The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans is the second-oldest diocese in the United States, established in the 16th century. Despite this long history, it hasn't escaped the Catholic Church sexual abuse scandal that has swept the country. Indeed, as of 2019, the Archdiocese of New Orleans has listed 81 clergy members who are credibly accused of sexual assault.
If you suffered abuse at the hands of a Catholic priest or clergy member in New Orleans, you can still claim compensation for the suffering that you experienced. At Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, and Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, our Archdiocese of New Orleans Sexual Abuse Lawyers can help. We have recovered millions of dollars for people just like you. Contact us today to learn more about your legal rights and the steps you need to take next.
What Constitutes Sexual Abuse in New Orleans?
Sexual abuse includes any aggressive sexual behavior toward another party. In the case of abuse by priests and other clergy members of the Archdiocese of New Orleans, this may often include sexually aggressive behavior toward children. Sexual abuse includes:
Rape and Attempted Rape
Even if the perpetrator could not follow through on an attempted act of rape due to preventative measures, including the victim stopping him or someone else walking in, an act of sexual abuse still occurred. Rape includes any forced act of sex, including penetration of the genitals, rectal area, or mouth.
Many perpetrators of sexual abuse, especially those who abuse children, start by fondling their victims. Fondling includes any unwanted touching of the genitals, rear, or breasts. Abusers may also require their victims to fondle them. Fondling can take place either while naked or through clothing.
Forcing a Victim to Perform Sexual Acts
Some abusers force their victims to perform sexual acts, either on the perpetrator or on another victim. Abusers may, for example, demand that children touch one another. Abusers may also demand oral or penetrative sex of the victim.
Sexual assaults usually occur in one of three ways. Blitz assaults occur when the perpetrator takes the victim by surprise, attacking suddenly. Usually, this attack occurs as a one-time act, and the victim may report it quickly. Home invasion sexual assaults occur when the perpetrator deliberately breaks into the victim's home to commit an act of assault.
In the case of sexual abuse in the church, however, the abuse usually takes a third form: contact sexual assault, in which the perpetrator gains the victim's trust over time before committing sexual assault. Many priests, because of their positions of power, develop a sense of trust with their victims before the priests' act. Their position of authority, both with the individual and within the community, makes it easier for them to continue to perpetrate abuse over time.
Children, in particular, may fear reporting such abuse. Young children may not recognize the depravity of the act until much later, while older children may assume that no one will believe them or that the abuse comes as part of a punishment for other activities.
The Effects of Sexual Assault
Children who experience sexual assault often suffer from far-reaching effects that can impact every area of life. Survivors may suffer from physical, mental, and emotional effects. Sometimes, the symptoms crop up later in life, especially if the victim repressed his or her experiences, rather than receiving help coping with what happened immediately after the abuse.
Many victims of sexual assault suffer from ongoing depression, both immediately after the abuse and in the years to follow. Victims may struggle with feelings of worthlessness or have a hard time participating in normal activities, including activities that they once enjoyed. Many victims who suffer from depression may have trouble engaging with others or building strong relationships. Victims may struggle to achieve their goals or to accomplish daily tasks, especially when depression grows stronger than usual.
Some victims of sexual assault suffer from flashbacks, in which they relive the events of the assault. Flashbacks can involve every sense and feel as though the event just happened all over again.
Many sexual assault victims suffer from extreme post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD may cause victims to fear even going to a certain location. PTSD can also cause flashbacks and extreme anxiety. Victims who suffered sexual assault in the Catholic Church may struggle to attend church after their assaults, whether it's the specific church where the assault occurred or any church that reminds them of the event. PTSD can also cause severe nightmares, which may leave victims struggling to sleep at night or lead to increasing disturbances both at night and during the day.
In some cases, sexual assault can lead to the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). While victims can treat some STDs with medications, others may result in lifelong symptoms. In addition to creating significant discomfort, these diseases can impact a victim's future sexual partners and sexuality.
STDs can also lead to other health complications, especially if left untreated. Many victims, especially childhood victims, may not receive adequate treatment for their STDs due to a lack of diagnosis, especially if the assault goes unreported. For some, sexually transmitted infections may represent the only visible sign of sexual assault and often serve as the first indicator.
Increased Risk of Self Harm or Suicide
Many victims of sexual assault feel an increased sense of shame or may struggle to set the event aside. As a result, victims of sexual assault have a higher risk of self-harm and even suicide. They may engage in cutting to help alleviate symptoms of emotional strain or attempt suicide. Some sexual assault victims, especially those who do not receive adequate counseling and support, may attempt suicide multiple times.
Many victims of sexual abuse choose to abuse substances, including drugs and alcohol, to escape from the negative feelings associated with their assault. Some victims may use drugs or alcohol to help cope with sleep challenges or panic attacks during the day. Substance abuse may continue or worsen throughout a victim's lifetime. In many cases, substance abuse quickly grows habitual, and victims may struggle to break the addiction, especially since it may invoke other symptoms of sexual assault, including depression.
In some cases, pregnancy results from sexual assault. An unwanted pregnancy can cause immense complications in a woman's life, especially when that pregnancy occurs at a young age. Carrying a child when too young can increase the risk of complications for the woman, while abortion may permanently damage the woman's future fertility.
Unwanted pregnancy can also increase the risk of self-harm and suicide, especially if a girl does not want to have to tell her family about the pregnancy. If a victim does choose to carry the child to term, that child may have less favorable outcomes, including those associated with the lack of a father figure in the child's life.
Lack of Confidence in Future Relationships
Many victims of sexual trauma have trouble with future sexual relationships. They may prove reluctant to engage in sexual activities at all, which can make it difficult for them to develop healthy romantic relationships in the future. Victims of sexual assault by authority figures, including the clergy, may struggle to develop healthy relationships or to trust authority figures in the future, which can harm work prospects as well as make it difficult to trust others.
Seeking Compensation for Sexual Assault Victims from the Archdiocese of New Orleans
While compensation cannot take away the full effects of the trauma associated with the sexual violence experienced by victims, especially children, compensation can help the victims rebuild their lives. It can also hold the perpetrator accountable. In the case of priests, a priest might choose to seek laicization or may receive it from the Pope after such crimes come to light.
A laicized, or defrocked, priest loses his clerical state. After that time, he can no longer function as a priest in any diocese, and he cannot refer to himself or have others refer to him as “Father.” This process, however, takes place in the church. Likewise, criminal prosecution for sexual abuse in the Archdiocese of New Orleans occurs in criminal court.
As the victim of sexual abuse, you have the right to compensation. You can seek compensation based on the duration of the abuse and its impact on the rest of your life. An attorney cannot guarantee how much compensation you can receive for a sexual abuse claim; however, many victims claim the same general elements. Contact Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA today to discuss the details of your assault.
Sexual trauma can cause damage to the genitals or lead to sexually transmitted diseases, which may require treatment from a medical provider. Unwanted pregnancy may also result in substantial medical expenses. Not only that, victims of sexual assault often require ongoing counseling that can help them cope with the implications of that assault. Victims can claim compensation for any medical expenses related to their assaults, including ongoing therapy. Victims who get pregnant as a result of their assaults can also receive compensation for the medical expenses associated with their pregnancies and deliveries, or for an abortion.
Compensation for Suffering
No settlement can make up for the suffering experienced by a sexual abuse victim. Many victims, however, find that compensation for their assault can help them rebuild their lives. Compensation for suffering may include compensation for the trauma a victim suffers due to sexual abuse, including ongoing and lingering effects of that assault. Consult an attorney to learn more about how the suffering you faced after your sexual assault can impact the compensation that you ultimately receive.
Who Bears Liability for Sexual Assault Claims?
In the case of sexual assault claims against the Archdiocese of New Orleans, the Catholic Church is often liable for claims against its priests.
While a priest bears direct liability for the sexual assault, the Church may also bear liability if:
- The Church failed to adequately protect children or potential victims. While the Church often has religious exemptions that allow it to conduct its affairs internally, that does not excuse it from providing appropriate security for its members that are children and vulnerable individuals. The Church must protect against sexual assault, especially as corruption and sexual immorality in the Church have increasingly come to light. In some cases, protection for children and vulnerable parties might, for example, include ensuring that a single adult individual does not have a chance to spend time alone with children, especially in an unsupervised situation.
- The Church failed to take past allegations of sexual misconduct seriously. In many cases, sexual misconduct continues for years unchecked because even when children and their parents attempt to report the abuse, it does not get taken seriously. Sometimes, parents ignore the statements their children make because of the priest's authority. Other times, particularly in the past, the Church attempted to brush those claims under the rug.
- The Church failed to properly supervise the priest, including a full background check and familiarity with past actions. A background check and other information from past churches can help a given church develop a better understanding of a priest's history and habits, which can help prevent sexual abuse and protect children. Proper supervision, including ensuring that a priest does not have the chance to slip away alone with a child, can also decrease the risk of sexual assault.
Do You Need an Archdiocese of New Orleans Sexual Assault Attorney?
In June 2002, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops passed the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, which aims to address the many allegations of sexual abuse against priests of the Catholic Church. Over the years, many allegations have emerged. Many people, especially those abused as young people, have come forward 10 or 20 years or more after the abuse occurred to tell their stories and seek both legal compensation from and repercussions for the priests that abused them.
If you suffered sexual assault in the Archdiocese of New Orleans, even if it occurred several years ago, you may have the right to pursue compensation for the suffering you've faced as a result of your injuries. Contact Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA at 833-552-7274 to schedule a free consultation and learn more about your legal rights following sexual assault.
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