A woman has filed a $75 million lawsuit against two Bedford County-based nonprofits and their president, claiming he repeatedly sexually abused her when she was a teenager in the 1990s.
Referred to in her lawsuit as M.B., the woman and her attorney spoke to members of the media about her experience and the lawsuit on Thursday, the day after the suit was served on Legacy International. The suit was filed in Bedford Circuit Court last month.
Legacy International has provided leadership and enrichment programs for students with an international focus since its founding in 1979. It’s headquartered between the town of Bedford and Evington, which is also where its Global Youth Village summer camp is held for teens.
M.B. said Thursday her parents were involved in the organization “and I was born there.” Her lawsuit claims she was 14 when Legacy International’s president and founder, Jeffrey Rash, started sexually abusing her — first asking for kisses, then progressing to where he repeatedly raped her.
State court records indicate Rash hasn’t been criminally charged with any sex offenses.
Messages left with the nonprofit and for multiple members of its head staff and board were not returned Thursday, nor was a message left with a number listed as Rash’s home phone.
Rash also founded World Community in the same area of Bedford County, and the two nonprofits controlled several properties there, according to the lawsuit, where they’d invite families to live “under their custody and control.”
She described in the lawsuit a community where Rash held “an almost limitless power” over families living there, including where they lived and how children were educated, where he could “act and exercise his apparent authority without checks and balances.”
The woman said in the suit Rash would call her out of class to speak to her and meet with her. Later, the abuse became “common knowledge” in the community after a Global Youth Village participant notified staff, the suit claims.
The abuse continued for the next four years, according to the lawsuit, with the woman moving to live closer to Rash’s office and while he “openly referred to [her] as one of his wives within the community.”
In 2007, the woman left the community. She now lives outside the state and received inpatient psychiatric treatment in 2017 that traced back to the abuse, her lawsuit states.
Her lawsuit claims Legacy International’s board knew or should have known about Rash’s “propensity to sexually abuse and assault young adult women and minor girls in the community” even before his alleged abuse of the plaintiff.
The woman’s attorney, Kevin Biniazan, said another woman in the community later contacted his client about a similar, earlier situation that made her leave, too.
Biniazan said he welcomes any criminal investigation into her claims but added his client mistrusts local law enforcement.
“We felt that her retaining her own counsel and being sure that we can represent her specific interests was what was best for her,” he said.
The nonprofit reported 1,200 participants in its programs in 2020, which were taken exclusively online that year. The Global Youth Village hosted 12 teens from London in 2019 and is slated to resume its in-person camp in 2022.
It has a budget of more than $2 million, most of which is through government grants, and receives funding from the U.S. Department of State and several U.S. embassies, according to tax data and reports from Legacy International. World Community operates on about a $500,000 budget.