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A blurred photo of the inside of a church sanctuary that is filled with people in the pews, and the pastor stands under a large cross at the altar.
Abuse Guardians
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San Diego, CA – A pastor from Victory Outreach Church in San Ysidro has been charged with a misdemeanor count for failing to report a suspected sexual assault against a teenager. Eric Manuel Merino, 43, appeared in San Diego Superior Court on Thursday morning, June 6, 2024, facing the allegations brought forth by the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office.

Protecting Minors and Holding Church Sexual Abusers Accountable

District Attorney Summer Stephan emphasized the importance of providing a safe environment for minors, free from sexual or physical abuse, in schools and churches. She stressed the critical nature of reporting suspected incidents to ensure victims receive support and perpetrators face consequences for their crimes.

Mandated Reporting Requirements for Church Pastors

California law requires certain professionals, known as mandated reporters, to report any suspected cases of child sexual abuse. This includes clergy members, teachers, doctors, social workers, police officers, and others who regularly work with children. Under the California Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act (CANRA), these individuals are legally obligated to report their suspicions to child protective services or law enforcement immediately and submit a written report within 36 hours.

Potential Consequences of Failing to Report Clergy Abuse

If convicted, Merino faces up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine for failing to comply with the mandated reporting requirements.

Read about the Victory Outreach Church Choir Group Leader, Rafael Magana, who plead guilty to sexually abusing a 15-year-old girl in 2021.

Victory Outreach Church Choir Group Leader, Rafael Magana, Admits to Sexually Assaulting Teenage Girl

Navigating Church Sexual Abuse Cases

In a world grappling with the harsh realities of sexual abuse within religious institutions, the recent charges against a San Diego pastor have sparked a necessary dialogue regarding mandatory reporters. As the investigation unfolds, we turn our attention to the legal avenues available for survivors and the accountability measures that can be taken against negligent organizations. To learn more, we sat down for a conversation with Mike Pfau, an experienced California clergy abuse lawyer who offered invaluable guidance on navigating the intricate legal landscape surrounding these sensitive cases.

Attorney Laurence Banville: Thank you for joining us today, Mike Pfau.

Attorney Mike Pfau: Thank you for having me, Laurence. Cases like this highlight the importance of mandated reporting laws and the consequences of failing to comply. Survivors of sexual abuse within religious institutions have legal options to seek justice and compensation.

Banville: Can you elaborate on the potential legal avenues for survivors?

Pfau: Absolutely. Survivors may pursue civil lawsuits against the perpetrator and the religious organization for negligence, such as failing to properly screen or supervise employees or volunteers. Additionally, if the organization was aware of previous misconduct and failed to take appropriate action, they could be held liable for negligent retention or supervision.

Banville: What about the statute of limitations in these cases?

Pfau: California has extended the statute of limitations for childhood sexual abuse cases, allowing survivors more time to come forward. It’s crucial for survivors to consult with an experienced attorney to understand their specific legal rights and options.

Empowering Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse: A Call to Action

It is crucial to remember that survivors of sexual abuse within religious institutions are not alone in their journey towards healing and justice. Mike Pfau and his team of dedicated legal professionals stand ready to provide unwavering support and guidance. If you or a loved one has experienced such trauma, do not hesitate to reach out for a confidential and free consultation. Together, we can navigate the legal complexities, hold negligent parties accountable, and pave the way for a future where no survivor is left without a voice or recourse.


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