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7 Ways to Support Clergy Sexual Abuse Survivors

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Archive: Jul 2019

7 Ways to Support Clergy Sexual Abuse Survivors

Child sexual abuse is alarmingly common. Roughly one in ten children are sexually abused at some point. This umbrella term includes both physical and verbal abuse. Both are equally harmful. Generally, sexual abuse is any act which degrades the victim in any way, and gratifies the abuser’s sexual appetites in any way.

After hundreds of years of denials (verified cases of clergy child sexual abuse go back to at least the 1390s), the Catholic Church has finally enacted binding, written policies which prohibit this practice. As a result, clergy and priest abuse attorneys are now well-positioned to help survivors obtain compensation in these cases. 

When we meet with sexual abuse survivors, we try to keep the following seven principles in mind. We encourage other people to do the same when they talk to people who have been sexually mistreated by Catholic clergy, or in a similar situation.

Listen

In this context, listening means more than waiting for your turn to speak. Listening means allowing the speakers to unburden themselves of the baggage they have carried. Listening also means making these individuals feel less isolated and alone.

Finally, listening is not easy. The survivor may share graphic memories that are difficult to hear. 

Validate

Much like listening, validation is a delicate matter. Sometimes, the victim’s memories may not completely make sense. But there is a big difference between “validation” and things like judging or assessing. Validation basically means acknowledging that something inappropriate happened and the victim could not have done anything to prevent it. Some common validation phrases, which do not take sides and are not judgmental, include:

  • I’m sorry you had to go through that
  • What happened is not your fault
  • You are not alone and I am here for you
  • No one, including a priest, has the right to hurt you
  • You did not ask for this

The bottom line is that validation is not about measuring credibility or assessing blame. Someone else can fill these roles. Validation is about caring for the person and loving that person.

Ask What More Can You Do

Many people who listen to sexual abuse victims try to push them into certain responses. These efforts may be well-intentioned, but they are not productive. The victim may feel powerless and helpless. 

Instead of urging people to take steps they are not ready to take, go slow and ask how else you can help. Even something as simple as preparing a meal or taking their kids out for pizza may go a long way.

Know About Resources

Many organizations are dedicated to clergy sexual abuse survivors. These people can find solace and support at places like:

  • Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN)
  • National Domestic Violence Hotline (nvdh.org)
  • National Child Abuse Hotline (childhelp.org)

These organizations offer professional counsellors who can make a big difference in the life of a clergy sexual abuse survivor.

Keep an Open Heart

Just like the sexual abuse process often does not happen overnight, the healing process often takes time as well. There will be other conversations, and you will have additional opportunities to provide assistance. 

Take Care of Yourself

Recall that the healing process, at least initially, is all about letting survivors tell their stories in safe places. The healing process does not require listeners and people who care about survivors to pick up their baggage and carry it. However, it is very tempting to do so.

Counsellors often refer to this phenomenon as vicarious trauma, and it can be as bad as the initial trauma. So, know your limits.

Report It

Listeners must protect the victims’ privacy and respect their wishes as to reporting the abuse. But this move is usually a good idea, especially since there are usually anonymous reporting portals which do not make any names or information public.

Reporting the alleged incident brings the situation into the light, and most sexual predators thrive in darkness. Additionally, a report begins a paper trail, which could be necessary in a different context at a later date.

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Types of Religious Sexual Abuse

Many psychologists say there are basically seven types of clergy sexual abuse. If you were a victim of such abuse, a clergy abuse attorney may be able to obtain both compensation and justice. The compensation in these cases usually includes money for economic losses, such as therapy expenses, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. Perhaps more importantly, these claims bring things which occurred in darkness into the light.

Grooming

Surprisingly, one of the most common forms of clergy sexual abuse has nothing to do with physical contact. Often, a therapist, like a pastor, encourages the patient to transfer inadequacy, anger, and other negative feelings onto the therapist. This process helps heal the victim.

But such interaction often goes too far, and many clergy cross the line to sexual grooming. This process, which often takes place over weeks, months, or years, prepares potential victims for future abuse.

Grooming is also one of the most common kinds of clergy sexual abuse. Because it closely mimics normal counsellor-counselee interaction, it is relatively hard for outsiders to detect.

Molestation

Inappropriate touching clearly constitutes molestation. Additionally, repeated touches are almost always intentional, especially if the parishioner has mentioned the issue to the pastor. Molestation may also be more subtle. For example, a close hug could be considered molestation if a brief hug would have been more appropriate.

Same-Sex Molestation

This form of molestation is a bit different, mostly because of the psychological effect it has on the victim. Many same-sex molestation victims blame themselves for the attack. They feel they should have been “strong enough” to fend off the assault. 

Physical and Verbal Abuse

This broad category includes both physical and verbal abuse. There is one common denominator. The abuser is almost always an older person, or someone in a position of power.

Actions or words alone do not constitute sexual abuse. The victim must also prove that the abuser acted in such a way to satisfy his or her own sexual needs. In civil court, victims must normally prove facts like these by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not).

Rape

Any sexual contact between clergy and parishioner is not consensual, in most cases. There is such an uneven distribution of psychological power, and the parishioner is in such a vulnerable position, that meaningful consent is legally impossible. That’s the legal principle behind California’s statutory rape laws, and it applies in this context as well.

Rape often involves some element of deception as well. For example, the pastor may say something like “God brought us together” or “Love between two people is never wrong.”

Date Rape

Many times, perpetrators move very gradually in these situations. A few minutes of intimate conversation before or after a session leads to greater interaction. Later, as the relationship grows, the perpetrator takes full advantage of the relationship.

Much like same-sex molestation, many date rape victims feel like the incident was somehow their fault.

Drug-Facilitated Date Rape

Alcohol is, by far, the leading date rape drug. It is easy to acquire, very potent, and easy to administer. In any context, alcohol is especially dangerous to minors. 

Inappropriate Gifts

Most gifts are intimate and personal exchanges between two people.

So, many gifts are clearly inappropriate. That’s especially true regarding things like swimsuits, perfume, lotion, and other things that make the recipient feel uncomfortable.

Reach Out to a Compassionate Lawyer

Clergy sexual abuse comes in many forms. For a free consultation with an experienced injury attorney in Orange County, contact DiMarco | Araujo | Montevideo. Call us or submit a form online.

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What You Can Do to Help Prevent Clergy Abuse

While the power to stop sexual abuse lies with the people around the survivors, the power to obtain compensation lies with a priest abuse attorney. An experienced lawyer knows how to collect evidence in these cases, even if the abuse occurred years ago. Additionally, attorneys know how to use the law to protect people whether through a lawsuit or filing an Independent Compensation Program claim.

As a result, many victims obtain compensation for their economic losses, such as medical bills, and their noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. Moreover, attorneys often obtain additional punitive damages in sexual abuse cases. Many times, the Catholic Church knew or should have known about the behavior, yet did not stop it.

Reporting sexual abuse does not mean you are judging the alleged abuser or taking sides in any way. You are just telling someone else what you saw. Ultimately, a jury will separate fact from fiction.

Education

Learn some of the red flags associated with child sexual abuse. Both abusers and victims often display certain symptoms. Knowing what to look for makes the next step easier.

Write Letters to the Editor

Share your knowledge with people you know, and with strangers you do not know. The more people who know what to look for, the better.

Empower Children

Pass on the things you learn about child sexual abuse to your children. They are in a better position than you are to speak up and speak out.

Speak Up

Most of us have probably seen those “If You See Something, Say Something” posters. The saying applies in this context. Once again, you are not judging or jumping the gun. You are just relaying the facts as you see them.

Be Open

If a survivor relates an episode of abuse, always say “I believe you” and “It’s not your fault.” Even if the survivor’s recollection is not 100 percent accurate, it is almost always mostly true. Additionally, sexual abuse is always the abuser’s fault.

Invite Survivors to Share Their Stories at Church

This preventative step is not an easy one to take, but it may be the most effective one of all. Such invitations are good ways to affirm the victim’s story and also shed light on the issue. If the victim’s story involves abuse which occurred at that church or in that parish, some discretion might be appropriate.

Make Positive Comments on Social Media

When you see survivors stories, include an affirming or encouraging note. It should not be judgmental, since you do not know all the facts. But it should affirm the victim in some way. Rest assured that survivors read such comments, and your words will encourage them.

Read a Book or Watch a Film About This Issue

Media can make you more aware of the problem. Additionally, supporting media like this encourages others to tell their stories.

Support Survivor-Friendly Laws

Much like a social media comment, a simple Tweet to your representative that you support or oppose a particular bill carries great weight. A message to an influential staff person may be even better. 

Press for Additional Transparency

If child sexual abuse has occurred in your parish, ask your bishop to release all relevant information and make it available online. The more people know, the better protected your children will be.

Contact a Dedicated Lawyer

Churchgoers have the power to prevent clergy sexual abuse. For a free consultation with a top-rated personal injury attorney in Orange County, contact DiMarco | Araujo | Montevideo. We do not charge upfront legal fees in injury cases and can help you explore your legal options. Call us today. 

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Types of Negligence in Personal Injury Cases

Most personal injury claims center on the legal theory of negligence. The broad definition of negligence is to act outside of one’s duties of care. Acting carelessly or recklessly could constitute negligence if the individual fails to uphold the accepted standards of care for the situation. If negligence causes injury or damage to another person, the negligent party could be legally responsible. Negligence could take a few different forms in a personal injury case in California.

Comparative Negligence

Most states follow contributory negligence, comparative negligence or a combination of the two types of laws. California is a pure comparative negligence state. California Civil Code section 1714 states that an at-fault party’s (defendant’s) liability will only extend as much as is appropriate for his or her degree of fault. The injured party (plaintiff) could absorb some liability for the accident if he or she was also negligent.

A plaintiff’s comparative fault for the injuries will reduce the defendant’s degree of fault accordingly in California. The state’s pure fault laws mean a plaintiff could be 98% at fault for the accident and still recover 2% of a compensation award. The courts will simply reduce the plaintiff’s recovery by his or her degree of fault. For example, if a plaintiff were 15% at fault for a car accident, he or she would receive $85,000 of a $100,000 award ($100,000 minus $15,000, or 15%).

Contributory Negligence

In contributory negligence states, any amount of negligence on the plaintiff’s part will bar him or her from financial recovery. A defendant could be mostly responsible for an accident, yet still not owe the plaintiff anything for damages if the defendant proves contributory negligence.

Most states do not follow contributory negligence laws but have instead have moved to comparative fault laws. Some states use a combination of both types of negligence laws, setting a maximum percentage of fault (often 49% to 51%) before the courts will take away a plaintiff’s right to recovery.

Gross Negligence

Gross negligence describes any severe type of negligence. It often refers to someone’s recklessness, wanton disregard for the safety of others or intent to harm another person. Examples of gross negligence include drunk driving, falling asleep behind the wheel and operating on the wrong patient. In cases involving gross negligence that causes serious injuries, judges often award punitive damages to victims. Punitive damages punish the defendant for especially wrongful or malicious acts.

Vicarious Negligence

Vicarious negligence, or vicarious liability, refers to one party’s responsibility for another’s actions. This type of negligence often applies in cases involving employees that cause accidents. For example, if an on-duty bus driver causes an accident by texting and driving, the bus company could be vicariously liable for the negligence of the driver. Vicarious negligence can also apply to a parent with a minor child or a pet owner with a pet. Understanding vicarious liability could help a victim name the correct defendant during a claim.

Negligence Per Se

The doctrine of negligence per se holds that a defendant is negligent without the victim needing any further proof than the act itself. Negligence per se comes from the Latin phrase per se, meaning within itself. Saying an act is negligent per se means the act is negligent within itself, without further need of proof of wrongdoing.

Courtrooms in California rarely allow plaintiffs to use the argument of negligence per se against defendants, but it might apply in cases involving broken laws. If someone breaks a law, such as driving drunk, and this causes another person’s injuries, the broken law could be enough proof within itself to hold the defendant liable. Negligence per se makes a case easier to win than the typical negligence doctrine in a personal injury case in California.

If you were a victim of another’s negligence and sustained serious injuries, contact us. The Orange County personal injury lawyers at DiMarco | Araujo | Montevideo can help you recover the compensation you deserve.

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How to Report Clergy Sexual Abuse

Many sexual abuse survivors are understandably reluctant to come forward. Since the abuser was in a position of trust, many victims do not want the abuser to “get in trouble.” Others fear retaliation against themselves or others. 

Still other cases involved delayed disclosure. The victim initially said there was no abuse, and later changes his or her mind. It is especially difficult for these individuals to come forward, as they have probably already experienced some disbelief when they told their stories. They are afraid that officials may react the same way.

Making an initial report is often the most difficult step to take in this process. Once a clergy abuse attorney becomes involved, an attorney can take steps to protect victim privacy whether through a lawsuit or with filing an Independent Compensation Program claim. Furthermore, most sexual abuse claims settle out of court. So, there is usually no need for victims to confront their accusers or tell their stories publicly, unless they desire to do so.

Nevertheless, it is important to make an official report. Such a report is usually admissible as evidence in court. Furthermore, the report draws attention to the situation. So, victims not only bolster their own claim for damages. They also help protect future victims. Some insight into the process may make coming forward to police a bit easier.

How Do I Report Abuse?

Call a local police station, or better yet, go to a local police station in person. Typically, law enforcement organizations have staffers who are specially trained in this area. If you need to bring someone for moral or other support, like a family member, friend, or a personal injury attorney, feel free to do so.

What Happens Next?

Procedure varies among different agencies. But generally, a supervisor evaluates all reports and then assigns them to investigators. These investigators are usually from a designated unit, which in this case would be the sex crimes division. Expect these investigators to talk to everyone involved, including the victim.

What Happens During the Interview?

First and foremost, understand that police investigators gather facts. They do not make judgments. So, they will never administer lie detector tests or take similar action. If anything, there is usually an unwritten presumption that the victim is telling the truth, as the victim recalls the truth.

This interview usually goes better if the victim remembers details. Write down as many things as you can think of, and convey these items to investigators. Furthermore, if the event occurred recently, investigators may ask health and safety-related questions. Finally, it’s a good idea to have an attorney or other advocate with you during this time.

Will There Be Legal Proceedings?

If officers determine that there is probable cause, the District Attorney will file charges. “Probable cause” is a legal standard which is below proof beyond a reasonable doubt, which is the burden of proof at trial.

In delayed disclosure cases, it is usually quite difficult to obtain convictions. There may be little or no physical evidence, such as DNA on clothes or biological evidence of a sexual assault. Additionally, the defendant may have moved to an unknown location or died.

These obstacles do not exist in civil court, for the most part. The burden of proof is only a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). So, while an Orange County attorney needs evidence, a civil lawyer does not need as much evidence as a criminal prosecutor. Additionally, in civil court, the church is usually the defendant. If the alleged abuser is unavailable, the case can go forward, since this person is essentially a witness.

Connect with an Experienced Lawyer

Proper reporting greatly assists both criminal prosecutors and civil lawyers. For a free consultation to explore your legal options with an experienced attorney in Orange County, contact DiMarco | Araujo | Montevideo. We routinely handle matters in Orange County and nearby jurisdictions.

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What is Catholic Safe Environment Training?

When it comes to ending child sex abuse in the Catholic Church, policy and procedure statements, like the child protection policy, are an important step in the right direction. However, such documents only go so far. 

Initiatives like the Safe Environment Coordinator program are an important additional step. The SEC is basically the point person in a church or diocese for most sexual abuse prevention matters. There is a single point of contact who addresses concerns, provides information, manages the environment, and is fully accountable to Church leadership.

These two efforts may well stop child sexual abuse in Catholic churches. But many times, a third step is necessary. Clergy sexual abuse attorneys take that third step. Attorneys hold Church officials accountable when they ignore agreed-upon procedures and put children at risk. Additionally, attorneys obtain compensation for these victims. This money covers things like therapy expenses and lost wages, as well as the severe pain and suffering that these victims endure.

What are Safe Environment Training (SET) Rules?

Every Catholic Church in the world must comply with mandatory SET guidelines. Some important ones include:

  • Training adults to recognize abuse red flags, as well as children who may have been abused.
  • A written and specific Code of Conduct which applies to anyone who regularly comes in contact with children, including clergy, volunteers, staff, and anyone else who is in a position of trust.
  • Sharing age-appropriate materials with children regarding the Church’s stance on sexual abuse, some basics about abuse, what to do if they are abused, and other such issues.

Additionally, the Church must be completely transparent with parents. If the Church is less than forthcoming about any of these matters, it may be best to consult an attorney.

How are Dioceses and Eparchies Implementing the SET Program?

Local congregations have a great deal of freedom in this area. Generally, they may design and put into place their own SET programs, as long as the initiative fully complies with the mandatory standards set out above. Legally, the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People is the only written policy that matters. Compliance with a local SET program may be evidence of compliance, but such proof is far from compelling.

Who Must Be Trained?

As a general rule, anyone who comes into contact with children on a regular basis must be SET certified. In addition, these individuals are fully accountable for their actions. Legally, if they are negligent or commit a tort, like assault, the Church is responsible for the person’s actions or inactions.

How Long Will The SET Policy Remain in Effect?

Safety has no expiration date, especially where children’s interactions with adults are concerned. So, the SET will remain in effect until it is modified, rescinded, or replaced.

What does the Church Teach About Sexual Abuse?

The sanctity of the body is one of the core teachings of Christianity. The Church goes even further, declaring the “human body shares in the dignity of the image of God.” As such, every person deserves love and respect. Anyone who violates that respect violates a central tenet of the faith. Children and other vulnerable individuals need special protection in this area.

Reach Out to a Lawyer

Policies and procedures, like the SET initiative, provide important and legally binding ground rules. For a free consultation with a personal injury attorney in Orange County, contact DiMarco | Araujo | Montevideo. We routinely handle matters in Orange County and nearby jurisdictions.

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Catholic Church Child Protection Policy

In 2004, largely in response to a Boston Globe expose on the subject, Church officials released the long-awaited Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. This 30-page document has been revised and updated several times, most recently in 2011.

Sexual abuse incidents, and the associated cover-ups, have rocked the Catholic Church in recent decades. Medically and psychologically, it is difficult for these survivors to recover. 

Legally, the Catholic Church is usually responsible for the losses victims sustain. About 95 percent of these claims settle out of court. So, victims usually do not have to confront their accusers and usually do not need to tell their stories publicly. If the victim is uncomfortable during a deposition or other encounter, a priest abuse attorney in Orange County can usually take steps to protect your privacy.

What is the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People?

This document makes it clear that sexual abuse, of any kind, is not acceptable in the Catholic Church.

More importantly, this document establishes a legal standard of care. Violating a written policy is clear evidence of negligence. So, claims are easier to prove, and damages are usually higher. Some specific policies and requirements include:

  • Transparent, user-friendly reporting apparatus
  • Timelines and standards for investigations
  • Pastoral support standards
  • A place for the laity in policymaking and decision making
  • Protection for whistleblowers

If the church, diocese, or other body does not live up to all these standards, liability may attach in the form of civil damages.

Who Drafted the Charter?

An eight-person committee heard testimony, interviewed witnesses, investigated the facts, and took other steps before publishing the report.

This committee’s membership is significant. Four of the eight members were lay people; two lay people were sexual abuse survivors. Cardinal Sean O’Malley, of Boston, was the only prelate on the committee. He is part of Pope Francis’ “kitchen cabinet,” so he has direct access to the Pontiff. Additionally, O’Malley held that same position in 2002, when the Boston Globe published the aforementioned landmark sex abuse study.

Was There a Policy Like This One Previously?

In the 1990s, several other committees met and drafted reports. However, some bishops submitted to them, and some did not.

The Charter is the first sex abuse policy which applies to everyone in the worldwide Catholic Church. Additionally, even if the abuse occurred before the Charter was published, its provisions are controlling. The Church clearly stated that “The Charter pertains to acts of abuse in the past, present, and future.”

How Do Dioceses Evaluate the Background of Clergy, Employees, and Volunteers Who Work with Children?

Churches usually order background checks, but do to privacy laws, much of the information these reports contain in self-reported.

So, churches must supplement these checks with local law enforcement. Generally, these agencies can perform independent background searches. But even the most thorough background check leaves gaps.

Therefore, it is important for both personal injury attorneys and churches to look for red flags. For example, if the person has relocated several times, such a pattern could indicate that the person has something to hide. In cases like these, best practices dictate that the volunteer or other person never have any one-on-one time with any child. 

How Often are Background Checks Conducted?

A one-time background check is clearly insufficient. At the same time, annual checks are clearly intrusive. In most cases, there should be a middle ground.

Once again, best practices suggest one background check every three to four years. That’s probably the right balance, unless there are red flags. In such a situation, more frequent background checks are appropriate.

Consult with a Lawyer

A new, written policy makes Catholic sex abuse cases easier to win. For a free consultation about your legal options, contact DiMarco | Araujo | Montevideo. We do not charge upfront legal fees in negligence cases and can help you file an Independent Compensation Program claim.

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Modern History of Clergy Abuse

Sexual abuse includes any words or actions which are designed to gratify the abuser’s desires at the expense of the survivor’s self-esteem. Such abuse is especially common in unequal relationships, like clergy-parishioner and teacher-student.

Legally, the institution which employs the abuser is usually responsible for damages. In clergy abuse cases, the Catholic Church is usually responsible if the Church either knew or should have known that the clergy member had issues in this area.

Due to the status difference between survivor and abuser, as well as the Church’s unwillingness to intervene, an Orange County clergy abuse attorney may be able to obtain substantial compensation in these cases. In addition to compensatory damages for medical bills and emotional distress, many Orange County jurors award substantial punitive damages in these cases.

15th Century

In the mid 1490s, Katharina von Zimmern and her sister, who were both teenagers, went to live at a monastery in Zurich. Details are hazy, but it is clear that priests molested the two girls at the monastery, so they returned to the family home in Germany. Perhaps not surprisingly, Katharina went on to be a leader of the Protestant Reformation in the 15th century. Some of her scandalous endeavors included translating the Bible into German and allowing civil authorities access to the expansive Church lands in Zurich.

Katharina and her sister may have been the first documented Church sexual abuse survivors. Unfortunately, they were by no means the last ones. For several hundred years, sporadic reports continued. Then, things took a turn for the worse.

19th Century

In 1848, several political revolutions upset the traditional power systems in Europe. There were uprisings in France, the Netherlands, Germany, Poland, Austria, Belgium, and many other countries. At first, the rebel groups succeeded. But they could not hold power, and by 1851, most European autocrats were back in power.

Pope Pius IX was in power at the time. He is remembered as one of the most important, and most controversial, Popes in history. Pius reacted to the wave of revolutions by insulating the Church from the outside world. That move may have created a culture which allowed sexual abuse to continue unfettered. Since the Church essentially answered to no civil authority at the time, some clergy felt they could take advantage of parishioners without consequences.

20th Century

In 1984, Gilbert Gauthe, a Louisiana bishop, was the first American Roman Catholic priest to face sex abuse charges. He pleaded guilty to abusing thirty-seven minors over the course of his tenure in Lafayette. He served ten years of a twenty year prison sentence. Shortly after his release and relocation to Texas, he received probation for an injury to a child conviction. Later, he served some time in prison for violating Texas’ sex offender registration requirements.

The Gauthe case took the abuse issue to the next level. What started as isolated incidents and soon became ingrained in the Church’s culture now became something to hide from civil authorities. The Catholic Church may have known about the issues with Gauthe in the early 1980s, yet Church officials did nothing to protect victims.

21st Century

In 2002, the Boston Globe printed a story detailing extensive sexual abuse of minors and the Church’s attempts to cover up these issues. The Globe won a Pulitzer Prize for its coverage.

Most recently, in 2018, a Philadelphia grand jury released a 900-page report detailing over 1,000 cases of sexual abuse dating back to the 1940s. Additionally, grand jurors alleged, the cover-ups went to some of the highest offices in the American Catholic Church. 

These two cases combine both overt acts and official cover-up. 

Connect with a Compassionate Lawyer

Clergy sexual abuse has a long and inglorious history. Contact DiMarco | Araujo | Montevideo for a free consultation with an experienced injury attorney in Orange County. After-hours visits are available.

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What is Clergy Abuse?

Reports of large-scale child sexual abuse in Catholic churches, like the 1,300-page report issued by a Philadelphia grand jury in August 2018, dominate the clergy sexual abuse headlines. The allegations themselves are disturbing enough. Even worse, there is evidence that Church officials quietly condoned this type of activity for many, many years.

Yet statistically, such incidents represent only a fraction of all clergy sexual abuse situations. In many cases, pastoral counseling is the first stop for people of all ages who are going through a rough period in life. So, these individuals are incredibly vulnerable.

If any such abuse affected your life, even if it was many years ago, speak to an Orange County personal injury attorney about your legal rights. You may be entitled to compensation, but you must act quickly. 

It takes courage to speak out about past events. But there is more at stake than personal well-being. Your story shines light on a serious problem that has been in the dark for too long. So, while our Orange County priest abuse lawyers protect your rights, we are also preventing future situations.

Signs of Clergy Sexual Abuse

Many people have been the victims of such abuse and do not know it. This behavior includes much more than sexual contact. Some common signs of an abusive clergy-parishioner relationship include:

  • “Accidental” touches in private areas of the body
  • Inappropriate physical contact, like a close hug instead of a quick hug
  • Playfully aggressive actions, like tickling, which make you feel uncomfortable
  • Inappropriate gifts, such as lingerie, from a pastor to a congregant

Furthermore, the abuse need not be physical at all. Discussing sexual experiences can be every bit as damaging as physical contact. 

In general, any sexual or romantic relationship is abusive in this context. As mentioned, people who seek psychological, family, or other ministerial counseling are usually quite vulnerable. This vulnerability makes meaningful consent impossible. The difference is too extreme, which is why such relationships are a serious ethical breach.

Legal Aspects of a Clergy Abuse Claim

In California, the clergy-parishioner relationship is a lot like doctor-patient or lawyer-client relationships. So, the legal duty is very high as well. If clergy breach this duty, perhaps by making inappropriate sexual advances, and that breach causes injury, the victim may be entitled to damages.

Because of the extensive damages these improper relationships cause, the compensation may be rather high. Many survivors must spend years in therapy to deal with the direct fallout. Additionally, many survivors have a hard time moving on in life and developing close relationships.

The church or other organization which employed the minister, or gave the minister a place to work, may be legally responsible for these damages. If the organization knew about the pastor’s wrongful conduct and did not prevent it, that organization must pay damages. Moreover, Orange County jurors often award additional punitive damages in these cases as well.

Statute of Limitations

Because clergy sexual abuse is so subtle, and because pastors have so much psychological power over parishioners, many survivors do not come forward with their claims for many years. By that time, the statute of limitations on these claims has expired.

Fortunately, the discovery rule normally applies in these cases. The statute of limitations clock does not begin ticking until:

  • Victims are fully aware of their injuries
  • They connect those injuries to the defendant’s wrongful conduct

California has some unique laws in this area. If the survivor was a minor when the abuse happened, the survivor must file a claim by age 26. If the survivor was older than 26 at the time, the survivor usually has an additional three years to bring a claim.

Contact a Dedicated Clergy Abuse Lawyer

Clergy sexual abuse survivors have important legal and financial rights. For a free consultation with an experienced Los Angeles clergy abuse lawyer, contact DiMarco | Araujo | Montevideo. We do not charge upfront legal fees in these cases.

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Workers’ Compensation When Working From Home

In California, all employers with one or more employees must carry workers’ compensation insurance. The state’s workers’ compensation system enables all injured or ill employees to obtain financial benefits without the burden of proof. An employee can receive compensation for medical bills and some lost wages with almost no questions asked.

Thousands of residents in California work as telecommuters, or work-from-home employees. As remote work options increase in popularity, more workers are asking: “What happens if I suffer an injury while working from home?” You do not have to be in a commercial building to maintain your rights to workers’ compensation.

Can I File for Workers’ Comp If I Work From Home?

In general, you can qualify for workers’ compensation benefits if you suffer an injury or illness while working from home as long as you are an official employee of a company and not an independent contractor. As an employee, the state’s workers’ comp laws extend to you even if you are the only employee at the company. If you are an independent contractor or self-employed, however, you will not be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.

An injury at home, such as a trip-and-fall accident that results in a sprained wrist, could qualify you for workers’ compensation if you were performing a job-related task at the time of the accident. You must prove that you were working for your employer when the injury or illness occurred. If you were off the clock when the accident at your home occurred, your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance company will deny your claim.

To qualify for workers’ compensation in any location, you must have been performing activities related to your job. You must also not be guilty of gross negligence; such as working under the influence of alcohol or breaking one of your employer’s safety rules. Workers’ compensation will cover most injuries and illnesses, as long as you can prove they occurred during the course of your employment.

How to File a Claim for an At-Home Injury

The claims filing process for you will look similar to the process for other employees in California. First, report your injury to your employer. You must report your injury within 30 days of the accident or the date you discovered the injury or illness. Seek medical care immediately. In an emergency, you can go anywhere for treatment. Otherwise, you must go to a medical provider in your employer’s network.

Then, fill out and file the Initial Report of Injury (Form DWC-1). Either give the finished form to your employer or file it yourself with the Department of Workers’ Compensation. The insurance company will review your claim and may ask for more details, evidence or documentation. Then, if your claim succeeds, you could receive financial compensation for your injury-related medical bills. You could also receive two-thirds of any lost wages.

Proving Your Workers’ Compensation Claim

Workers’ compensation does cover remote workers in the state of California. If you suffer an injury or come down with a serious illness (e.g. mesothelioma from breathing in asbestos in your home) while performing your job from home, you could qualify for benefits. Unfortunately, your case may be more difficult to prove than a typical workers’ compensation claim. You may have the added responsibility to show that you were working at the time of the incident.

It is critical to document your accident and injuries in as much detail as possible if you wish to file a workers’ compensation claim. Your employer and its insurance company will likely ask for some type of proof that you were working from home, such as records of work-related emails or calls you sent before the accident happened. Evidence such as an eyewitness, work-related communications or a clock-in system could help you prove your case. Hiring a workers’ compensation attorney could help you with your burden of proof.

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