Acts of sexual abuse at any dimension are inexcusable. The abuse is more serious when the perpetrator of the abuse is a priest or another religious leader. Religious institutions are where most people find solace and comfort. The clergy plays an important role in society. Unfortunately, some clergy members abuse the trust and position bestowed upon them to commit acts of sexual abuse.
Most victims of clergy sexual abuse are young children or teenagers. This makes it difficult for the heinous acts to be discovered until later years. Clergy sexual abuse causes the victim serious mental anguish, physical pain, and emotional suffering. If you are a victim of clergy sexual abuse, you are entitled to justice.
When you report sexual abuse to law enforcement officers, the perpetrator could face criminal charges. Additionally, you can file a civil lawsuit against your abuser. This will allow you to recover compensation for your damages. At Sex Crimes Attorney, we offer expert legal guidance to all our clients battling sex crime civil lawsuits in California.
An Overview of Clergy Sexual Abuse
Sexual abuse is any sexual behavior or contact forced upon another person without their consent. Most cases of sexual abuse happen in intimate situations. This could mean that the victim and the perpetrator know each other. However, institutionalized sexual abuse is not uncommon. With institutionalized sexual abuse, institutions like schools or religious groups show a pattern that enables sexual abuse.
Clergy sexual abuse is perpetrated by religious leaders like priests, pastors, bishops, ministers, and nuns, among others. These individuals are in positions of power, and society regards them highly. For this reason, they have easy access to and the trust of the victims.
Clergy sexual abuse can happen to people of any age. However, young children are more vulnerable to abusive situations. This type of abuse can occur in a religious setting or other environments. If another person manipulates, coerces, or intimidates you into engaging in a sexual act, you can file a domestic violence claim against them.
There have been recent concerns in the Catholic Church about the sexual abuse of young boys by priests. Victims of clergy sexual abuse did not have a platform to seek justice for the acts committed against them. The fear of social stigma has prevented the victims from reporting the abuse. Some of these victims will turn to drugs to cope with the situation.
Until recently, victims of clergy sexual abuse did not have legal recourse. The lack of resources to pursue a claim and the fear of societal judgment caused victims to suffer in silence. However, more organizations offer resources for these victims to seek help. Many victims have come out to report the issue, and California law is taking the cases more seriously.
Some organizations have come together to help victims who lack the finances to pursue the claim by offering expert legal guidance. This ensures that everyone has the opportunity to get justice for their suffering.
Types of Clergy Sexual Abuse
Sexual abuse happens when one person involved in the sexual act does not give consent. In California, a person under the age of 18 cannot consent to sex. The following acts constitute sexual abuse:
- Exposure of body parts. If a clergy member exposes their body parts in your presence or forces you to do the same, you are a victim of sexual abuse. Physical touch is unnecessary to file a successful civil lawsuit under these circumstances.
- Vaginal, oral, or anal sex. Sexual penetration is a common form of sexual abuse. A sexual act is considered abusive when the other person is a minor or is forced into the act.
- Fondling. Fondling involves touching another person’s private parts against their will.
- Sharing sexual images. If a clergy member sends you sexual or inappropriate images on the phone or through other forms of electronic communication, you can sue them and the church for sexual abuse.
- Inappropriate touching of another person in front of another person. You are a victim of sexual abuse if another person touches your genitals without consent.
A wide range of religious officials may be held liable for clergy sexual abuse, including:
Impact of Clergy Sexual Abuse on the Victim
Some victims of clergy sexual abuse are too young to understand the abuse. Additionally, the child may not understand that the act is wrong. Sexual abuse can be anything from verbal communication to inappropriate touching and other unconsented sexual acts like oral copulation and sexual intercourse. Being a victim of sexual abuse is devastating. Common impacts of clergy sexual abuse include:
Sexual abuse does not necessarily involve physical touch. However, forced sexual intercourse and sodomy are common forms of abuse. When sexual penetration is forced, the victim could suffer severe injuries and trauma to their sexual organs. Sometimes, the perpetrator could use force or violence against you to overcome your will.
Victims of clergy sexual abuse suffer physical injuries when sexual penetration or force is used. This could land the victim in the hospital. This can cause serious physical pain from the treatment procedures and the ordeal.
The impact of sexual abuse does not end when the physical contact stops or the physical pain from the ordeal has healed. Unwanted physical contact will be accompanied by high levels of emotion and distress, as documented by organizations like the Department of Health and Human Services.
Most survivors of sexual abuse experience guilt and shame from the act. Victims may tend to blame themselves for the act. Most predators prey on a victim’s feelings of shame and guilt to continue the abuse and guarantee that the victim will not speak about it.
Power and Manipulation
When an abuser is a religious leader or clergy member, they know their position in society. Additionally, they have the capacity to elicit the type of reaction they want from others. For example, religious leaders are able to counsel and soothe people in times of distress. They can use the same convincing power to deter you from reporting the incident.
The abuser, in this case, will have power and control over the victim, who can go on with their life knowing that the religious organizations will support them. Living under another person’s control and manipulation can affect your self-esteem and cause fear.
Sexual abuse will affect you emotionally and psychologically. Psychological trauma goes beyond the emotional impacts of sexual abuse. The main difference between emotional distress and psychological trauma is that the psychological effects will have a stronger impact on your mental capacity.
Emotional distress affects your feelings, while psychological effects impact your thinking and actions. Victims of clergy sexual abuse often feel suicidal. This is because of the self-hate associated with being a victim of abuse. Lack of capacity and courage to report the matter and seek justice could cause depression.
As a victim of sexual abuse, you cannot receive the professional help you need if you do not report the abuse. Professionals help the victim develop coping mechanisms to avoid extreme measures like drug use and suicide. This can cause the person to turn to drugs while attempting to numb the pain and forget the ordeal. Although alcohol and drugs could provide temporary solace from the incident, they could have long-term impacts on a person.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
PTSD is a mental health condition that causes different troubling symptoms after a traumatic event. Sexual abuse that occurs in childhood could cause post-traumatic stress disorder.
Some of the symptoms you could experience from PTSD include body aches, headaches, and insomnia. Treatment for PTSD will require extensive mental health counseling and may affect your personal and professional life.
Steps to Take After Clergy Sexual Abuse in California
Many people have suffered clergy sexual abuse in silence. Many people have suffered similar circumstances, some dating back several decades. Many cases of clergy sexual abuse have been brought to light, making it easier to report your case and pursue justice. After an incident of sexual abuse by a religious leader, you may be confused about the right steps to take.
You could follow these steps to ensure you receive the justice you deserve:
Seek Medical Care
Victims of clergy sexual abuse often suffer serious physical or sexual injuries. If the abuse involves abusive sexual contact or acts like sexual penetration, it is important that you receive immediate medical care. When you explain the incident to your doctor, they can take the necessary steps and offer the right treatment for your injuries.
If you seek treatment after sexual abuse, you must ensure that your treatment is documented and the records are kept safe. Your medical records are critical evidence needed to recover compensation in your lawsuit.
Seek Mental Health Support
Dealing with the aftermath of clergy sexual abuse is devastating. Therefore, you will need medical care and psychological and emotional support. Even in cases where the sexual abuse was not physical, the incident can leave you with emotional distress and psychological trauma.
A qualified mental health professional will help you devise healthy coping methods and positive exercises to help you heal from the trauma. No one deserves to suffer sexual abuse. However, when it happens, you will need professional intervention to move past the ordeal.
Hire a Lawyer
Seeking justice for clergy sexual abuse, especially one that occurred many years ago, can be complicated. Sometimes, the abuser may have the financial backing of the religious organization, making it more difficult to battle them.
Hiring and retaining a skilled sex crime lawyer helps you identify your rights and better understand the case. Your lawyer will help you investigate more details of the case and strengthen the form of a lawsuit.
Additionally, the court system is more receptive to these cases. Therefore, your chances of a successful lawsuit are high.
Reporting Clergy Sexual Abuse
Most victims of clergy sexual abuse are minors. Children can be easily manipulated and intimidated to prevent them from speaking out. This is the reason why most of these incidents are not reported. With clergy members' power in society, the victim may believe that seeking justice for the abuse is impossible.
Most people report childhood sexual abuse as adults. This can be difficult for people to believe that the abuse occurred. However, you should not shy away from reporting abuse. You can still hold a perpetrator of sexual abuse accountable for their crimes years after the incident.
Over time, the statute of limitations for reporting sexual abuse has been revised, making your case valid even after decades of remaining silent. You can easily prove childhood sexual abuse if you have a mental or psychological disorder resulting from the abuse. Whether your case is current or you harbor trauma from past sexual abuse, you can pursue criminal and civil action.
File a lawsuit for Clergy Sexual Abuse
Many people who have suffered sexual abuse from religious leaders are beginning to file cases. Evidence continues to mount against the religious organizations, and lists of clergy accused of the heinous acts have been released. By working with a skilled attorney, you can find out whether your abuser is on the list and file a lawsuit against them.
When you file your civil suit, you must prove that you suffered clergy sexual abuse. In your civil case, you can name an individual or the church as a defendant. If you file a suit against the church, you must show how it facilitated the acts and did little or nothing to address the issue. Although clergy sexual abuse lawsuits have increased, you will still face hurdles.
First, most religious organizations will use their authority in society to cover up their clergy's wrongdoings, making it difficult to pursue compensation.
Compensation Benefits in a Clergy Sexual Abuse Lawsuit
In a successful lawsuit alleging clergy sexual abuse, you stand to recover compensation for:
Victims of clergy sexual abuse suffer physical and sexual injuries. This could range from an aggressive sexual act to using force to accomplish the acts. A settlement for your lawsuit will include compensation for the present and future medical bills you stand to incur from treating the injury. The court will also award you psychological treatment if you suffer mental trauma.
If your sexual abuse caused you to miss work, you will be compensated for lost wages. Lost wages are the amount you lose in monthly income, bonuses, overtime pay, and income from self-employment while dealing with the consequences of the abuse. Sometimes, the psychological impact of sexual abuse can cause depression and PTSD. This could make it challenging for you to return to work.
However, compensation for lost wages requires that you present sufficient evidence of the amount you lost. You can prove the lost wages by obtaining a letter from your employer. The letter will show your income and the amount of time you missed.
Pain and Suffering
Sexual abuse causes severe emotional and psychological distress for the victims. Whether or not the abuse involved physical contact will not affect your ability to be compensated for pain and suffering.
Loss of enjoyment of Life
You could be filled with shame, guilt, and self-hatred after suffering sexual abuse. These emotions could take up part of your life and prevent you from engaging in fun activities you enjoyed before the abuse. You can prove the impact on your life by obtaining testimony from family and friends who knew you before and after the abuse.
Frequently Asked Questions on Clergy Sexual Abuse in California
A "clergy" is a respected group of individuals who hold a position of trust in society. If you are a victim of clergy sexual abuse, you may be overwhelmed and confused about what steps to take. The following are frequently asked questions on clergy sexual abuse:
What makes clergy sexual abuse different?
Sexual abuse is a serious yet common offense. A victim of sexual abuse can be an adult or a minor. However, what differentiates clergy sexual abuse from other forms of sexual abuse is the betrayal of trust that exists in the act. Clergy members are deemed reliable and trustworthy. However, when they prey on the congregation, they betray the victims and their family's trust.
When you go to church or another religious institution, you expect to be safe and guided in the right direction. When abuse by the clergy occurs, most victims are fearful that no one will believe their story. For this reason, most victims, especially children, suffer through the ordeal. Clergy sexual abuse has remained unreported for many years; most people will only come out as adults.
However, more cases have emerged recently, and the church is held liable for the abuse. Therefore, if you have suffered clergy sexual abuse, you should not hesitate to report the matter.
Can I file a sexual assault lawsuit if the abuse occurred when I was a child?
Victims of sexual assault are afraid to report the abuse when the abuser is a powerful person. Children are a vulnerable group in society. For this reason, it is easy to manipulate or threaten the minor into not reporting the incident. If a clergy member abused you as a child, you might still be able to hold the church and the perpetrator accountable for their actions.
Is there a statute of limitations for clergy sexual abuse cases in California?
In the recent past, your claim of clergy sexual abuse could be valid until you turn 26 years old. This was to help cover for individuals who faced child sexual abuse but could not report it. However, California has revised its laws, allowing individuals up to forty years old to report and pursue compensation for sexual abuse that occurred in childhood.
Who can I sue for clergy sexual abuse?
When clergy sexual abuse occurs, you may be confused about who to hold accountable for the action. A person who committed the act against you must be punished for their actions. Unfortunately, there are times when sexual abuse is reported and the clergy member responsible for the crime is retired or has been transferred. In this case, you can file a claim against the church.
Another instance where it is possible to hold the church liable for clergy sexual abuse is when the perpetrator of the crime lacks the financial capacity to compensate you for your losses. Suing the church helps ensure that you recover maximum compensation.
How much can I recover from a clergy sexual abuse lawsuit?
There is no exact amount you can recover from a sexual abuse lawsuit against the church or clergy. However, several factors may affect how much you recover from the lawsuit. When you file your lawsuit in court, the judge may assess the injury you suffered and the amount you incurred to treat your physical and psychological injuries from the order.Having a skilled sex crime lawyer by your side will help ensure you recover the amount you deserve.
Find a Skilled Sex Crime Attorney Near Me
Clergy sexual abuse could range from sexual conversations, soliciting or sharing sexual images, unwanted touching, or sexual intercourse. Being a victim of clergy sexual abuse means that the perpetrator has broken the trust bestowed upon them by society. Anyone can be a victim of sexual abuse. However, children are more vulnerable to the act.
Victims of clergy sexual abuse suffer serious physical and emotional trauma from the ordeal. If you are a victim of clergy sexual abuse as a child or as an adult, you are entitled to compensation. By filing a civil case against the perpetrator and the church, you may be compensated for your medical expenses, lost earnings, and pain from the incident.
Battling a civil claim against a religious institution or its leaders can be challenging. Therefore, seeking legal guidance is critical. At the Sex Crimes Attorney, we understand the impact that sexual abuse could have on your life. We will protect your rights and ensure you recover maximum compensation from your suit. Contact us at 866-853-2106 today to discuss your case throughout California.