Child sexual abuse is a horrific crime that, more often than not, is perpetrated by someone the child knows and trusts. Revelations of abuse of children by priests within the Archdiocese of St. Louis illustrate that tragedy, and demand action to keep children safe from predators within the clergy.
Survivors of sexual abuse by Archdiocese of St. Louis priests and clergy members have rights to compensation under Missouri law. The experienced, compassionate clergy sexual abuse injury lawyers at Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA can help them secure that compensation. Contact us today for a free, confidential, no-obligation case consultation.
About Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA
Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA are affiliated personal injury law firms based in Florida and representing clients nationwide. An important and growing part of our law practice focuses on seeking justice, accountability, and compensation for survivors of childhood sexual abuse perpetrated by Catholic Church priests and other officials.
Our award-winning firms have a long track record of success fighting on behalf of innocent victims of other people's wrongdoing. We have recovered tens of millions of dollars in compensation for our clients through settlements and jury verdicts. Of course, our past results do not guarantee the outcome of any matter we may take in the future, but they do give our clients the peace of mind of knowing they have a law firm on their side with a reputation for building strong cases against even the most powerful of opponents.
Extent of Archdiocese of St. Louis Priest Abuse
In 2019, the St. Louis Archdiocese published a list naming 69 priests within its ranks who had been credibly accused of abusing children. In releasing the names, the Archdiocese emphasized that no priest who had been credibly accused was still serving in the ministry, and that no accusations had alleged abuse that occurred after 2002. However, these figures may underrepresent the problem in the Archdiocese, because some (perhaps many) survivors may not have stepped forward to reveal the abuse they suffered.
A report commissioned by U.S. bishops in 2012 to study the epidemic of priest abuse within the Church found that 82 percent of survivors of priest abuse were male, and that 60 percent of victims were between 10 and 14 years old. Studies have also shown that male victims are far less likely to come forward with their histories of abuse.
No matter their gender or the age at which the abuse occurred, however, the important message the team at Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA has for survivors is that they are not alone, and that caring, compassionate lawyers stand ready to help them when they feel ready to explore their legal options.
Survivors can always trust that our team will treat them with the dignity and respect they deserve, and that anything they tell us will remain 100 percent confidential unless and until they authorize us to reveal it in the course of taking legal action on their behalf. The survivors of priest abuse who we represent can rest assured that they are in control of their cases, and that we act only when, and in the manner, they approve.
Survivors Suffer Life-Long Consequences of Priest Abuse
Survivors of priest abuse frequently carry the scars and trauma of abuse with them for their entire lives.
In the years after the abuse occurs, often well into adulthood, many struggle with:
- Mental health disturbances, including post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, difficulty regulating emotions such as anger, and self-harm.
- Substance abuse, which may serve as a form of self-medication for survivors, particularly those who have kept their histories of abuse a secret;
- Sexual disturbances and disorders, including hypersexuality (sexual promiscuity), hyposexuality (sexual avoidance), lack of arousal, and pain.
- Relationship difficulties, often associated with difficulties with trust and intimacy.
- Self-isolation, which can compound the negative effects of the difficulties above.
Survivors of priest sexual abuse within the Archdiocese of St. Louis can overcome these difficulties, often with the help of trained mental health counselors. However, many struggle to access the services and support they need, both because of the cost and the difficulty of telling their stories.
At Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, we believe survivors deserve the opportunity and financial support necessary to obtain much-needed help that could aid them in addressing these issues. Our team will never judge or look-down on any survivor.
Legal Options for Survivors of Archdiocese of St. Louis Priest Abuse
Sexual abuse is a crime for which priests and the Church that employs them should face legal and financial accountability. Survivors of sexual abuse by a priest within the Archdiocese of St. Louis may have a variety of legal options available to them to seek that accountability. At Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, we counsel our clients in these options and pursue the legal strategies that best fit their needs and interests.
Civil Lawsuits for Money Damages
The most common legal option available to many priest abuse survivors consists of suing their abusers and/or Church institutions that facilitated, enabled, ignored, or covered-up acts of abuse.
Money cannot erase the trauma of childhood sexual abuse. It can, however, provide financial support for survivors to obtain appropriate care, and may acknowledge the damage done to them by a predator priest and those who enabled his conduct.
Every priest abuse case we handle at Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA has unique facts that determine the direction the case may take, and the types and amounts of compensation a survivor may have the right to receive.
However, in general, our efforts can often help secure compensation to pay for:
- Medical and mental health care to help a survivor confront the trauma and long-term negative effects of sexual abuse by a St. Louis Archdiocese priest;
- Other expenses related to living with a history of priest abuse;
- Pain, suffering, and diminished quality of life tied to the acts of abuse and the difficulty of living and coping with the trauma;
- In some cases, punitive damages punish and deter the conduct that constituted or enabled the abuse.
We cannot guarantee that our clients will recover money damages in any particular case. We can, however, promise to commit our firms' talents and resources to listening to survivors without judgment, to serving their needs and interests, and to holding abusers and Church institutions accountable when our clients ask us to do so.
Civil Lawsuits for Other Remedies
Some survivors of priest abuse who seek our help at Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA want any legal action they take to result in more than a financial award. They also want to know that stepping forward with their stories served a greater purpose, such as forcing the Church to acknowledge its sins and complicity in abuse, and to take affirmative steps to make sure abuse does not happen again.
Courts in Missouri have the power, in some instances, to order Church institutions to take those sorts of steps, and survivors may ask courts to do so in connection with their lawsuit against an abuser and/or the Church. We encourage our clients to tell us if their goals in stepping forward include achieving those outcomes, so that we can evaluate their legal options.
Criminal Prosecutions of Abusers
Survivors of priest abuse within the Archdiocese of St. Louis have every right to expect that the State will hold their abusers criminally liable. In most cases, the St. Louis Circuit Attorney decides whether to pursue criminal charges against a predator priest. In making that decision, the Circuit Attorney's Office may ask a survivor to aid in their investigation and, potentially, to serve as a witness against the priest.
At Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, we firmly believe that survivors have the absolute right to choose whether and how to participate in any criminal prosecution of their abuser, and that there is no wrong decision. Some survivors cannot wait for the opportunity to face a predator priest in court. Others want nothing to do with that process.
In representing survivors of priest abuse, our team places a priority on giving our clients clear, straightforward advice about their options, on giving them the power to choose the path that serves their interests and goals, and on advocating for them no matter what they decide.
Expanded Time Limits for Seeking Accountability for St. Louis Priest Abuse
Missouri law gives survivors of childhood sexual abuse, including abuse committed by Archdiocese of St. Louis priests, an extended time to step forward with allegations.
The time limit for taking legal action is called a statute of limitations. In Missouri, survivors of childhood sexual abuse can file a lawsuit against their abuser at any point up to the later of their 31st birthday or the date that is three years after when they discover or reasonably could have discovered that they suffered sexual abuse as a child. Survivors have until their 26th birthday to file suit against anyone whose actions facilitated, enabled, ignored, or covered-up abuse, such as a Church institution like the Archdiocese of St. Louis.
Missouri's expanded statute of limitations for survivors of childhood sexual abuse, which has been on the books since 2004, exists because legislators recognized that survivors often struggle to come to terms with their abuse and need extra time before they feel ready to step forward.
No matter how long ago an act of abuse by an Archdiocese of St. Louis priest occurred, the team at Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA encourages survivors to contact us to learn about their legal and financial rights.
How We Help Survivors Seek Accountability
The actions we may take on behalf of a survivor of priest abuse in the Archdiocese of St. Louis may vary depending upon the circumstances. Every survivor has a unique story to tell, and the facts of that story can affect the advice we give them about when, how, and in what manner to proceed.
Generally speaking, however, Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA attorneys will often take one or more of the following steps in seeking justice and accountability on behalf of a survivor of priest abuse:
- Listen to the survivor's story and reasons for stepping forward;
- Investigate the circumstances of the acts of abuse, including any role played by Church leaders and institutions in facilitating, enabling, turning a blind eye to, or covering up abuse;
- Evaluate the full extent of the harm the survivor suffered, including any long-term struggles the survivor faced because of the abuse;
- Plan a legal strategy that serves the survivor's interests and goals;
- Communicate that strategy to the survivor in clear, straightforward language;
- Answer the survivor's questions about the strategy;
- Adapt the strategy, if necessary, to fit the survivor's needs;
- Prepare and pursue legal action authorized by the survivor, seeking compensation or other remedies;
- Negotiate with defense lawyers, insurance companies, and Church leaders to seek a settlement of our client's claim, if possible and in our client's best interest;
- Interact with prosecutors, when appropriate, on our client's behalf and in our client's interest;
- Update our client about the progress of the case;
- Advise our client on the pros and cons of accepting any proposed settlement, and on any other legal or practical issues that may arise in the course of our work on the client's behalf;
- Litigate our client's claim in court, including taking it to trial if necessary to achieve the outcome that best serves our client's needs.
Experienced, Compassionate Attorneys for Survivors of St. Louis Priest Abuse
Survivors of priest abuse in the Archdiocese of St. Louis have rights, and they deserve to have their voices heard on their own terms. At Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, we advocate for brave survivors who want to explore their legal options for holding abusers and Church institutions accountable.
For a free, 100 percent confidential, no-obligation consultation with a caring lawyer to discuss your legal and financial rights as a survivor of Archdiocese of St. Louis priest abuse, contact Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA online or at 833-552-7274.
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