Victims of clergy abuse have often lawsuit been stigmatized and silenced over the last several decades. However, public support is increasing for victims, and the Church is beginning to take abuse claims and cases more seriously as a result. For victims who are looking to file a lawsuit against their abuser, here is a useful 4-step guide for successfully filing a clergy-related sexual abuse lawsuit:
If you’ve reached a point in your life where you feel safe about coming forward about your abuse, a clergy abuse attorney can help you file a civil lawsuit. Depending on the state you live in, you may have to research what the current statute of limitations laws are for clergy abuse, and sexual abuse cases (in some states, there are no longer any limitations that prevent the abused from filing a civil suit).
Once you’ve determined this information, an experienced clergy abuse attorney can help get the legal process started. They will listen to the details of your case, and help you understand everything you can expect from a civil lawsuit as well. With their support, you can soon begin the path toward seeking the justice and financial compensation that you rightfully deserve. If you’re unsure of where to locate an attorney with experience in these clergy abuse cases, you should look toward the advice of a local victim advocacy group for a solid lead.
Now that you’ve decided to file a civil lawsuit, your lawyer will help you with the first pre-filing steps. Firstly, and most importantly, you need to gather any documentation, evidence, and interviews you have related to your abuse. The more you have, the stronger your case will be. If you can discover the current location of your abuser, whether they are working for the church anymore, and whether they have been involved in any other abuse cases, you’ll have a solid foundation to build your case.
It’s critical to remember that every case is different, however, and a professional clergy abuse attorney will already understand this. With their assistance, they can help point you toward resources that will help uncover information about your abuser that might have otherwise been hard to find. In some cases, a Church branch of a specific congregation may be ready and willing to help you file a civil lawsuit against your abuser as well. As more victims come forward, and the public pressure increases, the Church as an organization has become more willing to help victims in their pursuits of justice.
Once you’ve gathered enough evidence and documentation, your lawyer will officially file a civil lawsuit against your abuser. That being said, you can file a suit against more than just your single abuser. You can also file against the Catholic Church and any other individuals or organizations that helped to facilitate your abuse. If you suspect or know of such activity, you should let your clergy abuse attorney know about it immediately.
If there were higher-ups within the Church that knowingly assisted your abuser in evading justice, or were negligent in looking into claims of abuse, you have every right to include them in your civil lawsuit. These lawsuits often receive higher settlements due to the extra-egregious nature of the case. Average settlement amounts are often in the hundreds of thousands but can reach into the millions in more extreme cases.
Taking care of yourself during this difficult time is of utmost importance. Thankfully, many stellar organizations can help you with healing, and seeking justice, out there in the world. Many organizations have been formed explicitly to help victims of clergy abuse (and they are often founded by fellow victims). In addition to legal and family support, these organizations ensure that you know all the tools available to you as a victim of clergy abuse. Many victims are dedicated to lifting up fellow victims, and destigmatizing these types of civil lawsuits. Their invaluable work has helped hundreds of victims gain the courage, support, and hope that they need to come forward about their abuse.
In addition to seeking out the assistance of official support groups, taking the time to treat yourself well, and patiently, during the difficult legal process ahead is crucial. Friends, family, community members and more are out there to assist you through the journey toward justice that you’re about to embark on.