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Rhode Island Clergy Sexual Abuse Attorneys

Rhode Island Clergy Sexual Abuse Lawyer

Are you are a former student or a parishioner and have suffered clergy sexual abuse? The personal injury attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC can fight to protect your rights and provide a safe environment to talk about what happened.

Contact us today at (888) 424-5757 (toll-free phone call) or use the contact form to schedule a free consultation about how you can file a personal injury case for your child sex abuse against the religious leaders and the Diocese of Providence, RI.

Rhode Island Catholic Church Sexual Abuse

The Roman Catholic Church in Rhode Island has a history of credible allegations of misconduct against its priests. However, for years, the Church ignored these reports of sexual exploitation by sexually assaulted victims and only transferred the accused clergy members as opposed to reporting them to law enforcement.

Last year, the Rhode Island Legislature made it easier for victims of childhood abuse to file a claim for the suffering that they endured. Previously, the strict case filing time limit laws made it very difficult for those who endured misconduct to file a civil claim against the sexual perpetrator.

Under the new law, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence, Rhode Island could be held accountable in a civil action for the harm that its priests inflicted on youth whose parents entrusted them to the spiritual care of the Church.

Legal Advice on Catholic Child Sexual Abuse

After spending decades avoiding justice, the Catholic Church has begun negotiating financial settlements with many sexual abuse victims who were harmed by their parish priest, deacon, educator, coach, or layperson during their childhood.

Church leaders often went to great lengths to protect sexual perpetrators among the congregation who sexually molested children at church functions, during school hours, and at religious outings including summer camp. The church held many allegations of sexual misconduct against religious abusers from public awareness until a new bill changed Rhode Island law, allowing victims to file new claims against the religious institution and sexual abuse perpetrators.

As a result, many adult sexual abuse survivors have initiated legal claims years after the abuse occurred to seek justice and obtain compensation for mental health treatment for the emotional trauma and physical harm they experienced as children.

To prove a legal, financial compensation case for the child sexual abuse, the plaintiff, or their Rhode Island attorney, must show that it is more probable than not that they experienced inappropriate sexual misconduct at the hands of a priest. A clergy abuse lawyer at our law firm can help you gather the evidence that you need to prove your case.

The Catholic Church in Rhode Island

While Rhode Island’s Catholic congregation is in decline, it does not diminish from the universe of potential plaintiffs who can file an abuse case against the Catholic Church.

As of 2018, there were a total of 321,000 parishioners statewide actively attending mass. Rhode Island has the highest proportion of Catholics in the state in the entire United States.

About 42% of the state’s residents are Catholics, which is a drop of almost 40% since 2000. Nonetheless, Rhode Island is still considered to have the highest proportion of Catholics in the United States and a high incident rate of clergy abuse.

The Providence Diocese manages all parishes in Rhode Island and surrounding areas like Warwick. There are eight deaneries or groupings of parishes across the state. There are 179 parishes and 98 Catholic schools in the state.

Sexual Misconduct Scandals in the Providence Diocese

Like other Catholic dioceses, the Providence Dioceses compiled a list of credibly accused Church employees involved in clergy sexual abuse cases. The list contained dozens of clergy members and diocesan employees.

Many cases involve deceased clergy members. The other priests on the list have been removed from the ministry. However, the sheer size of the list reveals the extensive problem of sexual abuse in the parishes and Catholic schools of Rhode Island. Some of the priests who are still alive are facing a criminal investigation by the attorney general and state prosecutors that may result in criminal charges.

Many childhood victims of sexual abuse who have taken legal action have directly named the former diocesan Bishop in their complaints in state court. The plaintiffs accused the Bishop of a lax approach in dealing with allegations of sexual assault involving child sexual predators.

Like many other dioceses across the country, the diocese did nothing when confronted with credible accusations of childhood sexual abuse. Instead, they simply moved the accused priest to a new parish where they were able to assault more children.

Even the former Bishop Gelineau himself of the diocese himself was accused of molesting a boy at an orphanage in Vermont and trying to drown him. The former Bishop stepped down from his duties in connection with accusations of mismanagement.

Sexual abuse has been endemic in the diocese for decades. State religious leaders had already provided monetary compensation for the priest sex abuse and will likely continue to pay as more legal action cases have been filed.

Portsmouth Abbey School Sexual Allegations

In December 2020, news reports reveal that the sexual abuse lawsuit had been filed against the Portsmouth Abbey Preparatory School and a former teacher after the police had reopened an investigation. On December 1, a female sexual abuse victim filed a civil lawsuit in US District Court against Michael Bowen Smith and the school.

The allegation made by the adult plaintiff stated that the former educator had sexually assaulted her while she was a preparatory school student. The victim alleges that her humanities teacher had sexually abused her between 2012 and 2014, during her sophomore, junior, and senior years at the preparatory school.

The 17-page legal document lists the school as a defendant due to its failure to "take any measures to investigate and put an end to the misconduct and protected young student." The document also revealed that "after the sexual abuse was revealed to the school in 2015, the school allows the perpetrator, Smith, to quietly resigned and characterize the situation as simply being about 'inappropriate emails.'"

Before leaving quietly, Smith had taught humanities at the school for 13 years to both boys and girls. The sexual abuse victim had entered the school on a full scholarship at 13 years of age during her freshman year in 2010.

The lawsuit claims that during the plaintiff's sophomore year, the sexual abuser began "flirting with [her] and eventually introduced sexual banter into their conversations."

Sexual Assault Lawsuits and Settlements

The Diocese was one of the first in the country to face widespread cases over the decades of exploitation and child molestation committed by its priests, deacons, teachers, coaches, and religious leaders. There was a series of childhood sexual abuse claims centered on the actions of ten separate priests and one nun.

After fighting these civil lawsuits for nearly ten years, the Diocese’s lawyers settled a total of 36 civil cases with a $13.5 million settlement. In all, the Diocese of Providence has paid out more than $21 million to settle sexual abuse lawsuits filed against it.

However, this was not the end of the lawsuits for the Providence Diocese. In April 2020, a very disturbing lawsuit was filed against the Providence Diocese alleging that one of its priests trafficked children for sex both in the Providence rectories and in an orphanage in Haiti.

This Providence, RI case of sexual abuse of a minor is only one of many brought to court. The complaint alleges that religious leaders knew of the priest’s action and, instead of turning him into law enforcement, merely gave him a new assignment.

Another sexual abuse survivor filed a lawsuit against the Providence Diocese in October 2019 claiming that he was subject to abuse over a five-year period by a priest. This particular clergy member’s name appeared on the list of credibly accused priests who were a part of the religious order, and he died back in 2008.

In February 2020, the Associated Press reporting the Haiti orphanage child abuse cover-up revealed the sexual injury lawsuit claiming a West Warwick priest said, “pedophilia doesn’t kill anyone.”

The Providence, RI plaintiffs’ attorneys were seeking damages, including pain and suffering, from the diocese, Bishop Tobin, retired Bishop Gelineau, and St. Joseph Parish.

Statute of Limitations in Rhode Island Lawsuits

Like other states, the Rhode Island General Assembly has changed laws to make it easier for victims of child sexual abuse to sue. The state took a somewhat different approach than states such as New York and New Jersey, which instituted a window in which the statute of limitations was waived and sex abuse survivors who were previously barred can now sue with the new time limit. The old law kept many of the victims of sexual abuse during their childhood from suing in their adulthood.

Legislators lengthened the statute of limitations. H5171 & S315 were the bills that accomplished this, and they were signed into law on July 1, 2019. That was the same exact day that religious leaders posted a list of credibly accused priests.

Now, a victim has until thirty-five years after their 18th birthday to file a lawsuit in their case. This allows sexually abused victims more time to sue because many of them are dealing with repressed memories.

However, as of this writing, the Roman Catholic Church is challenging the constitutionality of this statute. They filed a motion to dismiss a civil suit that was filed after Governor Raimondo signed the legislation into law.

The state’s Attorney General is currently defending the statute in this lawsuit and has vigorously claimed that the religious leaders’ legal interpretation is wrong.

The justice system is still considering the motion to dismiss notwithstanding the opposition from the attorney general’s office. However, none of these laws nationwide have been struck down in the Supreme Court.

Damages in a Sexual Assault Case

When you initiate a lawsuit for sexual assault and priest abuse in superior court, your Providence, RI attorney could secure financial compensation to resolve your civil action against the abuser and religious institutions, including:

  • Pain and suffering at the hands of the clergy, including the emotional trauma you experienced then and now
  • The costs of medical and psychological care that you have incurred
  • Lost wages if your trauma has kept you from working or depressed your earning power
  • Loss of enjoyment of life due to your sexual injury
  • Loss of consortium

In addition to reaching a financial settlement, the sexual abuser could be held liable for their past crime that could include rape, sodomy, oral sex, child exploitation, and other inappropriate sexual behavior.

Many cases have ended with the jury finding the sexual predator guilty of a felony. Some religious sexual abusers have pled guilty and others have been convicted to many years in prison for their crimes. Many older priests, deacons and religious leaders charged with sexual misconduct died before ever facing criminal or civil consequences.

Hire Sexual Abuse Lawyers to Resolve a Compensation Case

Call a Rhode Island clergy sexual abuse lawyer today at (888) 424-5757 (toll-free phone call) or fill out the contact form to learn more about filing a clergy sexual abuse case against predator priests and religious leaders.

Our Providence, RI law firm will handle your individual case, on your behalf, to pursue justice for what was done to you months or years ago during your childhood. All information you share about sexual abuse legal claim remains confidential through an attorney-client relationship.

Your child sexual abuse lawyer will handle your clergy abuse case with sensitivity while fighting hard for you to receive the financial compensation that you deserve for your sexual abuse allegations.

Our Providence, RI attorneys understand the trauma that you are dealing with as an abuse survivor. Contact us to set up your free initial consultation for immediate legal advice and discuss obtaining financial compensation to recover your damages.


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