Davenport Priest Sexual Abuse Lawyer

July 15, 2020 | Attorney, Matthew Dolman
Most of us are familiar with the sexual abuse and coverup of abuse that occurred in the Los Angeles and Boston Archdiocese. While many may pass off these horrific abuses as something that only happens in big cities on the coastline, what you may find shocking is that these abuses were also occurring (and occur) across the Heartland. The scandal that rocked the Davenport area also received a lot of local notoriety. Judges ordered the unprecedented release of material involving at least 14 different credibly accused priests, and in some cases, found them guilty of abusing the people who trusted them the most—child parishioners. If a priest betrayed the trust and faith that you or your child placed in him, and left lifelong scars, please call the Davenport priest sexual abuse lawyers at Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA. Our affiliated law firms want to fight on your behalf for the justice you deserve. Here's what we know about Davenport priest sexual abuse, and what we want to do about it.

Davenport Priests Broke Trust and as a Result Were Transferred for Protection

Serial sexual abusers like Rev. Jerome Coyle were not always disciplined by the Church, in fact, they were transferred from parish to parish where oftentimes their egregious behavior continued. Unfortunately, these types of transfers occurred all too often. Priests who faced allegations of abuse were often confronted by Bishops and others—even when they admitted to this behavior, rather than filing a report with the police, the Archdiocese took steps to remedy the problem on their own. These remedies were not known until years later when the controversy erupted into the public space. Oftentimes, abusers were subjected to treatment—without any way to measure the effectiveness of the treatment—and then reassigned to either another parish or allowed to work as a layperson among more potential victims. In fact, BishopAccountability.org found that more than 40 percent of Davenport parishes served as the home parish for priests who had credible allegations of sexual abuse filed against them.

Response by Davenport Archdiocese Found Lacking

Initially, the response by the Archdiocese was to make excuses, or claim that abuse allegations were false. Until Attorney General Tom Miller forced the church's hand and requested specific documentation there was a veil of silence cast over claims. This silence dated back several years but perhaps the most significant issue was the Franklin Report, which was issued as a result of an internal investigation. The Franklin Report named for Bishop William E. Franklin was hailed as a first step towards transparency. However, upon looking closer at this report, many issues were ignored or were only half-reported. Some examples include:
  • Reassignment of priests - The report only covered the reassignment history of five priests who were accused despite the official record showing several times that number had been accused.
  • Laicized priests - Only five of the accused priests involved in the scandal resulted in the Bishop requesting the Vatican to laicize (reduce to lay status) despite credible allegations against many more.
  • Ignored allegations - In some cases, there were accused (and in some cases convicted) priests who were not included in the Franklin Report. In other cases, only some allegations against them were included in the final report.
  • Incomplete investigations - The Archdiocese insisted they had problems verifying some allegations due to the accused priest having passed away or their inability to determine the location of victims.
Many feel the report was designed to quell cries from the public for more transparency but a deeper dive into the data provided showed the Archdiocese did not go far enough. In some instances, this caused even more outrage for victims and their families.

Davenport Archdiocese Handling of Sexual Assault and Abuse Complaints

From the early 80s until the mid-2000s, it is estimated the church paid out as much as $750 million in settlements to help keep this scandal quiet. These payouts were done quietly, and payments were made directly to the families of victims. However, the methods used to convince families to accept the settlements were questioned later when the entire scandal broke into the public realm. Families told stories of being intimidated by those who were in some of the highest offices of the archdiocese. Threats and intimidation were common tactics to get families to accept quiet settlements and avoid the involvement of law enforcement when allegations were investigated and found to be truthful. During 2006, the Diocese of Davenport filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The expectation was this would prevent them from having to pay any additional damages to victims. The church claimed they were in unprecedented territory having already paid out millions to victims and their families. Davenport was certainly not the first Diocese to take this approach, only the most recent. With more than 105,000 parishioners worshipping in 84 parishes spreading across 22 counties in Iowa, there were certain to be more allegations and the fear was the church would quickly run out of cash to continue settling the allegations which were proving to be truthful.

Focusing on Victims of Davenport Priest Sexual Abuse

In February 2019, reports indicated that between 1948 and 1995 priests sexually abused more than 100 victims in Iowa. Twenty-eight priests were credibly accused while the credibility of other allegations remained in dispute. Victims and their families were often left feeling like they had no alternative except to remain silent. Many of the accused priests were no longer living at the time the scandal erupted, meaning victims could never face their abusers. While the archdiocese now has a practice of running background checks for those who volunteer or work for the archdiocese, many feel this is too little, too late. Many of the accusers have never come forward, and there is still a possibility that abusers are still active within the Davenport Archdiocese or in other areas of the country.

Why Victims of Davenport Sexual Abuse Remain Silent

One of the many challenges faced by parents, loved ones, and those who regularly interact with a child who is a victim of sexual abuse never learn about the abuse until many years later. Victims of childhood sexual abuse nearly always remain silent. This phenomenon is not unique to children. Studies show that adult survivors of rape or other sexual abuse often do not come forward. Some of the reasons why children who experience sexual abuse remain silent include:
  • Does not blame accuser - Unfortunately, children often feel they have done something wrong and therefore are less likely to tell an adult they are being abused or molested. While this is misguided, it is hard to explain to a child, particularly one who is abused by a well known and respected person, they are not to blame.
  • Fear of retaliation - Abusers often threaten their victims with harm to themselves or a family member. This type of fear is palpable because victims often are worried if they do share their secret then they are jeopardizing the health and well-being of someone they care about.
  • Feelings of shame - Children may feel a sense of shame. This is relatively common in children who are older at the time they are being abused because they understand it is wrong. However, when combined with blaming themselves and being fearful, they are ashamed of their part in the abuse.
When a child is sexually abused, regardless of their age, they may not know who they can trust to tell their story. This is a common problem, particularly when a well-respected person in the community is the perpetrator.

The Long-Term Impact of Female and Male Childhood Sexual Abuse

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has extensive research on the implications of female childhood sexual abuse. While the study of the impact on boys is not as extensive, it is important to also understand the various ways boys may be impacted, given that many of the allegations against priests are against boys. Some potential problems men who were abused as boys could face, according to Dr. Jim Hopper, include:
  • Issues with masculinity and identity
  • Self-worth issues
  • Guilt and self-blame
  • Humiliation and shame
  • Anger and fear
  • Isolation
While every child is different and their experiences are different, we often warn our children about the dangers of strangers. However, we seldom think it is necessary to warn our children about potential abuse from people they know, let alone from a priest.

Victims of Davenport Priest Sexual Abuse Find Their Voice

While Iowa's Attorney General made it clear their office wanted victims to come forward, in many cases, these victims could not seek any type of justice. This was in large part due to the statutes of limitations on both criminal and civil charges which are a part of the law in every state, including Iowa. Common stories began emerging, men in their 40s and 50s were stepping forward and sharing their stories about being sexually abused by priests as children. Many of these victims had spent years of their lives hiding the truth, even as they were undergoing treatment for a variety of issues including depression, post-traumatic stress disorders, and more. Many of these victims thought they were alone, only to discover they were one of many victims. In some cases, when one victim opened up about a specific abuser, others came forward after decades of learning they had suppressed the memory of the abuse, a common reaction to trauma. We may never know the full number of people who were sexually abused by priests across the United States. However, with more states taking active measures to ensure victims are heard, we may continue to see a steady flow of victims coming forward.

Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA: Committed to Victims Protection for Archdiocese of Davenport Sexual Abuse Victims

As more victims of sexual abuse have come forward, the one undeniable fact is that they want their accusers to be held accountable for their actions. Those who protected the abusers should also be held accountable. It is difficult for victims to come forward and tell their stories. It takes bravery and courage to stand up to powerful people, particularly when the first response is to deny any allegations of wrongdoing. Victims of sexual abuse by a priest need someone who will serve as an advocate on their behalf. Oftentimes, working with an experienced Davenport sexual abuse attorney allows the victim the opportunity to openly discuss their story for the first time. Working with a sexual abuse lawyer also offers victims the opportunity to understand how they can hold those who covered up allegations of abuse, and their abusers responsible for their actions. No two cases of sexual abuse are identical. Therefore, it stands to reason there is no single solution for victims. However, there are some obvious things you should be aware of: The longer you wait to come forward, the more challenging it may be for you to get the compensation that you may be entitled to. There is one thing we do know: Bloomberg News reported in January 2020 the church was taking aggressive steps to shield assets as a method of protecting them from potential claims against the perpetrators of child sexual abuse. Between the shielding of assets and Chapter 11 bankruptcy filings, the Davenport Archdiocese is attempting to ensure there are fewer assets available for liquidation or distribution among the victims of sexual abuse at the hands of a priest or other member of the Davenport Archdiocese. This means victims may have a more difficult time holding the perpetrators and their protectors financially accountable for the damage they have done. Victims of sexual abuse must have a representative helping them understand what steps they can take to hold their abusers accountable. That is exactly what you will find when you contact Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA. We work closely with you to determine what you can do to ensure accountability to the responsible parties. Please contact us today; our consultation is free, you are under no obligation, and you can count on us to keep your information completely confidential.


Matthew Dolman

Personal Injury Lawyer

This article was written and reviewed by Matthew Dolman. Matt has been a practicing civil trial, personal injury, products liability, and mass tort lawyer since 2004. He has successfully fought for more than 11,000 injured clients and acted as lead counsel in more than 1,000 lawsuits. Always on the cutting edge of personal injury law, Matt is actively engaged in complex legal matters, including Suboxone, AFFF, and Ozempic lawsuits.  Matt is a lifetime member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum for resolving individual cases in excess of $1 million and $2 million, respectively. He has also been selected by his colleagues as a Florida Superlawyer and as a member of Florida’s Legal Elite on multiple occasions. Further, Matt has been quoted in the media numerous times and is a sought-after speaker on a variety of legal issues and topics.

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