BRISTOL, R.I. (WPRI) — Dozens converged outside the home of a prominent Bristol resident Monday evening after recent reports and a lawsuit accused him of sexual abuse decades ago.
Residents held a peaceful demonstration outside the home of David Barboza in support of alleged sexual assault victims. The accusations against Barboza were first reported by The Boston Globe.
Barboza was a long-serving member of the Bristol Town Council, ending in 2012.
Among the demonstrators was Robert Powers, who said he was sexually abused by Barboza multiple times when he was a child.
“It didn’t take a minute, it didn’t take an hour. It took a long time before coming forward,” Powers said.
Powers claims the abuse began when Barboza was a police officer for the town of Bristol in the 1970s. Barboza is no longer with the department.
Powers says the suppressed memories of abuse were jogged when he saw Barboza in Bristol’s Fourth of July Parade back in 2014. Barboza was named the Grand Marshal that year, the highest honor of the parade.
“The conscious opened up finally, and everything just started flashing back really quick,” Powers recalled.
Barboza has never been convicted of a crime. Powers believes Barboza was never held accountable for his actions. He filed a lawsuit against Barboza back in 2018.
Powers said he shared his story in hopes of helping not only Barboza’s victims, but victims of sexual abuse in general.
Rhode Island State Police Major Timothy Sanzi tells Eyewitness News that just last week, another person came forward claiming to be a victim of Barboza’s and they are currently investigating.
Barboza denied Powers’ allegations when contacted by The Boston Globe, and is fighting the lawsuit in superior court. Eyewitness News attempted to reach out to Barboza and his attorney about the allegations but has yet to hear back.
Joseph DeMelo, who organized Monday evening’s peaceful demonstration, said he hopes gatherings like this one will help provoke change.
“They are not going to hold back anymore,” DeMelo said. “Those days are over, and it’s events like this that are going to open up the eyes to the community and the people who are doing these crimes.”