Government agencies and legal circles have focused on child sexual abuse because of the relatively recent revelations that the Catholic Church had systemic problems with child abuse. These ongoing problems have forced many states to take a stronger stance against clergy sexual abuse to address the issue.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), sexual abuse is any activity that “violates the laws or social taboos of society.” The Arizona legislature passed laws to improve the chances of identifying and addressing abuse problems within religious organizations. Unfortunately, clergy sexual abuse continues to be a problem that the Arizona government must address.
If you were the victim of clergy sexual abuse, you might consider discussing your case with a personal injury lawyer. Although it may feel challenging to come forward and speak about your abuse, doing so can help you overcome the effects of that abuse. You might also protect other people from the clergy member who abused you.
You can discuss your case with an Arizona clergy sexual abuse lawyer to review your legal options. Call the offices of Pintas & Mullins Law Firm at (800) 219-9622 for a free consultation about your case.
Arizona Clergy Sexual Abuse Law
In recent years, Arizona has joined many states in passing laws to address clergy sexual abuse and religious organizations. Mandatory reporting laws exist in every state, including Arizona, although those laws differ from state to state. These laws require people in certain professions to identify abuse and report it to law enforcement or child welfare agencies so they can act on the information.
The laws regarding mandatory reporting draw a distinction when it comes to clergy members. According to A.R.S. § 13-3620, clergy members do not have to report abuse if their knowledge of it comes from a confession or another type of religious practice with an expectation of privacy. However, clergy members must report abuse if they observe the signs of abuse in a child during other activities.
It is also essential to note that many religious organizations have changed their internal structures to better address abuse issues. For example, the Catholic Church has an internal mandatory reporting process that requires any clergy member who receives a report of abuse to relay it to higher-level officials in their area. The information also goes directly to the Vatican for further analysis.
Understanding Your Rights
As the victim of sexual abuse, you have the right to file a civil lawsuit against your abuser. Civil lawsuits let victims collect financial compensation for expenses related to their injuries. In your case, the impact of the abuse may have significantly changed your life moving forward. Many victims have difficulty maintaining employment, making it difficult to earn a living. You could also claim compensation to address the mental health assistance you need and the pain and suffering this traumatic event inflicted upon you.
In 2019, the state legislature extended the statute of limitations for civil lawsuits against sexual abusers (A.R.S. § 12-514) from two to 12 years after you turn 18, meaning you have until age 30 to pursue a claim against your abuser and the religious organization that harbored them. An Arizona clergy sexual abuse lawyer can help you determine whether the deadline has passed for your case. Call Pintas & Mullins Law Firm to learn more.
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Multiple parties might have liability in a clergy sexual abuse case. In most cases, liability rests with the abuser. However, the consistent and long-running cover-up operations by religious organizations caused states, including Arizona, to change liability laws to address the failure of churches and other organizations to report sexual abuse. If a religious organization’s leadership knows about the abuse and does nothing about it or tries to cover it up, you can now hold the organization liable.
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Settlement vs. Trial
If you decide to file a clergy sexual abuse lawsuit, you should know that the at-fault parties might offer you a settlement agreement. A settlement agreement is an alternative method for resolving lawsuits before or during trial. It is a contract that says you will accept a specific amount of monetary compensation in exchange for ending your lawsuit. The agreement might also include other terms, such as not disclosing its terms publicly.
Before you accept an agreement, you might want to review it thoroughly with a personal injury lawyer. Settlement agreements might have complicated terms, and you could inadvertently agree to something that makes you comfortable. An attorney can perform a thorough review of the offer to ensure that it addresses all your needs, both current and future. You do not have to accept a settlement agreement; you can take all the time you need to negotiate a better deal.
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Determining what compensation to seek depends on the impact that the abuse had on your life. You could recover several types of awards common to civil lawsuits, such as medical bills and lost income. You might also find it appropriate to claim pain and suffering, which addresses cases where the trauma and anguish of their abuse severely impact a victim emotionally and mentally.
Calculating pain and suffering compensation does not rely on bills or invoices. Instead, an Arizona clergy sexual abuse lawyer would determine a nonmonetary amount relative to the impact on your situation. They would employ one of several formulas that use other expenses as a benchmark for your calculations.
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Talking about clergy sexual abuse can be one of the hardest things you do, but you might find it rewarding. Standing up for yourself and taking legal action to hold your abuser accountable can help address many of the problems that you experienced because of your abuse.
If you suffered injuries as the victim of clergy sexual abuse, contact an Arizona clergy sexual abuse lawyer for legal advice on what steps you could take. Call the team at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm today at (800) 219-9622 to discuss your case during a free consultation.