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If you were sexually abused as a child by a priest, deacon or any other member of the Catholic Church, you are not aloneWe are here to help you.  Please fill out our confidential online contact form or call Toll Free 1-866-777-2557 and a Catholic Church Sexual Abuse Lawyer will get back to you within 24 hours to discuss your possible case.   Help is available nationwide.  There is no cost to investigate and there are no legal fees unless you receive financial compensation.  Making the call is sometimes the hardest step, but it is often a necessary step on the road to healing.  Catholic Church Sexual Abuse Lawyer

Reasons to call

  • Hold the church and priests accountable
  • Prevent this from happening to someone else
  • Help with the road to recovery – settlement money can provide financial security for you.  It can also help pay for therapy, rehabilitation, and medical treatment

Please call Toll Free 1-866-777-2557 or fill out our confidential contact form and a lawyer will get back to you within 24 hours to discuss your case.  Catholic Church Sexual Abuse Lawyer

Catholic Church Sexual Abuse Lawyer

Types of Child Sexual Abuse Offenders
Child sexual abuse is a heinous crime, and many parents teach “stranger danger” to their children in an attempt to protect them from predators who could abuse them.   Unfortunately, this fear of strangers may be misleading when it comes to child sexual abuse, and statistics show that it is far more likely that the child will know their abuser from within their social circle.

There are many stereotypes out there regarding people who could be an offender of child sexual abuse, but sexual predators can be broken down into three main types:

• Pedophiles: A pedophile is an individual who is sexually attracted to children, although this does not make them a criminal unless their impulses are acted upon in any way.

• Preferential Abusers: Once a pedophile acts upon their impulses, they would be in the category of a preferential child sexual abuser. This type of abuser often uses “grooming” to manipulate and target their victims, and they exhibit a distinct sexual preference for young children.

• Situational Abusers: A situational child sexual abuser may not be a pedophile, but they show sexual interest in both adults and children. The difference is that this type of abuser is opportunistic and may sexually abuse a child if given the opportunity. 

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Sexual abusers of children are not identifiable just by appearance. Most commonly, they are “everyday” individuals that have access to children through work, their families, or community functions, and many of them go undetected for decades. Consider the following statistics categorizing the types of individuals that are sexual abusers:

• Child sexual abusers are overwhelmingly male and can be any age
• Females are estimated to be the perpetrator in 6% of cases against girls and 14% of the cases against boys.
• 23% of child sexual abuse cases that are reported have a perpetrator that is less than 18 years of age.
• It is estimated that in up to 90% of cases of sexual abuse, the victim knew the offender
• Up to 80% of juveniles who have committed a sex crime where also victims of sexual abuse.  

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The statistics for child sexual abuse may not be fully representative of the true instances of this crime. In fact, only around 30% of sexual abuse cases are reported to the authorities, and many victims do not disclose abuse until well into their adult years. Child sexual abuse can happen to any child, regardless of race or economic status, and parents should be wary of the intentions of any adult who has made it a point to single out their child for attention—whether it is a teacher, religious instructor, coach, or family member.

Most Common Victims of Childhood Sexual Abuse
It is estimated by the Centers for Disease Control that approximately 25% of girls and one in six boys will be the victim of childhood sexual abuse, although these numbers may be lower than the actual truth. With only 30% of child sexual abuse cases being reported to the authorities, it is possible that the actual number of children who experience sexual abuse is much higher.

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Victims of childhood sexual abuse come from a wide range of families, locations, and lifestyles. However, there are specific characteristics that stand out among the most common victims of child sexual abuse, including:

• Age: Research shows that 34% of sexual abuse cases involve children under nine years old, while 26% involve a child between the ages of 12-14. Additionally, 35.8% of sexual assaults include victims between 12 and 17 years of age. 

• Gender: Statistics show that victims of child sexual abuse are overwhelmingly female at 82% of cases. However, males are less likely to disclose abuse, which could factor in to the low percentage of male victims that are reported.

• Family Dynamic: Sexual abusers of children are predatory, and they typically target children that they can easily access. Lax parental supervision, single-parent households, and foster care settings all increase the risk of abuse. In fact, children who are in a single-parent household that include a live-in partner are up to 20 times more likely to be sexual abuse victims. 

• Race: Child sexual abuse occurs across all ethnicities, but certain children have been shown to be at a higher rate of sexual abuse. For example, African American children are nearly twice as likely as white children to be victims, and Hispanic children are at a slightly greater risk than white children.

• Socioeconomic Status and Location: Children who come from households of low economic status are three times as likely as more affluent groups to be victimized.

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Additionally, those in rural areas are at twice the risk of those who live in an urban setting.
The above factors all appear to play a significant role in which children are sexually abused, but perpetrators also look for specific personality types within their victims. Generally, sexual offenders seek out children who are naturally shy, passive, or come from a troubled background. In these cases, the perpetrators will begin the grooming process to establish trust with their victims, and they may also build a relationship with the family of the victim to further reduce the risk of the abuse being discovered.   

Addiction in Sexually Abused Children
The long-term effects of childhood sexual abuse are far-reaching, from mental health issues to physical health problems. Many studies have shown a strong connection between addiction and child sexual abuse survivors, making it a top concern for the lifelong treatment and support of those who were victims of this type of abuse.

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There are many different reasons why victims of sexual abuse turn to drugs or alcohol within their lifetime. Victims of sexual abuse often have low self-esteem and carry enormous guilt, blame, and fear associated with their experience. There is also the issue of lack of support for survivors, especially with the high percentage of offenders being in the immediate family of the victim. Survivors of sexual abuse can turn to drugs and alcohol to numb the pain and to self-medicate against the depression, anxiety, PTSD, and other disorders that have developed as a result of the abuse. In other individuals, substance abuse is used as a type of self-harm to punish themselves for the misplaced blame they feel at having been a victim of abuse.

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More Statistics on Addiction and Child Sexual Abuse

Many different studies have been competed over the years that demonstrate the heightened risk of addiction and substance abuse in sexual abuse survivors. Consider the following statistics:

• 75% of females who are in addiction treatment programs have been victims of sexual abuse
• Women who were child sexual abuse victims are 3 times more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol
• Sexual abuse victims have a 10 times increased risk of using hard drugs, other than cocaine

While these statistics focus on women and the risks of addiction, it is not a problem that is exclusive to females. However, young girls make up an overwhelming percentage of reported victims of childhood sexual abuse claims, and many men never disclose the abuse that they endured.

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In addition to the overall heightened risk of addiction, those who were sexually abused as children are also at a higher risk of being revictimized. Studies have shown that that women have a much greater likelihood of being revictimized in their young adult years if they experienced sexual abuse as a child, and the use of drugs and alcohol can contribute to their vulnerability.  

Based upon this research, treatment for individuals that are dependent on drugs and alcohol needs to be sensitive to the realities of the effects of sexual abuse. With the high percentage of addicted individuals having been victims of abuse, a multifaceted treatment approach is necessary to give them the strongest chance at making a full recovery and staying sober. 

Catholic Church Sexual Abuse Lawyer

Process of Reporting Child Sexual Abuse

Research shows that one in 10 children is the victim of sexual abuse, and these cases can often go undetected or undisclosed for years. In the vast majority of cases, the offender is someone within the social circle of the child, whether it is a family member, coach, teacher, religious instructor, or babysitter. It is estimated that sexual abuse is only disclosed and reported in around 30% of cases, making it even more important that those who interact with children are aware of the signs of abuse.

Common signs of sexual abuse in a child include:

• New and intense fears surrounding a person or place
• Behavioral changes, including withdrawing, mood swings, or distancing
• Age-inappropriate knowledge of sexual behavior and/or language
• Extreme changes in sleep patterns and eating habits
• Regression to “young”, child-like behavior in older children

Although these signs can all have multiple causes, sexual abuse is a cause that caregivers, parents, and professionals need to be aware of when dealing with children. If child abuse is disclosed or you have direct knowledge of sexual abuse having occurred, immediately reporting the abuse is essential for the safety of the child.    

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Reporting Sexual Abuse of a Child

Whether you are an individual who has become aware of sexual abuse or a mandated reporter, it is important to understand the process for reporting the claim. If a parent is involved in the abuse, anyone can call SCR anonymously to report their suspicions. This call line is open 24 hours a day, and it is staffed by trained professionals who will evaluate the claim and make a referral to the local child protective services if deemed necessary.
If abuse has been disclosed or you suspect abuse that is not perpetrated by a parent, the proper course of action is to call the local authorities. They can handle the investigation into the case and file criminal charges if deemed necessary.

Individuals may hesitate to report sexual abuse of a child based on fear, concerns over the family dynamic, or uncertainty into the validity of the claim. However, any disclosure by a child should be treated as fact, and it is always advised to report abuse immediately to ensure that all claims are properly handled and investigated.

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Revictimization in Child Sexual Abuse Survivors

Child sexual abuse is estimated to happen to 25% of girls and 16% of boys, and these numbers may be much higher based on the low rates of disclosure. The wide-spread issue of child sexual abuse plagues our nation, but the victimization of sexual abuse can often repeat itself later in life. Overall, research has shown that women who were victims of sexual abuse in childhood are at a two to three times higher risk of being sexually assaulted in adulthood. Past victimization has been shown to be one of the most accurate predictors of future victimization, and there is research that shows that only 4% of victims suffer approximately 44% of offenses.

Women who are sexually revictimized can experience worsened long-term effects from the compounded trauma that they have endured. Statistics show that these women have higher levels of many disorders, including anxiety, PTSD, hostility, depression, and physical health complaints.  

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Theories on Reasons for Revictimization
The alarming statistics surrounding revictimization of child sexual abuse victims in adulthood has led to increased awareness and research into why this occurs. There are several different factors that may contribute to the prevalence of revictimization, and current theories surround: 

• Familiarity With Trauma: There can be a compulsion to repeat trauma in victims of sexual abuse, leading them to continually be in situations that could lead to revictimization. This may come from the need for victims to seek out control, and the drive to seek a different, and perhaps better, outcome to the trauma that they endured.

• Victim Blaming: Women who have been victimized sexually multiple times are often further victimized by blaming from society and their social group. There is a tendency to put the blame on the victim for somehow causing the repeat sexual assaults, which can lead to the victim feeling worthless, not believed, and unable to stand up to their assaulters.

• Effects of Early Environment: Abused children have a distorted sense of what love can mean, which can lead to them seeking out the same feelings in adulthood. This phenomenon, known as traumatic bonding, is also prevalent in victims of domestic violence.

Survivors of childhood sexual abuse are particularly vulnerable to experiencing repeat assaults throughout their lives, which makes it imperative that more is done to support these victims and provide them with treatment and tools to counteract the effects of abuse. In addition to societal awareness that the revictimized individuals are not to blame, the government also has a responsibility to increase legislation that supports victims and provides a means to seek justice against offenders.

Catholic Church Sexual Abuse Lawyer

Sexual Abuse and the Roman Catholic Church

Sexual abuse within the Roman Catholic Church has been an issue for decades, and the extent of the problem is only now beginning to surface. As awareness of lifelong effects of child sexual abuse has increased and laws across the country have begun to change to support justice for the survivors, many victims are now coming forward with disclosure on the abuse that they suffered at the hands of Church clergy members.

Between the years of 2004 and 2014, the Vatican received 3,400 credible claims of sexual abuse. Within the last decade, over 2,500 priests have been sentence to a lifetime of penance, with an additional 848 defrocked.

There is a distinct pattern to the sexual abuse claims within the Catholic Church, and the victims are overwhelmingly male. 64 percent of the allegations made against Catholic priests between 1950 and 2002 came from a male victim, and 85% of these victims were between eight and 10 years old.

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The Cover-Up of Sexual Abuse Within the Church 

The Catholic Church has long been under-fire for the organization-wide cover-up of claims of child sexual abuse. Dating back to 1962, a Vatican document even instructed bishops to use secrecy when addressing the claims of sexual abuse and to not report any allegations to the authorities.

The hierarchy of the Church also plays a significant role in the cover-up of sexual abuse, as the offending clergy members are under the obedience of high-ranking members of the Church. These high-ranking officials have historically handled all allegations within the organization instead of reporting them and allowing authorities to conduct investigations and file charges.

Reform to the Handling of Sexual Abuse Claims in the Church

In 2002, Catholic bishops introduced the Charter for the Protection of Child and Young People, where they made a pledge to increase the awareness of sexual abuse and put an end to the organization-wide secrecy regarding allegations. Over the 10 years following this reform, law enforcement has become more involved in sexual abuse investigations, and Catholic parishes have provided training to over 2.1 million clergy members and volunteers.

Catholic Church Sexual Abuse Lawyer

While new claims of abuse have been declining since the 1980s, there are still thousands of victims who have not received justice for the abuse committed against them. Legislation like the Child Victims Act, which failed in New York but passed in other states, has allowed these survivors to file claims against the Church and the parties involved in the sexual abuse they experienced decades before. The Church has been staunchly opposed to this legislation, and in states where it has passed, many dioceses experienced bankruptcy over settlement payouts for sexual abuse suits.

Although the Child Victims Act failed in New York, both the Diocese of Brooklyn and the Diocese of Rockville Center enacted the Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program to settle claims of child sexual abuse made against the Church. However, even this effort has been met with criticism, as victims that receive settlement are required to waive all rights to further prosecution against the parties.   

Catholic Church Sexual Abuse Lawsuit

History of Laws Surrounding Child Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse of children is not a new development in society. In fact, the history of child sexual abuse goes back centuries. As far back as 15th and 16th century Europe, it has been documented that children were abused sexually. In the 1820’s, statistics show that 76% of all rape victims in New York City were less than 19 years old.

Concern for the protection of children from sexual abuse has ebbed and flowed over the decades with the changing culture of society. During the Civil War, the Progressive Era, and following World War II, concerns for sexually abused children were high. However, this concern was directed primarily at children younger than ten years old.

Although it has been proven that child sexual abuse has severe psychological effects on the victims, this did not begin to be discussed openly until the 1930's. Over the next several decades, prejudices against race and gender played a role in coloring the opinions of those exploring the impact of child sexual abuse, leading to laws that were lax on sentencing and did little to protect the survivors.

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Modern Laws Concerning Child Sexual Abuse 

It wasn’t until 1974 that the United States Congress passed legislation that moved the fight for protection of child sexual abuse victims forward. This law, known as the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, made it mandatory for all states in the country to create requirements for reporting child sexual abuse.

Even in the modern era, child sexual abuse laws vary greatly depending on the state. New York is notorious for its outdated laws regarding the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse. In 1996, New York law was updated so that victims had five years after turning 18 to file a felony case, but there have been no updates to this legislation since that time. This is despite the research that shows that the majority of child sexual abuse victims cannot come forward with the claims until well into adulthood.

In both 2008 and 2017, New York representatives fought to update the statute of limitations with legislation known as the Child Victims Act. This bill would have greatly extended the window in which victims could file civil and criminal lawsuits, as well as offer a one-year window where any victim could seek justice against their abuser. Unfortunately, both bills were killed in the state Senate, demonstrating just how far we have to go to provide adequate protections to survivors of child sexual abuse.   Hopefully with enough public effort and lobbying, state legislatures across the country will do the right thing and extend statute of limitations for victims.

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