Serah Bellar, who alleges a long history of sexual abuse by family, files a federal lawsuit against Athens County

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ATHENS, Ohio (WOUB) — A former Athens County women filed a lawsuit Monday in federal court related to a long history of sexual abuse she allegedly suffered in her family’s home.

A screen shot of a photo of herself that Serah Bellar, who was missing for a year, posted on a Facebook page.
A photo Serah Bellar, who was missing for a year, posted of herself on a Facebook page. [Facebook]
Serah Bellar alleges in her lawsuit that the defendants, which include her mother and father, all played a part in either promoting the sexual abuse or allowing it to continue despite her efforts to alert authorities.

Bellar’s parents, Robert and Deborah, are scheduled to stand trial in May in the criminal case against them. They are accused of conspiring to cover up the abuse allegedly taking place in their home and involving several of their children.

Other defendants in Bellar’s lawsuit include Athens County; Jimmy Childs, a former Athens County deputy who resigned over criminal charges he faced related to the Bellar case; and Dove Outreach, a church in Pike County run by James Bellar, Serah’s uncle, who is also named as a defendant.

The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio under the pseudonym Jane Roe. Serah Bellar’s attorney, Michael Fradin, confirmed that Bellar is the plaintiff.

Like most mainstream news organizations, WOUB generally does not use the name of sexual abuse victims to protect their identity and avoid inflicting further harm. But in this case, Bellar has gone public about her accusations against her family and has agreed to let her name be used. Her accusations first surfaced in a long Facebook post she made last April right after she turned 18.

That post prompted investigations that led to the indictments against Bellar’s parents and two of her brothers. One brother, Josiah, who was charged with three counts of rape, pleaded guilty to lesser charges in November. Another brother, Jonathan, is awaiting trial on charges of gross sexual imposition.

In her lawsuit, Bellar alleges that her parents required their children to attend Dove Outreach, where James Bellar allegedly preaches that siblings are supposed to procreate with each other. This contributed to the years of alleged sexual abuse that Bellar suffered at home, which began when she was 5.

Bellar alleges her parents were aware of this abuse and not only did nothing to stop it, but instead helped cover it up.

Childs, who was a longtime deputy with the Athens County Sheriff’s Office and a close friend of Bellar’s parents, was aware of the sexual abuse and conspired to help cover it up, the lawsuit alleges.

The lawsuit cites two occasions when Bellar allegedly turned to Childs for help in protecting her from her family and he instead betrayed her by going to her parents with the information she shared.

Childs resigned in July as part of a plea agreement following charges of tampering with evidence and obstruction of justice during the criminal investigation into the Bellar family.

Athens County is listed as a defendant in the lawsuit because reports of sexual abuse in the Bellar home were brought to Athens County Children Services on at least three occasions, in February 2017, May 2018 and April 2020. It appears that none of these led to a formal investigation.

The lawsuit alleges a caseworker with Children Services was a close friend of Deborah Bellar and helped cover up the alleged abuse.

Bellar is seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

WOUB attempted to reach out several of the defendants for comment but did not receive any responses by the time this story was published.