Washington, D.C. priest Urbano Vazquez was arrested in November 2018 for allegedly sexually abusing a 15-year-old girl who attended his church, the Shrine of the Sacred Heart. According to police, Vazquez inappropriately touched the girl in 2015 on two separate occasions.
Vazquez was arrested a second time in December when additional allegations came to light. In this second case, he was accused of sexually assaulting a 9-year-old girl and a grown woman – both were members of the Shrine of the Sacred Heart as well.
Authorities say that Vazquez abused the youngest victim for around one year. The woman was allegedly sexually assaulted during confession. The 15-year-old girl is believed to have happened in 2015. The younger child and woman were allegedly assaulted between 2016 and 2017.
Vazquez was offered a plea deal, but rejected it and pleaded not guilty in May. In total, he is charged with two counts of felony second-degree child abuse and one count of misdemeanor sexual abuse. If convicted, he could face up to 13 years in prison.
At Banville Law, experienced church sexual abuse attorney Laurence Banville help survivors seek justice through civil lawsuits. In many of our cases, the perpetrator is someone in a position of trust or authority. We regularly see tragic cases of priests, pastors, and other religious leaders committing terrible crimes against their parishioners. Here is some general information from Laurence on the legal rights of clergy sex abuse survivors:
It’s very common for survivors of sexual abuse to struggle to come forward. This is doubly true in cases involving religious leaders as the perpetrators. These predators manipulate their followers and many victims are afraid to speak out against their abuser for fear of repercussions. But clergy sex abuse victims have rights. Along with reporting the abuser to law enforcement, many victims also may have grounds for a lawsuit against their church.
When a victim does come forward, it’s important to determine if the church was negligent in a way that allowed the abuse to occur. For example, in some cases of clergy sex abuse, the perpetrator had previously been reported for sexual misconduct. Some churches fail to adequately respond to these reports by either handling the investigation in-house instead of contacting the authorities or flat-out attempting to cover the abuse up.
Each clergy sex abuse case has unique circumstances. If you’re a survivor of sexual abuse by a priest or other clergy member, you can learn more about your legal options by speaking with an experienced sex abuse victims lawyer.