Clergy Sex Abuse

The church is a place where members of all ages should feel safe. However, over the past 20 years, courageous victims numbering into the thousands have come forth to report their experiences with clergy sexual abuse. Survivors are now taking legal action against the Roman Catholic Church and pursuing lawsuits claiming the church neglected to prevent criminal behavior and knowingly protected perpetrators.

Many organizations believe that the church should acknowledge the wrongful acts committed by their clergy and hold them responsible. While it is true that several church denominations are currently working on ways to stop sexual abuse committed by clergy, irreversible damage has already occurred. These abused children and their families have suffered tremendously.

Holding the responsible parties accountable for the abuse is a crucial step in the healing process. Monetary values will not make up for the traumatic experience that clergy sex abuse claimants have endured. However, receiving financial compensation from a clergy sex abuse claim can help them find justice.

Long-term mental and emotional side effects

Depression is a psychological long-term side effect of child sex abuse. The extreme trauma they experience has other side effects they must deal with no matter how long ago they were abused. Other psychological issues include:

  • Anxiety disorders and panic attacks
  • Eating, personality, sleep, and somatic disorders
  • Intimacy issues in adulthood
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Self-harm actions

Helping Survivors Take Legal Action

Now more than ever, survivors are feeling empowered to come forward to take legal action against their abusers and the institutions that allowed these crimes to occur. Those looking to file a lawsuit against the church can help prevent others from becoming victims of sexual predators. These victims now need someone on their side to provide legal support and guide them through the complex litigation process.

Even if the abused victim is now an adult and the childhood sexual abuse occurred many years ago, filing a claim may still be possible. As more and more clergy sex abuse lawsuits are filed, survivors gain the courage and support to find justice.

Clergy Sex Abuse Statutes of Limitations

The statute of limitations for civil lawsuits varies by state. However, many laws have changed to extend the time frame for filing clergy sex abuse cases. Since 2018, 15 states and the District of Columbia have signed bills that extend or suspend the statute of limitations for child sex abuse lawsuits. Eight states have created lookback windows to allow victims to file lawsuits no matter how long ago they were abused. However, the only states with current open lookback windows are:

  • California
  • New Jersey
  • New York

It is common for victims to wait until they reach adulthood before they pursue legal action, and these new laws give survivors more time to process the traumatic events of clergy sex abuse during their childhood.

Holding institutions accountable

Over several decades, thousands of children and teenagers have been victims of clergy sex abuse. The Catholic Church knew about the crimes committed by clergy members and decided to protect the perpetrators and not the victims. Sexual abuse victims should not be left alone to fend for themselves, especially when there are already hundreds of lawsuits filed against abusers and the institutions that enabled them. The Catholic Church should be held accountable for its role in suppressing information about accused clergy members.

 

As legal professionals, attorneys must join the fight against the church and hold them accountable for its negligence and criminal activity. Broughton Partners is here to bridge the gap between your law firm and clergy sex abuse victims looking to file a lawsuit.

Our experienced network of clergy abuse experts

Our extensive network of legal professionals provides us with insight into the most up-to-date information about clergy sex abuse cases. Litigation against the Catholic Church poses unique challenges when searching for survivors in need of legal representation. To help law firms connect with more survivors, we are continually updating our marketing strategies to find potential claimants. Our goal is to help victims of clergy sex abuse find the legal guidance they need.

Caring through compassion

We understand how challenging it is for survivors to talk about their traumatic experiences, especially with strangers over the phone. To establish a form of trust, we ensure potential claimants know that their call is confidential and that we will never disclose their personal information or details of their case to anyone without their consent.

 

Clergy sex abuse victims have gone through immeasurable hardships and want to work with an attorney they can trust and who cares about them. We are responsible for making clergy abuse victims feel comfortable and safe as we are often some of the first people victims talk to about their past abuse.

Help Us Help Them

The psychological injuries caused by clergy sex abuse can affect a victim for their entire life. Survivors often struggle with depression, anxiety, PTSD, and numerous other conditions. After going through such a horrific experience, victims can be reluctant or too overwhelmed to speak with an attorney. Victims sometimes feel that pursuing a clergy sex abuse lawsuit will bring back awful memories and cause more emotional injury.

The Broughton Partners team wants to do everything we can to support survivors and help them find justice. We feel strongly that survivors of clergy sex abuse are entitled to restitution for the horrific abuse they endured as children. Using various marketing techniques, we reach out to clergy sex abuse victims and provide them with information that will encourage them to come forward and seek legal assistance.

October 1986

Reverend Gilbert Gauthe was the first widely publicized abuser. Gauthe went on trial to face criminal child sex abuse charges. He was convicted of multiple counts of sex crimes against children. He pled guilty and received a 20-year prison sentence.

January 2002

The Boston Globe brought attention to the clergy’s criminal acts of child sex abuse. The Boston Globe’s investigation and subsequent publications were instrumental in bringing justice to five Roman Catholic priests’ victims. The series by the Boston Globe won a Pulitzer Prize for its achievement in outstanding journalism. They also encouraged many survivors to tell their stories and take legal action against their abusers.

February 2004

The John Jay College of Criminal Justice compiled a report that revealed over 4,000 clergy members between 1950 and 2002 had allegations of abuse. The report was officially titled “The Nature and Scope of the Problem of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests and Deacons in the United States” but is commonly referred to as the John Jay Report.

July 2004

The Archdiocese of Portland, Oregon, became the first diocese to seek bankruptcy protection while facing sexual abuse claims.

March 2011

The Associated Press reported that the Catholic Church does not monitor former priests who have been accused of sexually abusing children.

September 2015

A movie titled Spotlight is released. The film follows The Boston Globe’s investigation into how the Catholic Church hid child sex abuse within Boston’s Archdiocese. The film won Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay at the 88th Academy Awards.

March 2016

A grand jury investigation in Pennsylvania discovered widespread sexual abuse involving at least 50 clergy members in the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown. The investigation found systemic abuse of thousands of children for decades.

August 2018

A Pennsylvania grand jury report listed over 300 priests accused of sexual abuse. It was revealed that the Roman Catholic Church leaders in Pennsylvania tried to conceal child sex abuse acts. Six of the eight Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania were involved in the cover-up that brought the victim count to more than 1,000. The report claims that many who have suffered sexual abuse by the Pennsylvania Catholic dioceses are still undiscovered.

October 2018

Catholic Texas dioceses released a list of priests credibly accused of sexual abuse of minors. The abuse can be traced back to 1941.

December 2018

Pope Francis spoke at a gathering of cardinals and urged all priests who have raped and molested children to turn themselves in. The pope also promised the church would never again cover up clergy sex abuse.

May 2019

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed a law that allows clergy abuse victims to file a lawsuit up until age 55, or within seven years of discovering the abuse.

October 2019

An Associated Press investigation found that nearly 1,700 clergy accused of child sex abuse are unsupervised. Those credibly accused were found to have jobs working with children (teachers, coaches, and counselors).

October 2019

California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a law that allows clergy abuse victims to file a lawsuit until age 40, or within five years of discovering the abuse.

December 2019

After several states extended or suspended their child sex abuse statute of limitations, attorneys began filing a new wave of lawsuits alleging clergy sex abuse.

August 2020

In a landmark move, New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo signed a law that extends the lookback window for victims to file lawsuits no matter how long ago the alleged abuse occurred.

February 2021

A federal judge rejected the Archdiocese of Santa Fe’s attempt to block three lawsuits accusing it of transferring millions of dollars in property to parishes in hopes to shield the assets from sexual abuse settlements. This ruling allowed hundreds of cases to proceed.

References

Bernard Condon and Jim Mustian. “Surge of new abuse claims threatens church like never before”, AP News, https://apnews.com/article/621efb9528384f278c71a97308404531. Accessed February 10, 2021.

Diana R. Garland and Christen Argueta. “How Clergy Sexual Misconduct Happens: A Qualitative Study of First-Hand Accounts”, Baylor University, https://www.baylor.edu/clergysexualmisconduct/. Accessed February 10, 2021.

Joyful Heart Foundation. “Effects of Sexual Assault and Rape”, Joyful Heart Foundation, http://www.joyfulheartfoundation.org/learn/sexual-assault-rape/effects-sexual-assault-and-rape. Accessed February 10, 2021.

Michelle Boorstein. “Scandals, compensation programs lead Catholic clergy sex abuse complaints to quadruple in 2019”, Washington Post, https://www.washingtonpost.com/religion/2020/06/26/scandals-compensation-programs-lead-catholic-clergy-sex-abuse-complaints-quadruple-2019/. Accessed February 10, 2021.

RAINN. “Effects of Sexual Violence”, Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, https://www.rainn.org/effects-sexual-violence. Accessed February 10, 2021.

The Associated Press. “A look at 15 states making it easier to sue over sex abuse”, AP News, https://apnews.com/article/2ba715a1a0ee45bc8ebe97d02b77246c. Accessed February 10, 2021.

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