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Survivor Speaks Out About Alleged Sexual Abuse By Priest Who Still Works In The Valley

Another priest in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno has been accused of sexual abuse and currently works at a church in Reedley.


At a press conference Monday, 52-year-old Sylvia Gomez Ray spoke about the alleged abuse she experienced as a teenager while working at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Bakersfield. She claims Msgr. John Esquivel sexually assaulted her after he groomed and recruited her to work as the church's secretary.


Gomez Ray has just filed a report with the Attorney General’s office and said she wants to let other victims know “you are not alone. You do not have to continue to suffer in silence," according to a press release from theSurvivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, or SNAP. According to the release, four other survivors have also contacted SNAP alleging Esquivel sexually abused them.


Esquivel currently works at St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in Reedley, according to the church’swebsite.The website says he’s worked there since 2007. Church staff said he was not available for comment.


Esquivel was not named in areport released two weeks ago by Jeff Anderson and Associates, that lists the names of 43 priests within the Fresno diocese who have been publically accused of sexual abuse. SNAP also released its ownlist of accused priests in May and Esquivel was not named.


The Diocese of Fresno said in a press release this afternoon that the only information it currently has about these allegations comes from the media advisory SNAP released today. The diocese said it will follow its policy to report all sexual abuse allegations regarding a minor and contact the Bakersfield Police Department today. The matter will also be added to the the agenda of the Diocesan Review Board that is meeting this afternoon. The Bishop of the Diocese of Fresno, Joseph V. Brennan, said the diocese will fully cooperate with law enforcement’s investigation. 


The Fresno diocese has come under fire recently asmore reports of sexual abuse continue to come to light.


Father Eric Swearingen was put onpaid leave June 5, 2019 after the report by Jeff Anderson and Associates was released. According to the report, Swearingen continued to work at churches in Visalia after a jury found him guilty of sexual misconduct in 2006. The civil case ended in a mistrial because the jury did not find the Fresno diocese guilty of any wrongdoing. The case was settled out of court in a binding arbitration and the settlement remains unknown.


Msgr. Craig Harrison of St. Francis Church in Bakersfield was put on leave in April following reports of sexual abuse. Father Miguel Flores of St. Joseph’s in Bakersfield was put on leave in March following allegations of sexual abuse.


This story will be updated.

Monica Velez was a reporter at Valley Public Radio. She started out as a print reporter covering health issues in Merced County at the Merced Sun-Star.