History of priest sexual abuse
This is the context in which untold numbers of schoolchildren were sexually and emotionally abused by priests. Because of Diocesan – and Vatican – coverups, the true number of victims will never be known. The Boston Globe blew the cover off the scandal in January 2002, when its investigative journalists pinpointed more than 70 area priests who had perpetrated child sexual abuse. A subsequent report commissioned by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops identified over 4,300 U.S. priests who had engaged in child sexual abuse between 1950 and 2002. In 2018, a Pennsylvania grand jury report found that more than 300 priests sexually abused more than 1,000 identifiable victims.
In October 2019, the Diocese of Bridgeport, Connecticut, released a report outlining allegations that 281 victims were sexually abused by six dozen priests between 1953 and 2008. Reported incidents ranged from lewd behavior to violent sexual assault. Mirroring investigations in other dioceses, the Bridgeport Diocese report documented efforts of the Church’s hierarchy to cover up priest sexual abuse. Instead of being held accountable, priests were sent to rehabilitation or transferred to a different parish. Former Bishop Walter Curtis admitted to destroying records of priest sexual abuse, defying a state law that requires the reporting of child sexual abuse.
Across the U.S., dioceses have a track record of hiding priest sexual abuse. Rather than holding priests accountable, they reassigned priests to parishes that offered fresh victims and unsuspecting families. Rather than reporting priests to the Vatican, they’ve kept their crimes close to the vest. They’ve typically refused to name alleged priest sexual abusers, and have paid out more than $3 billion to victims – often stipulating that the victims not discuss their experiences.
Impact of priest sexual abuse
Victims of priest sexual abuse carry trauma that lasts a lifetime. In addition to the trauma that every victim of sexual abuse experiences, those who are victimized by priests can face added pressure. Because priests are held in extremely high regard, victims are less likely to be believed by parents, and by religious and lay teachers. They may blame themselves, igniting the seeds of shame about sexuality that are often planted by the Church. They rightly fear retaliation by powerful Church officials. They can sever relationships with family members who have strong ties to the Church. And, to make matters worse, they can lose the very religious faith that has grounded them and supplied the reason for their existence.
Getting justice for priest sexual abuse
If you or someone you love has been the victim of priest sexual abuse, Lemberg Law can help you get the justice you deserve. While compensation can’t replace lost innocence, it can serve to hold those responsible accountable. Historically, statutes of limitations have prevented many victims from coming forward, but many states have enacted new laws that pave the way for those impacted by priest sexual abuse to get redress.
Some of these new laws erase or lengthen the statute of limitations for charges involving child sexual abuse. This means that priests can be criminally prosecuted for their crimes and that victims can seek damages through civil lawsuits. In addition, some states have enacted laws that hold organizations like the Church responsible when they knew what was happening and failed to act. This paves the way for victims to file civil lawsuits against the Diocese where the crime occurred.
It can be difficult to decide whether or not to pursue a claim for priest sexual abuse. It can be retraumatizing to dredge up old memories and fear. We know that it’s not an easy decision, and we’ll never pressure you to move forward. However, we also know that telling your story can help empower others to do the same, and can even protect potential victims from similar abuse.
Monetary awards for priest sexual abuse
If you decide to move forward with a case in civil court, you may be able to recover monetary damages that include:
- Statutory and/or punitive damages
- The cost of past and future mental health care
- Compensation for pain and suffering
- Compensation for damage done to your personal relationships
- Compensation for a diminished quality of life
How our Child Sexual Abuse Attorneys at Lemberg Law Can Help
If you are ready to step out of the shadows and shine the spotlight on those who harmed you, we’re here to help. Please contact us for a free, confidential consultation. Our compassionate team members are ready to hear your story and discuss your options for moving forward. Complete our online evaluation form, or call us at 475-277-2200 today