A teenage girl who was sexually abused by the athletic director of her Catholic high school will be paid $8 million by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, according to a Tuesday announcement.
The archdiocese has paid more than $740 million in sexual abuse settlements over the last 15 years. David Ring, an attorney for the girl, said the $8 million is the largest payment to a single person in any of the cases.
“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.”
Juan Ivan Barajas, a health teacher and athletic director at San Gabriel Mission High School, started sexually abusing the girl when she was 15, according to court documents. In 2016, Barajas kidnapped her after his wife discovered evidence of the molestation on his cellphone. He took the girl to Las Vegas. Five days later, police arrested Barajas and the girl was rescued.
Before the incident, there were several complaints about Barajas’ behavior toward female students. In 2015, a coach told the school’s principal that on more than 50 occasions Barajas took a girl into his office, where the two were alone, the Los Angeles Times reports. The same coach also reported seeing Barajas and a student leaving a basement office fixing their clothes.
The Times reports that same year, two anonymous letters were sent to school officials about his conduct; one saying “He takes the ones he likes to the office.” A parent also told the principal that Barajas put his arm around her daughter and tried to get her alone.
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Barajas, now 38, pleaded guilty to felony statutory sexual seduction and was sentenced to six years in prison.
The victim’s attorney said the girl suffers panic attacks and flashbacks from the abuse.
Contributing: The Associated Press. Follow Ashley May on Twitter: @AshleyMayTweets
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