It’s a heartbreaking indictment of modern religion that child sexual abuse is so common among members of the clergy. As of 2019, 4,434 credible claims of sexual abuse against minors have been filed against the Catholic Church. Few of these claims have received the notice they deserve, and even fewer have resulted in reparations for the victims.
These child sexual abuse statistics don’t mean the future for victims is hopeless. If you were a victim of child sexual abuse by members of the clergy, here’s what you can do to seek justice.
Establish Your Child Sexual Abuse Case
Before you move forward with any legal actions, you need to establish a firm case for yourself.
The first step here is to take note of what kind of sexual abuse you suffered. Sexual abuse is more than just penetrative rape.
What is child sexual abuse, then? It can include unlawful voyeurism and surveillance, forcible unwanted touching, sex trafficking, and genital mutilation of a minor. If the incident involved nudity, suggestive language, inappropriate media content, or any kind of sexual touching, it counts as sexual abuse.
After you’ve listed each of the incidents you can remember, your second step is to determine whether or not those incidents fall within the Statute of Limitations. The Statute of Limitations defines the time limit and other specifics your case must meet in order to qualify for legal action.
The Statute of Limitations differs state-by-state, but, for cases of child sexual abuse, it always relies on the same 4 factors:
- Are you filing a criminal or civil claim against your abuser?
- When did the abuse take place (i.e. what year)?
- How old were you when the abuse took place?
- What was the exact nature of the abuse?
You’ll have covered the fourth factor in the notes you took for the first step of this action.
Because of the strain and emotional toll of reliving your abuse, therapy is highly recommended at this stage. Not only will it help you overcome painful memories, but it will provide you with another resource to back your case. Psychiatric professionals are often called on to testify on behalf of the people who file sexual abuse cases.
Contact a Lawyer
Once you’ve established the details of your case, you should contact a lawyer to find out how to proceed.
Any lawyer will do, so, if you already have a lawyer or know one you’d prefer to work with, go with them. The most important factor when selecting a lawyer for this kind of case is trust.
If you don’t know any lawyers and/or you’d prefer to choose one who specializes in cases like yours, a quick internet search is your best bet. As more and more cases of child sexual abuse in the church have come to light, several attorneys have grouped together to represent the survivors.
Most of these law firms are located in metropolitan areas. For example, if you live in San Francisco, you can contact the Mary Alexander law firm. That said, there are options throughout the United States, so you’ll have plenty of law firms to choose from.
Don’t Give Up Hope
The most important thing for any child sexual abuse survivor is to never give up hope. The world isn’t the same today as it was yesterday, much less one, five, or ten years ago. What might have slipped by unnoticed when you were a child is much more likely to receive validation now.
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