News & Headlines

Elgin resident to be featured in TLC documentary on child sex abuse

Daily Herald. August 7, 2015 "Erin Merryn has encouraged schools to educate students on child sexual abuse for more than five years, and now she'll be featured in a TLC documentary on the topic set to air Aug. 31." CLICK HERE to read full article.

Jehovah’s Witnesses covered up child sex abuse dating back to 1950s July29, 2015 "On Monday, a national inquiry held in Sydney revealed more than 1000 allegations of child sexual abuse in churches around Australia were covered up by generations of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The royal commission heard from church elder Max Horley, who admitted that as a member of the Jehovah’s Witness congregation in Narrogin, WA, during the 1980s, he witnessed notes from victims being destroyed to prevent them from “falling into the wrong hands”. CLICK HERE to read full article.

UC Berkeley sued for allegedly failing to properly respond to sexual assault complaints

Los Angeles Times. June 29, 2015 Three current and former UC Berkeley students sued the University of California on Monday for allegedly failing to properly respond to their sexual assault complaints, asserting that administrators did not act quickly enough or adequately penalize perpetrators found responsible. The civil lawsuit, filed in Alameda County Superior Court, accused UC regents of "deliberate indifference" in three 2012 cases, sex discrimination, fraud and failure to properly educate students about sexual misconduct and enact policies to handle and prevent such behavior. CLICK HERE to read full article.

3 Cal Students Sue University Following Sexual Assaults

Fox 2 News June 29, 2015 BERKELEY, Calif. (KTVU) - Three University of California female students who say they were sexually assaulted, are suing the university because they claim the administration failed to adequately investigate their complaints or protect them. Click Here for Link to Video of Coverage. KTVU -

The Zalkin Law Firm Files Civil Lawsuit Against The Assembly of God Church

CLICK HERE to read the full press release and see the complaint filed on behalf of a victim of childhood sexual abuse while she was a member of the Assembly of God church in Lancaster, CA. First-Assembly-of-God-Lancaster

Childhood Sexual Abuse Lawsuit filed against Lancaster church

Antelope Valley Times. June 9, 2015 LANCASTER – A childhood sexual abuse civil lawsuit against an Assembly of God church in Lancaster claims a female was repeatedly sexually abused by a youth group leader, and church officials became aware of the abuse but failed to report it to law enforcement. The lawsuit was filed this week in the Los Angeles Superior Court on behalf of Leonor Vasquez, who was a minor at the time of the sexual abuse alleged in the complaint, according to attorneys for the Zalkin Law Firm who held a news conference Tuesday. CLICK HERE to read article. First-Assembly-of-God-Lancaster

Child sex abuse survey confirms, reveals problems

Tallahassee Democrat. June 3, 2015 "One in three Florida women and one in five men say they’ve been sexually abused before the age of 18. That’s according to a recent Internet survey of more than 1,000 Floridians, conducted by Sachs Media Group for the Lauren’s Kids foundation. Those who conducted the poll say it both supports common perceptions about child sexual abuse and indicates that barriers exist to reporting such crimes." Click Here to read article.

Bill Would Give Sex Abuse Victims 20 More Years to Sue

Philadelphia Magazine. April 7, 2015 “It often takes victims of sexual abuse years or decades to have the courage to share their traumatic experiences,” Teplitz said in a prepared statement. “This bill would allow victims to seek justice and have their day in court.” Click Here to Read Full Article

Finding Justice for Victims of Campus Sexual Assault

By: Alex Zalkin, Esq. The Zalkin Law FirmZalkin AlexIMG 1276 4x5

There is a growing national spotlight on the issue of sexual assault on our college campuses. Research findings about the scope of the problem vary widely, with findings ranging from 3% to 17% to as many as 20% of women in college will be victims of some form of sexual assault.

While these statistics alone are staggering enough, there is an equal or possibly even more egregious reality relating to the way our nation’s colleges and universities respond to these sexual assaults. All too often, university administrators fail to adequately address claims of sexual assault on campus, and even actively discourage sexual assault victims from pursuing any recourse for their victimization.

This issue of campus sexual assault has been highlighted for the public by brave victims coming forward and by the new film, The Hunting Ground”, showing this weekend at both the Hillcrest Landmark Theater and AMC La Jolla 12. The film follows the plights of two sexual assault victims who were denied justice and accountability by their own school’s disciplinary process, and ultimately sought recourse through an administrative Title IX complaint with the Department of Education. This film expands on the growing national awareness of this issue.

Only last September, President Obama launched the “It’s On Us” campaign to end sexual assault on campus. Lady Gaga released “Till It Happens To You,” an emotional ode to the psychological effects resulting from a sexual assault. Thankfully, this growing national concern has led to efforts to correct the inadequacies of the status quo among universities and their attitudes towards campus sexual assault.

This failure of colleges to recognize this problem and to support victims who step forward to report has led to legislative action both in Congress and in the California legislature. Senator Barbara Boxer, with Congresswoman Susan Davis in the house, has introduced S.2695 - SOS Campus Act, legislation that would require colleges and universities to establish an independent, on-campus advocate to support survivors of sexual assault.  And, last year the California legislature passed and Governor Brown signed SB 967, known as the "yes means yes" law, that was the first in the nation to make affirmative consent language a central tenant of school sexual assault policies. The law also changes how campus officials investigate sexual assault allegations.

Since 1990, The Clery Act has required universities to publicly report campus crime statistics, including statistics on sexually violent crimes. The unintended consequence of this requirement has been to incentivize universities to engage in behavior that actively discourages sexual assault victims from reporting their crimes. College administrators frequently fail to investigate claims, discourage victims from reporting their sexual assaults to the police, and allow perpetrators to remain on campus with little or no restrictions. The motive for their inaction is clear – the less they do to verify a credible claim of sexual assault, the less likely they will be to have to publicly report it.

The effect of a school’s negative actions, or inactions, on a victim’s mental health is real and significant. More and more, research is confirming that this “institutional betrayal” creates a second victimization that can exacerbate the psychological effects of the sexual assault itself, and even create new psychological injuries.

A victim of sexual assault who has been ignored by their institution is not without an avenue for recourse, though. There is a path to justice for victims to hold their institutions accountable for their actions and inactions through the use of the administrative and civil processes created by federal statues in Title IX. Known mostly for its impact on college athletics, Title IX also prohibits discrimination based on sex at any educational institution that receives federal funds.

Title IX provides two avenues for victims of sexual assault to hold their school accountable for failing to properly address their complaint of sexual assault. First, a sexual assault victim can file an administrative complaint with the Department of Education. The DOE has the authority to audit an institution, and ultimately, can revoke any federal funding that institution receives.

Lesser known, but equally available, is the private right of action created by Title IX and recognized by the United States Supreme Court in Franklin v. Gwinnett County Public Schools and Davis v. Monroe County Board of Education. Essentially, the Supreme Court acknowledged that Title IX allows victims of sexual assault to sue an educational institution in civil court for money damages resulting from that institution’s “deliberate indifference” to their claim of sexual assault. This is significant, in that it can provide a victim with the resources they need to address the psychological injuries created and exacerbated by their educational institution’s behavior.

Ultimately, it is a combination of victims availing themselves of the administrative and civil avenues created by Title IX, and a growing national awareness that will force educational institutions to stop looking out for the welfare of their institution and start looking out for the safety of the students whom they serve.

Finding Justice For Victims of Campus Sexual Assault

UT San Diego, March 26, 2015. Here is a commentary written by Alex Zalkin about the options available to victims of campus sexual assault to seek justice. CLICK HERE to read Mr. Zalkin's commentary.

Spanish Language TV Coverage of AYSO Lawsuit - Noticias 34

Noticias 34 Los Angeles. March 3, 2014

Sex Abuse Victims Sue AYSO

NBC 4. March 3, 2015 Attorneys representing four sex abuse victims have filed a lawsuit against the American Youth Soccer Organization, claiming the organization failed to protect the victims from a coach who was convicted of molesting more than a dozen children. Kim Baldonado reports for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m.

Kids Molested By Antelope Soccer Coach Sue AYSO

CBS LA News. March 3, 2015 Coverage of Paul Mones and Irwin Zalkin announcing civil lawsuit against American Youth Soccer League (AYSO) on behalf of four childhood sexual abuse victims. Click to see CBS LA News coverage.  

Sex abuse victims accuse soccer organization of failing to protect children

Los Angeles Times. March 3, 2015 A lawsuit against AYSO on behalf of four childhood sex abuse victims was filed today in a Los Angeles court by Attorneys Paul Mones and Irwin Zalkin.  Here is coverage from the LA Times on this lawsuit. “Defendant AYSO knew, or should have known about Valenti’s sexual abuse of minors and/or his sexually deviant propensities prior to the abuse of plaintiffs,” according to the complaint filed by attorneys Paul Mones and Irwin Zalkin, who held a news conference at a hotel adjacent to AYSO headquarters in Torrance to announce its filing Tuesday morning." Click to read article.

Investigation Claims Jehovah Witnesses' Watchtower Is Hiding Child Sexual Abuse Claims

Huffington Post, Feb. 18, 2015 Here is a Huff Post video interview with Trey Bundy of the Center for Investigative Reporting about his investigation of childhood sexual abuse within the Jehovah's Witnesses.  The interview features Irwin Zalin and the Lopez case in San Diego where a church leader admitted in a deposition that there are files on all the child abuse cases within Jehovah's Witnesses. The Watchtower refused to release this files in the Lopez case, which resulted in a $13.5 million judgement for the plaintiff. Click Here to See Video Interview  

Zalkin Law Firm Featured in “Center for Investigative Reporting” Report On Childhood Sexual Abuse In The Jehovah’s Witnesses

In-Depth Report Details “Culture of Secrecy” About Sexual Abuse San Diego, CA, February 16, 2015 – Irwin M. Zalkin of San Diego based Zalkin Law Firm was featured in an in-depth investigative report about childhood sexual abuse in the Jehovah’s Witnesses religion that was issued on Saturday, February 14th by the Center for Investigative Reporting. The report, “Jehovah’s Witnesses use 1st Amendment to hide child sex abuse claims, by investigative reporter Trey Bundy, features an interview with Irwin Zalkin regarding his recent case in San Diego where his client was awarded $13.5 million for damages from sexual abuse that occurred when he was a child member of a Linda Vista Jehovah’s Witnesses congregation in the 1980’s. In that case, the judge's award including $10.5 million in punitive damages based up on the evidence Zalkin presented of deliberate efforts by Watchtower to cover up its tolerance of child sexual abuse, Watchtower's refusal to follow court orders requiring it to turn over decades of child molestation files within its possession, and Watchtower's refusal to make available the longest serving member of the Governing Body of the Jehovah's Witnesses for a deposition to be taken in Brooklyn, New York. The report examines efforts by the Jehovah’s Witnesses to keep records of childhood sexual abuse secret and features depositions taken from Watchtower officials in the Jose Lopez case in San Diego. In the except below, Zalkin’s question during adeposition reveals the culture of secrecy that seeks to keep incidents of abuse within the Jehovah’s Witnesses from being prosecuted:

During Lopez’s trial, Ashe testified that the Watchtower instructs elders that child abuse must be kept confidential.

“And it directs that that should be kept confidential from prosecuting authorities?” Zalkin asked.

“Yes,” Ashe responded.

The Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR) was founded in 1977. CIR is nationally respected for setting the highest journalistic standards, and for its signature approach to investigative reporting and collaboration. CIR partners with numerous media organizations to publish stories online, as well as for print, television, radio/audio, video and live events. With NPR PRX, CIR co-produces the nationally distributed “Reveal” radio show and podcast. “Jehovah’s Witnesses use 1st Amendment to hide child sex abuse claims” was featured nationally on NPR PRX on thirty-seven stations on February 14th. The Zalkin Law Firm now has more 16 cases against the Jehovah’s Witnesses representing victims of childhood sexual abuse at different congregations in California, Oregon, Connecticut, New Mexico, Washington and Ohio. “All of these cases show how Elders within the Jehovah’s Witnesses continue to protect child sex abusers by blindly following the company line,” said Irwin Zalkin, of The Zalkin Law Firm, the co-attorney for the Lewis sisters. “The growing number of these cases in the U.S. and Britain shows a reckless and immoral tolerance of child sexual abuse that is ignored at the highest levels by the Governing Body of the Jehovah’s Witnesses who continue to fight to keep such information secret.” Mr. Zalkin is available for media interviews about the CIR report and this topic. The CIR report is available online at: About The Zalkin Law Firm With offices in San Diego and New York, The Zalkin Law Firm is one of the premier sexual abuse and personal injury law firms in the country. The firm's lawyers have represented hundreds of survivors of childhood sexual abuse and achieved groundbreaking results in numerous high-profile clergy abuse cases across the United States. The Zalkin Law Firm has aggressively represented hundreds of survivors of child sexual abuse, including former Boy Scouts. The firm has negotiated over $200 million in settlements in Catholic clergy sex abuse cases.

Culture Of Secrecy Leaves Door Open For Sex Abuse

February 14, 2014 Irwin Zalkin is interviewed in this in-depth investigative report about childhood sexual abuse in the Jehovah's Witnesses. By the Center for Investigative Reporting. [embed][/embed]

Jehovah’s Witnesses use 1st Amendment to hide child sex abuse claims

The Center for Investigative Reporting February 14, 2015 By, Trey Bundy Irwin Zalkin is interviewed in this in-depth investigative report that details the history of childhood sexual abuse and secrecy in the Jehovah's Witnesses.

"The leadership of the Jehovah’s Witnesses – one of the world’s most insular religions – for 25 years has instructed its elders to keep cases of child sexual abuse secret from law enforcement and members of their own congregations, according to an examination of thousands of pages of documents in recent cases.

The religion’s parent organization, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, issued the directives in at least 10 memos dating back to 1989. Although the memos were anonymously written, Watchtower officials have testified that the organization’s Governing Body approved them all."

Click Here to read full report.

Video of Portland News Conference Dec. 1, 2014

Sex abuse attorney Irwin Zalkin introduced a new case filed in Portland on behalf of two victims of childhood sexual abuse while they were children at the Hillsboro Jehovahs Witnesses Congregation.  Velicia Alston gives her brave statement about why she stepped forward to seek justice.  

Sexual Abuse Victims File Civil Lawsuits Against Oregon Congregation of the Jehovah’s Witnesses and National Organization

Portland, OR, December 1, 2014 – Irwin M. Zalkin of The Zalkin Law Firm and Portland Attorney Kristian Roggendorf, of the Roggendorf Law Firm filed a sexual abuse civil lawsuit today against the North Hillsboro Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, located in Hillsboro, Oregon and the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.  The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Velicia Alston and a second unnamed Plaintiff, John Roe, who were both minor children when their families were active in the Congregation at the time of the alleged abuse. According to the civil complaint, the Plaintiff Velicia Alston was sexually abused as a child by Daniel Castellanos (“Castellanos”) who was a Baptized Publisher and Elder or Ministerial Servant in Hillsboro Congregation.  The complaint alleges that Castellanos sexually abused and molested the plaintiff on multiple occasions when she was approximately 11 or 12 years old.  The civil complaint also includes the allegation that Castellanos sexually abused and molested on multiple occasions a second Plaintiff, John Roe, when he was approximately 8-10 years old. As a result of Castellanos’ sexual abuse, molestation, and breach of trust, the lawsuit alleges that the Plaintiffs suffered and continue to suffer severe and debilitating physical, mental, and emotional injury, including pain and suffering, physical and emotional trauma, and permanent psychological damage distinct from the abuse itself.  The lawsuit asks for damages and future costs for counseling, psychiatric and psychological medical treatment. “We will show that these innocent children had their lives ruined by this Congregational leader and this religious organization, who suppressed its knowledge of a child predator within the Congregation by following the policies imposed by the Governing Body of the Jehovah’s Witnesses to keep such information secret at all cost to avoid scandal and public scrutiny,” said Zalkin. The complaints allege that the defendants named in the case, the Hillsboro Congregation, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc., were negligent in their legal duty to protect the minor children in their care and failed in their duty to prevent the perpetrator, Daniel Castellanos, from sexually molesting children.  The complaint also alleges that the defendants owed a duty to investigate and not employ the perpetrator and failed to conduct a reasonable investigation of the alleged abuse. According to the complaint, the Defendants created a foreseeable risk of Castellanos abusing minor congregants, including Plaintiffs in the following ways:
  •  Failure to report Castellanos to the police;
  •  Failure to train the Jehovah’s Witness Elders and leadership to report to law enforcement allegations of an adult sexually abusing a child;
  •  Failure to screen or exclude Castellanos from contact with children within the Jehovah’s Witness Organization;
  •  Failure to warn Plaintiffs’ parents and parents of similarly situated children of the risk posed by Castellanos after they learned or had reason to learn that he had sexually abused a minor; and
  •  Failure to implement and/or enforce common sense policies to prevent child abuse.
This lawsuit is one of several sexual abuse lawsuits that have been filed in the last year against the Jehovah’s Witnesses by The Zalkin Law Firm. The firm now has similar cases pending in California, Connecticut, New Mexico, Vermont and Ohio.  Recently, the Zalkin Law firm represented a victim of childhood sexual abuse at a San Diego Jehovah’s Witnesses congregation who was awarded $13.5 million in damages in a similar case. Irwin Zalkin expects to be admitted pro hac vice in this case.  About The Zalkin Law Firm With offices in San Diego and New York, The Zalkin Law Firm is one of the leading sexual abuse and personal injury firms in the country.  The firm's lawyers have represented hundreds of survivors of childhood sexual abuse and achieved groundbreaking results in numerous high-profile clergy abuse cases across the United States.  The Zalkin Law Firm has aggressively represented survivors who suffered child sexual abuse and sexual assault while members of religious and other organizations, including the Catholic Church, foster care, Boy Scouts, recovery homes, foreign student exchange programs, colleges and the Jehovah’s Witnesses.  The firm has negotiated over $200 million in settlements for victims in Catholic clergy sex abuse cases. About Kristian Roggendorf For over 14 years, Kristian Roggendorf has been at the forefront of representing victims of child abuse in Oregon.  He has helped define Oregon law through successful trials and appeals in lawsuits against the Boy Scouts, the Catholic Church, the Mormon Church, public school districts, and the Oregon Department of Human Services, among others.  Recently, Mr. Roggendorf made headlines bringing lawsuits against the Archdiocese of Portland for abuse by notorious child molester Fr. Maurice Grammond, and has over 30 reported cases to his credit, including some of the most significant Oregon child abuse decisions over the last 14 years.