San Diego Clergy Abuse Attorney
The Catholic Church has faced criticism for decades over the sexual abuse of minors by priests. These disturbing allegations have provoked a long-overdue reckoning inside and outside of the church community. In California, many survivors of child or adult abuse have taken the brave step of holding their abusers and the church accountable through legal action in civil court.
Are you or a loved one the victim of clergy sexual abuse? At Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC, our personal injury attorneys are legal advocates for sexually assaulted victims harmed by priests and other religious leaders.
Call a clergy abuse injury attorney at (888) 424-5757 (toll-free phone number) or use the contact form today to seek justice and schedule a free case evaluation. All confidential or sensitive information you share with our legal team remains confidential through an attorney-client relationship. Also, we will keep your identity private.
San Diego Clergy Sexual Abuse Attorneys
Sexual abuse of children is a global problem, and the Roman Catholic Church has been accused of covering up hundreds of cases. The Vatican has long denied that it covered up cases involving clergy members accused of sexual harassment, protecting priests from criminal prosecution.
But in recent years, more victims have come forward across the globe with allegations against scores of abusive priests to seek justice by holding the clergy member accountable. Many people are questioning whether Pope Francis (who took office in 2013) will finally take action to address this crisis within his church.
In San Diego, California, and elsewhere throughout the U.S., survivors who were sexually abused as children by Roman Catholic clergy may be entitled to financial compensation for their suffering -- including therapy costs and lost wages due to emotional distress or physical injury they suffered at the hands of their abusers.
If you were harmed by a priest during your time in Sunday school or at church camp, we can help you hold them accountable through civil legal action. Call us today for a free consultation on how we can assist you.
As legal advocates for survivors of childhood sexual abuse, we believe these efforts can help repair the pain and trauma inflicted upon innocent children by clergy sexual abusers. The law dictates that victims can file abuse claims against their abusers, even if the predator never faced criminal charges.
Diocese of San Diego
Through the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, many baptized children and young adults reaching their age of reason validate the power of their faith through confirmation. These young parishioners accept the teachings from the Vatican, Pope Francis, and religious leaders.
The faithful seek enlightenment and reflection at their local Church to deepen their commitment to repent and confess. Sadly, many priests, bishops, cardinals, deacons, and other clergymen abuse their moral obligation to protect, and instead, harm young people through sexual abuse.
In recent years, the United States Catholic Bishops have sought guidance from the Vatican to handle sexual misconduct in every Catholic Diocese, including the Catholic Diocese of San Diego.
Recent reports indicate that approximately 79% of Americans recognize that clergy abuse remains an ongoing problem that reflects how the Church entities handle Parish priests with credible allegations of sexually abusing minors in the years passed.
U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Sexual Assault Report
In 2002, a report commissioned by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops found that between 1950 and 2002, more than 10,000 allegations of sexual harassment had been made against 4,392 priests in 6,427 separate accusations involving 11,692 victims.
The report also concluded that 90% of all reported incidents occurred between 1960 and 1984 with 32% occurring during the 1970s alone. A 2004 study revealed that one-third of all child sex abuse cases recorded in medical literature were committed against boys.
While most reports about clergy abuse have focused on male victims, many scholars believe this to be an undercount due to researchers' tendency to focus on female survivors. According to studies conducted by John Jay College researchers at the height of the crisis (1985–2002), 4% of U.S. priests had allegations of clergy abuse, though the number was believed to be underreported at that time.
A 1986 Boston Globe investigative series brought these issues into the national spotlight for the first time, focusing on cases in Massachusetts and elsewhere. By this point, studies showed that church clergy were most often the abusers, that most of the victims were boys, and that on average they abused more than one person.
The results of this publicity included the removal of some clergy from their positions. However, by many accounts, these policies often led to further harm. Many sexual abuse survivors report being traumatized by the negative experience of coming forward to tell their stories or having their stories told.
In 2002, following a series of media reports by The Boston Globe and other outlets that publicized cases involving priests who sexually abused children, many dioceses announced plans to deal with past sexual misconduct. The Diocese of San Diego paid 144 damages totaling $198,050 to 15 victims in 2003.
Since then, the diocese has not disclosed any other expenses related to resolving future abuse claims of sexual misconduct by clergy members. Instead, they have invested in several initiatives to prevent this from happening again within its religious community including the following:
- Training for school employees and volunteers to identify, report and prevent children from being sexually abused or witnessing sexual violence in schools. The diocese also provides training for faculty members who are responsible for overseeing students with disabilities. The U.S. Department of Education mandates these types of programs be made available to teachers in public schools across the nation.
- Mandatory background checks by California Child Abuse Central Index (CCAIC) for clergy, employees, and volunteers who interact with children. This includes an audit of the screening process. The diocese began this policy in 2002 before it became law in California. Today all 30 dioceses in California participate in this program.
- Mandatory sexual misconduct check-ups for all active priests every three years, although the diocese encourages more frequent check-ups.
- The development of a comprehensive policy on sexual misconduct for all employees, volunteers, and clerics by the end of 2002; annual review of the policy with mandatory training related to this policy for all personnel.
According to de Fouw, "Since 2002, sufficient steps have been taken to prevent childhood sexual abuse by clergy, employees, and volunteers in the Diocese of San Diego.” The diocese remains committed to ensuring that these types of scandals do not happen again.
For years, Church officials failed to release the names of priests with allegations of sexual harassment of children. Hiding the Catholic priest’s sexual misconduct from law enforcement and the public has placed a bad light on the religious organization. The internal life of the California Church was rocked when child abuse survivors came forward, took legal action, and filed civil lawsuit documents to hold the Church accountable.
Defining Clergy Abuse
The terms "clergy" and "ministerial sexual abuse" are sometimes used interchangeably. Any forcible sex act on a child, woman, or man is considered an instance of abuse under this definition. However, in most situations, if the individual gave consent, it isn't considered clergy sex abuse.
Although minors do not have the capacity to give consent, making the predator's inappropriate behavior a crime. Most often, those who prey on children do not have sex with adults.
In the United States, sexual contact between a minister and parishioner is considered consensual if both parties agree to it. In 2003, two years after the Boston Globe investigation took place, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington came out against an order from Pope John Paul II that required bishops to report all allegations of sexual abuse to church officials.
McCarrick believed that it was unfair for one standard to apply to those in the clergy and another for people outside, particularly since some states have statutes of limitations that require victims of childhood sexual abuse to come forward before they are 40 years old, while priests usually can’t be prosecuted for their offenses after seven years have passed since the offense was committed.
"This is a very secretive world,” said McCarrick when asked about how some U.S. bishops cover-up cases involving clergy abuse in the Church. "The life of the church is made up of thousands of little communities, each with different standards.”
The effects of clergy sexual abuse are usually devastating. Girls who were abused could become promiscuous teens and adult women who engage in high-risk behavior; it also becomes difficult for them to form trusting relationships or seek out the support they need.
Boys forced into having sex with an adult male may develop low self-esteem, anger, fear, or be unable to control their impulses. In some cases, the child may even attempt to re-create what he experienced as a young boy.
In most cases of clergy sexual assault, it is not one or two isolated incidences that occur within a religious organization; it’s a pattern that shows up over and over again.
In recent years, many Catholics have been calling for a full investigation of the major religious organizations in the U.S. to uncover clergy abuse and cover-ups involving priests on their confidential sex offender lists accused of criminal acts.
Statistics on Child Sexual Abuse by Catholic Priests
The studies conducted on the sexual harassment claims against Catholic priests found that four out of five victims are male. A study conducted in 2004 by researchers at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City revealed that 52 percent told no one about the incident and another 42 percent told a confidant, such as a friend or a parent. Only six percent of those sexually molested by priests went to the authorities to force church entities to provide compensation through the legal process.
A study conducted by John Jay researchers argued that some priests who commit child sexual abuse may do so over an extended period of time. The numbers revealed hundreds of alleged abuse lawsuits each year, and thousands over the last few decades involving church institutions.
Actual statistics reveal that 90 percent of clergy abuse victims know their abuser, and 70 percent of them are family members. This means that close to 67 percent of minor sexual abuse victims were abused by a friend or relative - or someone who was in a position of trust and authority such as non-family member priests, police officers, doctors, coaches, or school employees.
Most pedophiles have an average of 24 victims before they are brought to justice. A University of New Hampshire study found that around 30 percent of children who experienced sexual abuse in their childhood also met the criteria for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Although the Catholic Church is not the only institution where victims suffered abuse and sexual harassment, it has been listed as one of the top four. One major reason is that children are vulnerable and depend on adults for their survival, which makes them easy targets.
As a result, boy scout abuse, and sexual assault in youth sports have been a serious problem that has had little oversight to help adult survivors harmed decades ago.
Types of Abuse Can Occur in Clergy Sexual Abuse Cases
Abusers in any clergy abuse case can employ a variety of tactics to get their victims to comply. In clergy sexual abuse circumstances, some forms of maltreatment that occur are:
- Intercourse that is forced or coerced
- 'Masturbatory rape' is the act of the abuser masturbating himself against a person who has been subjected to clergy abuse. This may be followed by physical violence, such as strangling or punching to induce compliance.
- Oral sex or kissing, especially if done as a duty or as an act of violence against a kid or infant
- Inserting objects, such as candles or dildos into body cavities without permission. This may result in both physical and psychological injury.
- Forcing a victim to pose in sexually explicit positions while being recorded or photographed
- Forcing someone to become a prostitute against their will
If you have been the victim of clergy sexual abuse, childhood sex abuse, or any other form of sexual assault and would like to schedule a free consultation with an experienced California personal injury and sexual abuse lawyer at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC, please contact us immediately.
Clergy Sexual Abuse Harmful Effects
Child sexual harassment is the violation of a child's right to bodily integrity. It negatively affects one's ability to trust others, maintain relationships, and function as an adult. Child sexual abuse victims may experience
- Fear, guilt, shame
- Low self-esteem
- Anger & hostility
- Poor social skills
- Difficulties with intimacy or other interpersonal relationships
- Delinquency & criminal behavior
- Lack of trust in people
- Chronic feelings of shame or humiliation
- Desire to hurt self or others (including the sexual abuse survivors' children),
- Flashbacks and intrusive imagery
- Nightmares and sleep difficulties, Experience eating disorders; including obesity, anorexia nervosa, and bulimia
- Avoidance of or an unwillingness to talk about the abuse
- Difficulty concentrating
- Negative emotional states such as bitterness and shame
- Preoccupation with sexual thoughts in a way that is unhealthy. Also in some civil cases, pedophiles' pre-existing sexual fantasies (some of which are illegal) are re-enacted with the victim. Some of these effects are described in detail below.
Sexual Abuse Causes Psychological Effects
Childhood sexual abuse has been linked to a number of emotional and psychological problems, including depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), substance use disorders, borderline personality disorder, suicidal behaviors, and somatic complaints.
Symptoms that may appear similar to some of these disorders can occur among people who have not been sexually abused. The severity and type of symptoms children experience during and after sexual harassment vary widely throughout individuals, depending on many factors such as family support, the type of abuse (situational versus penetrative), duration and frequency, and the child's age and gender.
San Diego Clergy Abuse Lawyer
Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC work as legal advocates for all victims that suffered abuse in the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego. A clergy abuse lawyer from our firm, with a comprehensive understanding of California tort law, works to protect our client’s rights when dealing with the Catholic Church institutions.
Our law firm works diligently to ensure that our clients receive maximum financial compensation from recovering their damages. If you were injured through sexual misconduct by a clergy member in any California dioceses, contact us today to discuss your legal options in resolving your case in civil court.
Our San Diego law firm will provide a safe environment to discuss the details of your case and provide legal advice during a confidential consultation. Afterward, we will offer numerous legal options on how to seek accountability to help you hold the predator, church officials, Catholic priest, and Parish legally and financially accountable.
Call a San Diego clergy abuse lawyer today for a free, no-obligation consultation. Time is of the essence. The California statute of limitations restricts the time limit you have to ensure a successful resolution of your case. Let us help determine your eligibility to participate in the Diocese of San Diego independent compensation program.
Seeking justice? Our law firm accepts all clergy abuse cases and wrongful death lawsuits to obtain compensation through a contingency fee guarantee. This promise means you will not pay any upfront fees until we resolve your case in the California courts through a negotiated settlement or jury award.