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What is Clergy Abuse?

If you want results, call us. If you want peace of mind, call us. If you want representation who understands the hardship that has been thrust upon you, call us.

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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.