In 1992, James Porter became the first Boston priest charged with sexual assault of a child. After pleading guilty to abusing more than two dozen boys and girls, he was ultimately sentenced to serve up to 20 years in prison. This was only the beginning of the scandal that rocked the Boston Archdiocese.
Former priest John Geoghan was charged with child rape in 1999, resulting in a $10 million lawsuit being settled after he was credibly accused of molesting more than 80 children over his career. A deeper dive indicated that before the church defrocked him, he was transferred from church to church. A closer look at the accusations against him provided credible information that the number of instances may have been closer to 130.
Geoghan’s career spanned more than 30 years, and he was assigned to more than six parishes during that time. Unfortunately, this was only the beginning of a scandal that would rock the church. Even after John Geoghan was murdered in prison, the Archdiocese seemed to defend him, stating that he was a “troubled soul.”
Boston Cardinal Bernard Law apologized for the actions of Geoghan, but few things spoke louder than the $10 million settlement. In December 2002, Cardinal Law resigned his position and fled to Rome just before the Boston Globe won a Pulitzer Prize for their investigation of the Boston Archdiocese sexual abuse.
Though the scandal broke some time ago, many survivors of sexual abuse at the hands of priests of the Archdiocese of Boston have yet to come forward. Many perpetrators may still work in the ranks of the priesthood, either in the Boston Archdiocese or elsewhere.
If you suffered sexual abuse because a priest took advantage of his position, contact our Boston sex abuse lawyers at Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA and Sibley Dolman. Larry Nussbaum and his team of skilled attorneys would like to listen to your story and see what we can do to help you seek justice and keep this from happening to other people.
What Investigations of Priest Sexual Abuse Have Revealed
Unfortunately, what was revealed during these very public cases was the church’s predilection of shielding priests and other members of the clergy from being publicly outed. Instead, priests who were credibly accused of sexual abuse were moved from parish to parish, often resulting in the further abuse of a new group of victims. As cases became more public, there were several resignations of those who were higher up in the hierarchy of the Catholic Church while public outrage grew over these allegations.
Investigations into church sexual abuse became far more common and more victims came forward. Finally, after decades of inaction, what once seemed like a couple of isolated incidences became a national scandal, and a subsequent international scandal, that rocked the Roman Catholic Church. We may never know the true extent of the abuse that took place across the Boston Archdiocese, or others, but there are still sexual abuse claims being filed against the Catholic Church.
Filing a Sexual Abuse Claim Against the Archdiocese of Boston
Victims of sexual abuse often do not report their abuse for many years. In fact, there is a widespread belief that as many as three out of every four abuse victims never come forward. What is known, however, is that victims often suffer from emotional injuries that impact their entire lives.
Some long-term consequences of sexual abuse can include:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Depression and anxiety
- Problems with addiction
- Inability to maintain relationships
- Inability to hold down meaningful employment
- Other mental health issues
Survivors of sexual abuse should be aware that they may be entitled to restitution for the abuse they endured, even if they were children at the time of that abuse.
One concern many victims have is whether it is too late for them to file a lawsuit. This is often a concern because many victims do not come forward about sexual abuse in their childhood until their late teens or later in life. You should know that it may still be possible to seek compensation for your trauma to help ensure that you have the financial resources needed to pay for counseling, support services, and other costs associated with your healing.
Understanding the Process of Filing a Claim Against the Archdiocese of Boston
When you first speak with a personal injury attorney about your sexual abuse case, we understand you may have some concerns. Keep in mind, your identity is always considered confidential until you make the decision that you wish to pursue a settlement. You do not need to provide full personal details of your abuse if you do not wish to do so. However, the more information you provide to an attorney, the more tailored the attorney’s suggested strategy can be, and the better advice you receive.
An attorney could investigate your claim and help you determine what evidence may be needed. This may include medical records, records which may indicate you or your parents reported the abuse to the church shortly after it occurred, and more.
Once you decide to move forward (and it is always your decision), an attorney can make sure you understand what options are available in pursuing a case against the responsible parties for your abuse.
Church Admits to Covering up Abuse Claims
For many victims, claims of abuse were hidden from public view for years. This was true even when children told their parents about sexual abuse at the hands of a priest. The church would investigate internally, and they would often respond by transferring the priest to another parish. The Boston Globe ran a series of pieces about the abuse claims which began surfacing in August 2001.
Rather than dealing directly with the church, they opened a “tip line” and encouraged victims to contact them directly. The paper guaranteed the anonymity of those who were abused, resulting in thousands of calls over a period of time. After the Globe pursued many of these tips, the overall belief was that, even when abuse was reported to the church, the church often shielded priests who were accused and responded by transferring them to another parish.
Unfortunately, this did little to stop the abuse; instead, it provided an opportunity for many of these priests to abuse a new group of parishioners. To many, the cover-up was as outrageous as the allegations of abuse.
Number of Potential Sexual Abuse Victims
During a recent year, many states enacted changes to their statutes of limitations, allowing many victims of childhood sexual abuse to file claims against their abusers and the organizations that shielded their abusers. A study conducted by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice revealed more than 4,000 priests were credibly accused of abuse between 1950 and 2002.
The nearly 300-page report indicated that there could have been as high as three to six percent of priests who were guilty of abuse. More than 10,000 victims were found, and many believe that siblings of those victims may have also been victims of abuse, meaning the reported number could be drastically underestimated. Keep in mind that this report only covered accusations through 2002, and today we are aware that there were thousands more who may have also been victims of abuse.
While many people associate sexual abuse with girls and women, the same study showed that nearly 81 percent of the victims of sexual abuse in the church were boys. More than one-half of the victims were between the ages of 11 and 14. While a few of the perpetrators were “new” to the church, most had been associated with the Archdiocese for 30 years or more.
Victims Filed More Reports Than Parents or Church Leaders
Police reports show that nearly 50 percent of the cases were reported to law enforcement by the victims. Parents and victims’ attorneys were also among the reporters, with the smallest percentage (three percent) being reported by another priest.
For many victims, being represented by legal counsel can provide the greatest chance of recovering the financial compensation necessary to help them get on a path to recovery. With the help of a lawyer who has experience in handling sexual assault and abuse cases, you may fight back against a system that is often stacked against you.
Why Work With Our Archdiocese of Boston Sex Abuse Attorneys
Victims of sexual abuse may fear going public because they do not want their friends, family members, or coworkers to know about their past. Often these victims feel they are partially responsible for their abuse. This is never true. Perpetrators of sexual abuse often target those who are most vulnerable, and prey on those who they believe will not report the abuse. This is prevalent with anyone who sexually abuses a child, regardless of their position.
We know the perpetrators of sexual abuse are more likely to be in positions of trust. We also know the victims nearly always know the perpetrator, and they are often led down a specific path involving the development of an emotional relationship before the abuse takes place. These relationships are carefully nurtured, regardless of the standing of the perpetrator. The abuse is not the first step; instead, the victim is first made to feel special, and the abuse comes in forms that are often non-threatening. For children, several months can lapse before they will disclose the abuse, because initially they may not feel there is anything wrong.
Many victims block out their abuse and it may manifest itself years later. Victims may turn to drug and alcohol abuse, self-harm, or act out in other ways including avoiding interpersonal relationships. Their relationships with friends and family may suffer due to the emotional onslaught they deal with when they begin to recall the abuse they suffered as children.
We can help with these issues and more.
Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA and Sibley Dolman: Pursuing Compensation for Archdiocese of Boston Sexual Abuse Victims
Thanks to so many states enacting legislation, more victims of sexual abuse, including those victims who may have been impacted by sexual abuse at the hands of a member of the Archdiocese of Boston, no longer have to fear that there will be no repercussions for the abuse they suffered. A sex abuse attorney who has experience in handling these cases may help you get justice, regardless of when the abuse occurred.
Victims should not have to live with the financial burden placed on them as a result of abuse at the hands of another. An attorney may help you recover funds for treatment including counseling, drug or alcohol addiction treatment, and wages lost if you cannot hold down a job because of the overwhelming burden resulting from the abuse.
Parents depend on upstanding members of the community to care for their children or to provide services to their children When this trust is betrayed, victims often blame themselves and, in many cases, they never tell their parents about the abuse they are suffering. Too often, child victims are threatened and do not tell any responsible adult the truth about what is occurring. Because of this, victims often have internal feelings of guilt which, while misplaced, is understandable.
Today, you may have an opportunity to hold your abuser accountable. You can step forward and make your voice heard, like so many of the brave victims of sexual abuse have done. Remember, when you work with an attorney to bring your abuse case to light, they serve as your advocate and can help guide you through the process of holding the responsible parties accountable.
Words are insufficient, money is never going to compensate for the loss of innocence, nor is it ever going to be sufficient to make up for the physical and emotional trauma of sexual abuse. However, you can take steps to recover emotionally, and you may acquire the financial resources required to make sure you get the counseling you need to understand your internal struggle with the various emotions involved in the road to recovery.
If you are a victim of sexual abuse at the hands of a priest or other member of the Boston Archdiocese, or you are a parent of a child who has suffered such abuse, contact us or call us toll-free at 833-552-7274 to find out what steps you could take to make sure the responsible parties are held accountable. The consultation is free and completely confidential.
Every case of sexual abuse is different, and there is no one size fits all solution. However, we do know that the longer you wait to take action, the harder it can be for you to get the compensation you may be entitled to, particularly when there are indications that the church may be hiding assets to avoid settling larger lawsuits. Please call now.
Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA
76 Canal Street, Suite 302
Boston, MA 02114
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