LOS ANGELES — As a film producer, Aimee Galicia-Torres’ job is to tell a story.
But on this day, facing the media with her lawyers from Jeff Anderson and Associates — the hardest story to tell was her own.
She recounted how she was only eight years old when a Filipino priest, who was also a family friend, began molesting her for four horrific years at her aunt’s house.
The 34-year-old Filipina sued the Archdiocese of Los Angeles in what is believed to be the first civil suit against the country’s largest Catholic diocese. California passed a law last month that extends the statute of limitations for child abuse survivors.
According to the suit, the L.A.’s archdiocese was negligent in the hiring and supervision of Galicia-Torres’ alleged abuser – Father Honesto Bismonte, and that there could have been a coverup when church leaders knew about his actions.
Galicia Torres said that by speaking up – she felt a sense of hope she hasn’t felt in a long time.
“I felt like a huge weight was lifted off me. Finally, my voice was being heard,” said Aimee Galicia-Torres, plaintiff.
“I want him my abuser to know I’m the one doing this to him. I want to take back my power that I lost when he abused me.”
Ordained in the Philippines in 1954, Bismonte came to California in 1981 and served in churches in Los Angeles, Gardena and Pomona.
In 2002, Bismonte was removed from the ministry after being arrested and charged with molesting two young girls more than 50 times.
He pleaded guilty to misdemeanor battery and ended up serving two years of informal probation.
According to the updated 2018 Archdiocese Report to the People of God that lists priests who had been publicly accused of sexual abuse, the 90-year old Bismonte has been retired with no faculties to minister.
While the lawsuit does not specify any dollar amount, this Filipina wants answers.
“Why was he allowed to transfer from the Philippines knowing that he had some sort of relationship with some underage kid I want to know how he was transferred from the Philippines to the United States, how many people knew about it and how and if this could’ve been prevented.”
While many crimes had gone unanswered due to statutes of limitation, a recent law has given victims like Aimee a chance to seek justice even decades after the alleged abuse.
The California’s Child Victims Act, extends the statute of limitations — allowing more sexual abuse survivors to come forward with lawsuits.
“The California children’s victims act gives me another chance at justice as a Filipino American I want to encourage Filipinos to come forward to stop sweeping things under the rug. Stop putting these priests on pedestals, and stop making them feel their above the law because they’re not. I ask all survivors be given the chance to have their story heard without the fear of judgment guilt or shame.”
In a statement, the Archdiocese of LA said it was not yet aware of the lawsuit filed against them — however, they reiterated they took appropriate actions against Bismonte after his 2002 molestation case.
The Archdiocese also stressed that Bismonte remains out of the ministry and is now living privately in an assisted living facility.