Parents entrust the safety and care of their children to various groups of people over the years. Teachers, coaches, scoutmasters, daycare center workers, and members of the clergy are a few examples of those people. When that trust is betrayed, parents often do not learn about this betrayal until months or years later. Too often, this is the case because children are afraid to tell their parents because of a fear that they will not be believed, or because they have been threatened to stay silent.
Unfortunately, more cases of sexual abuse against children occur without anyone being aware of the problem, often until the children are in their teens, or even when they are young adults. When the issue is out in the open, it is often because the victim is acting out. This is often exhibited through various signs of aggressive behavior, or addiction to drugs or alcohol. The emotional toll that abuse can take varies from person to person. But, the truth often comes out eventually.
Too often, even when the truth is revealed, the predator who harmed a child attempts to deflect and deny any inappropriate behavior. In other cases, the institutions that employ some of these predators have helped ensure that the victim could not locate the abuser after making the allegations.
You are not alone. In those cases, you can call our Florida sexual abuse lawyers at Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA. Our empathetic sexual abuse lawyers can help you find the perpetrator and hold him accountable for the injuries he inflicted on you—and probably on many others as well.
Sexual Assaults of Children Often Go Unreported
According to some estimates, only slightly more than one-quarter of sexual assaults are reported to the police. Some of the reasons victims have given for not reporting sexual abuse include:
- Retaliation - 20 percent of victims indicate they fear retaliation if the abuse is reported.
- No action - 13 percent of victims believe police will be unable or unwilling to help.
- Personal matter - As much as 13 percent of victims believe sexual abuse is a personal matter.
- Other party knowledge - Nearly 8 percent of victims reported the abuse to someone else.
- Lack of importance - 8 percent of victims do not feel their abuse is important enough to warrant reporting.
- Protecting the abuser - 7 percent of victims do not wish to see their abuser punished.
- No way forward - 2 percent of victims believe there is nothing that can be done to punish their abuser.
Strangers Are Seldom the Abusers of Children
We often believe children are at higher risk of being abused by someone they do not know. Unfortunately, this is not as common in cases of sexual abuse. In fact, statistically speaking, child sexual abuse perpetrators are often those who parents have entrusted to care for their children.
In a recent year, CBS News reported there were more than 2,600 priests who were accused of abusing a member of their parish. Later in that same year, NBC News reported that there were more than 1,700 accused members of the clergy who have remained unsupervised, despite the church having credible information indicating they could be putting parishioners in danger. This number is particularly impactful when you consider the fact that, during these investigations, many of these accusations go back decades and that the church hierarchy has turned a blind eye to so many of the accusations of abuse.
Hiding Those Credibly Accused of Sexual Abuse
Some institutions do not want the publicity accompanying accusations of sexual abuse, and the Detroit Archdiocese is among these institutions. In many cases, the accused were quietly reassigned to different parishes, rather than being publicly outed for the abuse. This became more difficult during the late 1980s and early 1990s when more publicity began to fan public outrage and the public became interested in a scandal that continues to rock the Catholic Church.
In many instances, victims turned to members of the parish where the priest was assigned to report sexual abuse, and the instances were still not reported to law enforcement. In these cases, the matter was only dealt with through an internal investigation by Bishops and other members of the Archdiocese. This often resulted in quiet settlements with victims behind the scenes, and the reassignment of a clergy member who was accused of sexual abuse. Too often, these abusers then went on to abuse others.
Long-Term Impact of Sexual Abuse on Victims
For many decades, the impact on the victims of this type of sexual abuse was largely ignored. This was typically the result of under-reporting of the problem. Many victims never came forward, even when the impact of their abuse resulted in relationship issues, drug and alcohol abuse, and other problems in their lives. However, there have now been many credible studies highlighting some of the challenges faced by those who were abused in childhood.
These studies of sexual abuse victims reveal some of the following facts:
- Mental health issues - Victims often suffer from mental health issues after years of living with the knowledge of what happened to them during childhood. Too often, victims blame themselves for the actions of their abusers. It is not uncommon for survivors to experience amnesia, multiple personality disorders, and other mental health problems. Many of these conditions are a result of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) because of years of repressed memories.
- Problems with self-perception - Victims of child sexual abuse often have a strong belief that the abuse was their fault, or they deserved what happened to them. This is often because many instances of sexual abuse in the Archdiocese were not “direct” assaults, but instead were part of a pattern of the perpetrator ingratiating themselves into the life of the victim. The resulting abuse was perpetrated through game play and other seemingly innocent interactions.
- Distortion of sexual capacity - Victims may display signs of being “oversexed,” often moving from partner to partner during their teen and adult years. Many victims are at a higher risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases, as a result. In other cases, victims may avoid sexual encounters and intimate relationships. For some, it is fairly common to feel pain, fear, or to avoid any manner of intimacy.
- More likely to be repeat victims - Unfortunately, once someone has been a victim of sexual abuse, they are more likely to suffer repeated abuse. In many instances, this phenomenon results from the victim's belief that they deserved what occurred, and they may wind up in abusive relationships as a result of prior experiences.
- Drug and alcohol abuse - There is a higher incidence of alcohol and drug abuse among survivors of sexual abuse than in the general population. Oftentimes, those who were abused will turn to drugs and alcohol at a younger age than the general population as a way of dealing with the mental pain and anguish they experience.
Holding Responsible Parties Accountable for Sexual Abuse
The lifelong problems victims of sexual abuse face can be overwhelming. Those who have the resources often need long-term emotional assistance, including follow-up care with psychologists who are skilled in dealing with victims of sexual abuse. In addition, victims may require multiple stays in detoxification facilities to help them deal with addictions. Victims cannot always hold down steady jobs, maintain healthy relationships, and may resort to self-harm as a way of expressing their frustration at the lack of compassion and care they receive from families, the institutions that have shielded their abusers, and the legal system.
Many victims never contact an attorney because they do not know what rights they have. And, as adults, they may think that seeking legal help will not do any good, especially since the abuse happened decades ago, for many victims.
In a recent year, Detroit changed their statutes of limitations on sexual assaults, largely in response to an outrage which occurred because of Dr. Larry Nassar, a predator who victimized his patients. These changes in the law gave victims of sexual abuse some hope that they could hold those who abused their positions of trust accountable for their actions.
Pursuing Criminal and Civil Lawsuits Against Priests
In a recent year, the Catholic Archdiocese had reportedly paid out more than $4 billion in sexual abuse claims. Additionally, the statutes of limitations were lifted on many of these abuse claims, allowing victims to continue to come forward and disclose the abuse they have suffered at the hands of a member of the Archdiocese in a position of trust.
As a result of changes made in statehouses across the country, thousands of victims came forward and a flood of settlements was offered by the Catholic Church. Many victims were offered settlements with the provision that they refrain from pursuing additional civil or criminal lawsuits. Victims' funds were set up and the churches promised to thoroughly investigate claims and take more aggressive action, including dismissal of members of the clergy who were found to have abused the trust of those who turned to them for spiritual guidance.
Victims are still reporting abuse at the hands of members of the Archdiocese of Detroit today, and some are turning to personal injury attorneys to help them resolve claims with the church.
Some potential compensation that victims may obtain includes:
- Costs of treatment - Whether a victim needs mental health or addiction treatment, the costs can be prohibitive. Working with a lawyer, victims could obtain an agreement in which the Archdiocese is held responsible for past, current, and future treatment costs.
- Mental distress - Victims of sexual abuse can suffer years of mental distress, dating back to their first encounter. This distress can hurt someone for years with serious implications, including the inability to hold a job, maintain a relationship, and other problems.
- Lost wages - Victims who can't maintain a good employment record may have the basis to claim lost wages as a result of their abuse. A lawyer could help you understand when this may come into play.
- Punitive damages - Because members of the clergy are among some of the most trusted members of society, one way to hold them accountable may be through punitive damages. These damages are meant to serve as a deterrent, warning others who consider this type of behavior appropriate to rethink their actions. Punitive damages are often linked to the amount of money awarded to victims, and is often a multiplier. In other words, if a victim settles a claim for $100,000, then punitive damages may be two, three, or five times the amount of the settlement. Remember, every case is different and there is no guarantee you will be awarded punitive damages.
Sexual abuse is a serious problem and victims often feel they have no option left but to move on. Since the scandal involving the Catholic Church came out, more victims than ever are making their claims public. In response, the Detroit Archdiocese has promised more transparency, set up a victims' fund, and now have made the names of confirmed abusers public.
There Is No Need to Remain Silent. Call Us Today.
If you were victimized by a member of the Detroit Archdiocese and you have questions or concerns about what rights you might have, you should seek the guidance of an attorney who has experience in handling sexual abuse and assault cases. Keeping silent creates a heavy burden. Victims have rights, and a lawyer could help advise you of those rights and help protect you. Even if the perpetrator of your abuse is no longer living, we can help guide you through the process of potentially getting compensation for the long-term harm that the sexual abuse has caused you.
Many victims will never come forward to report abuse by a member of the Detroit Archdiocese, meaning they will spend years paying for the costs associated with the long-term consequences of their sexual abuse. You may hold your abuser accountable, and if they are no longer living, you may hold the Detroit Archdiocese financially responsible for the abuse you suffered at the hands of a priest who they protected for years. Victims should not have to bear the burden alone. Nor should they avoid seeking the care they need.
If you don't know what steps you can or should take to file a sexual abuse claim against an abuser and the church, contact the caring sexual abuse and assault attorneys at the Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA today to find out about your rights. We can help you determine a way to proceed based on your individual experiences. Do not wait any longer. Contact us now to tell your story and get the information you need.
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