The Boston Globe’s 2001 coverage of an extensive child abuse cover-up throughout the local Boston Catholic archdiocese and a subsequent movie, Spotlight, drew widespread attention to clergy sexual abuse. Today, communities are more aware of the potential for abuse within religious settings. In the notable Boston case, one priest single-handedly abused 130 children.
At Estey & Bomberger, LLP, our clergy sexual abuse attorneys represent children and adults who suffer abuse at the hands of religious leaders. While the Catholic Church has gained notoriety for child sex abuse, we also represent victims from other denominations and faiths. If you suffered at the hand of a trusted religious leader, you deserve experienced legal representation and justice.
What Happens to Clergy Sexual Abuse Victims
When sexual abuse happens at the hands of someone you know, respect, and trust, the consequences can have a ripple effect in life. Post-traumatic stress from any sexual abuse can cause panic attacks and anxiety. Some sexual assault victims struggle with any human touch for years. Others suffer from nightmares and night terrors.
The emotional scars of these incidents run deep. The mental pain can physically manifest symptoms including chronic headaches, stomach upset, and pain. Sexual assault affects everyone differently, but the victims share one thing in common – it never should have happened.
An Ongoing Problem
The Boston Globe story brought awareness to clergy sexual abuse, but it did not stop the trend in its tracks. The media continues to report on devious and disconcerting cases of abuse.
In an Argentinian school for the deaf, a nun may have participated in acts of clergy sexual abuse. She allegedly either sent children into abusive priests’ rooms and/or engaged in abusive acts herself. Officers arrested the nun and priests in conjunction with the allegations. At least 24 former students reported abuse at the school. Similar reports involve the Italian branch of the school for the deaf. At least one of the priests may have abused students in both Argentina and Italy.
Two siblings pursued a civil claim against the Archdiocese of Chicago during 2014 for acts of sexual abuse. In 2017, the brothers agreed to a settlement of $2.7 million in the case – two years after the death of the priest in question. The unnamed siblings reportedly experienced profound personality shifts after the incidents and spent years in denial before coming forward. This case highlights what happens when injured individuals feel the need to remain silent in the face of sexual assault.
In summer 2017, the Roman Catholic Church in Brooklyn created a compensation arrangement to handle the many incidents of clergy sexual abuse that have taken place. It joins a neighboring Archdiocese in its commitment to repay victims who can no longer file civil claims regarding the abuse. In Brooklyn, the fund may help hundreds of people who suffered at the hands of clergy members.
These cases only represent a few recent examples of abuse. The stories of abuse and victim experiences could fill books.
These individuals cannot erase what happened from their memories or their bodies, but they can take legal action to expose perpetrators and obtain fair compensation. Our clergy sexual abuse attorneys understand the sensitive nature of clergy sex abuse cases. We will protect our clients’ rights to privacy while relentlessly pursuing civil actions against religious leaders.
Signs of Sexual Abuse by a Priest or Clergy Member
As the media and religious organizations continue to combat religion-related sexual abuse, parents must remain vigilant within their own religious communities. Signs of sexual abuse often include fear of church activities (particularly if someone once enjoyed going to church), sudden sleeping problems or nightmares, mood changes, problems with drugs and alcohol, a sudden fascination with sexuality, and/or depression.
If you notice any of these changes in a family member or fellow church member, try to express a willingness to listen instead of interrogating the individual. Talking about sexual abuse experiences can be difficult for people of all ages.
Pursuing a Clergy Sexual Abuse Claim
If you suspect abuse or hear someone confess about an instance of abuse, believe the individual and report the incident. Read our resources page for more information on next steps and explore the website for SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.
SNAP has some helpful tips for parishioners whose priest has been accused of child sexual abuse.
What To Do if Your Priest Is Accused of Abuse
ACCEPT YOUR EMOTIONS. Allegations of abuse in your church can bring up a wide range of emotions. You may feel betrayed, angry, anxious, confused, or sad. You should not criticize yourself or others for experiencing these emotions. If you feel overwhelmed, you may need to pursue counseling or psychiatric treatment.
RESPECT CONFIDENTIALITY. If you know who was victimized, you should respect his or her confidentiality. The time after coming forward with allegations of abuse can be very difficult for victims. Do not allow the mere passage of time to discredit someone who has accused a priest of sex abuse or molestation. Often, it takes decades for victims to reveal that they suffered at the hands of a trusted person in a position of authority.
CONTACT THE AUTHORITIES. If you are aware of abuse that has taken place or is taking place in your church, you should contact the police or prosecutors right away. It is important to do this as quickly as possible after discovering abuse.
EDUCATE YOUR FAMILY. You should educate yourself and your family about sexual abuse. Talk to your children about appropriate physical contact, and be sure to tell them that it is okay if they don’t do everything that adults ask them to do.
For more information about SNAP and to browse resources for survivors of priest abuse, visit their website.
Catholic Church Sexual Abuse Cases in California
The Los Angeles Archdiocese’s sex scandals go back all the way to 1968 and beyond. For decades, the Catholic Church of California has struggled with allegations of clergy sex abuse of children as young as four years old. Recent clergy sex abuse settlements in the news include:
June 2003: The Diocese of San Bernardino agreed to pay more than $2 million to two former altar boys who claimed to be sexually abused thousands of times by a priest at Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic Church in San Bernardino in the early 1980’s. LA Times
June 2005: The Archdiocese of San Francisco agreed to pay $21.2 million to 15 people who were molested by five clergymen, including one priest who was involved in drafting the 2002 “zero tolerance” policy toward clergy abuse. San Francisco Chronicle
June 2005: The Diocese of Santa Rosa announced a settlement of eight sexual abuse lawsuits for $7.3 million.
July 2005: The Diocese of Sacramento agreed to may $35 million to 33 alleged victims of clergy sexual abuse.
July 2005: The Diocese of Oakland agreed to pay $56 million to settle its remaining lawsuits filed by 56 alleged victims of priest sexual abuse.
December 2005: Diocese of Orange agrees to pay $100 million settlement to approximately 90 victims, with payouts ranging from $50,0000 to close to $4 million.
December 2006: The Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno agreed to pay $750,000 to settle a lawsuit by a former parishioner who was sexually abused by a priest at St. Rita’s parish in Tulare in the 1960s.
July 2007: Diocese of Los Angeles agrees to pay $660 million to 508 victims.
May 2007: The Jesuit order agreed to pay $16 million to settle claims that one of its priests, Father Mark Falvey, sexually molested four girls and five boys between 1959 and 1975 at Blessed Sacrament. Falvey was an assistant pastor at Blessed Sacrament from 1959 until his death in 1975. Falvey was never charged with a crime.
September 2007: The Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego agreed to a $198.1 million settlement of 144 claims of children who claimed they were molested as children. The San Diego diocese paid out the settlement in March 2008. The average payout per plaintiff amounted to $1.3 million. the San Diego diocese would pay $77.1 million and its insurance carrier $75.7 million, for a total of $152.8 million covering 111 cases. In addition, the diocese would pay $30.2 million for 22 cases involving members of religious orders, and the Diocese of San Bernardino would pay $15.1 million for 11 cases in its area.
May 2008: Diocese of Sacramento paid $100,000 to a person who alleged he was raped and molested from age 7-11 at St Ignatius Parish, by identical twin brother priests Fr. Arthur Falvey of Sacramento, and Fr. Mark Falvey of Los Angeles.
February 2014: The Los Angeles Archdiocese reached a $13-million agreement with 17 victims on the eve of a trial scheduled to begin Feb. 14 2014, over the alleged acts of Father Nicolas Aguilar-Rivera, a visiting cleric from Mexico who police believe molested more than two dozen boys over nine months in 1987. The settlement included about $1 million for each of the 11 alleged victims of Aguilar-Rivera, as well as lesser sums for six who say they were molested by other priests.
Clergy Sexual Abuse Lawyers in California | Estey & Bomberger LLP
At Estey & Bomberger, LLP, our sexual abuse attorneys handle both child and adult abuse cases involving clergy members. Allow us to help you navigate this difficult time, to represent you in the fight for justice, and to advocate for your rights as you move forward after an incident. For more information about clergy sexual abuse, reach out to us at 1.800.925.0723.