Understanding Clergy AbuseAccording to Bishop Accountability, the Roman Catholic Church has received a lot of attention regarding allegations of clergy abuse. However, sexual misconduct or clergy abuse isn't limited to a single faith. For example, in 2019, the Southern Baptist Convention gave a detailed report on the rising rate of sexual abuse within their congregation nationwide. Likewise, the Methodist Church issued a similar statement on sexual misconduct between the clergy and the church community. Clergy sexual abuse also occurs in other religions, including Islam and Judaism. States have enacted legislation that makes it easier for victims to take criminal and civil legal action against their abusers. Those who witness the abuse but failed to protect the victim can also be charged. These sexual abuse laws give victims the tools to seek justice and compensation regardless of religious affiliation.
Legislation LawsTexas has legislation that allows victims to revive criminal charges and claims for clergy abuse. This ensures that survivors can get the justice they deserve without the limitations of a deadline. According to the CHILD USA, several states now allow survivors to take civil actions. In addition, prosecutors can file criminal charges for abuse that happened years ago. In Texas, you can also claim compensation from the church institution that ignored or enabled the abuse. Therefore, if a clergy member sexually abused you or a loved one, you can sue them in a civil court regardless of a conviction in a criminal court. A criminal court aims to punish the abuser, whereas a civil court helps a victim collect monetary damages from the abuser or institution. Unlike a criminal case where you must prove that the abuser is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, the standard of proof for a civil claim is lower.
Effects of Clergy Sexual AbuseRevealing a history of abuse by a clergy member is never easy, and victims tend to shy away from facing their past or seeking justice. Victims of sexual abuse by religious leaders can suffer both psychological and physical damages. Some common effects of sexual abuse can include:
- Broken bones
- Damage to the genitals
- Bruises or contusions
- Eating disorders
- Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Personality or anxiety disorders
Damages to Claim in a Clergy Abuse ClaimCivil action claims for clergy abuse primarily include monetary compensation. Though money cannot heal the effects of abuse, it can compensate survivors for the hospital bill, doctor fees, therapy fees, and other associated costs. Consider enlisting a lawyer to understand what damages you're entitled to and how much to expect as monetary compensation. Some of the damages you can claim include:
- Past, current, and future medical expenses
- Cost of past, current, and future therapy and mental health counseling
- Pain and suffering
- Impaired relationships
Statute of Limitations for Clergy Abuse in HoustonTexas has made progress in helping clergy abuse survivors get justice by changing its statute of limitations (SOL) laws for child sexual abuse in both civil and criminal claims. According to Texas SOL laws, clergy abuse victims can claim compensation before 48 years old. This age cap has increased over time. In 2021, the state introduced legislation to open a permanent revival window for all expired claims. If this bill becomes law, several survivors of child sexual abuse whose claims have expired will have the chance to file a lawsuit and claim compensation from their abusers and anyone who covered up the abuse.
How a Houston Clergy Abuse Lawyer Can HelpDue to the improved statute of limitations changes in Texas, it's best to work with a clergy abuse lawyer. Some clergy abuse cases, especially recent ones, trigger criminal and civil cases. The victims will also need to act as a witness in such cases. Testifying against a current abuser in a criminal case can be challenging. Your lawyer will prepare you for the criminal case. Your lawyer will also:
- Gather evidence to support your claim
- Value the cost of economic and non-economic damages
- Represent you in court
- Negotiate the best settlement