Religious communities have faced increasing accusations of sexual abuse of minors in recent years. Those who have been sexually abused or assaulted by religious leaders must know that it's possible to get justice.
Our experienced injury attorneys have represented and won cases for victims of church sexual abuse. We can help your voice be heard, too. Our legal team is offering completely free, confidential legal consultations so that you learn more about your options. Contact us now.
The threat of sexual assault and exploitation against young children is widely believed to exist within several communities or organizations. Even so, some aspects and dynamics of religious organizations appear to increase the likelihood of such abuses.
As an example, children who attend church groups are encouraged to obey priests and other religious leaders without hesitation. Victims struggle to speak out against the perpetrators due to this power dynamic. Victims tend to be afraid of punishment and may be ignored when they submit their claims. Sometimes victims may not even realize that they have been victimized by someone they trusted.
Often, religious communities are also separated from the broader society. Because of this isolation, abuse can go unnoticed if it's ever mentioned at all.
Credible allegations of sexual abuse of minors began to surface in the 1980s, mostly involving boys as old as 14 and as young as 3 years of age by Catholic priests. Several of the claims came from adults who, after many years, came forward to disclose traumatic childhood memories.
In the 1990s, the public began to take notice of these claims of priest sexual abuse, which prompted numerous reporting agencies to investigate. Since then, instances of sexual abuse in the Catholic church have been reported across North America, Canada, a few nations in South America, and throughout Europe.
There was an alarming pattern of hesitancy to report allegations of sexual abuse within the church that was slowly revealed. In addition to the fact that the abuse was widespread, it took place on several continents and some of the claims dated back half a century.
An 850-page report released in 2018 by a Pennsylvania grand jury detailed over 1,000 verifiable cases of child sex abuse by priests who formed part of Roman Catholic dioceses throughout the state. The report also expressed concern that thousands of other uncovered cases could still exist.
Since many of the perpetrators had already passed, along with the previous statute of limitation, few charges were brought forth. Yet, due to the overwhelming number of cases, Governor Wolf signed new legislation allowing victims of the misconduct of priests to file lawsuits for civil damages.
The Roman Catholic church has been sued by dozens of people since this window of opportunity was opened.
It is not entirely clear how many lawsuits are pending against the Church right now because many are still ongoing. Yet, it is clear that now, more than before, victims and their loved ones can get justice from sexual abusers and those who protected them.
The Pennsylvania Grand Jury report revealed not only a surprising number of victims but also significant attempts by the Church to obfuscate the truth to avoid bad publicity and financial liability.
Church leaders reassigned priests accused of abuse to different parishes when abuse claims arose. In many of these instances, the priests who were transferred would continue to behave predatorily once they began serving at a new parish. After allegations of abuse arose against them, other priests were allowed to leave the country.
Among the most troubling points, these reports of priestly sexual abuse were rarely or never reported to local authorities. The claims were investigated and documented, but these shocking, abhorrent acts did not end after they were unveiled. In many ways, officials of the Church tolerated the almost-routine abuse.
Interestingly, it is these files & reports of abuse that were obtained from internal Church investigations which would provide the Pennsylvania Grand Jury with the tools needed to find victims and verify many of the claims that were included in the historical 2018 report.
In response to Pennsylvania's ‘window of opportunity’ legislation, many states followed suit and implemented legislation to create new hope for the victims of priest sexual abuse. Despite the fact that it has been delayed for far too long, the day has finally come when victims of such deep-seated abuse can have a day in court.
Did a priest at your church or another religious community abuse you sexually? It is crucial that you know you are not alone in your struggle and that justice can be obtained.
Despite years spent hiding your trauma and painful memories, there is no need to suffer anymore. We encourage you to join the thousands of other brave victims who have taken legal action against those who have allowed the abuse to occur. Changing laws allow you to file a lawsuit, even if abuse occurred decades ago. In order to put an end to systematic sexual abuse, the perpetrators and their protectors need to be held accountable.
Obtain a free legal consultation from our experienced sexual abuse attorneys today.