Lawsuits are filed in Connecticut as Jehovah’s Witnesses continue policies that put children in danger. JW= Child Abuse let the public be aware of the hurtful nature of this religion.
Siblings Sue Jehovah's Witnesses Over Alleged Child Sex Abuse
Evelyn Selimaj, 30, (at left) of East Haven and her sister Sybelle Almodovar, 35, of North Guilford hold a photograph of themselves together with their brother Ferdinand Almodovar. (Patrick Raycraft)
By Dave Altimaricontact the reporter
Three siblings allege in lawsuits that they were sexually abused by a member of the Jehovah's Witnesses organization when they were children living in New Haven.
The lawsuits, filed in New Haven Superior Court, allege that the siblings from the Almodovar family were sexually abused over a five-year period starting in 1988 by Orlando Afanador, a "ministerial servant." Their lawyers say it is the first lawsuits filed in Connecticut against the religious organization.
On Wednesday, sisters Sybelle Almodovar and Evelyn Selimaj attended a press conference held by their attorneys, Irwin Zalkin of San Diego and Thomas McNamara of New Haven, to announce the lawsuits against the East Spanish Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses New Haven and the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York. A spokesman for the organization had no comment.
Their brother, Ferdinand Almodovar, also filed suit. McNamara said a fourth lawsuit alleging similar claims of sexual abuse by Afanador will be filed for Bianca Martinez, another former New Haven resident.
Afanador is on the state sexual offender registry. The registry indicates he was convicted of sexual assault of a child in Omaha, Nebraska in August of 2010 and was released from prison in January of 2013. It indicates he currently lives in New Haven. He could not be reached for comment.
Zalkin said that, while the lawsuits are the first in Connecticut, there is a growing number of complaints being filed across the country against the Jehovah's Witnesses organization. Zalkin filed a lawsuit Tuesday in Vermont for two woman who alleged they were sexually abused in that state.
"This is an insidious problem, an epidemic problem with child sex abuse within this organization that so far seems more concerned about protecting its reputation from scandal than about the children," Zalkin said.
Zalkin likened the burgeoning sexual abuse scandal in the Jehovah's Witnesses to similar to what occurred in the Catholic Church in the 1990's with one difference.
"At least when the scandal broke in the Catholic Church they took some action. These guys are just the opposite," Zalkin said.
The Almodovar family were members of the East Spanish Congregation in the mid-1980's when the alleged sexual abuse occurred.
The lawsuit claims that Afanador and his wife moved into the Almodovar home following the divorce of the children's parents to help care for the three siblings. Seybelle Almodovar said her mother was a nurse at the time working third shift and she rented the attic space to the couple with the undertanding they would baby sit.
The lawsuits allege that the accused started abusing Sybelle when she was 8 while he was babysitting. Her lawsuit alleges he would enter her room in the middle of the night and abuse her. Her sister Evelyn, who was 6 at the time, was also in the room and could see and hear what he was doing, the lawsuit alleges
The lawsuits allege that Afanador abused Ferdinand on more than 25 occasions by forcing the boy to peform oral sex on him.
In the case of Bianca Martinez her family lived in the same apartment building as Afanador and she was friends with his son. The lawsuit alleges when she was 9 she was abused on the family's couch numerous times.
In a statement she read at the press conference, Evelyn Almodovar Selimaj said the family moved to the Dominican Republic where the sisters eventually told the Elders in the Jehovah's Witness congregation they joined in that country about the abuse, but nothing was done.
"We are not the first and we are not the last ones that he abused," Selimaj said. "While we cannot get our childhood back one thing we hope this lawsuit will do is prevent another child from the devastation we faced."
Siblings Sue Jehovah's Witnesses for Alleged Sexual Abuse; Problem Part of Nationwide Situation?
BY SAMI K. MARTIN , CHRISTIAN POST REPORTER
A group of Jehovah's Witnesses stand by their table displaying religious literature on Friday, Jan. 10, 2014, at the Atlantic Terminal subway station in New York City.
Three siblings in Connecticut have filed a lawsuit against several Jehovah's Witnesses organizations in the state after alleging they were sexually abused by a "ministerial servant" from the group.
Sybelle Almodovar, Ferdinand Almodovar and Evelyn Selimaj announced the lawsuit along with their attorneys in New Haven. The siblings intend to sue the East Spanish Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses New Haven and the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York.
The three allege that they were sexually abused by a registered sex offender in the organization; Orlando Afandor reportedly abused the siblings over a five-year period beginning in 1988. Afandor was convicted of the sexual assault of a child in Omaha, Nebraska, in 2010 and released from prison in 2013. He did not respond to inquiries by the media.
"This is an insidious problem, an epidemic problem with child sex abuse within this organization that so far seems more concerned about protecting its reputation from scandal than about the children," attorney Irwin Zalkin said at the press conference.
Zalkin explained that he would be filing suits on behalf of two other alleged victims in the state of Vermont. He compared the situation in the Jehovah Witnesses organization to that of the Catholic Church some years back, but with one notable difference.
"At least when the scandal broke in the Catholic Church they took some action. These guys are just the opposite," he explained.
"We are not the first and we are not the last ones that he abused," Selimaj said. "Whilst we cannot get our childhood back, one thing we hope this lawsuit will do is prevent another child from the devastation we faced."
The other attorney for the family, Thomas McNamara, announced that he would be filing a fourth lawsuit with similar claims of sexual abuse by Afandar. The victim in that case, Bianca Martinez, also resides in New Heaven.
The religious organization has not issued a statement about the impending lawsuits.
Jehovah’s Witnesses in New Haven sued over alleged sexual abuse
By Michelle Tuccitto Sullo, New Haven Register
POSTED: 10/01/14, 6:20 PM EDT | UPDATED: 5 DAYS AGO
NEW HAVEN >>Three women and one man are suing the New Haven East Spanish Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, claiming they were sexually abused by a church leader as children.
At a press conference Wednesday, attorneys Thomas McNamara of New Haven and Irwin Zalkin of San Diego announced plans to file four lawsuits in Superior Court in New Haven on behalf of their clients.
The four plaintiffs claim they were sexually abused by Orlando Afanador, 50, of New Haven, who is on the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection’s sex offender registry for an unrelated 2010 conviction for sexual assault of a child in Nebraska.
In addition to the local congregation, the lawsuits also name the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York Inc. as a defendant.
“These four individuals have been through a lot of struggle in their lives, but they have recently decided they need to come forward,” Zalkin said.
Two of the four plaintiffs, both female, attended the press conference in New Haven. While the plaintiffs are named in court documents, the New Haven Register is not publicizing their names. All are now in their 30s.
The women indicated they eventually reported the abuse to congregation leadership, but were discouraged from going to authorities.
“They did nothing to protect us, and they allowed a known perpetrator to interact with children,” one of the plaintiffs said Wednesday. “We would like other victims to know they are not alone. We can prevent another child from having to live with the consequences of such trauma.”
The Office of Public Information with the Jehovah’s Witnesses in New York did not respond to a request for a comment Wednesday.
Afanador, who could not be reached for comment, is described in court documents as having been an ordained minister within the Jehovah’s Witnesses organization at the time of the alleged abuse.
According to the lawsuits, Afanador on at least three occasions offered to babysit the male plaintiff at Afanador’s home. It alleges Afanador instructed the male, then a minor, to take off his clothes and then sexually molested him.
The male plaintiff and two of the females are siblings. According to the litigation, Afanador moved into their home after their parents’ divorce to help babysit them, and sexually abused the male plaintiff on a weekly basis. It further claims Afanador sexually abused the male plaintiff at Afanador’s apartment on about 25 occasions, showed the youth pornographic material, and took pictures during the abuse.
One of the female plaintiffs, the male plaintiff’s sister, claims Afanador babysat her when she was about eight years old, and she claims he would enter her room and sexually molest her on an almost nightly basis for about a year.
A third sibling, a female, claims in her lawsuit that she was under the age of six, shared a room with her sister, and was “forced to hear her older sister sexually abused repeatedly.” This plaintiff also claims Afanador touched her inappropriately.
A fourth female plaintiff, who is not related to the other three plaintiffs but was a member of the same congregation, claims in her lawsuit that when she was between the ages of nine and 11, Afanador sexually abused her on about a weekly basis.
“A place of religion should be a place of complete safety for children,” Zalkin said. “In this case, innocent children had their lives ruined by a trusted congregational leader and by a religious organization that blatantly ignores abuse of children under its care.”
The lawsuits claim the defendants were negligent, and failed to adequately supervise Afanador and his conduct toward minors. It also alleges they failed to immediately remove him from any position within the congregation when they knew, or had reason to know, he was a danger to minors. It claims they failed to properly investigate claims of sexual misconduct.
The plaintiffs continue to suffer emotional injuries and need psychological counseling, according to the lawsuits, which seek monetary and punitive damages.
Branford Attorney Takes on Sexual Abuse of Children, Jehovah's Witnesses
Branford's Tom McNamara, who has spent much of his legal career handing sexual abuse cases in religious organizations, is handling abusestate of Connecticut.
Attorney Tom McNamara, a Branford resident and partner in the New Haven based McNamara and Goodman Law firm, announced Wednesday at a New Haven press conference that 4 separate suits are being filed against the Jehovah’s Witnesses in a case that involved a series of child molestation incidents in a New Haven congregation.
The suits allege that Orlando Afanador, 50, was a ministerial servant, and appointed position in the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and a regular pioneer, a position which requires a minimum amount of hours be spent in the door-to-door ministry the Witnesses are well for.
The filings detail that Afindor would often babysit 3 of the plaintiffs, who were siblings and lived with their mother, an overnight nurse. The initial sexual abuse began here. In time, Afanador and his wife moved in with the family, serving as regular sitters for the children.
The plaintiff was 8 years old at the time. The filing reads that the conduct…”occurred on an almost nightly basis for approximately one year.”
The filings indicate that on occasion the younger sister was also present in the room, and the detail other instances of sexual abuse.
Attorney Zalkin would not give specific details but indicated that Afanador has been involved in multiple additional cases of sexual abuse of a minor.
The documents, which list the East Spanish Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses in New Haven as the defendant, lay out the case against the Jehovah’s Witnesses organization as a whole.
"The Jehovah’s Witnesses have an insidious problem, an epidemic problem with child sexual abuse with the organization. And the reason why they have this problem is because of the policies that come from their parent organization, the Watchtower and the head of all Jehovah’s Witnesses in the world, the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The problem is this: they are more concerned about protecting themselves, the institution, from scandal, and protecting its reputation above their concern and protection of children,” said Zalkin. “And they have instituted policies that require absolute silence that would prevent anyone from the outside world from ever know the problem’s that they’ve had with abuse of children.”
Jehovah’s Witness policy is that when a member goes from one congregation to another, a letter of introduction is sent, and in the case of child molesters, the letter must inform the new congregation of the past sexual abuse issues.
Soon after, as a member of the new congregation, Afanador was appointed a Ministerial Servant and soon after, engaged in the acts alleged in the complaint.
The complaints allege that the injuries sustained by the then-minors “were the result of the negligence and carelessness of the Defendants and their agents” and that the Jehovah’s Witnesses should have known about Afanador’s history of sexual abuse, that they failed to supervise Afanador in his interaction with minors, that they failed to report the conduct to authorities, and that they continued to use him as a Ministerial Servant and pioneer despite the obvious issues.
In the Conti case, evidence was shown that elders in the congregation took steps to cover up the abuse, as was Jehovah’s Witness policy at the time. Additionally, the perpetrator in the case was a "rank-and-file" member. In the current case, the perpetrator held at least two appointed positions in the congregation, ministerial servant and pioneer, and the claim is that his previous history of sexual abuse of a minor was known prior to those appointments.
re four plaintiffs are filing suit against the Jehovahs Witnesses.