L.A. archdiocese pays abuse victim of layman $8 million

Los Angeles, Calif., Apr 17, 2019 / 05:47 pm (CNA).- The Archdiocese of Los Angeles has agreed to pay $8 million to a female teenager who was sexually abused and abducted by a teacher at her high school in 2016.

The victim attended San Gabriel Mission High School, an all-girls school in San Gabriel, Calif., about 10 miles northeast of Los Angeles. The then-15-year-old student was abused over numerous months by Juan Ivan Barajas, her volleyball coach and health teacher.

“The Archdiocese recognizes that there was serious harm done to the life of the victim-survivor,” the archdiocese stated. “We hope that the settlement will allow her to heal and move forward with her education and lifetime goals. The Archdiocese apologizes for the impact that this caused in her life.”

The plaintiff’s main attorney, David Ring, said April 16 that the amount is the largest the archdiocese has paid a single victim.

According to the New York Times, Barajas, 39, had sent her sexually explicit messages and images through his phone. He had abused her in several locations on school grounds beginning in April 2016.

After Barajas’ wife found out about the abuse, he kidnapped the teenager in July, and took her to Las Vegas. The police found the pair living in his car in Henderson, Nev., and Barajas was sentenced to six years in prison after pleading guilty.

About a year before the sexual misconduct took place, several reports were issued in 2015 about Barajas’ suspicious behavior around students. Parents and staff both expressed their objections to officials at the school and archdiocese.

According to the New York Times, Monsignor Sal Pilato, the archdiocese’s superintendent of high schools, had received concerns from two volleyball coaches and a parent. These individuals were worried about his interactions with the students, including time spent alone in his office.

An anonymous letter was also issued to the superintendent, stating that “he takes the ones he like to the office,” according to the Los Angeles Times.

“The warning signs here were crystal clear,” Ring told the Los Angeles Times. “The complaints about Barajas were unambiguous, and yet nothing was done.”

Adrian Marquez Alarcon, spokeswomen for the archdiocese, said the accusations had been investigated but that no evidence of sexual abuse was found. She said the former teacher had received a warning for time spent alone with a minor.

“He was counseled according to archdiocesan policies,” she said, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Alarcon said the teen and her family plan to meet with Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, and apologized on behalf of the archdiocese.

In 2007, the archdiocese reached a $660 million abuse settlement with more than 500 alleged victims of clerical abuse. And in 2013 it paid nearly $10 million to settle a case brought by four alleged sex abuse victims of Michael Baker, who was formerly a priest of the archdiocese.

In a Jan. 22, 2013 statement regarding abuse documents, the archdiocese said that “few institutions have done as much as the Los Angeles Archdiocese to promptly report abuse allegations to civil authorities, to screen all those who supervise children, and to train adults and children in the latest abuse prevention procedures … We are justifiably proud of our record of child protection in the 21st century, and we remain vigilant against all that would harm our children and young people.”

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