San Francisco Clergy Abuse Attorney
The Roman Catholic Church has been rocked by a series of scandals concerning the sexual abuse of children and young adults in parishes around the world. In many cases, these abusive priests were moved from parish to parish without informing church members about their history of sexual misconduct.
Are you or a loved one the victim of clergy 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 schedule a free consultation. All confidential or sensitive information you share with our legal team remains confidential through an attorney-client relationship. Also, our clergy abuse attorneys will keep your identity private.
While recent revelations have prompted Pope Francis to issue an unprecedented apology for clerical abuses, survivors are still seeking justice in civil court. They seek financial compensation for damages resulting from childhood sexual abuse at the hands of priests and other clergymen in California.
If you or a loved one was sexually abused as a child by someone acting on behalf of the Roman Catholic Church, you may be able to pursue compensation through litigation against those responsible under California law. A skilled attorney can help determine whether your case is eligible for such legal action and assist with all aspects of this complex process.
San Francisco Sexual Molestation/Clergy Abuse: A Concerned Community
For more than two decades, the United States Justice Department, the public, and law enforcement officers have scrutinized how the Roman Catholic Church has handled predatory priests. As of 2020, in California, over 700 Catholic priests, brothers, and sisters have faced credible sexual abuse allegations that they sexually assaulted a minor or young adult.
Many of these cases of childhood sexual assault occurred in parishes and parochial schools in Alameda County, Contra Costa County, Marion County, Napa County, San Francisco County, San Mateo County, Santa Clara County, and Solano County.
The San Francisco district attorney, clergy members, Cardinal William Levada, California bishops, religious orders, and parishioners were involved in many of these sexual abuse allegations. Some incidents occurred in the Diocese of San Jose, Diocese of Oakland, and Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
The Associated Press and Boston Globe released the names of priests accused of alleged abuse, rape, sodomy, child sex abuse, and molestation in the Bay Area. Some clergy members faced criminal charges under California law.
What is Clergy Sexual Abuse?
In California, clergy abuse is a form of child sexual abuse. It occurs when a clergy member takes advantage of a student or parishioner in a position of authority by molesting, assaulting, or raping an individual. This includes forcing someone who is under 18 years old to have sex with them as well as committing lewd acts against a child.
In some cases, a priest may use their connection with the Roman Catholic Church to intimidate or threaten a parishioner in order to coerce them into a sexual relationship.
California state law defines cleric sexual abuse as any kind of sexual intercourse between a clergy member and another individual who is 13 years old or older but under 18 years old. It can also occur if the victim is over 18 years old and suffers from a mental disorder or developmental or physical disability that prevents them from consenting to sex with a clergy member.
What are the Consequences of Clergy Sexual Abuse?
Clerics sexual abuse has a lasting impact on the lives of those who have been victimized. In some cases, victims may struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder or major depressive disorder as a result of their experiences.
This can lead to self-destructive behaviors, including but not limited to suicidal ideations and attempts. Many victims grapple with feelings of guilt and shame for being sexually abused. This can have a detrimental impact on future relationships. In some cases, victims of clergy abuse may also become perpetrators of such crimes.
In addition to mental health consequences, many survivors suffer from feelings of anger about how their case was handled by church leaders. After going through this life-altering experience, they feel as though the clergy members or a representative of the Roman Catholic Parish betrayed their trust.
This can lead to feelings of betrayal and alienation from their faith. It can also leave many victims feeling abandoned and without recourse in the way of legal action against their abuser or church leaders who covered up the childhood sexual abuse.
The effects of childhood sexual abuse vary depending on the type of abuse, which could include:
- Rape and sodomy
- Inappropriate touching or groping
- Exposure to pornography
- Being forced to have sex with others
- Being photographed or filmed during a sexual assault
- Being forced to view others engaged in sexual acts
- Being humiliated during a sexual assault, including being called degrading names or accused of promiscuity
Many victims of clergy abuse or childhood abuse turn to drugs and alcohol as a coping mechanism. Others attempt to self-medicate with food or engage in compulsive sexual activity in order to escape the pain they are feeling. It is not uncommon for victims of clergy abuse to develop eating disorders, such as anorexia or bulimia, as a means of coping with their trauma.
It is important for survivors of clergy abuse to seek help from trained professionals in order to overcome the lasting effects of this type of traumatic experience. Professional counselors are available through rape crisis centers across the country that can assist victims in beginning their healing process.
Clergy Sexual Abuse is a Crime
Clergy abuse is a serious and potentially criminal matter. As such, it is important that victims report any instances of clergy abuse to the proper authorities immediately in order to prevent further victimization and hold offenders accountable for their actions.
By law, any attorney's general office with jurisdiction should press charges in cases of clergy abuse. These charges will be prosecuted in the court where the crime occurred. Additionally, the California legislature has implemented mandatory reporting laws that require anyone aware of clergy abuse to come forward and report known or suspected instances of such crimes to the proper authorities.
Disclosing Clergy Sexual Abuse
Many individuals who experienced clergy abuse in their youth do not come forward until many years later. In some cases, it takes victims over 30 years before they talk about the painful memories of their sexual abuse.
This is often because they are afraid of not being believed, or that they will be blamed for the sexual violence they suffered. In other cases, victims may come forward when a friend or family member tells them that their abuser has been accused of committing such crimes again on another victim.
In order to make a disclosure of clergy sexual abuse, victims do not necessarily need to tell their story of abuse in full detail. It is helpful for clergy abuse survivors to provide as much information as they are comfortable disclosing about the nature of the sexual violence they endured. This will help authorities conduct an effective investigation into the matter.
After coming forward, it is important that victims know what to expect after making a clergy sexual abuse disclosure. Responding officers may not believe that there is enough evidence to press charges or that the victim waited too long to come forward, which can be frustrating for victims who are merely seeking justice.
If you have been the victim of clergy abuse, it is important for you to remain patient and focused on what actions you can take to prevent the situation from happening to others. You can help break the silence surrounding clergy abuse by coming forward about your own experience. If you feel comfortable, you may also choose to tell your story publicly in hopes of inspiring other victims to follow suit and speak out as well.
Statistics: Clergy Sexual Abuse in the Roman Catholic Church
In 2002, a national survey found that 4% of Roman Catholic priests in the United States had sexually abused children. This number is greater than any other religious group. It also found that 1 in every 10 victims was under the age of 7 years old.
In 2018, an investigation into child sex abuse within the Roman Catholic Parish in Pennsylvania revealed over seven decades of sexual abuse by more than 300 priests across the state. Over 1,000 children were adversely affected by clergy abuse.
California Child Victims Act
The California Child Victims Act helps sexual abuse victims seek the justice they deserve. It provides a one-year window for adults to file civil claims if they were sexually abused as children no matter how long ago it happened.
This law has helped numerous childhood sexual abuse survivors find peaceful resolutions to their cases without facing criminal charges themselves.
California Sex Abuse Statute of Limitations
In the state of California, a victim has until they are 28 years old to report sexual molestation that occurred when they were younger.
After this time, a sex abuse claim must be filed within three years from the date on which the minor learns of the connection between the emotional distress and the act of sexual molestation committed against them.
San Francisco Archdioceses Sexual Abuse Attorney
For years, Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC has provided legal assistance on behalf of our clients to ensure they receive justice against the Roman Catholic Parish and the predatory priest. A compassionate clergy abuse attorney is here to listen to your story in a confidential setting to ensure your rights are protected. Our law firm can use the laws of the United States and the State of California to ensure that your case is resolved successfully.
In 2019, the California legislators enacted a new bill to extend the statute of limitations for sexual abuse victims. The new law helps sexual molestation victims harmed decades ago who have since lost their ability to seek compensation due to the expiration of the state’s statute of limitations. California Governor Garret Newsom signed the bill in October 2019. The new law will take effect on January 1, 2020.
$85 Million in Negotiated Settlements
In November 2018, the Archdiocese of San Francisco announced that the Church released over $87 million to settle sex abuse claims where religious leaders harmed the victims.
Many of these incidents occurred over the last fifteen years and involved hundreds of children and young adults in the community. The clergy sexual abuse survivor's advocacy group SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests) revealed that the settlements are just a small fraction of the severe sexual molestation problem in San Francisco.
In October 2019, San Francisco Archbishop Cordileone told the St Stephen’s Catholic Parish congregation about the Church’s ongoing settlements. These negotiated agreements starting in 2003 have resolved 125 molestation cases. Many of these sexual abuse allegations were filed after the California legislators lifted the state’s statute of limitations restrictions on adults who had been abused when they were minors.
New California Law Creates New Surge in Clergy Abuse Lawsuits
In 2019, California passed its Child Victims Act that took effect on January 1, 2020. The new law relaxes the statute of limitation restrictions for childhood sexual abuse survivors. Many of these victims were unable to file for compensation because evidence of the sexual abuse arose decades after the abuse occurred.
These sexual molestation victims are filing cases in all dioceses and archdioceses in California that includes:
- Diocese of San Bernardino
- Diocese of Orange
- Diocese of Monterey
- Diocese of Fresno
- Diocese of San Diego
- Diocese of San Jose
- Diocese of Santa Rosa
- Diocese of Oakland
- Diocese of Sacramento
- Diocese of Stockton
- Archdiocese of San Francisco
- Archdiocese of Los Angeles
Childhood sexual abuse survivors in California can now take advantage of the extension of the state’s statute of limitation laws.
Eligibility for filing a civil lawsuit includes:
- The sexual molestation survivor has not reached the age of forty,
- The time limit is still within five years after damage from the abuse was discovered, or
- The abuse survivor of any age is filing the claim within the "three-year open window" between January 1, 2020, and January 1, 2023, or they previously filed a civil claim before their twenty-sixth birthday.
California is the last of six states and Washington DC that have extended the window of opportunity for any sexual assault victim to file a civil lawsuit that was previously restricted. These states include Arizona, Hawaii, Vermont, Montana, North Carolina.
In recent years, the new wave of sexual assault cases that came to light rocked the Roman Catholic Parish in America. Many of these cases involve Cardinals, Bishops, Pastors, Parish Priests, Religious Brothers, and Sisters.
To settle thousands of cases, Church officials have chosen to sell off property and file claims against the Diocese’s liability insurance policies. Some of the funds are acquired by the Church through donations from the congregation and are not often funded by donors contributing to Catholic ministries, seminaries, and schools.
California Clergy Abuse Independent Compensation Program
Six California dioceses, not including the Archdiocese of San Francisco, are participating in the Independent Compensation Program. The new program launched in 2019 provides financial compensation to any eligible individual sexually molested by a priest at a Diocese or Archdiocese when the victim was a minor. The Parish states that they are providing compensation no matter when the sexual abuse allegedly occurred.
The Catholic Parish is providing these funds to settle clergy abuse claims involving sexual assault survivors instead of hearing the cases in court at trial. While these cases tend to be resolved quickly, the victim often receives a significantly lower amount than what a judge and jury might have awarded them.
It is still too early to tell the amount of compensation that every claimant is receiving through the California Archdiocese. In comparison, the more than 335 victims filing clergy abuse claims in the Archdiocese of New York have received, on average, about $200,000 each.
If you are eligible to receive compensation, time is of the essence. It is imperative to file a claim as soon as possible. Most of the dioceses and the archdiocese of San Francisco have previously filed for bankruptcy in recent years to avoid paying compensation that could require selling off more assets.
Hiring an Archdiocese of San Francisco Child Sexual Abuse Lawyer
Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC has recovered over $250 million in financial compensation on behalf of our injured clients through settlements and jury trial verdicts. We use our years of experience to present evidence at trial and negotiate out-of-court settlements to ensure the defendants in the cases were held legally and financially accountable.
Were you victimized through childhood sexual assault caused by a Cardinal, Bishops, some great Parish priests, clergy members, or another religious leader?
If so, let our team of dedicated, compassionate attorneys help. Contact a California sexual abuse lawyer today to discuss your legal options in a confidential setting. We handle all cases where clergy members are in "active ministry," on administrative leave of absence, has been removed from the priesthood, is retired, or has since died.