According to researchers tracking the Catholic clergy abuse crisis, sexual abuse accusations have been made against more than 6,000 priests. As the media continue to shine a spotlight on the scandal within the Catholic Church, many wonder why many abusive priests remain out of prison despite the credible accusations against them. Unfortunately, obtaining a criminal conviction against these sexual predators is often difficult due to strict statutes of limitations in many states.
In response to the overwhelming number of clergy abuse allegations against priests and the superiors who participated in covering up the abuse, the Catholic Church initiated several reforms. Starting with the 2002 Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, the Church has adopted guidelines to help dioceses address allegations as they arise. Despite these changes, many abusive priests have never been criminally prosecuted for their misconduct.
Strict statutes of limitation in many states ban survivors from filing criminal complaints against abusive priests after a certain amount of time has passed. For many survivors, bringing a claim against their abuser within a year or two after the abuse has occurred is not possible. Many survivors experienced their abuse years ago as children. It can take years for these individuals to process what happened to them and identify it as abuse. Other survivors were strongly discouraged by the Church or family members from coming forward with their accounts. Other hesitated to file a claim against their abuse due to fear of not being believed. Survivor advocacy groups are working with state legislators across the country to amend current statute of limitations laws to allow survivors to seek justice against their abusers, regardless of when the abuse took place.
Recently, progress has been made in some states to reform civil statues of limitations, so as to allow survivors abused as children to bring claims seeking damages for the harm they have suffered. For example, both New Jersey and New York have opened litigation “windows” which for a limited period, enable survivors to file lawsuits regardless of when the abuse occurred.
Survivors of clergy abuse can incur overwhelming expense for medical or psychological treatment as they deal with the physical and mental aftermath of their abuse. Others have lost thousands of dollars due to lost wages. By filing a civil lawsuit against the perpetrators of their abuse and the Catholic Church who covered it up, these costs, along with damages for pain and suffering, may be available to survivors.
If you are survivor of clergy sexual abuse, you are not alone. The dedicated Metuchen clergy abuse lawyers at Williams Cedar will stand by you as you seek justice for the trauma you have experienced. With offices conveniently located in Philadelphia and Haddonfield, New Jersey, we proudly represent clergy abuse survivors throughout New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and nationwide. To schedule a free initial consultation, call us today at 856-470-9777 or submit an online inquiry form.