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How to Report Clergy Sexual Abuse

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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.