Clergy Abuse Lawyer
Clergy abuse survivors have been impacted in many different aspects of their life. The law allows victims of sexual abuse to recover compensation via a lawsuit against the Church to ensure all at fault for damages are held accountable.
All lawyers at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers are committed to maximizing the recovery for each clergy sexual abuse victim. Call our attorneys for a free consultation to discuss your legal options in a strictly confidential setting.
Money damages in a clergy sexual abuse case are similar to other personal injury cases and include economic and non-economic damages. In many cases, punitive damages may also be eligible because those in charge turned a blind eye and never stepped forward to protect survivors.
Examples of these damages may include:
- Therapy and counseling expenses, current and future treatment
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- Lost wages
- Loss of normal life
A Sexual Abuse Lawyer Can Help Clergy Sexual Abuse Survivors Get Justice
Statistics can never do justice to describe the scope of sexual abuse cases plaguing the Catholic Church for decades.
In 2002, the Boston Globe began its groundbreaking reporting on the topic, becoming the basis for the movie Spotlight.
It generated much attention devoted to not only the clergy child sexual abuse. The report shows how very high levels of the church institutions looked the other way while the clergy sex abuse happened.
Now, the Church is being called to account legally for its gross errors in failing to deal with this childhood sexual abuse epidemic as it was happening by the accused priests. States are making it easier to take legal action against the Church, causing an inundation of clergy sexual abuse lawsuits.
Child Sexual Abuse is Pervasive in the Religious Organizations
After some of the initial sexual molestation and sexual exploitation reports began to emerge, the Church officials commissioned a study to learn the problem's scope. The John Jay Report found that there were over 11,000 allegations that were made against over 4,000 accused priests.
The results of the Jay Report merely scratched the surface of the potential instances of clergy sexual abuse out there. In 2018, a Pennsylvania grand jury issued its report that just studied Pennsylvania.
The report revealed over 1,000 identifiable clergy abuse victims in the state, and there were likely thousands of additional victims who had not yet come forward.
There have been reported episodes of clergy sexual abuse involving:
- Attempted rape
- Serial rape
- Gang rape
- Indecent actions, including stimulation, humiliation, and sexual satisfaction
- Extortion requires individuals to perform inappropriate sexual activities
- Sexual harassment
- Publishing photographs, recordings, or videos of degrading or humiliating sexual activity without the victim's consent
- Sharing pornography with a minor
- A harasser's sexual remarks or propositions
Legal Theories Under Which the Church Leaders Can Be Liable for Abuse
Many survivors may now seek compensation from the Church because Catholic clergy operates as representatives of the Church in their duties. Numerous legal theories under which a clergy abuse and sexual misconduct victim can recover from the Church.
Here are a few theories that could be used in a child sex abuse lawsuit:
- Clergy members might be liable for an employee's misdeeds because they act as employer agents.
- The Church failed to act on credibly accused clergy of childhood sexual abuse against specific priests, either leaving them in their roles or moving them to another diocese to make the problem go away in the short term.
- An employer who knew or could have known of the possibility of wrongdoing and abuse within the Church, but did not investigate, could be held legally responsible.
There have been numerous findings and some indictments detailing the scope of the Church's failure to do anything about this problem despite years of evidence and new accusations made by survivors of clergy abuse.
The indictments involving clergy abuse victims have reached the highest level of the Church as many senior priests are alleged to have actively participated in a coverup of clergy sexual abuse claims.
Damages in Childhood Sexual Abuse Cases
Clergy abuse survivors have been impacted in many different aspects of their life. The law allows victims of sexual abuse to recover compensation via a civil lawsuit against the Church.
Damages in a clergy sexual abuse case are similar to other civil action cases and include economic and non-economic damages. In many jurisdictions, punitive damages are a legal remedy to resolve a claim for a victim who seeks justice.
Money damages involving a sexually abused victim may include payment for:
- Therapy, counseling, and medical expenses, current, and future treatment
- Pain and suffering for deep wounds that create emotional problems for decades
- Mental anguish
- Lost wages
- Loss of normal life
The Statute of Limitations in Clergy Sexual Abuse Civil Legal Actions
The time for bringing a civil lawsuit is governed by time constraints known as the statute of limitations. Lawsuits must be filed within this timeframe, or the sexual abuse claim will be forever barred.
The statute of limitations in a clergy sexual abuse case varies drastically based on the jurisdiction of the abuse.
Many victims of sexual abuse may be repressing their abuse. In response, some states have extended the statute to allow a victim to bring civil legal action years after the incident occurred.
What to Do If My Clergy Sexual Abuse Case Happened Years Ago
As the reports of widespread sexual abuse began to pour in after increased media attention, states realized that their current laws restricted clergy sexual abuse survivors' rights and have now started to change their laws. It was unjust that a victim must file a lawsuit within a short time after the sexual abuse or even in a limited amount of time as an adult.
However, many people either have blocked out the memory of their trauma or were too afraid when they were younger. Until the past two decades, many who experienced sexual abuse were not believed and did not come forward.
Recognizing that, states began to waive or lengthen the statute of limitation in clergy sexual abuse cases. Changes made by individual states in response to growing reports of widespread sexual molestation include:
- In 2013, Illinois' governor signed a bill removing relevant statutes of limitations in sex molestation cases. Now, clergy abuse survivors can bring a lawsuit at any time, regardless of how long ago the abuse allegedly occurred.
- New York and New Jersey passed laws extending the age until sexual abuse survivors can file a claim to fifty-five years old.
- California now gives victims until forty-five years after discovering previous sexual molestation to file a lawsuit.
- Texas recently expanded its statute of limitations in child sexual molestation civil suits against the abusive religious leader and institution until thirty years after the victim's 18th birthday.
Other states have now given abused survivors a seven-year window in which the time limitations are temporarily waived to allow them to file lawsuits. However, the waiver will expire at a certain point, so victims must file lawsuits now.
Some experts have estimated that the change in states' statutes of limitations might subject the Catholic Church to approximately $4-5 billion of additional liability.
What Would Happen Should a Diocese Declare Bankruptcy
Declaring bankruptcy does not allow the Church to escape responsibility for what they failed to protect children from priests' actions.
Several dioceses have declared bankruptcy due to the crushing burden of legal liability that they might face due to the massive amounts of abuse victims. However, a child sex abuse victim can still receive financial compensation.
Clergy sexual abuse lawsuits that have already been brought against the Church and have been settled and paid are not affected. However, the bankruptcy process impacts civil claims or those that will be filed in the future.
Suing for Abuse at the Hands of the Roman Catholic Church
The diocese where the sexual molestation occurred would be financially responsible for the actions of the Catholic priest.
The Catholic Church is not a monolithic organization. In other words, there is not one overall religious organization to sue for sexual molestation. Instead, A bishop oversees each church's jurisdiction (diocese).
Every diocese is a separate and distinct organization. The diocese holds assets and debts in its name. Even if the abuse occurred within a particular parish, the diocese would have been responsible for supervising the priest.
In most clergy sex abuse lawsuits, it would make sense to sue the diocese instead of the individual priest who committed the abuse. Many accused Catholic priests died years ago.
Clergy Sexual Abuse FAQs
Below are some frequently asked questions raised by people who have been victims of abuse by a member of religious organizations. Should you have additional questions, we encourage you to contact our law firm, and we can address further questions or concerns you have regarding your potential legal action.
Our clergy sexual abuse attorneys have assisted many survivors in seeking justice and can do the same for you.
How Many Catholic Priests Have Been Accused of Child Sex Abuse?
A study completed by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice revealed that nearly 4,400 Catholic religious leaders sexually assaulted more than 10,000 underage minors over seven decades. According to an NBC news report, almost 1,700 Roman Catholic religious leaders facing accusations of sexual assault are not currently supervised.
How Much Has the Roman Catholic Church Paid to Childhood Sexual Abuse Victims?
By 2019, the Church had paid over $4 billion in negotiated settlements, jury awards, and legal fees to survivors of clergy misconduct.
What Is the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests?
Advocates established the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) as a support group for child abuse survivors to aid the healing process. The organization’s founding President, Barbara Blaine, started the group to educate and support clergy sex abuse victims.
Will I Need to Face My Abuser in Court if I File a Clergy Abuse Claim?
You'll unlikely confront your abuser in court if you file a clergy sexual abuse claim or if they are involved in a criminal case. Many sex abuse claims get resolved out-of-court without needing to file a lawsuit.
What If My Abuser is in Jail?
Thankfully, law enforcement officials are stepping forward to prosecute many sexual molestations, assault, and abuse episodes. Many priests with allegations of sexual misconduct are held accountable in a criminal case or serve time in jail.
Were You Sexually Abused by Someone Associated with the Catholic Church or Another Religious Organization? Hire a Clergy Sex Abuse Lawyer Now
No matter how long ago your sexual molestation occurred, you might still be able to seek accountability for your childhood sexual abuse in financial compensation.
Throughout the decades of sexual misconduct, the Church cannot escape liability for the culpability that thousands of priests subjected survivors of clergy sex abuse. Most leaders have failed to prevent clergy sexual abuse in their organizations.
Each clergy abuse lawyer at Rosenfeld Personal Injury Lawyers is committed to your case. We recognize that sexual assault survivors face many issues when holding their abusers accountable.
Our law firm handles civil claims against predators and religious groups to help guide survivors toward the legal remedies, money damages, and other relief they deserve. Contact our law firm today to schedule your initial free, confidential case evaluation to discuss legal options.
Contact our law firm today at (888) 424-5757 (toll-free phone call) or through the contact form to schedule a free no-obligation consultation in our first meeting. We provide every potential new client with a confidential case evaluation.
All discussions with our legal team are handled in a confidential consultation through an attorney-client relationship.
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