Headline: AIDS Victim Allegedly Infected by Priest Sues for Sexual Abuse : First Such Case Ever Publicly Filed in America
September 7, 1993
An HIV positive man filed suit today against a Catholic priest who allegedly molested him at age 15 and later infected him with the deadly virus.
"This sexual abuse has shattered and will shorten my life," said the plaintiff, Thomas Perea of Boulder, Colo. "I'll do anything I can to prevent others from being hurt too."
Perea alleges that Father Delbert Blong of Lakewood, Colo., knowingly transmitted the HIV virus to him through unprotected sexual contact. Perea also alleges that two of Blong's lovers have died of AIDS and that two others are HIV positive.
The lawsuit charges Bishop Arthur Tafoya of the Pueblo Diocese with negligence since church officials "knew or should have known of Father Blong's dangerous and exploitative propensities ..." The civil complaint, set in Boulder County District Court, seeks a jury trial and monetary damages.
Blong was able to manipulate Perea, according to the suit, because the youngster had a "deep sense of insecurity (and) low self esteem," and because Perea had been raised to have "trust, reverence, admiration and esteem" for priests. The abuse allegedly began during a counseling session in 1971 when Perea was an eighth grade student and occurred "regularly and repeatedly until approximately November of 1992." Perea said the molestation took place on trips and in rectories in both Colorado and New Mexico.
"It is tragic but not uncommon for childhood sexual abuse to continue into adult years, especially when the perpetrator is a trusted authority figure,"
said one of Perea's attorneys, Jeffrey Anderson of St. Paul, Minn. The lawsuit claims Perea did not discover he had been a victim of sexual abuse until recently.
Perea, a substitute teacher in the Boulder public schools, is now 37 and acknowledges he is gay. He detailed his accusations and fielded questions today during a press conference in Denver organized by the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP), a Chicago-based support group for individuals molested by Catholic clergy.
Anderson currently represents over 200 victims of clergy sexual abuse. Perea is also represented by Scott Lasher of Boulder, who represents HIV/AIDS victims, and Bruce Pasternack of Albuquerque, who has charged several New Mexico Catholic officials with covering up for abusive priests.
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