The number of sexual abuse allegations against religious institutions has increased significantly over the past few years.
In many cases, sexual abuse victims know and trust the perpetrator, but are too young to act against them. As states extend the statute of limitations for filing lawsuits over sexual abuse, more and more victims are able to share their story.
If you or your child has been sexually abused at a church or other religious institution, learn how and when to make a claim below.
What is sexual abuse?
While definitions vary, sexual abuse is the nonconsensual touching of one person by another. Touching is not limited to vaginal, oral, or anal sex, as groping is also considered a form of sexual abuse.
Sexual abuse is often perpetrated by an adult (i.e. priest, troop leader, etc.) who is able to use their position of power to take advantage of a minor. A minor cannot legally consent to any sexual activity with an adult.
When should you make a sexual abuse claim?
Sexual abuse is a sensitive subject to talk about, especially when it involves children. Many victims and their parents experience shame and guilt, so it’s important to have sexual abuse attorneys on your side, as these cases are quite complex.
In many cases when claims come to light, instead of addressing the harm done to victims, church officials have worked to cover up reports of abuse for many years—usually to protect the church’s reputation at the expense of the child’s health and safety.
Given that many of the injuries (physical or emotional) associated with childhood sexual abuse do not manifest until many years after the abuse ends, religious institutions commonly raise defenses to such claims based on the statute of limitations.
In many states, laws regarding the statute of limitations have been changed to enable victims of childhood sexual abuse to come forward and pursue claims. Contact an experienced sexual abuse lawyer to determine which statute of limitations applies to your case.
If you have been a victim of sexual abuse, your road to recovery and healing often will not begin until you come forward and work with an experienced sexual abuse lawyer to hold the abusers and their enablers legally responsible for what happened to you. Pursuing a claim will enable you to obtain compensation for your injuries, but also give you a chance to obtain closure.
Are you or your loved one a victim of clergy abuse?
Sexual abuse is always devastating, but can be especially damaging when it involves a person in whom families have placed their trust and faith. If you or a loved one is a victim of sexual abuse by a clergy member, contact Hurley McKenna & Mertz to confidentially discuss claims. Our attorneys currently represent many individuals abused by Catholic priests, in some cases as far back as the 1950s.