'He destroyed me,' Lee Chatfield's younger sister-in-law tells Bridge Michigan

January 08, 2022, 11:43 AM

Bridge Michigan drops a sensational scoop it spent weeks preparing.

Rebekah Chatfield, 26, and Lee Chatfield, 33

Rebekah Chatfield, the 26-year-old relative who accuses former Michigan House Speaker Lee Chatfield of sexually abusing her as a teen, participated in "a series of interviews in recent weeks" with the online publication before her account was disclosed Thursday by City Pulse, a Lansing news site. What the sister-in-law told Bridge is vivid:  

Behind the squeaky clean image, Chatfield took advantage of the girl’s vulnerabilities when she was a high school student and continued to sexually assault her throughout his political tenure in Lansing, including inside his Capitol office, Rebekah Chatfield said. ... 

"He destroyed me, and has controlled my life since I was 15-16, the past 10-11 years," she said. "And I know the only way to get justice for this is to come forward and to file a criminal [complaint] against him. ... 

"It was never consensual, because it started when I was a minor — the brainwashing, the mentality, the manipulation, the psychological, the emotional — he groomed me into being who he wanted me to be."

The encounters continued for more than a decade into 2021, she said.

Michigan State Police investigators in Northern Michigan are looking into her complaint, as is the Lansing Police Department.

'He intends to vigorously fight'

In a statement Friday, Lee Chatfield’s lawyer characterized interactions with “the woman who is now claiming she was raped” as a consensual adult affair. The Okemos attorney, who said Chatfield had multiple extramarital affairs, added: "He did not assault this woman in any manner during their years-long adult relationship. He intends to vigorously fight these false claims."

Lee and Stephanie Chatfield at a 2017 benefit in Bay Harbor, Mich. (Photo: Facebook)

Chatfield, a 33-year-old Republican from Emmet County, is seven years older than his sister-in-law. He has been married since 2008 to Stephanie Payge Chatfield, also 33. They began dating as Northern Michigan Christian Academy schoolmates, according to his official bio posted while in the House from 2015-21, and have four sons and a daughter.   

Extensive reporting by Kelly House and Jonathan Oosting of Bridge exceeds 4,000 words. The Lansing-based publication, posts:

Rebekah Chatfield first approached Bridge with her story in late December, after she filed her complaint with Lansing police.

In multiple interviews spanning several hours, she said Lee Chatfield initiated unwanted sexual contact with her when she was a 15- or 16-year-old student at Northern Michigan Christian Academy. The private school is in Burt Lake in Cheboygan County, part of a campus that also includes [parent] Rusty Chatfield’s church, Northern Michigan Baptist Bible Church. Lee Chatfield taught and coached soccer at the school before entering state politics.

The assaults continued, Rebekah Chatfield said, for years before and after the Chatfield family pressured her and Lee Chatfield’s youngest brother, Aaron Chatfield, to marry when they were both 19.

In Michigan, 15-year-olds can't legally consent to sex. Adults can be charged with statutory rape for having intercourse with teens under 16.

By her account, she was too embarrassed and scared to tell friends, relatives or her spouse about the relationship until recently. She decided to contact police and speak publicly "to help give people strength so they could come forward."

Aaron Chatfield, her spouse, also speaks out

Rebekah Chatfield: "He ... has controlled my life." (Photo: Facebook)

The publication notes that it "does not generally identify people who alleged they were sexually assaulted without their permission, which Rebekah Chatfield provided."

Aaron Chatfield, Rebekah's husband, also spoke on the record with Bridge in December and said he supports his wife. He said he did not know about the alleged assaults by his brother but had suspicions years ago about his brother's close behavior with Rebekah. ...

"Lee portrays himself as a family tradition, conservative guy who believes in the Bible and the Bible is so important," said Aaron, 26. "No, it couldn’t be further from who my man was as a person."

Many more details and quotes are at the full article.

If you need help:

If you are a victim of domestic abuse or sexual violence, call a national domestic abuse hotline at (800) 799-7233 or chat online with the Michigan Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence.

Find local domestic violence services in your county.

Read more:  Bridge Michigan

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