Being a victim of a sexual crime can cause lifelong issues, frustrations, and trust issues. Due to this, lawsuits can be brought against your abuser to ensure that they are not only held accountable but that they pay damages for the suffering they’ve caused. When your abuser is a member of the clergy, this process can become more complicated, but you still can seek justice and compensation. If you or a loved one have been victimized by a member of the clergy, here are five important facts that you should know about the clergy sexual abuse scandal (and the lawsuits that have stemmed from it):
1. Many Victims Do Not Come Forward Before Adulthood
Because of the stigma that has existed around clergy abuse, especially before cultural changes that have occurred over the last decade, many victims have a difficult time coming forward. More than half of the victims who file suits against abusive clergy members wait until they are adults to discuss their abuse. No matter what age you are now, you still have the chance to see justice served. Because there are so many emotional nuances involved in the decision to come forward, you should always do so on your own terms. However, by having an experienced clergy abuse lawyer by your side, you can come forward in a more confident, and emotionally-protected fashion.
2. Rules Regarding The Statute of Limitations Have Changed
Statutes of limitations can bar some lawsuits from being brought forward if the crime in question is too far in the past. For victims that wait until they are adults to come forward, the idea of having their case terminated due to SOL laws is utterly devastating. Thankfully, there is some good news on this front. Over the last decade, many states have revised their SOL laws to exclude victims of sexual abuse. The prominence of childhood sexual abuse victims who must wait until they are adults to come forward was a key factor in getting these laws changed. Now, everyone has a more equal shot at seeing justice served against their abuser.
3. Traumatic Memories Do Exist and Can Cause Suppression
Many people assume that suppressed memories are a myth. According to science, however, this could not be further from the truth. When children experience extremely traumatic crimes, such as childhood sexual abuse, they are likely to build mental blocks to help them deal with this trauma. As they age, however, and see stories about fellow victims, those blocks tend to come down. If you’re uncertain about how to address these types of partially-suppressed memories, you should seek mental health support from a professional who can help you through this difficult time. Your clergy abuse lawyer can assist you in finding the right professional for the job as well.
4. There are Several High-Profile Organizations Dedicated to Helping Victims
Trying to navigate the process of filing a suit against your abuser can be traumatic. During these trying times, it’s important to have a sense of communal support behind you. Beyond your friends and family, many amazing, high-profile organizations are fully dedicated to helping victims of clergy sexual abuse. Not only can they help you with your legal processes (and sometimes fees), but they can provide a community of people that truly understand what you’re going through. For those who need an extra layer of mental health support during this difficult time, you must seek out the help of one of these incredible organizations.
5. There are Independent Compensation Programs for Abuse Victims
Depending on what state you live in, the process of filing a clergy sexual abuse case can vary wildly. In some jurisdictions, there are even independent compensation programs that are set up to get victims the compensation, and mental health support, that they desperately need. Once again, your clergy abuse lawyer can help you navigate this possibility. Because these programs can vary wildly from state to state, you’ll need to do enough research to ensure that you qualify for them before pulling the trigger. However, if you qualify, this may be a simpler, less expensive way to seek justice and hold your abuser accountable.
Every Case is Unique
Depending on the unique factors surrounding your case, the way you should go about filing a lawsuit, seeking justice, and gaining compensation can vary. With the assistance of legal professionals and a community of support behind you, you will be able to find the answers that you’ve been searching for.