Sexual assault of any kind is incredibly traumatic and harmful, especially when the victim is a child. This situation is made worse when the act is perpetrated by a person who has abused a position of authority and trust, such as a member of the clergy. Over the past few decades, many scandals have broken out across the United States pertaining to clergy sexual abuse. Unfortunately, many victims of these situations are unaware of the legal options available to them, and most have lots of legal questions regarding how they can ensure accountability for their experiences.
The following are some of the most frequently asked questions our team fields from victims of clergy sexual abuse and their family members. Approaching this type of case is never easy, but the right attorney on your side can help you understand the legal mechanisms that are there to help you ensure accountability and secure compensation for the damages you suffered. The attorneys at Cheney, Galluzzi & Howard are ready to provide the legal counsel you need if you intend to pursue a civil suit against a member of the clergy for sexual abuse of any kind.
A: Any time a member of the clergy abuses their position of trust and authority for personal gain or personal pleasure, this is clergy misconduct. Unfortunately, one of the most pervasive forms of clergy misconduct is sexual abuse, usually of children who participate in church activities and trust their spiritual leaders. If you don’t know if a recent experience qualifies as clergy misconduct, it’s a good idea to speak with an attorney as soon as possible.
A: Since the 1990s, the topic of clergy sexual abuse has been a widespread issue of discussion in the United States, with a particular focus on the Catholic Church. Not only was sexual abuse of children rampant in many parishes across the country, but many Catholic Church officials knew about the problem and not only did little to correct it but actively worked to hide the problem from public view. The corruption surrounding this scandal reached all the way to the Vatican, and unfortunately, many other issues of clergy sexual abuse have arisen in other denominations as well.
A: One of the most troubling examples of clergy sexual abuse in the United States came to public view in the form of the Baltimore Report. This report showed that more than 150 Catholic priests associated with the Archdiocese of Baltimore systematically abused more than 600 children over a period of more than 80 years. The abuse went largely unreported and was covered up, and few of the perpetrators faced accountability for their actions.
A: Yes, if you or someone you love suffered any type of sexual abuse from a member of the clergy, you have the right to file a civil suit against them to seek accountability for the damages you suffered. Additionally, the state will file criminal charges against the defendant, and the criminal case may interact with your civil suit in various ways.
A: If you succeed with a personal injury claim for clergy sexual abuse, you have the right to seek full repayment of all economic losses you incurred from the incident. These may include medical expenses and lost income; you also have the right to seek pain and suffering compensation. The judge handling the criminal case against the defendant could also award you restitution. Your attorney can offer an estimate of how much compensation you could potentially secure for your experience.
A: It may seem as though a case of clergy sexual abuse boils down to the word of the accused against the word of the accuser. It may seem difficult to find evidence to support your case, but your attorney can provide guidance with this. You will likely need to undergo a medical examination, and if any witnesses are available who saw the abuse firsthand or any indications of abuse, their statements will be invaluable to your case.
A: Any type of sexual abuse can carry severe penalties for the defendant if they are convicted, especially if the victim was a child. Penalties for sexual abuse often include heavy fines, years of prison time, and restitution to the victim. It’s possible for a defendant’s fines to reach up to $1 million and for them to face up to 20 years in prison if they committed any type of sexual abuse of a minor resulting in bodily harm.
A: If you need legal counsel to file a civil suit for clergy sexual assault, Cheney, Galluzzi & Howard can represent you on a contingency fee basis. You will only pay a fee if and when we win your case, and your fee will be a portion of the total compensation we secure on your behalf. There is no fee if we are unable to secure compensation for your damages for any reason.
A: This is a possibility. Most civil claims filed are settled outside of court, but settlement is only possible if the defendant accepts liability for their actions. If the civil suit cannot be settled for any reason, it will need to be resolved through litigation. When it comes to the criminal case filed by the state, you could be called to testify as a witness against the defendant.
Ultimately, anyone who experiences any type of clergy sexual abuse is likely to have many legal questions regarding accountability for their experience and recovery for their damages. Cheney, Galluzzi & Howard can provide the compassionate legal counsel you need in this challenging situation, and our firm has helped many past clients recover from all types of personal injuries. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation with our team and learn how we can apply our professional experience to your impending case.