When religious leaders, whose job is to offer spiritual and moral guidance, violate our personal space, our bodies, and/or our trust, not only can it cause physical pain, but it can result in intense emotional trauma and spiritual damage. Clergy in a wide variety of denominations have abused adults and women. But the vast majority of clergy sexual abuse claims in Arizona and throughout the nation have been made against priests in the Catholic church, who have sexually violated, abused, or assaulted males younger than 18. This might be because the Catholic Church is large, because other abuse has gone unreported or been underreported, or a combination of both. In any case, if you are currently being abused by anyone who is in a religious position of power—your pastor, your priest, your imam, your rabbi, your minister, a deacon, a teacher, etc.—it is not your fault. You need to tell an adult you trust as soon as possible or report the abuse to the police. If you are an adult who has been abused by a clergy member, you can still seek justice, even if the abuse has stopped. Contact a sexual abuse attorney or child sexual assault lawyer today to discuss your legal options. Among the world’s major religions and associated denominations, clergy associated with the Roman Catholic Church have received the most accusations of sexual abuse. In fact, within the Diocese of Phoenix and Diocese of Tucson combined, 45 priests have been accused of abuse by 169 victims. Additionally, some victims have argued that the Church has been complicit in the abuse by ignoring the problem and protecting the accused. To make matters worse, outdated laws have made it impossible to hold these alleged pedophiles accountable for their actions. Yet, in the past few decades, the tides have begun to turn and survivors of clergy sexual abuse have been able to get their day in court and see justice served for the trauma they experienced. The legal teams at Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA have the resources and the passion to advocate for clergy sexual abuse survivors throughout the entire country. We are committed to helping our clients pursue the justice they deserve, including compensation for the harm they suffered at the hands of their religious leaders. If you reside in Arizona, contact us for a no obligation, confidential consultation to learn more about how we can help you in the wake of clergy sexual abuse.
Our Commitment to Advocating for Victims of Injury and Abuse
The experienced personal injury attorneys at Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA have decades of experience advocating for clients who have been accidentally or intentionally harmed by other parties. Our continued dedication to professional excellence and client service has led to the recovery of millions of dollars in economic and non-economic damages for our clients. Although we fight for survivors of clergy sexual abuse with the same fervor as we fight for the rest of our clients, we understand these cases aren’t your run-of-the-mill accident injury cases; and, we are empathetic to the idea that seeking financial compensation for damages from your religious community might feel awkward. We are dedicated to your plight and applaud your courage to step forward and take legal action against those who did you harm. Not only can taking this step help your, but it may help protect others from future abuse, and if you choose to work with us, we will be there to advocate for you each step of the way. Most importantly, clergy sexual abuse cases are not one-size-fits-all. The path you choose towards justice might be different than that of another survivor. At Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, we are here to help you discover your options and provide you sound advice about the best path forward based on your individual circumstances and desire to obtain justice.
Arizona House Bill 2466 Increases Protection for Victims of Childhood Sexual Abuse
In the United States, about a third of all childhood sexual abuse goes unreported, and half of those who do report the abuse wait until much later in life. Those who study childhood sexual abuse argue that in addition to feelings of guilt and shame, many feel reporting their abuse won’t do any good. This is, in large part, because statutes of limitations for childhood sexual abuse don’t extend far enough to allow people to seek justice. Some states only give victims a year or two after they turn 18. Fortunately, many states have reconsidered their laws and legal changes have begun to take place throughout the nation. Before May 2019, childhood victims of sexual abuse by clergy or any other adult only had until age 20 to take legal action against those who caused them harm in Arizona. With the passage of Arizona House Bill 2466, laws concerning reporting and accountability for abusers and enablers have been extended to favor those who have been victimized. The increased protection for victims of childhood sexual abuse in H.B. 2466 include:
- An extension in the statute of limitations to take civil action against perpetrators of child abuse from two years to 12 years, allowing survivors of abuse to bring a lawsuit against those who caused them harm up to age 30;
- An extension for victims who did not have the chance to take legal action for their abuse in the previous two years to bring a lawsuit against their abuser until December 31, 2020; and,
- The ability for a victim of childhood sexual abuse to take action against an organization who knew about or received reports of sexual misconduct.
This new Arizona law allows victims of clergy sexual abuse to hold their church, diocese, or other overarching religious authority accountable too, making it especially important for victims whose abusers have died, left the country, or cannot be found.
Seeking Justice After Clergy Sexual Abuse in Arizona
Survivors of sexual abuse choose to come forward for a wide variety of reasons. Some have undergone counseling or therapy, and confronting their abuser to hold him (in rare cases, her) accountable is part of healthy emotional recovery. Others no longer feel the shame that often accompanies victims, and feel the need to see justice served. Finally, many come forward to protect others from abuse in the future. Regardless of the reason that might drive you to seek justice against a clergy member who caused you harm, you will have several different pathways towards justice. Our compassionate lawyers will listen to your case, uncover all the relevant facts, and provide you with the information you need to choose the best path to justice for your situation. Some of the options we often discuss with our clients include:
Civil Lawsuit Seeking Financial Compensation for Damages
Whether you have been abused by a clergy member in the last few years or a decade ago, Arizona law entitles you to seek compensation for damages from your abuser and the religious institutions who might have enabled his sexual misconduct. Money cannot undo any of the harm you suffered at the hands of a person you looked to for moral and spiritual guidance, but it can help pay for your mental health needs and provide compensation for non-economic losses related to the abuse. If your attorney reaches a settlement or an Arizona court rules in your favor, you might receive compensation for:
- Expenses for therapy, counseling, and other mental health services needed and/or required to deal with the trauma of clergy sexual abuse;
- Physical pain and suffering;
- Mental anguish;
- Loss of consortium and other damage to personal relationships;
- Punitive damages in some cases.
Keep in mind, each clergy sexual abuse case has distinct characteristics. You are in no way guaranteed a specific outcome, financial or otherwise, for your case. Yet, if you work with us, we will aggressively pursue the best outcome possible for your individual circumstances.
Criminal Prosecution of Abuser(s)
Although you might wish to see your abuser prosecuted on a criminal level, those who have been sexually abused by clergy members do not have a say in whether or not a prosecutor files criminal charges. Yet, if you report the crime, and the prosecutor files criminal charges, you will typically have the choice as to whether or not you wish to participate or testify in the criminal trial. When civil and criminal proceedings can occur concurrently, this can leave survivors and their families confused about the best course of action for their situation. The experienced clergy sexual abuse attorneys at Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA will help our clients evaluate their own individual circumstances. Our goal is to protect our client’s rights regardless of whether they are testifying as a victim in a criminal trial or a plaintiff in a civil trial.
Symptoms and Effects of Childhood Sexual Abuse
If you have been considering coming forward with your sexual abuse story, we know this decision hasn’t been easy. You’ve likely waited some time and wondered if it was the right thing for you to do. Making this choice requires having a strong support system that might include family, friends, or support groups. It’s also in your best interest to have a psychologist or other mental health professional in your corner to help you through this difficult process, if you currently are not undergoing therapy. This is especially important if you are a parent supporting your minor child through coming forward with an allegation of sexual abuse against a clergy member. Those who don’t deal with the emotional aftermath of childhood sexual abuse face potential long-term effects. If you suspect your child might be a victim of sexual abuse, you can watch for the following behavioral symptoms:
- Emotional reactions to the abuse including fear, shame, humiliation, and self-blame, often presenting as depression and anxiety
- Symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder including thoughts, nightmares, and flashbacks of the abuse
- Evidence of self-sabotage rooted in the belief that he or she caused the abuse and deserved it
Long-term effects which adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse by clergy might experience include physical, sexual, and interpersonal manifestations of their trauma. Generally speaking, the longer the abuse went on, the more likely someone is to experience severe effects.
- Physical effects can include self-neglect, eating disorders, anxiety, and depression. Adults who were abused as children are five times more likely to abuse drugs and/or alcohol, twice as likely to smoke cigarettes, be sedentary, and suffer from severe obesity.
- Sexual effects include challenges with sex drive, arousal, and performance that might result of the association between sexual activity, violation, and pain created by the abuse. Sexual abuse survivors are more likely to have 50 or more sex partners, contract an STD, and take significant risks that could lead to serious medical consequences, including HIV.
- Interpersonal effects include trouble trusting others, as well as the opposite behavior which is trouble with self-protection. This can make an adult more vulnerable and more prone to exploitation and victimization.
At Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, we place a high value on your mental health and emotional well-being, and we understand the gravity of choosing to come forward with an allegation of clergy sexual abuse. We emphatically support our clients and put their needs first. We are here to give you the advice you need to seek justice in the best way for your circumstances.
Arizona Legal Help for Survivors of Clergy Sexual Abuse
Surviving clergy sexual abuse can lead to long-term effects and challenges that can devastate survivors and their families, as well as cause a spiritual break with their faith community. If you or your child has suffered abuse, you deserve compensation for the harm you experienced and to see those who harmed you held accountable for their actions. If you are considering coming forward with a clergy sexual abuse allegation, consult an experienced attorney who can help you find the right path for justice. Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA represent clergy sexual abuse clients in Arizona and throughout the nation. Contact us online or at 833-552-7274 for a free and confidential consultation to discuss the details of your case. Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA 833-552-7274 Online Contact Form