebekah said she finally told her husband, Aaron Chatfield, her mother and other family members in December, when she also notified police in Lansing, Michigan, who referred the complaint to Michigan State Police.
Aaron Chatfield, Lee’s younger brother, spoke with Bridge Michigan and said he supports his wife. He said he didn’t know about the alleged sexual abuse though he “always had questions.”
“I just saw the way he looked at her,” Aaron said.
As an unofficial driver for his brother, who was elected to the Michigan legislature in 2014 and served three two-year terms, Aaron told Bridge Michigan he drove Lee to strip clubs and to meet up with women, including a former staffer.
“Lee se retrata como uma tradição familiar, cara conservador que acredita na Bíblia e a Bíblia é tão importante,” the younger Chatfield said. “Não, não poderia estar mais longe de quem meu homem era como pessoa.”
Another of Lee’s brothers, Paul Chatfield, 27, said he believes there was “inappropriate behavior” between his sister-in-law and older brother but questioned her account of the alleged abuse in terms of when it started and how far it escalated.
“What she is saying, I don’t believe,” Paul said, adicionando isso “the best-case scenario is, I’m disappointed.”