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Justice delayed

There are few betrayals as painful and profoundly damaging as the treachery of a pastor who sexually abuses children. For some victims, the damage lasts a lifetime, causing them anxiety and depression, and diminishing their ability to trust people and to enjoy life.

A man who might have escaped being held accountable for his actions lives far from us in Philadelphia if not for the bravery of one of his victims. The 55-year-old perpetrator recently stood shackled before a judge to plead guilty to a variety of sex crimes against children during the 1980s and '90s, including rape, sodomy and sexual abuse. 

His victim is hailed for her courage by police and prosecutors alike for giving testimony in a custody hearing two years ago that broke the silence surrounding the Alabama pastor. She told the story of how the pastor had begun "grooming" her when she was just 7 years and how he raped her on her father's grave two years later.

She testified about what the man had said to her about telling anyone about what he had done to her. "If I did, he said demons would come and get me from my bed."

She was able to escape his church at age 12, but has struggled since with emotional pain that has landed her in both rehab and jail, she told a newspaper. She says that the 15-year sentence the pastor received in the plea agreement is too little punishment for what he did to her and others.

"That little amount of time shouldn't have even been on the table," she said.

It's a story told repeatedly: victims feel that perpetrators don't get a full measure of justice from criminal courts. As our readers know, here in Philadelphia victims can file legal claims against sexual predators -- even if the person was not convicted of a crime. An experienced attorney can help you ensure that a more complete form of justice prevails by guiding you through the process of filing a lawsuit.

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