Physical and Sexual Abuse at Church
“America: The Jesuit Review,” reported in August of 2018 that Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro released an 800-page grand jury report on 70 years of sexual abuse by priests in six Pennsylvania Catholic dioceses. It identified 301 priests who abused children and more than 1,000 victims. Members of the grand jury believe the actual number of victims is much larger.
Not only is the extent of the abuse shocking, but even more so is the cover-up. Church officials called it “horseplay” or “wrestling.” But they knew it was sexual abuse and they covered it up. The abuse scandal in the Catholic Church was exposed nationally in 2002 by the Boston Globe’s reporting. Accounts of abuse continue to this day.
How could the corruption in people we trust go unnoticed for so long? And it doesn’t include only priests. Rabbis, ministers, pastors, and church staff have all committed sexual abuse. The better question might be, now that it’s out there, what can we do about it?
Warning Signs that an Adult May Be Abusing a Child
The thing that’s so difficult in keeping children safe is that they are often confused when a figure of authority does something wrong to them. This is especially bewildering for a child abused at the hands of a priest or minister. Therefore, they tend to keep quiet about the incident.
So to help you know whether a child is being abused, here are some warning signs. These are from the website of the U. S. Department of Justice Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Website (NSOPW). This is a site we highly recommend. The lists below are taken directly from the site.
Behavior you may see in a child or adolescent who could be a victim:
- Has nightmares or other sleep problems without an explanation.
- Seems distracted or distant at odd times.
- Has a sudden change in eating habits.
- Refuses to eat.
- Loses or drastically increases appetite.
- Has trouble swallowing.
- Sudden mood swings: rage, fear, insecurity, or withdrawal.
- Leaves “clues” that seem likely to provoke a discussion about sexual issues.
- Develops new or unusual fear of certain people or places.
- Refuses to talk about a secret shared with an adult or older child.
- Writes, draws, plays, or dreams of sexual or frightening images.
- Talks about a new older friend.
- Suddenly has money, toys, or other gifts without reason.
- Thinks of self or body as repulsive, dirty, or bad.
- Exhibits adult-like sexual behaviors, language, and knowledge.
Behavior you may see in a teen victim:
- Self-injury such as cutting or burning.
- Inadequate personal hygiene.
- Drug and alcohol use.
- Sexual promiscuity.
- Running away from home.
- Depression, anxiety.
- Suicide attempts.
- Fear of intimacy or closeness.
- Compulsive eating or dieting.
Warning Signs by an Adult Abusing a Child
There are also signs in an adult that you suspect of abusing a child. As with the warning signs above, these behaviors don’t automatically indicate bad behavior. But they may be cause for concern.
Behavior you may see in an abuser at a place of worship:
- Refusing to let a child set any of his or her own limits; using teasing or belittling language to keep a child from setting a limit.
- Insisting on hugging, touching, kissing, tickling, wrestling with, or holding a child even when the child does not want this physical contact or attention.
- Turning to a child for emotional or physical comfort by sharing personal or private information or activities that are normally shared with adults.
- Having secret interactions with teens or children, such as with games.
- Being overly interested in the sexuality of a particular child or teen. Talking repeatedly about the child’s developing body.
- Insisting on or managing to spend unusual amounts of uninterrupted time alone with a child.
- Seeming “too good to be true,” as in taking children on special outings alone, buying them gifts, or giving them money for no apparent reason.
- Allowing children or teens to consistently get away with inappropriate behaviors.
What You Should Do If You or Your Child Suffered Abuse by Clergy
According to the Child Abuse Prevention Center, in Orange County there are an average of 120 children reported as victims of child abuse every day. That’s over 43,000 per year.
Survivors of sexual abuse often suffer long term effects. These can include depression, eating disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Also sexually transmitted diseases, sleep disorders, even suicidal thoughts. These are often long-term disorders that can cost victims financially for a lifetime. That’s why we’re here to get you the just compensation you deserve.
The statute of limitations in the state of California is different for civil lawsuits and criminal prosecutions. The filing of a civil claim for sexual abuse must be made before your 26th birthday. However, California has adopted an extension of the statute of limitations based on when a person discovers his or her sexual abuse as a child.
This is a result of adults repressing the memory of their experience as children. They then “discover” the abuse later on, realizing it as the cause of their psychological illnesses or injuries. This means that a person has 3 years from the discovery of their abuse to file a claim. That discovery can come to a person on its own or as a result of therapy.
So as you can see, if you have endured the results of abuse as an adult or you suspect your child is suffering it now, talk to us as soon as you can. We’ll help you file a civil suit within California’s statute of limitations. The goal is to get you money for your damages and to bring your abuser to justice.
In this way you will obtain the financial resources to deal with the trauma of the abuse. And you help the community by eliminating the chances that another child will be abused.
It is a sign of our times that sexual abuse that has occurred over the years is now coming out into the open. We applaud this turn of events. We also believe that light shown on the problem will help it get solved once and for all.
So call us today to talk about your case. We have experience suing religious institutions and we can help you navigate the complicated court system.
Call 949.861.2990 or request a consult here.