If you or a loved one suffered from clergy abuse, you should know that times have changed over the past two decades, with support systems in place should you choose to tell your story. The legal system has gotten behind clergy abuse victims, and the Catholic Church has taken some measure of responsibility for its concealment of abusive priests.
This support was not always the case, as many cases of clergy abuse went unreported or covered up by the church. However, drastic changes in the handling of clergy abuse have taken place, including church regulations that mandate reports of all sexual abuse allegations to law enforcement agencies.
The Child Welfare Information Gateway details how clergy have joined the ranks of mandatory reporters of abuse alongside teachers and hospital workers. This change makes it much easier for victims to get help and finally hold their abusers accountable. Here are some suggestions for what you should do if you or a loved one suffered from clergy abuse.
Report the Abuse
The first two things that you or your family member should do after suffering from clergy abuse are to report the incident to law enforcement and seek medical care, including accessing mental health resources.
We understand that taking the step to report the abuse may be painful—and even a bit frightening. Victims often express feelings of guilt, despair, and anger regarding the abuse. As a result, most abuse cases (clergy or otherwise) go unreported, making it difficult for law enforcement to act.
An article in Psychology Today describes how hard clergy abuse can be for victims to handle mentally. However, reporting the abuse can make a substantial difference in the victim’s life in many ways.
If you have either filed a report or are struggling to do so, you may want to consult with a lawyer. A lawyer can assist you with this step, as well as help you take the next legal steps.
Statute of Limitations
Besides the relief you or your loved one may feel from finally telling your story, doing so will give you the time needed to build a possible legal case against your abuser and the Catholic Church and avoid butting up against the statute of limitations.
A statute of limitations is a legal time limit that you have to file a lawsuit. If the statute of limitations passes, your case might not be accepted. It could get thrown out on a technicality.
The statute of limitations differs depending on where you are and when the abuse happened. However, many jurisdictions have long time limits, and some states have changed the statute for clergy abuse to make it easier for victims to seek justice from their abuser.
Reasons to Hire a Lawyer
If you or a loved one is the victim of clergy abuse, you might benefit from hiring a lawyer to assist you. Although the legal system and many religious institutions have made major changes in how they handle clergy abuse, there is still a chance that your case may not proceed as expected. Having a lawyer on your side can help you ensure that your case is handled properly.
Another reason you may benefit from hiring a lawyer is to ensure that you receive the compensation that you may be entitled to. Bloomberg News reported in January 2020 how the church has reclassified about $2 billion in assets to avoid having them available for payments to victims that were awarded in settlements. Many Catholic Church dioceses and religious orders have filed bankruptcy or are reviewing their options. A personal injury lawyer can continue to work on your case and fight for compensation.
Possibly Recoverable Compensation
When you file a personal injury lawsuit, like a clergy abuse lawsuit, the goal is usually to recover compensation. This compensation can help victims pay for medical and mental health services that they need to recover. It can be especially helpful for victims who need ongoing care. There are several types of compensation that you can recover, including:
- Medical care: Any expenses related to the treatment of the abuse can be compensated, including hospital visits.
- Mental healthcare: Any expenses related to long-term therapy needed to address the trauma, including prescription medication and visits to mental health professionals.
- Pain and suffering: A non-economic form of compensation that accounts for the mental anguish you or your loved one suffered for years after being abused.
There are other types of compensation not covered on this list. You can discuss your case with a lawyer to see what types of compensation you may be eligible to receive and how much compensation you can expect. The Catholic Church has many cases pending, and many victims have recovered compensation to help with their expenses.
Understanding Your Rights
Abuse has been happening in the Catholic Church for a long time—and not always to children. In 2019, the New York Times reported on Pope Francis’ admission concerning persistent sexual abuse of nuns by clergy members worldwide.
Regardless of who you are and what type of abuse you may have suffered, you have the right to hold your abuser accountable. To do this, you may need to file a clergy abuse lawsuit.
Contact Us Today
If you or a loved one is struggling to decide what to do after suffering from clergy abuse, you may want to consult a lawyer. A lawyer can guide you through the steps to creating a legal case against the abuser and the Catholic Church. Contact Pintas & Mullins Law Firm at (800) 794-0444 to speak to our legal team about your case.