Priests are generally thought of to be a compassionate, trustworthy group whose job is to spread the message of religion and assist their church members. A 2018 investigation by a Pennsylvania grand jury, however, has proven that not all priests are as holy as they may portray themselves to be. Based on this investigation, hundreds of Catholic priests in Pennsylvania alone have been accused of sexually abusing children throughout the state.
If you are a victim of the same form of abuse, The Brod Injury Law Firm is dedicated to helping you seek justice for the trauma you never should have faced.
Clergy Sexual Abuse in Pennsylvania
2018 proved to be a pivotal year for those who have suffered sexual abuse at the hands of the Roman Catholic Church--in August, an investigative grand jury report was released consisting of over 1,300 pages of evidence backing assertions of child sexual abuse at the hands of clergy members. Tasked with investigating six dioceses, or districts, of the Roman Catholic Church in the state of Pennsylvania, members of the grand jury procured evidence of child sex abuse by more than 300 priests in Pennsylvania.
While the number of identifiable victims totaled over 1,000, the number of children whose records were lost or who were too afraid to tell the truth about their abuse is likely much higher. Unfortunately, due to church leaders covering up the abuse, nearly every case of sexual abuse by a priest was too old to be prosecuted, with only two cases recent enough to be pursued.
The grand jury probe spurred action on behalf of government officials--in October of 2018, the United States Department of Justice commenced an investigation to look into cases of child sex abuse occurring in Pennsylvania's Roman Catholic churches. News of the investigation has inspired a number of other victims across the country to come forward about the trauma they faced at the hands of Roman Catholic priests.
Effects of Clergy Sexual Abuse on Survivors
Like any form of child sexual abuse, inappropriate actions by priests and other church officials can have a devastating impact on the victims who suffered the abuse.
Short-Term Effects of Sexual Abuse
- Fear: following sexual abuse, children can experience a great deal of fear that another incident will occur.
- Guilt and shame: after an incident of sexual abuse, children often feel guilty about the experience and are ashamed that the incident occurred at all. Many victims of child sexual abuse actually blame themselves for the abuse, believing either that they did something to cause the abuse or could have done something to prevent the abuse from occurring.
- Denial: children who suffer sexual abuse often try to redesign the experience in their mind to make the situation less traumatic and sometimes refuse to admit that the sexual abuse happened at all.
- Trust issues: sexual abuse can cause a child to experience difficulty in trusting other people. These trust issues can continue into adulthood.
Long-Term Effects of Sexual Abuse
- Depression: among the most common effects of child sexual abuse is chronic depression. Survivors of such abuse can have trouble processing the trauma they faced, leading to negative self-image, guilt, and shame.
- Suicidal tendencies and self-destructive behavior: survivors of child sexual abuse tend to experience more suicidal thoughts and tendencies than those who have never suffered abuse. Victims of child sexual abuse also have a higher risk of developing an eating disorder, self-harming, or engaging in other forms of self-destructive behavior.
- Stress and anxiety: the short-term fear accompanying child sexual abuse can manifest itself in the long term as severe stress and anxiety disorders. Those who suffer from such abuse often suffer from panic attacks and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
- Sexual difficulties: for most victims of child sexual abuse, the traumatic event was the child's first sexual experience. Because of the negative association with the sexual abuse, victims often experience long-term difficulties or loss of interest in sex.
Civil Remedies for Clergy Sexual Abuse
In a criminal trial, in order for a defendant to be found guilty of sexual abuse, guilt must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, meaning that the defendant almost certainly committed the crime. Civil trials, on the other hand, have a much lower burden of proof, giving victims of clergy sexual abuse an alternative route to seek justice for the trauma they suffered at the hands of priests and other church officials.
These civil lawsuits allow survivors of sexual abuse to recover financial compensation--otherwise known as "damages"--for every aspect of their suffering, including:
- Medical bills;
- Physical pain and suffering; and
- Emotional trauma, like depression, anxiety, and inability to sleep.
Who Can Be Held Liable for Clergy Sexual Abuse?
Following a case of clergy sexual abuse, the priest or other church officials who sexually abused the victim can be sued civilly for the trauma he caused. The liability for the child's sexual trauma may not stop at the individual priest, however.
As a general rule, individuals who suffer sexual abuse at the hands of a priest have been unsuccessful in holding a church liable for negligently hiring the priest. If the church knew about the sexual abuse committed by the priest but did not report the trauma, however--or worse, if the church took steps to cover up the abuse instilled by the priest--the church itself may be found liable to the victim of child sexual abuse.
Are You a Victim of Clergy Sexual Abuse in Pennsylvania? We're Here to Help
If you are a Pennsylvania resident who has suffered sexual abuse at the hands of a priest or other member of the church, you don't have to face your trauma alone. The Brod Injury Law Firm's legal team is committed to fighting on behalf of victims of clergy sexual abuse and holding church officials accountable for the trauma they caused. Don't wait until it is too late to seek the justice you deserve for the abuse you never should have suffered. To speak with Gary Brod about what you can do to seek justice for your trauma, fill out an online case evaluation form or contact us at 1-888-435-7946 today.