One of the most troubling and unconscionable aspects of sexual abuse is the frequency with which it occurs at the hands of those in positions of power and privilege, especially in large institutions.
Hurley McKenna & Mertz has represented thousands of victims who have suffered sexual abuse by those they trusted, including those who were once a part of the Boy Scouts of America, the Catholic Church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon Church), or medical organizations.
While we’ve helped thousands pursue and receive the justice they deserve, we’ve also uncovered several commonalities across numerous sexual abuse cases. No matter the abuser, they likely share manipulative traits with others who have committed these heinous acts. Read on to learn more about the four major things sexual abuse cases often have in common.
1. People Abused Their Power
In most sexual abuse cases, the victim knew their abuser. And, of the thousands of victims we have represented, the overwhelming majority were abused by those whom they regularly interacted with—often in positions of power and privilege. These abusers betrayed victims’ trust and, in many cases, inflicted lifelong damage.
In the more than 4,000 sexual abuse survivors we’ve represented in cases against the Boy Scouts of America, abuse of power is one of the most commonly occurring threads that connects virtually all cases.
And it’s not just Boy Scouts cases. Throughout the Mormon Church’s chronic sexual abuse (and subsequent, systematic coverups), leaders of the Mormon Church were often the ones who committed acts of abuse.
2. Victims Wrongfully Think the Abuse Was Their Fault
One of the most tragic commonalities we’ve witnessed is how too many victims believe that the abuse they suffered was somehow their fault, not their abuser’s.
Through the survivors we’ve represented in cases against the Mormon Church, we’ve found that many of the Church’s teachings have a measurable, negative impact on how victims see themselves in relation to the abuse they suffered. The Church teaches that sex and sexuality are taboo topics, leading many sexual abuse victims to remain silent over fears of repercussions or being ostracized if they speak out against abusers.
While the Mormon Church’s teachings influence survivors’ actions, this approach is not limited to that institution. Some Catholic dioceses allowed sexual abuse for years, using their power and privilege to intimidate sexual abuse survivors into silence. In almost all cases, powerful people within large organizations influence victims into believing they were the ones in the wrong.
3. The Sexual Abuse Causes Years of Damage
Many sexual abuse survivors suffered abuse on multiple occasions over several years—often as children or teenagers. While sexual abuse can cause long-lasting damage no matter a person’s age, unchecked sexual abuse during a person’s formative years can cause incredible, lasting emotional damage.
According to RAINN, survivors can suffer from the following, among other painful experiences:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Panic attacks
- Sleeping and eating disorders
These types of effects can be hard to see, but they are damaging and life-altering all the same—and could justify compensation in court. Filing a claim against an abuser is among the many steps a survivor can take in confronting and overcoming their past.
4. Survivors Can Speak Up to Influence Change
Despite those in positions of power attempting to silence sexual abuse survivors, victims have the power to hold their abusers accountable for their heinous actions. Doing so is an act of bravery; many sexual abuse survivors remain silent out of understandable fear of retaliation for speaking up. This justified fear has led many sexual abuse survivors, within the Mormon Church, for example, to wonder whether it’s worthwhile to file a claim against their abusers.
In the thousands of survivors we’ve represented, we’ve seen an encouraging theme: Filing a claim can be an important step in the healing process—for both the victim filing the claim and by signaling to other victims that they, too, deserve justice.
No matter who the abuse was by, sexual abuse survivors are stronger than their abusers. And they deserve experienced legal representation to ensure they receive justice.
Pursue the Justice You Deserve With an Experienced Attorney
No two sexual abuse survivors share the same experiences. However, there are many common themes among abusers in large institutions, whether in a religious or secular environment. We believe that all sexual abuse survivors deserve experienced representation to confront their abusers—and to show victims who are yet to bravely come forward that they are not alone.
If you have suffered sexual abuse at the hands of a powerful person or organization, we understand how difficult it can be to confront the past and seek help. Know that the team at Hurley McKenna & Mertz will treat you and your case with the compassion and professionalism you deserve. Don’t hesitate to schedule your free consultation today.