Alleged Victim of Childhood Sexual Abuse Files Lawsuit Against San Dimas Jehovah’s Witness Congregation
Los Angeles, CA, August 21, 2019 --( PR.com )-- An alleged victim of childhood sexual abuse has filed a civil lawsuit in Los Angeles County Superior Court naming the Jehovah’s Witness (JWs) congregation in San Dimas, CA, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc., and the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses as defendants. The Governing Body of the JWs establishes all the policies, including those dealing with child sexual abuse reports, that govern decisions by JW Elders and leadership worldwide.
According to the complaint filed by the Zalkin Law Firm, the Plaintiff, Kevin Ramirez, was allegedly molested on multiple occasions between 1999 and 2001 by an Elder in the San Dimas congregation, when he was approximately six to eight years of age. Allegedly, the abuser, identified as Humberto in the complaint, was appointed to the Congregation Elder position by Defendants the Watchtower and the Governing Body.
Allegedly, at the time Humberto sexually abused Ramirez, Ramirez and his family attended meetings at Defendant Congregation where Humberto had access to children in the congregation. Humberto allegedly molested Ramirez on numerous occasions, including during and after Church events such as field service, bible study, and during a Jehovah’s Witness Assembly.
The complaint details allegedly how Humberto used his position to ingratiate himself with Ramirez’s family. Allegedly, without Humberto’s position as Congregation Elder, he would not have had access to Ramirez or the ability to commit the alleged acts of molestation. According to the complaint, allegedly Humberto threatened that Ramirez would not be accepted into paradise if he did not allow the molestations to occur. The complaint also alleges that Humberto used his position to molest multiple boys in Defendant Congregation.
“A place of religion should be a place of complete safety for children,” said attorney Irwin Zalkin. “In this case, allegedly, an innocent child had his life ruined by a trusted congregational leader and by a religious organization that blatantly ignores abuse of children under its care.”
Allegedly, before Humberto molested Ramirez, Ramirez’s father spoke with a Ministerial Servant who warned Ramirez’s father to watch out for Humberto. According to the complaint, allegedly, that warning demonstrated that the Ministerial Servant and the congregation were aware that Humberto had sexually molested other children.
Allegedly: The complaint also outlines how in 2001, Ramirez reported the abuse to his parents, who in turn reported it to Elders at Defendant Congregation; The complaint states that the congregation Elders did not make a mandated child abuse report to law enforcement and also discouraged Ramirez and his parents from filing a police report.
There are six Causes of Action listed in the complaint including: Negligence, Negligent Supervision, Negligent Hiring, Negligent Failure to Warn, Train or Educate, Sexual Battery, and Sexual Harassment. The complaint alleges that Defendants Congregation, Watchtower, CCJW, and the JW Governing Body, all acted with willful and conscious disregard of the rights and safety of others by ignoring warnings and complaints that Humberto had committed acts of sexual abuse upon minors and allowing him continued access to unsuspecting minors.
Allegedly, as a result of the conduct by the Defendants, the complaint claims that Ramirez suffered psychological harm, was prevented from performing daily activities and obtaining the full enjoyment of life resulting in a sustained loss of earnings and earning capacity. The complaint alleges that he has incurred and will continue to incur expenses for medical and psychological treatment, therapy, and counseling and asks for a jury trial on the lawsuit.
Kevin Ramirez is represented by Irwin Zalkin and Devin Storey of The Zalkin Firm and Neil Smith and Ross Leonoudakis of Nix Patterson, LLP.
Background about Jehovah’s Witnesses
While public attention has focused on clergy abuse within the Catholic Church, a serious problem of child sexual abuse within the Jehovah’s Witnesses has emerged over the last decade. The Watchtower (a corporate entity operated by the JWs) has been under investigation internationally, with a Government Royal Commission in Australia issuing a scathing report about child sexual abuse within the JW Organization there. It alleges at least 1,800 sexually abused children and 1,000 perpetrators among approximately 68,247 members and 786 congregations.
The Zalkin Law Firm has filed 26 lawsuits around the country on behalf of childhood sexual abuse survivors against the JW Organization, including two last week in New York. Through these cases, the firm has exposed a database maintained by the Service Department of the JWs containing reports and other information about known child molesters within the JW Organization that dates back decades.
The JWs have defied numerous court orders compelling them to produce this database of information in several of the lawsuits. At least three courts of appeal and the Supreme Court of California (the highest Court) have affirmed the orders of the trial courts for these molestation files to be produced in a usable form with minimal redactions. To this day the JWs have defied these orders.
One court of appeal has stated in its published opinion:
“Watchtower has abused the discovery process. It has zealously advocated its position and lost multiple times. Yet, it cavalierly refuses to acknowledge the consequences of these losses and the validity of the court’s orders . . . the superior court has shown great patience and flexibility in dealing with a recalcitrant litigant who refuses to follow valid orders and merely reiterates losing arguments.” Padron v. Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc. (2017) 16 Cal.App.5th 1246, at 1271–1272.
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