Woman sues Los Lunas Jehovah's Witnesses, claims sex abuse

Valencia County News-Bulletin, New Mexico/August 29, 2013   

By Clara Garcia

Los Lunas -- A former member of the Los Lunas Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses is suing the church, claiming she was molested by a former elder.

Monica Lynn Jaramillo, 35, through her attorneys, Terrence Revo and Irwin Zalkin, filed a complaint for damages Aug. 12 in the 13th Judicial District Court. Also named as defendants in the case is Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, which oversees the church, and a former elder, who has not been charged with a crime.

Attempts to reach the Jehovah’s Witnesses Kingdom Hall in Los Lunas for comment were unsuccessful before the News-Bulletin deadline.

According to the civil lawsuit, Jaramillo allegedly was sexually abused as a child by the elder, who had served as a ministerial servant and an elder, which are leadership positions in the congregation. Jaramillo said the abuse occurred in 1987 when she was 8 years old at his home.

The complaint alleges that the church’s elders knew of the elder’s history of previous alleged rapes of congregational members, including the alleged rape of the mother of Jaramillo at a congregation in Indiana when she was 8 years old.

Jaramillo’s mother, according to the lawsuit, claims she informed the church elders of her sexual assault, as well as others by the elder, but they failed to take action to remove him from his leadership position in the congregation. The lawsuit says the church’s elders told her that to be appointed as a regular pioneer of the church, she would have to prove to the elders that she had forgiven him for raping her.

“(The mother) was instructed by the elders of Los Lunas that she should demonstrate her forgiveness by hosting … (the elder) and his family in their home, and by permitting her children to spend time, including nights, at … his home under (his) supervision,” the lawsuit said.

Under duress, the lawsuit claims, the mother followed these directives, which allowed the defendant access to commit the alleged sexual abuse. Jaramillo claims that she was “severely sexually molested” by the elder. As a result of psychological coping mechanisms, Jaramillo repressed her memory of the abuse and did not understand that she had been sexually abused by the elder until April 2007, the lawsuit said.

As a result of the abuse, the complaint alleges that Jaramillo has suffered great pain and emotional distress that prevented her from the normal enjoyment of life, requiring medical and psychological treatment and also that she suffered the loss of earnings and earning capacity.

“This lawsuit highlights a disturbing trend of victims coming forward to tell their stories about sexual abuse within Jehovah’s Witnesses congregations,” said Zalkin. “The allegations by this victim and the victims of other cases show an alarming tolerance for abusers of children within the Jehovah’s Witnesses religion.”

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