Oregon: pastor faces rape, abuse charges after women parishioners call him out
Talk about confronting the enemy within! Look what happened at this church:
At least 100 people were gathered for Sunday afternoon prayer at a Northeast Portland church when a woman stood to interrupt the preacher's sermon with some alarming allegations.
Pastor Sergio Alvarizares, she said, had used sweet talk and lavish compliments to draw her into his office, lock the door and make unwanted sexual advances.
Soon, other women rose to make similar accusations. A ruckus erupted, and the pastor tried to shout over them from the pulpit, “That's a lie! That's a lie!”
The accusations resulted in an investigation that ended up with Pastor Sergio Alvarizares, head of Casa del Padre, a nondenominational Spanish-speaking church, being slapped with a 15-count indictment charging him with rape and sexual abuse of six women in his congregation.
Pastor Dan over at Street Prophets has a great post up and makes these thoughtful comments about the strength it took for these women to confront Alvarizares so publicly:
The seriousness of the charges is reflected in the bail set for Alvarizares: $5.8 million, an extraordinary amount considering the deference typically given to clergy. The DA actually wanted to go for $10 million, but the judge rejected that demand. I take this to mean the court believes Alvarizares has both means and motive to flee before his trial.
…So here you have young (all the victims are under 45), vulnerable women in a patriarchal culture and a social context that puts them at a real disadvantage, and they stand up to confront the man they say violated their trust. Call it the Holy Spirit or organizational dynamics if you will, but whatever it is, I hope they find a way to bottle and distribute it around the world.
Pastor Dan also cites an article that provides more insight on how cultural taboos made the confrontation even more remarkable.
Sarah Tofte, a researcher for the group Human Rights Watch who has studied sexual violence, said that immigrant populations are particularly vulnerable due to fear of deportation – all the more so when the perpetrator is an authority figure.
“When it's a pastor, when it's someone you trust, it becomes very difficult to report these things to the police,” Tofte said.
Not only that, but in some Latin-American cultures, there is a “code of silence” about sex crimes that does not change once people cross the border into the United States, said Chuck Goolsby, a Maryland-based activist. Goolsby operates the libertadlatina.com website and newsletter, which is dedicated to heightening awareness of sexual violence in Latin-American communities.