About Priest and Clergy Sexual Abuse

Priest and Clergy Sexual Abuse – Overview

Clergy Sexual Abuse Priest and Clergy Sexual Abuse encompasses a range of illegal and improper acts often perpetrated against children and adolescents by pedophilic priests or other clergy members involving sexual assault of varying degrees. The assault can be a one-time, non-consensual encounter or it can involve several assaults within an ongoing interaction. For example, an ongoing “trusting” relationship with a child spawned by the predatory behavior of a clergy member, cloaked with the trust and reverence imputed to a member of the clergy, leading to non-consensual sexual assaults acts of molestation.

In all alleged Priest or Clergy Sexual Abuse situations, the failure by the Clergy member’s employer (i.e. superiors) to fully, adequately and immediately report the crime to police and other authorities, or its further failure to investigate, address and deal fully with the situation amplifies the effects on the abuse survivor, the community and potentially others. Recent Clergy Sexual Abuse cases reported in the press highlight these failures, including “pass-the-trash” situations where the perpetrator (oftentimes a priest in the Catholic Church) is quietly re-assigned from one parish to another only to continue his predatory, criminal behavior on an unsuspecting parish community.

Priest and Clergy Sexual Abuse & Justice

Not a day goes by without a news headline reporting about sexual abuse and molestation of children by pedophile priests, or the aftermath of the abuse on the survivors and their families. If you are a survivor of sexual assualt from a priest or other clergy member, these reports are likely to act as an echo chamber, reverberating the horror, shame, guilt and other unwelcome emotions staining your well-being. Encouraged by the #MeToo movement and other pathways that encourage them to reveal the abuse they suffered, survivors of abuse are increasingly turning to the legal system to compensate them for the lifelong damage and injury they have suffered.

If you are a survivor of abuse perpetrated by a member of the clergy, the impact of the abuse on your life and foundational belief system may be immeasurable. Nonetheless, holding the responsible person and institutions accountable for their crimes and indifference can provide a measure of justice and recompense to abuse survivors. Oftentimes, survivors can assert their legal rights through confidential mediation thereby avoiding the need for litigation. However, if litigation is necessary, a case can be filed where the plaintiff/survivor can remain anonymous.

Predatory Behavior

All abusers, to varying degrees, employ predatory tactics that are generally referred to as “grooming,” targeting a potential abuse victim. Following is a survey of grooming behaviors exhibited by predators who are in a position of authority in relation to the subordinate child.

Grooming

Grooming is a significant part of a predator’s ploy. In a religious setting, the clergy member is revered as God’s representative, i.e. a “holy person.” In this setting, the predator often works closely with small numbers of children, understanding each child’s needs, vulnerabilities and circumstances. Once a target is identified, theses vulnerabilities – such as tumultuous family setting, loneliness, low self-esteem, emotional neediness, attention-seeking – can be systematically exploited in the following ways:

  • Trust: A predator will first work to gain the child’s trust. This step is most difficult to discern as religious communities are often tight-knit and personal interaction with clergy is commonplace. Here, the predator can feign genuine interest in the child’s wellbeing and development – both emotional and religious.
  • Reliance: As a predator establishes a trusting relationship with the potential child-victim and oftentimes his/her family, the child will begin to rely more and more on the predator for whatever need it is that the predator is exploiting and fulfilling. The child will spend more time with the predator, feeling more and more comfortable with the relationship and relying on its stability and security. In addition to attention and affection, the potential victim may receive gifts from the predator, including “valuable”, intangible gifts such as blessings, special recognition, etc.
  • Isolation: As the grooming progresses, the predator will work to isolate the potential victim. This could mean individual counseling sessions, meetings, meals or other forms of one-on-one isolated encounters.
  • Sexualization: The predator will begin to de-sensitize the child from reacting negatively to touching, caressing and other behaviors that lead to sexual interaction. This could begin with breaking the physical-touch barrier, or verbally, with suggestive messages to gauge the victim’s response to the progression. This will escalate until the relationship advances to one of a physical, sexual nature.
  • Maintenance: Once the sexual relationship is established, the predator will work to maintain control over the child and the continuing interaction. The predator will likely seek to manipulate the child by continuing to make the victim feel special and worthy. The predator will continue to exploit the victim by whatever means necessary to maintain the inappropriate physical relationship.

Impact on Clergy Abuse Survivors

The impact of childhood abuse on the survivor can be severe and life-altering. Many clergy abuse survivors suffer from long-term effects of the abuse including depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress, low self-esteem, suicidal thoughts, substance abuse, disturbed sleeping and eating patterns, and difficulty establishing and maintaining healthy relationships. Individualized therapy and support groups can help survivors overcome these effects.

Legally, a survivor of Clergy Sexual Abuse may recover financial compensation from the abuser and, more commonly, from the religious organization for its failure to protect the child from the abuse, as well as failures or deficiencies in its process of reviewing and responding to reports of abuse. If you are a survivor of Priest or Clergy Sexual Abuse and would like to confidentially discuss your situation and your legal options, we are prepared to talk with you.

Clergy Sexual Abuse of Nuns and Religious Women

On February 5, 2019 during his return trip from a papal visit to United Arab Emirates, Pope Francis publicly acknowledged what has been known for many years: nuns and religious women serving the Catholic Church have been sexually abused and exploited by priests, even bishops, for decades. In some cases, nuns have given birth to children of priests. In others, nuns underwent abortions.

Over the years, reports of the sexual abuse of nuns and religious women serving the Catholic Church have surfaced. Often these reports refer to sexual abuse and sexual exploitation that occurred in developing countries, particularly African and other underdeveloped countries served by Catholic Church missions.

Nuns and religious women serving the Catholic Church are often reluctant to report sexual abuse and exploitation to Church Leaders. Their reluctance stems from a mistrust that any remedial action will be taken and a concern that those in authority may be abusers themselves.

We are currently investigation reports of sexual abuse and exploitation of nuns and religious women serving the Catholic Church. Unless such abuse or exploitation occurred when the survivor was under the age of 18, shorter statutes of limitation may bar you from bringing a lawsuit against the Church and perpetrator.


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Testimonials

     I have been wondering how people that I do not know have taken it upon themselves to take such very good care of, advocate for and treat me with such respect … I am so very grateful to you all and I will remember your kindness until the day I die. So, I want to take this opportunity to thank you Ron and the rest of the team… Just to be clear, I cannot talk to you because I have not been able to stop crying every time I remember how hard you guys advocated for me, told … my story, yet made me feel safe. Ron, thank you and please let everyone on my team know how I sincerely feel.

- Recent Client, Case Settled
February 2019