|Abuse Victim Speaks Publicly
By Yvette Cabrera
The Orange County Register
July 24, 2007
Looking back on his life, there are certain things that Richard L.Gomez would have done differently.
Had he spoken up as a young boy about the abuse he alleges he suffered at the hands of a Placentia Catholic priest, maybe he could have sought help. Maybe his life would have turned out differently in so many ways.
The "what ifs" haunt him today and it's one reason why he's speaking out publicly for the first time about the sexual abuse he says he endured as a young altar boy at the hands of a Saint Joseph Church priest, the late Father Eleuterio Ramos.
Gomez is one of 508 people who will receive part of the $660 million settlement with the Los Angeles Catholic Archdiocese that was reached last week as part of a sexual abuse lawsuit. He was also part of the group of plaintiffs who won a $100 million sexual-abuse settlement from the Diocese of Orange in 2004, and was personally awarded $1.6 million.
"There are kids out there, a lot of kids out there who still go through this," Gomez, 44, tells me as we sit in his Tustin home. "Hopefully they can understand that it's not their fault and speak now before they go through what I've been through."
Before the abuse began, Gomez's future was as promising as any other young boy's.
As a teen growing up in Placentia, Gomez was close to the police officers who patrolled his neighborhood and he dreamed of being just like them. But at the age of 18, Gomez found himself on the other side of the patrol car's bullet proof divider. He was arrested and sent to jail for petty theft and pleaded guilty to stealing gasoline from a Placentia gas station.
That arrest was followed by a string of crimes, mainly grand theft crimes, but also one felony assault with a deadly weapon for stabbing a man in prison. Gomez isn't proud of any of this, but it is part of his past and he wants to be up front, he tells me.
The fact is most of his adult life has been spent behind bars, he says, ticking off his record, which includes four lock-ups in California state prisons.
Throughout all of this time, Gomez remained silent about the abuse that had set his life spiraling out of control. Both of his parents died without knowing that the family's beloved priest, the burly, bearded Father Ramos who would visit for dinner, New Year's Day and Christmas – had molested Gomez starting at the age of 13.
Documents from the Diocese of Orange show that as early as 1975, the church had received complaints about Ramos' sexual misconduct with young boys. Although he received psychotherapy, and was even treated at the St. Luke's Institute, a Maryland facility known for treating pedophile priests, Ramos was not reported to law enforcement and continued to serve in Orange County parishes up until 1985. Ramos died in 2004.
"We just hear the most horrific stories - that reports were given to the priests and absolutely nothing happened to the perpetrators," says Irvine attorney Katherine Freberg, who is representing Gomez and a total of 109 clients in the Los Angeles archdiocese settlement.
Gomez met Ramos soon after the priest arrived at Saint Joseph in 1975, and it was after Ramos invited Gomez to be an altar boy that the abuse began, says Gomez.
Ramos first fondled him inside a darkened movie theater as they watched a rated R movie, but the abuse escalated over time. In the church rectory, he'd give the altar boys alcohol, pornography magazines and marijuana, even going so far as to seal the vents to conceal the odor, says Gomez.
Gomez says most of the sexual abuse occurred in the rectory, but that Ramos also took the altar boys to a motel in Orange, where once he forced Gomez to watch as Ramos had sex with another boy.
"He'd threaten to keep my mom out of church. He would hit me in the chest, and say 'If you go home and say anything, I will kick your mom out,'" says Gomez. "My mom sensed something was wrong with me, but she never put it together that it had something to do with Ramos."
Then in 2003, he read a Register article about a sex-abuse victim turned lawyer Ryan DiMaria, and sought a meeting with him. He learned that there were other sexual abuse victims and says he immediately felt a sense of relief.
Gomez says he's always blamed himself for how his life turned out, never realizing that the root cause of his anger was the sexual abuse. Through ongoing therapy, he's learned to understand that his life isn't over, but admits that healing and starting anew has been difficult.
"I'm 44 now, it's like man, where do I start," says Gomez, who hopes to start his own business with the settlement he receives from the Los Angeles Archdiocese.
As he rebuilds his life, Gomez believes the most important thing he can do is to reveal his story so that no child makes the same mistake he did by remaining silent.
"I don't want to say I can blame this (abuse) for all that's happened in my life, but at least by talking about it, it's a stepping stone to say it's OK now, let's start now," says Gomez. "And that's what I'm trying to do."
Contact the writer: Contact the writer at email@example.com or 714-796-3649
Any original material on these pages is copyright © BishopAccountability.org 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.