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Santa Rosa Clergy Abuse Attorney

Santa-Rosa-Diocese-Clergy-Abuse-LawyersSexual abuse by Catholic priests in the United States has been in the news for years. However, the church hierarchy had long sought to keep these allegations quiet and out of the public eye. Victims have now begun taking legal action against clergy members who abused them when they were children or teenagers, often decades ago.

At Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC, our personal injury attorneys are legal advocates for sexually abused victims harmed by priests, bishops, and other clergy members.

We fight aggressively for sexual abuse survivors' rights and help seek financial compensation through a civil lawsuit, compensation claim, or the Independent Compensation Fund.

Contact our California clergy sexual abuse attorneys today 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 trial lawyers remains private through an attorney-client relationship.

The Childhood Sexual Abuse Scandal and the Roman Catholic Church

Many in the congregation want answers on their purpose in life and seek healing through the spiritual words of Catholicism. However, most young and old parishioners put their faith in priests, bishops, and deacons in charge of providing guidance.

Unfortunately, some clergy members use the authority given by the Catholic Church to harm others through sexual abuse and molestation.

The decades of child sex abuse cases involving priests have created a crisis that continuously rattles the foundation of the Catholic Cathedral. Faithful parishioners with children who have been sexually assaulted want the sexual predators removed from active ministry and prosecuted.

Only recently have financial compensation funds and papal commissions been created to protect minors from Santa Rosa clergy abusers in California.

Santa Rosa Clergy Abuse Lawyer

What is Clergy Abuse?

As a devout and joined Catholic member, you put your complete trust and belief in church leadership. Therefore, you expect priests, bishops, and deacons to provide guidance and help you find your purpose in life.

Unfortunately, some clergy members use the authority given by the Church to sexually abuse children instead of using their ministerial position for good. As a result, devout Catholics across the country are reeling from the reports of sexual abuse by clergy members, who often face no consequences for their actions.

Clergy abuse is a non-specific legal term used to describe different types of childhood sexual assault committed in the context of religious authority figures or institutions. For example, some victims have reported being molested in churches, cathedrals, or other religious gathering places.

Others were abused by a priest, deacon, bishop, nun, or another church member while attending Sunday school classes and other activities. It's also reported that some victims were sexually assaulted after being baptized in the Catholic Cathedral—a time when parents and family believed they were safe and did not realize an abuser would be in the house of God.

Perpetrators in any clergy sex abuse may be priests, deacons, nuns, church musicians or choir directors, rabbis, ministers, bishops, Sunday school teachers or volunteers, and other religious authority figures.

When an individual breaches trust in a position of power and responsibility mandated to protect others from harm, the effects of childhood sexual abuse may be felt for a lifetime.

Clergy abusers often use their status and authority to manipulate victims into submission or silence.

Why Have Victims Come Forward?

As children and teenagers, clergy abuse survivors were not equipped with the knowledge or power to fight back against their abusers. Instead, in many cases, the child was manipulated by an authority figure who used religious guilt to keep them from reporting their sexual abuse.

Many victims were threatened with excommunication or bad karma if they told anyone about the incident, making it difficult for many survivors to seek help. Sometimes, victims received physical punishment instead of being offered spiritual guidance after coming forward with reports of sexual abuse.

Even as adults, many victims fear reporting clergy abuse because of retaliation from the child molester and lack of support from their local community and church leaders.

Some might feel like they're betraying the Catholic Cathedral by speaking up about child molestation or rape committed by a noted religious scholar who was trusted with their spiritual development. Others might fear not being believed or taken seriously.

Many victims are heartbroken that it took so long for the Church to acknowledge their clergy abuse reports, but they still fear being ostracized by fellow parishioners if they speak up.

Some survivors of Catholic Santa Rosa clergy abuse have chosen to fight back against their abusers and the Church's inaction by becoming whistleblowers or filing lawsuits against the Church.

Because the age of legal adulthood is 18 years old, many adult victims of clergy abuse are coming together to hold their abusers accountable for their actions when they were children and teenagers.

Santa Rosa Clergy Abuse Law Firm

What Types of Clergy Abuse Occur?

According to a grand jury report by the Pennsylvania Attorney General, at least 1,000 people have been abused by Catholic clergy members in Pennsylvania over seven decades.

The report also found that church leaders—including bishops, archbishops, monsignors, cardinals, and others—knew about the abuse but failed to notify prosecutors or take steps to protect children from further contact with dangerous priests.

According to the grand jury report, in addition to sexual abuse, Catholic clergy in Pennsylvania also engaged in acts of psychological abuse that included shaming victims into silence about the sexual assaults. The Church threatened to remove parishioners from their will if they told anyone what happened.

Other reports of sexual abuse committed by Catholic clergy highlight additional offenses, including inappropriate relationships, touching, kissing, and molestation of both altar boys and girls, and rape. In many cases, the sexual assault was performed as a form of punishment through "beatings and other violent physical abuse."

What Are Some Characteristics of Clergy Sexual Abuse?

Clergy sexual abuse is not always easy to identify. But, according to child safety experts at Darkness to Light, warning signs of clergy abuse might include:

  • Has a family member or another trusted adult ever told you that they were physically or sexually abused by a priest, minister, youth pastor, or other religious leaders?
  • Do you see or feel that the person and their family put the religious leader on a pedestal and don't question what the religious leader says or does?
  • Does this person live in an isolated community with limited access to friends and family who might notice something wrong?

What Are Some of the Effects of Clergy Sex Abuse?

According to interviews conducted by The Washington Post, victims of Santa Rosa clergy abuse recount experiencing a range of negative emotions, including loneliness, fear of dying, self-loathing and suicidal thoughts.

Other negative effects of clergy abuse include:

  • Drug abuse and alcohol addiction
  • Chronic depression
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Relationship problems with friends and family members
  • Feeling alienated from their religious community (if they remain members of that community)
  • Self-harm, including cutting

What Can Victims of Clergy Abuse Do?

Because clergy sex abuse is perpetrated by someone in a position of authority and trust, victims sometimes feel like it's pointless to report the crime or seek justice. One of the most important steps survivors can take is consulting with law enforcement officials about their options.

According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), survivors of child sexual abuse might be able to:

  • Report the crime to prosecutors or child protective services. Reporting a crime to local prosecutors is the first step in seeking justice. While some states have age of consent laws that prevent people from filing lawsuits after a certain number of years have passed since the abuse occurred, those statutes of limitations can be waived under certain circumstances.
  • Consult a civil attorney who can advise them on pursuing justice and the statute of limitations in their state. That way, they can understand their options as soon as possible.
  • Obtain free or low-cost counseling. Many rape crisis centers provide free counseling to victims of sexual violence. In addition, trained counselors can help victims deal with the impact of clergy abuse and understand their options under the law.
  • Speak out about clergy abuse, even after the abuse has occurred and even if their abuser is dead. So many survivors suffer in silence, and it can be tremendously liberating to share one's story.
  • Call an abuse support hotline such as The National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-422-4453. Trained operators staff the hotline around the clock and provide crisis counseling, safety planning, local referrals, and options for reporting abuse.

Santa Rosa Clergy Abuse Attorney

What Are Some Resources for Victims of Clergy Sex Abuse?

Here are some resources that victims of clergy abuse may find helpful:

  • RAINN Hotline: "The hotline can provide support, crisis intervention, safety planning, local referrals, and options for reporting abuse."
  • Darkness to Light: "provides educational materials and training to adults about sexual abuse prevention."
  • Justice for Children: "provides free legal advice for abused children."

In addition to consulting with prosecutors, victims of Santa Rosa clergy abuse can contact victims' assistance groups, including SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests).

These non-profit organizations are dedicated to helping alleged victims rebuild their lives after clergy sex abuse while preventing future incidents through public education campaigns and lobbying efforts. In addition, some offer counsel, while others provide legal advice to victims.

In what has been called the most comprehensive of such reports so far, a grand jury in Pennsylvania released a 984-page report on August 14th identifying 300 "predator priests" who have molested more than 1,000 children where the alleged abuse occurred over seven decades across eight of the state's Catholic dioceses.

The priest abusers were protected by the Church's senior officials, who failed to take steps to protect children from their rapist colleagues.

California Child Victims Act

California state law offers survivors of childhood sexual abuse more time to file lawsuits against their abusers than many other states. That's because, in 2019, California lawmakers passed the Child Victims Act, which allows victims until age 26 to sue their abusers or others responsible for covering up the initial crime.

However, this act has not been without controversy. At the time, the California Catholic Conference (CCC) opposed the passage of the act because of concerns that it could force dioceses to file bankruptcy due to excessive damage claims. There have been more than 1,000 lawsuits filed against six dioceses within the state of California.

The Statute of Limitations

Statutes of limitations are legal doctrines that set the maximum period after an alleged crime has occurred in which a person can be charged with the crime. Under these constraints, accusers typically have one year to file charges against the accused during their lifetime.

There are currently no statutes of limitations for criminal prosecution of felonies or misdemeanor sex offenses against children in California. However, for civil cases involving child sex abuse and personal injury claims, the deadline to file a claim is dictated by the date the victim reaches age 26.

According to California law, victims of clergy abuse who were assaulted as minors but did not become aware that they suffered psychological injuries until adulthood (age 26) have two years from the time they discovered their injuries to file a lawsuit against their abusers.

What The Victim Must Prove

For victims of sexual abuse or assault to recover compensation for their pain and emotional suffering, they must prove that the person responsible for inflicting them with physical and psychological injury knew or should have known about their actions. It means that the person knew what they were doing was wrong.

Beyond this, victims are typically required to present evidence of psychological injuries caused due to their sexual abuse. Even in cases where the victim has not received any medical treatment for their mental trauma, a qualified California attorney can help them prove how it has negatively impacted their lives by obtaining statements from friends and family members.

Diocese of Santa Rosa Child Sex Abuse Attorneys

It is reprehensible that only a small fraction of clergy sexual predators with credible allegations of sexual abuse are ever held legally accountable. Often, Church leaders look the other way, never turning evidence over to local prosecutors to investigate the accusations.

Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC has represented many victims of clerical sexual abuse harmed by clergy molesters to ensure justice. If you are a sexual abuse survivor, a clergy abuse attorney is here to listen to your horrific story in a confidential setting. In addition, our law firm can discuss your legal options on how best to proceed in your case.

A Code of Silence

In 2014, the United Nations Committee on the Child's Rights looked to the Pope and the Vatican to remove predatory priests from active ministry. In a news release, the committee condemned the Church's lack of transparency when hiding the list of names of child sex abusers among their midst.

In addition, the United Nations recognized a Code of Silence that Church officials had imposed on clergy members instead of referring cases of sex abuse to law enforcement.

The United Nations Committee discussed how the leaders of the Catholic Cathedral were spiritually responsible for children under their care. Unfortunately, the trust that parishioners had placed in their spiritual guides led to a double betrayal by the childhood abuse of priests and the Catholic Cathedral.

More Lawsuits Filed

In December 2019, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Santa Rosa faced a slew of newly filed lawsuit cases involving their concealment of evil actions of priests. Some of these cases dated back to the 1960s, mostly involving priests that are now deceased.

The lawsuits were filed last year on behalf of plaintiffs by attorneys specializing in alleged sex abuse cases. The initial five civil suits are likely just beginning hundreds or thousands of cases filed in the months and years to come. In 2019, California legislators passed Assembly Bill 218, signed by Governor Newsom, extending the statute of limitations law.

The change of the new state law now lengthens the time limit that sexual abuse survivors can file a compensation claim, even if their previous cases were dismissed.

The lawsuits identify the defendants as the Catholic Church, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Santa Rosa, and predatory priests well-known to the diocesan congregation. The new law also created a "three-year open window" for victims of any age to file a civil lawsuit to pursue justice for their injuries, even if the allegations went back years ago.

The attorneys built a solid case on the Church's flawed system of managing priests and the reckless selections of Diocese of Santa Rosa Catholic Bishops. But, unfortunately, leaders’ efforts in the Church were directed at protecting their reputation at the cost of the young victims' safety.

Years of Intentional Secrecy

The Catholic Cathedral has a long record of secrecy that hides alleged sexual misconduct evidence from the public and parishioners. However, instead of revealing confidential files through an act of transparency, the leaders in the Church sent the accused religious leaders to "treatment centers" for help.

In many cases, the Vatican, Pope, or Bishop transferred the predator priest to other churches quietly and never informed either congregation of what occurred.

Less than three decades ago, the Church's façade of secrecy hiding the list of accused priests involved in sexual molestation saw its initial cracks that have since opened wide, exposing a global cover-up.

Many clergy abuse survivors tore down the walls because they could no longer hold their painful secrets inside. These victims disclosed horrific stories involving abuse by their spiritual leaders in charge of providing guidance.

The spread of sexual assault by clergy in the Diocese of Santa Rosa stretched across parishes from the Oregon border to Petaluma, CA. Many victims were sexually molested in parish rectories and at churches, sporting events, parochial schools, and other church-related venues, especially Camp St. Michael.

Only recently has Santa Rosa Diocese Bishop Robert F. Vasa released a comprehensive list of religious leaders who have been credibly accused of sexual assault. Many of the forty-two religious leaders on Bishop Ziemann and Bishop Vasa's Diocese's list had ministered to parishioners in the Diocese of Santa Rosa as far back as the late 1950s.

Over the last few decades, the Diocese has settled clergy abuse claims and lawsuits, with the alleged victim paying out over $33 million to resolve clergy sexual abuse cases.

Clergy leaders facing allegations of child sexual abuse in the Diocese of Santa Rosa include Reverend Austin Peter Keegan, Father Don Kimball, and Reverend Gary Timmons. They were all defrocked (laicized).

The Diocesan Review Board determined that Keegan's allegations of sexually abusing dozens of victims were credible.

Hiring a Santa Rosa Diocese Clergy Abuse Attorney

Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC protects innocent victims who were sexually assaulted by Catholic cardinals, bishops, pastors, priests, part-time and permanent deacons, religious brothers, and sisters.

Our law firm ensures that each of our lawsuit plaintiffs receives justice. With changes in California statute of limitations laws, we can now assist every victim of clergy sex abuse, ensuring they receive compensation to heal.

If you are a sexual abuse survivor, let us stand with you and protect your rights through your healing process. We will discuss your case in a confidential setting and provide legal counsel on the best pathways to move your case forward in a claim or civil suit.

Our legal team has recovered more than $250 million in damages on behalf of our clients, and we can help you too.

We accept all personal injury cases and wrongful death lawsuits on a contingency fee basis. No upfront fees are paid until we resolve your case through a negotiated settlement or jury award.

We accept all sexual assault cases where the clergy abuser is still in "active ministry," on a leave of absence, is in retirement, removed from the priesthood, is named in other civil litigation, or has since died.

Diocese of Santa Rosa Clergy Abuse Attorney Resources:

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