In recent years, there have been substantial revelations with regard to the prevalence of sexual abuse of minors within religious communities. If you or someone you love have suffered the trauma and pain of being sexually abused or assaulted by a religious leader, you must know that it is possible to get justice.
Our team of sex abuse attorneys has stood beside church sexual abuse victims and won in the past. They want your voice to be heard, too. Contact us today for a 100% confidential, free legal consultation through which you can learn more about the powerful legal options at your disposal.
It’s widely believed that young children face the threat of being sexually assaulted or exploited in many different communities or organizations. Nevertheless, there are some aspects and dynamics that exist in religious associations that appear to increase the likelihood of this kind of abuse.
For instance, in church groups, children are widely taught to obey, respect, and honor priests and other religious leaders without hesitation. This power dynamic makes it increasingly difficult for victims to speak out against their aggressors. The difficulty stems from the victim’s fear of being punished as well as the worry that their claims will not be believed. In some cases, victims may even be too young to realize that they are being victimized by a person whom they trust.
Religious communities also tend to be distant from the rest of society. This isolation can foster environments in which abuse is swept under the rug if it is ever mentioned at all.
Beginning in the 1980s, credible allegations began to come to light regarding minors, mostly boys as old as 14 and as young as 3 years of age, who had been sexually abused by Catholic priests as well as other members of the church. Many of the claims were made by adults who had, after many years, found the courage to come forward and share the traumatic experiences from their youth.
These priest sexual abuse claims gathered increasing traction in the public eye throughout the ’90s, which also drew the attention of numerous investigative reporting agencies. From then on, instances of sexual abuse in the Catholic church began to “pop up” throughout the United States, Canada, in some South American nations, and much of Europe.
Slowly but surely, a pattern of covering up reports of sexual abuse within the church was discovered. The abuse was widespread, spanning not only nations but continents, as well as long-standing – some claims were from as far back as half a century.
A famous report titled the John Jay Report found that as many as 4% of US priests who had served in the second half of the 20th century had sexual abuse allegations placed against them. The number of cases was observed to have decreased sharply towards the end of the century, particularly in the 80s, with no official reason being attributed to the decrease in the report.
However, it can be surmised that the attention brought to the prolific sex abuse on behalf of Catholic priests helped to curve the flagrant behavior. The filing of substantial lawsuits against the church is also believed to have incited the Church to implement better processes for weeding out sexual predators from within their ranks.
Thanks to increased awareness, investigating, and reporting, thousands of lawsuits were filed and many millions of dollars in damages were awarded to victims well into the 21st century. Nevertheless, these would not be the last momentous legal claims filed against the Catholic church for sexual abuse of minors.
In the year 2018, a Pennsylvania grand jury released a report comprised of more than 850 pages. The report detailed over 1,000 verifiable cases of child sex abuse by priests who formed part of Roman Catholic dioceses throughout the state. As if the uncovering of more than 1,000 cases of sexual abuse by priests didn’t arise sufficient concern, the report also expressed worry over the fact that thousands of other uncovered cases could still exist.
At the time, few criminal charges were brought forth, mainly because the sexual perpetrators were deceased at the time of the report or because the statute of limitations for sexual abuse in PA had elapsed. However, the overwhelming volume of cases encouraged Governor Tom Wolf to sign into law new legislation that provided a renewed ‘window of opportunity’ for victims of sexual abuse by Catholic priests to seek justice via civil claims.
Since this window of opportunity was opened, dozens of lawsuits are known to have been filed against various dioceses of the Roman Catholic church.
Since many of these lawsuits against the Church are ongoing, it is unclear exactly how many legal claims are active today. What is quite clear is that the time for justice is here. More than ever before, victims have the power to hold responsible those organizations which shielded sexual deviants and swept victim’s claims under the rug.
The PA Grand Jury report disclosed not only a shocking amount of victims but also a clear pattern of obfuscation of the truth by the Church in hopes of avoiding bad publicity and, unsurprisingly, financial liability.
When claims arose against specific priests, the Church would reassign the perpetrator to a different parish. In many of these instances, the reassigned priest would continue their predatory behavior once they settled in a new parish. Other priests were allowed (if not helped) to leave the country after allegations of abuse arose against them.
Most troubling of all, few if any of the reports of sexual abuse by priests were reported to local authorities. Internally, claims were extensively investigated and documented, yet few conclusive actions were taken to put an end to the abhorrent acts. The abuse became not only routine but tolerated by Church officials.
Ironically, it would be the same files & reports of abuse that came from internal Church investigations which would allow the Pennsylvania Grand Jury to seek out past victims and validate many of the claims that were included in the historic 2018 report.
Fortunately for victims of priest sexual abuse throughout the country, many states followed Pennsylvania’s lead and likewise implemented ‘window of opportunity’ legislation to give victims renewed hope of getting justice. Albeit later than desired, the time has come for victims of such painful abuse to have their day in court.
Were you the victim of sexual abuse by a priest of the Catholic Church or other religious community? You need to know that you are not alone in your fight and that it is possible to get justice.
You have spent many years having to hide your trauma and repressing painful memories, but you don’t have to suffer in silence any longer. You can join the thousands of other brave victims who have brought lawsuits against those who allowed the abuse to occur. Even if the abuse occurred decades ago, recent changes in the law make it possible to file a legal claim and win. Only by holding the perpetrators and their protectors accountable can we put a stop to this systematic sexual abuse that has continued for far too long.
Contact our experienced sexual abuse lawyers today for a free and completely confidential legal consultation.
For more information regarding the cases handled by our legal office, visit the following URL: Child Sexual Abuse Lawyers Serving Pennsylvania