Philadelphia Clergy Abuse Lawyers | Why Abuse is Underreported

Why Abuse is Underreported

In a recent report, the Pennsylvania Attorney General estimated that more than 300 Catholic priests in the state committed sexual abuse against approximately 1,000 child victims. However, that number is likely much higher because abuse is notoriously underreported for various reasons. The following is a list of some of those reasons. However, it is important for survivors of abuse to know that they are not alone, and that help is available. At Williams Cedar, our compassionate and skilled team is dedicated to pursuing justice for survivors of sexual abuse by a clergy member.

Children’s Level of Understanding

Children are extremely vulnerable to all forms of abuse, including sex abuse. They may have difficulty telling a trusted adult about abuse because either they do not fully comprehend what happened, they are ashamed, they feel guilty, or the abuser convinced them that the abuse was normal and appropriate. Also, children’s level of linguistic skill or lack of familiarity with terms such as “rape” can prevent them from being able to successfully communicate what they went through, especially if not prompted by an adult.

Lack of Physical Evidence

Often, there is a lack of physical evidence in child sex abuse cases. Abusers will usually manipulate children rather than use physical violence. If a child does not display any physical signs, it can be difficult to spot sexual abuse. Children may display emotional signs such as rebellious behavior, withdrawal or changes in eating habits, which can be easily misconstrued by parents or caregivers. Also, if a child does not report the abuse immediately (typically within 72 hours), DNA evidence may not be available.

Threats and Intimidation by the Abuser

Child sex abuse is usually committed by someone close to the child. This person is often someone in a position of authority and someone whom the child trusts, like a priest. Abusers may convince child victims that the abuse was not wrong or even that it was their fault. They may also threaten children or intimidate them into remaining silent, often by saying they will hurt the child’s family if the abuse is reported. This can lead to years of repeated, hidden abuse. Children may also fear that no one will believe that the abuse occurred or that they will be judged and punished for the abuse.


Sometimes children do report abuse to a trusted family member, but that person wishes to keep the abuse a secret. That person may minimize or even deny the abuse to protect the perpetrator’s reputation, especially if the perpetrator is a member of their family or trusted authority figure. Many churches and religious institutions have also been involved in sex abuse cover-ups to protect the financial interests and reputation of the institution. In a well-known example, abusive Catholic priests were transferred from parish to parish to hide evidence of their abuse.

Philadelphia Clergy Abuse Lawyers at Williams Cedar Provide Compassionate Legal Representation to Survivors of Sexual Abuse

If you or someone you love was the victim of abuse, contact an experienced Philadelphia clergy abuse lawyer at Williams Cedar. We understand how difficult it is to come forward and we want to help you every step of the way, so you can get the justice and compensation you need to move on with your life. With offices conveniently located in Philadelphia and Haddonfield, New Jersey, we represent clients in Pennsylvania, Cherry Hill, South Jersey and nationwide. For a free and confidential consultation, contact us online or call us at 215-557-0099 or 856-470-9777.

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