Last Update: 7/13/2020
A man who works as a police dispatcher and serves as a church elder in the Jehovah’s Witnesses of Fresno has been arrested and charged with sexually assaulting a 17-year-old girl he was mentoring. On September 20, police say they received an anonymous tip about 43-year-old Martin Ramos and launched an investigation into the claims that he sexually assaulted the girl, who he met through the congregation on the 4000 block of West McKinley Avenue.
Investigators believe that Ramos met the girl and her family while he was an elder at the church about three years ago. He mentored the girl and the two frequently exchanged text messages. According to authorities, the two eventually exchanged “inappropriate” photos and a sexual relationship began.
Ramos was arrested on September 21 and has cooperated with the police. He has been charged with felony oral copulation, possession and distribution of child pornography and misdemeanor child molestation. He pleaded not guilty to all charges and is due back in court next month.
Over the past several years, more and more survivors of sexual abuse in the Jehovah’s Witness community have been coming forward with allegations that the church attempted to silence them. The church’s official policies pressure survivors and their families to allow elders to handle these assaults internally, rather than contacting outside authorities. Failing to notify law enforcement of suspected sexual abuse is illegal, and often constitutes negligence, as this allows abusers to continue abusing victims.
Earlier this year, a Montana jury levied a $35 million verdict against the national organization, known as the Watchtower, for allegedly pressuring Montana clergy members to cover up allegations of sexual abuse against a congregation member.
Attorney contributor Bobby Thompson helps the survivors of abuse find justice by filing sexual assault lawsuits against abusers and third parties (such as religious organizations) whose negligence enabled them to commit their crimes. We have asked him for some insight into the options & legal resources available to survivors of sexual abuse in the Jehovah’s Witnesses religious community. He shared the following:
“Survivors of sexual abuse live with unimaginable trauma. For many of them, this trauma is augmented if and when they struggle to find justice after reporting the assault. This often happens in the Jehovah’s Witnesses community, as the church is notorious for withholding allegations of sexual abuse from law enforcement. This tendency to cover up sexual abuse often results in additional abuse, as many abusers are permitted to remain active. When a religious organization fails to protect their followers from sexual assault or even worse – when they cover up these crimes, the survivors may have grounds for a lawsuit against the organization that awards them with significant compensation for the damages suffered,” Bobby explained.