The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles has agreed to pay $8 million to a teenager who was sexually abused and kidnapped by a teacher at her Catholic high school.
The teenager’s attorney, David Ring, said that the settlement — finalized by a court last week — is the largest that the Archdiocese of Los Angeles has ever paid to a single victim, The Associated Press reports. Over the past 15 years, the archdiocese has paid more than $740 million in sexual abuse settlements.
Juan Ivan Barajas, then-athletic director and health teacher at San Gabriel Mission High School in San Gabriel, Calif., repeatedly sexually abused the student when she was 15 years old, according to a lawsuit filed in 2017. Barajas then kidnapped her and took her to Las Vegas, according to court documents reported by The Los Angeles Times.
Barajas was arrested in Nevada and is currently serving a six-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to felony statutory sexual seduction, the AP reports.
“The Archdiocese recognizes that there was serious harm done to the life of the victim-survivor,” the archdiocese said in a statement. “We hope that the settlement will allow her to heal and move forward with her education and lifetime goals. The Archdiocese apologizes for the impact that this caused in her life.”
The abuse – which reportedly began in April 2016 – followed repeated allegations of misconduct by others against Barajas, according to the Times. Several reports from 2015 detailed suspicious behavior by the athletic director around students at the all-girls school, including allegedly taking a girl into his office alone on more than 50 occasions.
“The warning signs here were crystal clear,” Ring told the Times. “The complaints about Barajas were unambiguous, and yet nothing was done.”
Adrian Marquez Alarcon, a spokeswoman for the archdiocese, told the Times that the matter was investigated at the time, and that no evidence was found of sexual misconduct. According to records in the case, Barajas received a warning from the archdiocese for being alone with a minor.
The Archdiocese of Los Angeles had previously been part of the largest settlement to date in a clergy sex abuse case, when it agreed to pay $660 million to 508 victims in 2007.