A California woman is suing the Salvation Army and its Pomona branch, alleging she was sexually abused by a youth group leader when she was a minor.
The woman, identified in the lawsuit only as Jane Doe, is suing for negligence, claiming those in authority failed to prevent or protect her and other children from the abuse.
She is suing three separate tiers of the Salvation Army, including The Salvation Army Corp., The Salvation Army Southern California Division and individuals listed as “Does 1 through 100” of The Salvation Army Corps Community Center in Pomona.
The complaint, filed Dec. 29, 2022, says Doe and her family were parishioners at the Salvation Army Corps Community Center – Pomona, which also served as a church. There, they met her alleged abuser, pastor Luis “Ben” Deras, in 2005.
In the report, Doe says Deras was both the pastor and youth leader at the Pomona Center when he befriended her family, gave her special attention and bought her gifts, meals and ice cream.
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At the time, Doe was approximately 10 years old.
Doe says Deras began molesting her in 2006 and continued doing so over the next six years. After detailing the individualized alone time Deras spent with her, the suit claims “all of this was done in plain view of church leadership.”
Doe also says that during those years, “through an elaborate scheme and using the authority vested in him by Defendants,” Deras gained custody of her and her brother in 2008.
Shortly after that, she said, sexual assaults occurred daily.
“Doe alleges sexual abuse occurred more times than she can count, but certainly hundreds of times,” the complaint says. The report further alleges the Salvation Army defendants knew Deras was abusing Doe but failed to protect her.
Doe also said the defendants never informed her and her parents about the “vast knowledge of sexual abuse by clergy and staff within the religious organization of The Salvation Army.”
As stated, Deras perpetrated unpermitted, harmful and offensive sexual abuse upon Doe, and the Salvation Army defendants “ratified and/or approved of that sexual abuse,” the complaint continues.
The lawsuit says Deras’ conduct, as described in the complaint, was undertaken, authorized, and/or ratified by The Salvation Army defendants.
According to Doe, they ignored “obvious” signs that Deras was engaged in an inappropriate and abusive relationship with her. They continued to employ him and failed to supervise Doe, consciously disregarding her safety.
This is the second time in recent weeks that sexual abuse allegations include a Salvation Army leader. As MinistryWatch reported last week, a Salvation Army pastor in Chicago now faces three felony charges of sexual abuse of a minor.
In November, MinistryWatch also reported on Jeffery Williams, a youth pastor under the Intermountain Division of the Salvation Army investigated for inappropriate communication between himself and a minor attending his youth group.
Doe seeks unspecified damages, including court costs, according to proof at trial.
This piece originally appeared at MinistryWatch.
Jessica Eturralde is a military wife of 18 years and mother of three who serves as a freelance writer, TV host, and filmmaker. Bylines include Yahoo, Huffington Post, OC16TV.
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