Clergy and Religious Organization Sexual Assault and Abuse

While child sexual assault and abuse in the church grabs headlines, the truth is, children of all religious faiths fall victim―and often do not come forward until well into adulthood, if at all. Moreover, when they do speak up, victims are often shunned or marginalized. Or the offenders might be tried in an ecclesiastical court, rather than a secular court, or sometimes quietly reassigned to a new congregation and a fresh set of potential victims.

In Pennsylvania, a 147-page state grand jury report issued in March 2016 revealed that the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown engaged in an extensive coverup of alleged sexual abuse of hundreds of children by more than 50 priests. Additionally, multiple grand jury reports have found that priests in the Philadelphia diocese sexually abused children, with a 2005 report finding abuse by 63 priests.

Nationally, between 1950 and 2002, children accused more than 4,000 priests in the United States of sexual abuse, according to a study by John Jay College of Criminal Justice. In 2013, Rabbi Nuchem Rosenberg described in a Vice Magazine interview what he called a “child-rape assembly line” among sects of fundamentalist Jews. And #MosqueMeToo is up on Twitter, with some Muslim victims sharing stories of childhood sexual assault and abuse inflicted during their practice of Islam.

While most religious leaders would never sexually assault or abuse a child, unfortunately, the reality is that when these cases do arise, religious institutions often attempt to handle them internally, which often allows a single perpetrator to leave behind a decades-long trail of victims.

When a child is victimized by a member of the clergy, the criminal justice system―if the incident is reported to law enforcement―will deal with the perpetrator, hopefully by convicting and incarcerating him or her. However, the child is often left with devastating psychological―and sometimes physical―injuries, for which the only redress is a civil lawsuit for financial compensation. That lawsuit can target parties beyond the direct perpetrator, such as the religious organization that allowed the conduct to take place, covered it up, or failed to notify law enforcement upon becoming aware.

Proving sexual assault and abuse cases requires not only legal experience, but also rigorous investigation and expertise from professionals who can assess whether a religious organization’s policies, practices, and procedures enabled the perpetrator. Other necessary experts may include forensic pediatricians, and pediatric psychologists and psychiatrists.

We have the financial resources to retain appropriate investigators and experts in all necessary disciplines, so we can establish the underlying facts of these incidents―which often cause shame, humiliation, trauma, and psychological injuries that last a lifetime. And because we have decades of experience bringing sexual predators to justice, we get maximum financial compensation for our clients.

We’re Here to Help You

Religious organizations do not always investigate allegations of sexual assault and abuse. They shelter accused pedophiles. They sometimes shuffle them to different congregations. Contact us immediately.

We fight so you’ll receive justice and compensation for your psychological and physical injuries and other losses by holding all culpable parties accountable. Religious organizations work to protect themselves. They do not necessarily care about conducting an unbiased, thorough investigation, and compensating you for any wrongs they committed. Contact us to find out whether you have grounds for a lawsuit.

We immediately evaluate your case so you know the status.

We’re highly experienced at handling sexual assault and abuse cases involving members of the clergy and religious organizations, and can efficiently review your case, in conjunction with our multidisciplinary team of experts. If your case is right for us, we’ll proceed with a full investigation and evaluation of the facts and legal issues, and determine the likelihood of a fair settlement or need to file a lawsuit. We’ll keep you up-to-date on all developments and advise you on the range of possible outcomes so you can make educated decisions.

Because a monetary award will significantly impact your life, we put our negotiation and trial skills and experience to work.

We’re master negotiators, so you can rely on us to negotiate the best possible settlement for you. If the parties can’t agree on money, we’re prepared to file a lawsuit and aggressively try your case in the courtroom. And we have a proven track record of securing winning verdicts and other favorable resolutions in sexual assault and abuse cases.

Our sensitivity and compassion are as important as our legal representation.

Sexual assault and abuse―particularly when inflicted by trusted members of the clergy in a house of worship where a child is supposed to feel safe―leaves the victim with a wide range of emotions ranging from guilt, embarrassment, anger, self-blame, fear, loss of control, vulnerability, and more. We understand the trauma and confusion that the victim and family experience, when spiritual advisers and leaders, whom we are taught to place in high regard, violate our trust and cause grievous harm. The victim’s world is turned upside-down.

Be assured that we will handle your case in a sensitive and compassionate manner that respects your emotional needs, personal dignity, and privacy. Our team of lawyers, paralegals, and secretaries will coordinate with one another about your case and keep in constant contact with you and your family. We help clients in these emotionally tough times by being accessible, supportive, and genuine. Our sensitivity and compassion make us better lawyers, too.

If a new legal matter arises during your case, we can help.

The firm’s clergy and religious organization sexual assault and abuse practice is just one of many HRMM&L law practices. Because HRMM&L is a full-service law firm with substantial resources, we’re able to advise you on other legal problems that may arise during your case. And if the legal problem is one our firm doesn’t handle, we’ll refer you to another lawyer and firm whom we know and trust.

Other sexual assault and abuse problems you may encounter during your case: