44-year-old pastor Elmer Perez has been arrested and charged with kidnapping and raping a woman who attended his church, Iglesia de Jesucristo in New Bedford. Perez faces charges of rape, kidnapping, intimidation of a witness, indecent assault and battery on a person over the age of 14, and threatening to commit a crime. Police also suspect that there are other victims.
Perez appeared in court on Thursday, December 26. A judge found him dangerous and ordered him held without bail for up to 120 days while awaiting trial. During this hearing, prosecutor Zac Mercer told the court that a witness said five women have come forward to him with allegations of sexual assault against Perez. One of these five women is pregnant.
According to the prosecution, Perez met the victim at a market and brought her to his church at 1411 Acushnet Ave in New Bedford. He is accused of sexually assaulting her here. The prosecutor told the court that Perez used "force throughout their interactions" and violated his position of trust while exhibiting "predator behavior."
This alleged sexual assault happened on October 10 and was reported on November 20.
Attorney contributor Kim Dougherty is proud to stand by victims and their families and helps them fight for justice in civil lawsuits. Here are some of her thoughts on the legal rights of those who have been sexually assaulted by pastors and other religious clergy members:
Pastors and other church leaders are highly trusted members of their communities. Most of these individuals are trustworthy, but there is also a risk of abuse in any field that involves working from a position of trust. Sadly, our attorneys have seen many cases of religious leaders sexually abusing parishioners.
Churches and other religious organizations have a legal duty to protect their followers from preventable harm, including sexual abuse. When a clergy member is arrested for sexually abusing parishioners, both the clergy member and the church should be investigated. The clergy member will be the subject of a criminal investigation, while attorneys can also investigate the church to determine if negligence was a factor in the abuse.
If you or a loved one has been sexually abused by a pastor or another religious clergy member, you can learn more about your legal rights in a free consultation with one of our experienced sex abuse victims lawyers.