Were You the Victim of Sexual Assault?
Survivors of sexual abuse deserve to see justice served and recover compensation for the physical and emotional harm they have suffered at the hands of their abusers and the negligent institutions that allowed the abuse to happen. Both adult and child molestation are perpetrated by coaches, neighbors, teachers, clergy, doctors: The institutions where they work should be held accountable and financially responsible.
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Survivors of sexual abuse deserve to see justice served and recover compensation for the physical and emotional harm they have suffered at the hands of their abusers and the negligent institutions that allowed the abuse to happen.
The sexual abuse crisis in the United States has been thrust into the spotlight recently, on the heels of high-profile criminal prosecutions and civil lawsuits involving members of the Catholic clergy, the Boy Scouts of America, USA Gymnastics, the University of Southern California, Michigan State University, Jeffrey Epstein, Larry Nassar, George Tyndall and Jerry Sandusky. The fallout from these sexual abuse cases involving prominent organizations and individuals has echoed around the country, resulting in new legislation in multiple states aimed at protecting and supporting those who were victimized, and hundreds of new lawsuits filed on behalf of survivors of sexual abuse. If you were sexually abused by a priest, a Scout leader, a university professor, a doctor or another individual in a position of power, regardless of when the original abuse occurred, contact our victims of sexual abuse advocates at the Consumer Justice Foundation today to learn about your legal options.
What is Sexual Assault?
Sexual abuse, also known as molestation, is any unwanted sexual behavior or activity perpetrated against one person by another, typically by use of force, manipulation, violence or threats of violence. The use of a child or minor for the purpose of sexual gratification is known as child sexual abuse, a term that covers any inappropriate sexual behavior by an adult or older adolescent towards a child or other individual younger than the age of consent. Child sexual abuse can include direct sexual contact, indecent exposure or requests for sexual favors, as well as using a child to produce child pornography or displaying pornography to a child.
Where Can Sexual Assault Occur?
The Catholic Church
Sexual abuse can affect any person, at any time and in any place, but the majority of recent abuse cases have involved the Catholic Church, where priests and other members of the clergy allegedly sexually abused minor children over many decades. In fact, since the 1980’s, Catholic dioceses in this country have paid out more than $3.8 billion to settle claims involving more than 8,600 alleged victims of sexual abuse by members of the Catholic clergy. Sadly, investigations into child sexual abuse in states across the country have revealed that many Catholic dioceses were aware that allegations of sexual abuse had been brought against certain priests and allowed those individuals to continue working with children, thereby allowing the abuse to continue. Rather than report complaints of sexual abuse to the police, the Catholic church regularly reassigned predatory priests to other parishes, where they were able to continue contact with minors.
The Boy Scouts of America
The Boy Scouts of America is another prominent organization that has been plagued by reports of child sexual abuse. In fact, the Boy Scouts famously maintains a once-secret list of the names of thousands of “ineligible volunteers” suspected of victimizing children, many of whom the organization allowed to continue working with children, despite being credibly accused of sexual abuse. Many of the latest lawsuits filed against the Scouts have stemmed from the discovery of this list, as attorneys and advocates for victims of child sexual abuse say the document proves that the organization knew it had pedophiles in its midst and failed to properly notify police or warn children and their parents.
Who Can File a Sexual Assault Lawsuit?
The physical and emotional ramifications of sexual abuse can be long-lasting, especially for child victims of sexual abuse, and many victims struggle with mental health issues like depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder for years after the abuse or for the rest of their lives. Sadly, most incidents of child sexual abuse go unreported, usually because the victim is too young and naïve to understand what has happened, or because the victim has been bribed or threatened by the perpetrator. This is especially true when the perpetrator is a priest, Scout leader, camp counselor, or another powerful or respected member of the community. The unfortunate truth is that child sexual abuse is an ongoing problem and evidence suggests that, despite increased awareness about past abuse, children are still being victimized by the Catholic Church, the Boy Scouts of America and other organizations and institutions where trusted and well-respected adults feel they can take advantage of the children in their care.
Lawsuit Compensation for Victims of Sexual Assault
There is no amount of money that can undo the harm caused by sexual abuse, but with the passage of new victim-friendly sexual abuse laws in many states, survivors of sexual abuse now have the opportunity to seek justice in the courts and file civil lawsuits against offenders, even if the statute of limitations on the crime has already expired. These laws clear the way for alleged victims of sexual abuse to file what could end up being thousands of claims against the Catholic Church, the Boy Scouts of America and other esteemed institutions within the next several years. As the full scope of the sexual abuse problem in the United States is realized, many sexual abuse lawsuits against the church and the Scouts have resulted in multimillion-dollar settlements with victims. These significant settlements have spurred many Catholic dioceses to propose compensation funds offering payouts to victims of abuse, but these payouts have been called “lowball offers” and come with a requirement that victims agree to never sue the diocese over the abuse.
The Child Victims Act
A wave of new sexual abuse lawsuits has been filed in New York, made possible by the state’s new Child Victims Act, which was signed into law in February. The new law not only extends the statutes of limitations on filing criminal charges for child sexual abuse or pursuing damages through a civil lawsuit, it also opens a one-year “lookback” window for old cases of child sexual abuse to be filed retroactively. The one-year window, which went into effect on August 14, gives adult victims of child sexual abuse who were previously time-barred by the state’s strict statute of limitations law the opportunity to hold their abusers accountable in a court of law, no matter when the abuse occurred. On that first day of the lookback window, more than 400 sexual abuse cases were filed against the Catholic Church, the Boy Scouts of America, colleges and universities, and other abusers or enabling institutions, and hundreds if not thousands more lawsuits are anticipated.
Most states have strict laws in place that limit the amount of time survivors of sexual abuse have to file criminal charges against their abuser or pursue damages in civil court. This new Child Victims Act gives victims of child sexual abuse in New York a second chance to hold their abusers accountable and seek the relief they deserve by filing a civil lawsuit. In the wake of the Child Victims Act passing in New York, other states are considering or have already passed laws to eliminate or extend the statute of limitations for claims of child sexual abuse. In New Jersey, a bill similar to the New York Child Victims Act was passed in May 2019 and will go into effect in December 2019, Pennsylvania is proposing a two-year lookback window for retroactive child sexual abuse claims to be filed in civil court, and a bill has been reintroduced in California that would create a three-year lookback window for sexual abuse survivors to file retroactive claims against their abusers.
Sexual Abuse and Molestation in the Catholic Church
The Catholic Church has long opposed the enactment of new laws eliminating or extending sexual abuse statutes of limitations, and for good reason. The church found itself at the center of the sexual abuse crisis in August 2018, when an explosive 900-page grand jury report uncovered credible allegations of sexual abuse against more than 300 “predator priests” accused of sexually abusing more than 1,000 children in cases dating back to the 1940’s. In January 2019, in response to the grand jury report, the U.S. Department of Justice launched an intensive inquiry into child sexual abuse within Pennsylvania’s Catholic dioceses, and the probe prompted similar investigations and settlements in other states where allegations of sexual abuse by members of the clergy had been reported, including New York, New Jersey, California, Illinois, Missouri, New Mexico, Nebraska, Maryland and Texas. Several states have since published lists naming members of the clergy who have been credibly accused of sexually abusing minors, in order to better protect children from abuse and encourage other victims of clergy sexual abuse to come forward.
Catholic Clergy Sexual Abuse Lawsuits and Settlements
July 1998 – A $23.4 million settlement is reached in a sexual abuse case involving one priest and eight victims in the Diocese of Dallas.
July 2003 – The Archdiocese of Louisville, Kentucky pays $25.7 million to resolve 240 lawsuits involving claims of child sexual abuse allegedly perpetrated by 34 priests and other church employees.
July 2004 – The Archdiocese of Portland, Oregon files for bankruptcy protection, citing financial concerns arising from impending trials involving allegations of clergy sexual abuse.
December 2004 – The Diocese of Orange in California settles a case alleging sexual abuse perpetrated by 31 priests, 10 lay personnel, two nuns and one brother against 91 victims for $100 million.
February 2007 – The Diocese of San Diego files for bankruptcy protection just hours before the first of approximately 150 lawsuits alleging child sexual abuse is scheduled to be heard.
April 2007 – The Archdiocese of Seattle agrees to a $48 million settlement with more than 160 alleged victims of sexual abuse.
July 2007 – The Diocese of Los Angeles agrees to pay $660 million to settle sexual abuse claims filed by more than 500 alleged victims against 221 priests and other church employees.
March 2008 – The Catholic Diocese of Fairbanks files for bankruptcy after 130 individuals file lawsuits claiming to have been sexually abused by priests and other employees of the church as far back as the 1950’s.
July 2008 – The Archdiocese of Denver agrees to pay $5.5 million to settle 18 lawsuits alleging childhood sexual abuse by members of the clergy.
October 2009 – The Diocese of Savannah agrees to pay $4.24 million in a sexual abuse settlement.
April 2010 – A jury in Oregon awards $18.5 million to a man who was sexually abused by his Scoutmaster when he was 12 years old. According to the evidence, the Boy Scouts knew that the Scout leader had sexually abused children in the past and allowed him to continue working as a volunteer.
May 2010 – A $17.65 million settlement is reached in a case involving 26 victims who brought sexual abuse claims against the Diocese of Burlington in Vermont.
September 2018 – The Archdiocese of New York agrees to pay $27.5 million to resolve claims filed by four alleged victims of clergy sexual abuse.
August 14, 2019 – On the first day of the one-year litigation window in New York, more than 400 sexual abuse lawsuits are filed against the Catholic Church, schools, and hospitals.
August 19, 2019 – Nine new lawsuits are filed against the Boy Scouts in New York, accusing the organization of failing to adequately protect the children in their care from sexual abuse over a 30-year period, beginning in the 1950’s.
Why We Think Abusers and the Institutions that Enabled Them Should Be Held Liable for Sexual Assault
Survivors of sexual abuse across the country are taking a stand and pursuing legal claims against their abusers and the institutions or organizations responsible for shielding sexual predators and allowing child sexual abuse to continue. The Catholic Church, for instance, is accused of the following:
- Failing to properly report or investigate incidents of child sexual abuse
- Underreporting the number of priests and other church employees accused of sexually abusing minors
- Harboring sexual predators
- Enabling child sexual abuse
- Covering up reports of clergy sexual abuse
- Failing to warn children and their parents about priests who had been credibly accused of sexual abuse
What should you do? If you were the victim of child sexual abuse perpetrated by a member of the clergy, a Scout leader, or another trusted adult or authority figure, you should contact a lawyer as soon as possible to discuss filing a sexual abuse lawsuit.
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As a whole, young children are generally trusting, unsuspicious and unguarded. They believe most things they are told, and they look up to adults and are willing to accept their word, especially priests, camp counselors and Scout leaders, who children see as their teachers and mentors and inherently want to please. Unfortunately, for years, priests, Scout leaders and other adult authority figures across the country have used their position of power or trust to take advantage of vulnerable children and sexually abuse them. Anytime a person of power uses his or her authority to sexually abuse a child, the abuser should be held accountable, as should the institution that concealed and/or enabled the abuse. If you have been the victim of sexual abuse by a Scout leader, professor, doctor, priest or any other trusted adult, you are not alone. Sexual abuse is a pervasive and ongoing problem in this country, one that dates back decades and has cost the Catholic Church a total of nearly $4 billion in lawsuits, and those who have been victimized by sexual predators in the past are finally starting to see their abusers face justice. Contact Consumer Justice Foundation today to speak to a knowledgeable attorney about the possibility of filing a sexual abuse claim for compensation.