Survivors of child sexual abuse often suffer in silence for years about what they have endured. Victims often blame themselves for the abuse and struggle with feelings of guilt and shame. These feelings can prove even more difficult to process when your abuser is someone you respected and trusted.
This is the case for many adults now coming forward to say a member of the clergy abused them. Survivors make thousands of new allegations every year against the Roman Catholic Church, with The Washington Post reporting on more than 4,000 new cases coming to light in 2019 alone.
In South Dakota, the Sioux Falls Diocese and the Rapid City Diocese published lists of priests facing credible claims of abuse. According to the Argus Leader, Sioux Falls named 11 priests, while Rapid City released the names of 21 clergy members. Claims of abuse stretch back to the 1950s.
If you survived child sexual abuse by a priest or other clergy member, you might be entitled to compensation. Money cannot erase the trauma you have suffered. However, holding your abuser and the church accountable could provide you with a sense of empowerment and closure.
A South Dakota clergy sexual abuse lawyer can assist in making your voice heard in a civil lawsuit. If you would like to learn more about seeking justice and compensation from your abuser and the church that concealed him, call Pintas & Mullins Law Firm today at (800) 219-9622 to discuss your case with a team member.
The Catholic Church Covered Up Abuse for Years
Evidence continues to surface that the Catholic Church hid allegations of abuse for decades. Since 2002, the church has worked on reforms to prevent child sexual abuse with the creation of a National Review Board by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, which retained John Jay College to produce a report detailing the extent of sexual abuse in the priesthood.
In 2019, the Vatican released new rules issued by Pope Francis that require priests and nuns to report sexual abuse or cover-ups of abuse to church authorities. In the past, the individual alone decided whether to tell a superior. The law also protects whistleblowers who report abuse and orders dioceses to create systems for confidential reporting.
Defining Sexual Abuse
Sexual abuse includes more than just intercourse. Any unwanted sexual contact or coercion is abuse, including acts like inappropriate touching, oral sex, taking sexually suggestive photographs, or exposing a child to pornography. If a clergy member sexually violated you in any way, you can make a claim against your abuser and the church in a civil lawsuit. Call Pintas & Mullins Law Firm today to learn more.
Survivors Often Stay Silent for Years
Many children who experience sexual abuse do not tell anyone what happened. It could take years, even decades, before they speak about their experiences. Some survivors never tell anyone. According to Psychology Today, survivors might stay silent out of fear, confusion, or denial. Some survivors dissociate from their abuse and repress the memories until something triggers them.
For these reasons, many states have extended the statute of limitations for cases of child sexual abuse, but South Dakota was the exception, becoming the only state since 2002 to make the statute of limitations more rigid.
SD Codified Laws § 26-10-25 gives survivors three years to file suit from the time the abuse occurred or discovered their injuries resulted from the abuse. However, lawmakers changed the statute in 2010 to include a provision barring anyone over the age of 40 from recovering damages from anyone other than the perpetrator of the abuse. Survivors over 40 cannot seek damages from the church.
If you feel ready to tell your story, you can reach out to a South Dakota clergy sexual abuse lawyer before time runs out on your case.
Child Sexual Abuse Can Impact Survivors Physically, Emotionally, and Financially
The Mayo Clinic reports that survivors of child sexual abuse commonly experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and anxiety. Childhood sexual abuse victims frequently suffer from eating disorders or substance abuse and engage in dangerous or promiscuous sexual activity. Survivors may struggle with sleep problems, difficulty maintaining relationships, and thoughts of suicide.
These issues can result in a lifetime of difficulties, including interfering with school and work. When you factor in reduced quality of life, medical care expenses, and money spent on addictions, Johns Hopkins University found that child sexual abuse can have a $300,000 average lifetime financial impact on its female victims.
A South Dakota clergy sexual abuse lawyer can help you seek compensation for these losses. You may receive awards for the pain and suffering your abuse has caused, as well as compensation for mental health therapy, other medical bills, and reduced earning capacity. In some cases, a jury might penalize the church with punitive damages to deter future bad behavior. By stepping forward, you could help protect others from abuse.
Getting Started on Your Case
If you are ready to take legal action, Pintas & Mullins Law Firm is here to help. We have more than 50 years of combined experience fighting on behalf of personal injury victims. We understand the challenges faced by abuse victims coming forward with claims of sexual abuse. We aim to serve you with kindness, compassion, and understanding.
The last thing we want is for an attorney to add to your burdens. That is why we can take your case on a contingency basis. We offer free, no-risk consultations to help you get started, collect no upfront fees, and only receive payment if you recover compensation.
You deserve to have someone on your side fighting for you. No settlement can ever make what happened to you all right, but it might help you move on. If you would like to learn more about how a South Dakota clergy sexual abuse lawyer could help you, call our team today at (800) 219-9622 for a free case review.