Sacramento Clergy Abuse Attorney
The Catholic Church has been rocked by allegations of sexual abuse committed by its clergy. Allegations that have led to civil lawsuits against the church, and claims that the church protected abusive priests for decades.
Are you the victim of childhood sexual abuse and seeking justice to hold the predator and church legally accountable? At Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC, our personal injury attorneys are legal advocates for sexually abused victims who were harmed by religious leaders and religious institutions.
Call a clergy abuse attorney at (888) 424-5757 (toll-free phone number) or use the contact form to schedule a free consultation. All confidential or sensitive information you share with our legal team remains private through an attorney-client relationship.
Diocese of Sacramento
Many in the congregation at a Roman Catholic Parish are drawn to the Church for spiritual guidance, strong values, and forgiveness. Unfortunately, many priests, permanent deacons, and clergy members use the power of the Catholic Church to harm others through rape, molestation, sodomy, and childhood sexual abuse.
In California, over 700 predatory priests have been identified with credible evidence of sexually molesting innocent children and vulnerable young people. The list of sexual assault incidents has been increasing for decades.
While many of the predator priests have been held legally accountable, most of the clergy abusers were never removed from active ministry or died before they faced any allegations in California or the United States.
In 2019, California, like six other states and Washington DC, extended its statute of limitations to extend the time limit for alleged victims of clergy sexual assault to file civil lawsuits. The CA state legislators passed a bill in October 2019 to extend the time limit to file a clergy abuse claim, and Governor Newsom signed it into law days later.
Within days, many sexually assaulted survivors took immediate legal action to seek financial compensation from their abusers, the Church and Diocese Sacramento Bishop Jaime Soto.
What is Clergy Abuse?
In California, state law identifies clergy sexual abuse as 'psychological and physical harm caused by sexual contact between a member of the clergy and other church personnel, or between a member of the church and a nonmember who has been made vulnerable due to his/her reliance on the church for personal support.'
Types of Abuse
Sexual Contact: Includes kissing, grabbing private parts (buttocks), touching someone's genitals, masturbation, oral sex, and digital penetration.
Sexual Abuse: Includes making a person watch pornography or take part in obscene acts, forcing a person to strip naked in front of others for 'shame,' voyeurism (watching someone undress), masturbating in front of the victim, touching the victim when they are asleep or giving them alcohol or drugs to lower their inhibitions.
Sexual Bribing: includes applying a young child with gifts, cash, or other items of value in exchange for sexual favors or keeping quiet about inappropriate sexual activity.
Child pornography: includes sharing images of child pornography or requiring the child to participate in capturing images of inappropriate sexual behavior, exposure, nudity, or molestation.
Brainwashing: Includes convincing vulnerable victims that sexual activity with the abuser is 'God's will,' that they are the cause of the abuse, they brought everything on themselves, or that they were bad people before becoming involved with church members.
Clergy Abuse Statistics
Statistics show that 1 in every 10 Americans has been the victim of childhood sexual abuse/incest. Studies show clergy-perpetrated sex crimes far outnumber sex crimes committed by all other groups combined.
Religious officials are more likely than members of the clergy to be sexual abusers. Members of the family, athletic coaches, teachers, doctors, ministers, pastors, and rabbis are among those who have been known to sexually assault minors.
According to RAINN, clergy sexual abuse is widespread with over 4,500 allegations reported per year. Most of the molestation perps (68%) are Roman Catholic priests. The most common age group victimized is between 11 and 13 years old.
Of the 310 reported childhood sexual abuse perp, over 80% were male; 60% were ordained ministers; nearly 50% held a bachelor's degree or higher; 28% served in the military before entering the Church, and about 25% were involved with youth programs.
The highest numbers of reported molestation complaints are for Catholic grade schools, followed by high schools. From 1941 to 2017, there have been over 17,000 reports of priests accused of sexual misconduct in the US alone.
Today, every ordained minister must complete a thorough background check, fingerprinting, and regular follow-up screenings to ensure they are living up to their promises.
Why Clergy Sexual Misconduct?
There is no single explanation for why sexual abuse happens in the Diocese of Sacramento. Causes of clergy sexual misconduct include:
- Anti-social personality disorder
- Narcissistic personality disorder
- Poor impulse control
- Lack of empathy for others
- Inability to take responsibility for one's own actions
- Overly rigid religious training or upbringing
- Strict obedience to authority figures
- Peer pressure encouraging disrespect toward women and children
- The sexualization of religion in society
- Psychological needs to feel powerful and unconditionally loved by God
The Roman Catholic Church Cover-Up
For decades, Roman Catholic Church leaders have covered up allegations of sexual misconduct among priests, clergy members, brothers, sisters, nuns, coaches, teachers, and laypersons.
The church ignored clergy abuse claims, destroyed evidence of the abuse, sent the victims away without treatment, or, in some cases involving sexual abuse, reassigned abusers to other parishes. These abhorrent actions by the Catholic Church have created a culture of secrecy and enabled sexual predators to continue their abuse.
For decades, the Vatican kept detailed records on sexual predators but did not report them to law enforcement. Instead, they allowed thousands of priests accused of molesting children to resign and quietly seek out new jobs in other churches.
The Catholic Church has paid over $3 billion since 1950 to settle sexual molestation claims with thousands of victims. Since the 1980s, more than 16,000 survivors of sexual abuse have filed accusations against priests in U.S., Canada, Ireland, Italy, Germany, and Australia.
From 2001-2010, U.S. bishops paid $572 million to sex abuse victims and their families, according to a report by the National Catholic Reporter (2011).
In 2017, Pope Francis released a letter detailing sexual abuse in the church, but only 1 of every 10 child sexual abuse cases were reported between 2001 and 2016, and about 5% of priests were responsible for over 50% of abuse cases. The real number is actually much higher as many victims choose not to report the crimes.
What Victims Can Do
Victims/survivors can be offered a medical exam, individual and group counseling sessions, medication for depression or anxiety, and help with legal proceedings and financial support.
Victims/survivors are also encouraged to report the crimes to law enforcement and to seek legal action against their abusers.
It's unfortunate that many victims don't report sexual abuse until decades later when they have become adults with families of their own. Unfortunately, it is still all too common for offenders to deny or minimize their actions or for parents to shield their children from reporting the abuse.
In most cases, abusers are never punished for their crimes or held accountable in any way, and they have no reason to stop offending.
Unfortunately, this tragic phenomenon will continue unless law enforcement, people in power, and society as a whole work together to stop sexual predators before another generation of children is harmed.
Clergy Sex Abuse Statistics in California
The United States Department of Justice, National Crime Victimization Survey revealed that over 300,000 children are victims of clergy sex abuse each year.
- The California Penal Code states that sexual assault includes penetration, oral copulation, lewd or lascivious acts upon a child or minor under 14 years old. The law extends to penetration with objects and penetration with a body part or foreign object.
- The California Penal Code states that the state of California does not require physical resistance on the part of a child as proof for clergy abuse. The law requires only proof of coercion, intimidation, threats, and/or duress.
- The Judicial Council of California Criminal Jury Instructions state that rape can include any form of nonconsensual sexual assault, including penetration by a foreign object. Penalties for clergy abuse can include one year in county jail or up to eight years in prison.
- The California Penal Code states that if any person who has attained the age of 18 willfully and unlawfully engages in sexual intercourse with a child under the age of 14, he/she is guilty of either a misdemeanor or felony, and will be punished by imprisonment for 3, 6 or 8 years to life in state prison.
- The California Penal Code states that if an adult over the age of 21 engages in sexual intercourse with anyone under the age of 16, he/she can be imprisoned 4, 6, or 8 years and/or fined up to $10,000.
- The California Penal Code states that if any person engages in oral copulation or sexual penetration with a child under the age of 14, he/she can be imprisoned for 5, 8, or 10 years and/or fined up to $50,000.
California Child Victims Act
For years, the California state legislature has been working on extending the time frame (neglecting the statute of limitations) on how long a victim can file civil litigation against a sexual predator and others for abuse.
The latest update to the California law in 2020 will include all victims of child sexual abuse.
Prior to 2020, California law included the following provisions:
- A victim has until age 26 to file a civil lawsuit. The victim can file against his assailant, anyone who aided or abetted in the attack, or any person or organization that negligently supervised or controlled the assailant(s).
- The California Penal Code § 803.5 states that in the civil action, clergy abuse victims are entitled to 'the same remedies as are available in an action against a person liable for assault and battery.'
- Excluded from the legal provision is any identified public entity, which includes cities, counties, districts, authorities, special districts, and schools.
- In 2018, the California state legislature agreed on a new law that extends the statute of limitations from age 26 to 40 years old. Child victims can file a civil claim until their 48th birthday under this new provision.
Child Abusers Often Have Multiple Victims
An advertising campaign in 2010 by the Riverside County District Attorney's Office revealed that child abusers often have multiple victims.
'Many child molesters test boundaries by sexually abusing children close to them, such as family members or other children in the community,' reads the advertisement. 'If they are not stopped, they may go on to molest more kids.'
Even though this is true for many sexual predators who abuse their family members, child molesters/abusers are not always family members. Children can be molested by teachers, coaches, scout leaders, daycare providers, Boy Scout volunteers, religious leaders (clergy), health care professionals (i.e., nurses and doctors), etc.
The Riverside County District Attorney's Office created the campaign to help identify potential sexual predators and protect children in the community.
Today's Sex Offender Registry
California both maintains its own registry and participates in the National Sex Offender Registry. It has one of the most comprehensive sex offender registries in the country, allowing members of the public to search by zip code or an offender's name.
It is important to note, however, that most sexual predators do not have a prior criminal record. In many cases, even though there was an allegation, there is never an investigation into sexual abuse carried out by the clergy member. They are often able to fly under the radar and target children in their own community before being caught.
Sacramento Diocese Clergy Abuse Attorney
Every sexual abuse survivor deserves to have their story heard. A compassionate Sacramento clergy abuse lawyer from Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC is here to listen in a confidential setting. Let us provide legal advice and counseling on how best to proceed to resolve your case successfully.
With our years of experience, we have handled all types of clergy abuse cases involving religious leaders, health care providers, youth organizations, sports groups, the Boy Scouts, academies, and schools, and can handle your case too.
Why Victims Are Filing Childhood Sexual Abuse Lawsuits
Sexually assaulting an innocent victim is a horrible crime that often leaves the survivor with emotional scars and physical injury. The consequences and lifelong burden carried by the abused can last a lifetime. Sometimes, the journey to full recovery and healing of all the emotional and physical pain can be overwhelming. Victims are often left broken, not knowing where to turn for help.
The California Legislature recently reformed the statute of limitation laws on filing a claim for allegations of abuse.
Taking legal action now ensures that the predator is held responsible for the harm they did, and Church church leaders and the priest’s religious order are held accountable for the cover-up. Many survivors now realize that they can move forward and put the past behind them once they file suit and start the litigation process.
Each sexual abuse lawyer on our legal team understands that failure to protect any victim of clergy abuse is reprehensible. We use California law to ensure that the religious organization, predator, church leaders, and all those involved in the attack are answerable to the law.
Our Sacramento clergy abuse attorneys are currently investigating sexual abuse cases and will not tolerate a predator hiding behind the Church to avoid justice. We provide immediate legal recourse for child and adult abuse civil claims and will offer a free case evaluation to discuss your case.
A Sacramento clergy abuse lawyer is ready to listen to what happened with you and the predator or other clergy members, including Diocese of Sacramento Church leadership, who might have been involved in a cover-up. We can pursue compensation on your behalf, request Church documents while seeking justice to hold the church accountable.
Additional Time to File a Child Sexual Abuse Case
San Diego Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez authored a bill that was enacted in the law in 2019 after public awareness arose on the number of allegations involving Catholic priests molesting minors nationwide. For many of these victims, the time limit ran out to file a civil lawsuit to hold the alleged abusers and church leaders legally accountable.
Before the bill was passed, the abuse victim could file a lawsuit until eight years after they reached adulthood or within three years from the date that the victim discovered they had damages from the abuse. Now, the new law extends the time limit a victim of clergy abuse can file for damages from their twenty-sixth birthday to their fortieth birthday.
In addition to extending the statute of limitations restrictions, Assembly Bill 218 also gives the victim a three-year open window to revive any past civil claim if their clergy abuse claim was dismissed because of a statute of limitations expiration. Now, victims shut out from the legal system can seek compensation from the alleged abusers for the harm and the California dioceses for covering up past alleged abuse or evidence.
The bill was passed not just to protect innocent victims sexually assaulted by priests, but to protect young adults harmed by other predators in the fields of academia and sports. In 2018, US Olympic gymnastics Doctor Larry Nassar was convicted and sentenced for sexually assaulting young athletes. Nassar received a lengthy prison sentence.
The length of the sentence will ensure he dies while incarcerated. His case gained notoriety after over 260 girls and women stepped forward, claiming he had sexually assaulted them from the 1990s.
Some victims of sexual assault by Father Gerardo Beltran Rico decades ago can now file a civil lawsuit against the Sacramento Diocese and Bishop Jaime Soto. Law enforcement and the former Executive Assistant Director of the FBI revealed that Reverend Gerardo Beltran Rico remains on the United States’ most-wanted list.
A news release detailing the priest’s account of the history of sex abuse that involved 16 young people. His victims all allege that he committed sexual assault for years here in the United States before fleeing to Mexico in 1991.
Monetary Compensation Program
In May 2019, the Diocese of Sacramento announced its participation in a compensation program to assist clergy sexual abuse survivors. The newly formed program included other dioceses in California, including:
- Los Angeles Archdiocese
- Fresno Diocese
- Orange Diocese
- San Bernardino Diocese
- San Diego Diocese
- Monterey Diocese
- Santa Rosa Diocese
Participation in the Compensation Program is voluntary. However, to obtain funds, the sexual assault survivor must waive their rights to litigate against the Diocese of Sacramento or other Church ministries. An attorney working on behalf of the victim might provide legal guidance on how to ensure they receive the monetary compensation they deserve based on the extent of their injuries.
Many victims use these funds to handle their life’s challenges associated with childhood sexual abuse. The survivor may have developed intense anxiety, suicidal thoughts, lasting depression, post-traumatic stress disorder behaviors, sex addiction, dangerous drug use, alcoholism, or other unhealthy condition.
Hiring a Roman Catholic Diocese of Sacramento Diocese Sexual Abuse Attorney
The experienced attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC have obtained over $250 million in financial compensation on behalf of our abused clients through trial awards and negotiated settlement. Our law firm can help your family too.
If your loved one was the victim of child sex abuse by a priest or other clergy member, contact the Sacramento clergy abuse lawyer at (888) 424-5757 (toll-free phone number) or use the contact form to schedule a free consultation. Discuss your childhood sexual assault in a confidential setting as we develop an attorney-client relationship.
Our California sexual abuse attorneys handle every case through a contingency fee agreement. This arrangement provides immediate legal services without you needing to pay any upfront fees. Our services are paid when we have secured your financial compensation. If we do not win, you do not pay.
We are currently accepting clergy sexual abuse cases where the predator remains in "active ministry," is on administrative leave, has been removed from the Church, is retired, or is dead. Your Sacramento clergy abuse lawyer will also accept clergy abuse cases involving priests associated with the Jesuits and Franciscan Order.