America has faced a catastrophic clergy abuse crisis over the last few decades. Hundreds of abusive clergy members have been outed for their crimes, and more victims are coming forward to seek justice than ever before. With increased support for victims existing, more and more victims are likely to continue to come forward over the next few decades. If you, or a loved one, suffered abuse at the hands of a clergy member, here are some crucial facts that you must know about:
Lawsuits are Possible
Every victim of clergy abuse must understand their legal rights. You have the ability to both sue your individual abuser, and the church that helped facilitate your abuser. Bringing every responsible party to justice is your right as a victim, after all. Looking into your abuser’s current status as a clergy member, and whether they are involved in any other clergy abuse-related lawsuits, can provide a solid first step toward justice.
When you first begin looking into filing a lawsuit, you’ll need to contact a qualified, experienced clergy abuse attorney. They can help you understand the specifics of your case, and guide you through the challenging legal process ahead. In many cases, they can do the majority of the groundwork for you, allowing you to heal as your abuser is brought to justice. Gathering evidence, documentation, and other important legal elements will be crucial during this period of the process.
Every Lawsuit is Different
Unfortunately, the statute of limitation laws surrounding clergy abuse are not the same in every state. Depending on where you live, these laws can differ drastically. In states such as Colorado and California, there are no statutes of limitations for these cases, while Illinois and other states typically have 10-30 year windows for victims to file a suit against their abuser. Once again, knowing your unique legal rights is essential, and a solid attorney can ensure that you’re fully knowledgeable in this area.
Many victims of clergy abuse experience their abuse during their minor years. Due to this, many victims wait until adulthood to come forward -either due to fear, social stigma, or a lack of feeling safe to come forward. Even for those that live in a state where your statute of limitation laws keep you from filing a suit, independent compensation programs exist that can help you find justice.
The Church Actively Covered Up Abuse
Tragically, the Catholic Church was well aware of the widespread abuse that clergy members were involved in and failed to do anything substantial about the abuse until public pressure reached a boiling point. Due to this failure, many victims continued to face immense social and psychological pressure, and abusive priests were allowed to continue their crimes with little-to-no pushback. In some extreme cases, Catholic Church officials even helped to relocate abusive clergy members to ensure they evaded justice.
If you discover during your evidence-gathering process that your abuser tried to evade justice, especially if they did so with church-sanctioned help, you can reach a much larger settlement on average. While the average clergy abuse-related settlement is in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, they’ve been known to reach into the millions in some of the higher-profile cases brought over the last few decades. Especially egregious cases of abuse lead to higher settlement amounts, and (hopefully) charges against the clergy member who criminally abused you.
Support Groups are Available
Because of how psychologically traumatizing being abused by a clergy member is, many victims have life-long troubles as a result of their abuse. Thankfully, there are tons of amazing victim support organizations out there that are designed to help victims who are seeking treatment, justice, or anything in-between. Many of these groups are led, and founded, by victims – so they can help other victims find peace of mind. If you know of anyone who needs help from such a support group, you should do your best to point them in the right direction. And there are support groups for more than just Catholic-specific victim groups. Your clergy abuse attorney should have information about local support groups that can help you through this difficult time and legal process.
Help is Around the Corner
If you’re ready to seek justice against your abuser, help is available for you right around the corner. From quality legal assistance to mental health assistance, there are people out there dedicated to helping you heal. With the right support systems behind you, you can finally bring your abuser to justice, and receive the legal and financial compensation that you deserve for your suffering.