According to First Coast News, a pastor in Jacksonville has been charged with sexual assault. Rafael Cuevas, 53-years-old, faces charges after accusations of continuously molesting a child for four years surfaced.
The victim was under 12-years-old during the four years of alleged abuse by Cuevas. The child reported to detectives that Cuevas molested her four to five times a week in various locations. The abuse would occur both at the church Cuevas was a pastor for and inside his truck.
Throughout the investigation, a second victim reported that Cuevas molested her on multiple occasions as well.
Cuevas has been charged with two counts of sexual battery and six counts of lewd and lascivious molestation against a victim under 12 years old, reported First Coast News. Cuevas is currently being held with no bond.
Attorney contributor Michael Haggard is an experienced sexual abuse lawyer and has represented numerous victims of sexual abuse and their families in civil lawsuits. In an interview, we asked Michael to share insight about the legal rights of victims who a pastor has sexually abused.
“A church has a legal obligation to uphold the safety of its congregation members. Unfortunately, across the country, we have seen sexual predators place themselves in positions of power in churches and commit abuse. The exploitation of power and trust has been seen across all religious organizations. Churches have a legal obligation to try their hardest to uphold their member’s safety and stop predators. To ensure safety, churches should consider implementing safety measures, such as cameras and easy reporting systems.”
“In cases where a pastor has been accused of sexual assault, a church might be considered liable for not upholding the safety of its patrons. Sadly, in some cases, the sexual abuse of members occurs due to negligence on behalf of a third party, such as a religious organization. One example of negligence is if complaints were previously filed against an active clergy member, but the allegations were ignored. In cases of negligence, victims and their families would have grounds for a civil lawsuit against it.”