Although child sexual abuse in the Catholic church has made the biggest headlines, the problem is common in many religions. Regardless of the religion, sexual abuse by a clergy member has devastating physical and emotional consequences for the victims. Unfortunately, victims cannot rely on the church, synagogue or mosque for help in these cases.
Your religious organization may have denied your allegations or promised help and then turned you away, but at Soloff & Zervanos, P.C., we will listen to your story and treat you with compassion. Our experienced, caring crime victim lawyers represent children and adults who were sexually abused by religious leaders.
Attorney Jeffrey Fritz leads our practice dedicated to crime victims. Mr. Fritz is a charter member and past president of the National Crime Victim Bar Association, an affiliate of the National Center for Victims of Crime.
Please call 215-929-7216 to schedule a free consultation with one of our sexual abuse victim attorneys in Philadelphia, Allentown, Lancaster, Reading, Cherry Hill, New Jersey and New York.
Standing With You In A Church Sexual Abuse Case
Sexual abuse can be perpetrated by clergy and religious leaders such as priests, nuns, deacons, bishops, reverends, ministers, pastors, rabbis and imams as well as choir directors, Sunday school teachers, youth group leaders and volunteers.
We can represent people of any faith, including abuse within:
- Catholic Church
- Jehovah’s Witnesses
- Protestant churches
- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints
- Church Of God In Christ, Inc. (COGIC)
- Seventh-Day Adventists
In clergy sexual abuse cases, many offenders are moved to other towns or churches instead of being turned into the police. The effects of this are twofold: the offenders are free to abuse more children, and the victims do not get justice.
It has become clear that people who have survived clergy and church sexual abuse will need legal help to get justice and compensation. We will investigate your case to determine the liable parties. In addition to the abuser, church officials and the church itself may be liable for allowing the abuse to occur.
Mandatory reporters are individuals required by the state to report suspicions of child abuse to authorities.
- In Pennsylvania, mandatory reporters include members of the clergy.
- In New Jersey, anyone with reason to suspect child abuse is mandated to report it.
- Failure to prevent or report the abuse may make these parties liable.
Signs of Church & Clergy Sexual Abuse
Victims of sexual abuse at the hands of religious officials are often children. This is, sadly, due to the fact that children are often easier for abusers to take advantage of than adults may be.
Children may be reluctant to speak up when they’ve been the victims of abuse. This is particularly true if their abusers are religious leaders. If a child has been taught to believe that a religious figure is an authority deserving of their respect, they may feel they don’t have the right to state that said figure has abused them.
Often, a victim’s parents or guardians must be the ones to identify the early warning signs of abuse. They include (but aren’t necessarily limited to) the following:
- Changes in academic performance
- Loss of interest in sports or other activities
- Knowledge of sexual topics that a child of their age should not have
- Drawing sexual images or writing about sexual topics
- “Perfect” behavior
- Increased aggressiveness
- Regression to thumb-sucking, bedwetting, etc.
- Unexplained scarring or bruising
- Apparent feelings of shame regarding their body
- Apparent feelings of fear in certain situations/places or while in the presence of certain individuals (particularly if they are religious leaders)
Sometimes, the explanations for these warning signs are relatively innocent. Perhaps a child is more familiar with sexual topics than you expect them to be because they watched a movie they were too young for while at the home of a friend.
That said, you should never ignore your suspicions if you believe a child might be a victim of sexual abuse at the hands of a member of your church. Gently ask your child about the issue. Try to strike a balance between ensuring they’re comfortable answering your questions while also ensuring they realize this is a serious matter and they can’t lie to you about it.
However, for various understandable reasons, a child may hide the truth when asked if they’ve been a victim of sexual abuse. If you still strongly believe your child has been abused, even if they won’t admit to it, keep them away from the potentially unsafe environment until you have had an opportunity to investigate your concerns.
Philadelphia Clergy & Church Sexual Abuse Cases: Potential Damages
Being a victim of sexual abuse at the hands of a religious leader can be a devastating experience for a child. If your child or a child over whom you have responsibility has been the victim of this mistreatment, you can file a civil suit on their behalf, seeking compensation for such losses/damages as:
- Hospitalization costs
- Bills for psychiatric care
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of earning potential if the pain of being abused negatively impact a child’s employability later in life
Those are just a few examples. The team at our Philadelphia clergy and church sexual abuse law firm will review your case and explain in greater detail the types of damages for which you may seek compensation. Be aware, by holding a negligent religious organization accountable, you’ll minimize the odds that other children will be victimized in the future.