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Why is Sexual Abuse so Prevalent in the Catholic Church

Though many people have sought answers to this difficult question, accurate information on the reasons for sexual abuse in Catholicism is scant and largely based upon opinion. Still, no one would argue that it’s not a huge problem in New York and throughout the US. Even a leading publication in the Catholic Church has dubbed this misconduct as “a serious and pervasive” issue. The National Catholic Reporter, reveals that, from 1998-2018, it’s estimated that 1.2 million minors suffered abuse in schools, religious organizations, and in their own families. According to current figures, child protective service agencies, receive substantiated reports of abuse once every nine minutes. 

There are no easy answers to the question: “Why is sexual abuse so prevalent in the Catholic church?” However, even if you could get an accurate response, the answer would not help resolve the pain, embarrassment, emotional turmoil, and anger you experienced after going through such a horrific ordeal. Fortunately, you may have rights as a victim, including legal options for recovering monetary damages for your devastating losses. A New York sexual abuse lawyer can provide details, but you may also find it useful to review some important information.

Your Rights as a Victim of Sexual Abuse:

Sexual abuse is a crime for which an offender can be sentenced to long prison terms, fines, and other punishment if convicted. However, while the criminal process may provide some closure for victims, it’s little consolation for the losses you’ve sustained. For this reason, case precedent and statutory laws provide you with additional options.

  1. The Child Victims Act (CVA): New York lawmakers recently enacted this law, which became effective in August 2019. The CVA enables survivors of sexual abuse to file civil lawsuits for damages –  where it’s possible to recover monetary damages – despite the fact that the state statute of limitations had previously prohibited a case from pursued. This means victims have until August 2020 to initiate litigation against an attacker or other responsible party.
  2. Premises Liability Cases: Under common law premises liability principles, parties other than the offender may be held accountable for sexual abuse in the Catholic Church or any other entity. The theory is that a non-offender could be negligent in failing to provide security against a known risk. In these cases, you must prove that the property owner had a duty to keep the premises safe, and that person or entity failed in this duty by not securing the property from sexual offenders.
  3. Negligent Hiring and Supervision: One issue that’s plagued churches and many other organizations in sexual abuse cases is negligence in hiring or supervision. This legal theory of liability covers situations where a party hired or retained an employee that presented a danger to children. In this context, negligent acts may be failing to vet a candidate, neglecting to conduct background checks, hiring an employee with a known criminal record of similar offenses, or retaining an employee despite the dangers that employee posed.

You should note that for negligent hiring and premises liability claims, New York’s personal injury statute of limitations applies.. For this reason, it’s important to exercise your options under the CVA, so you don’t let your legal rights slip away.

Recover Compensation for Your Losses:

Whether you have legal standing under one or more of the above theories of liability, your rights as the victim of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church are very similar.  If the essential elements of your case can be established, you may be able to recover: 

  • Bills for your medical care, including treatment from psychologists and other professionals to help you cope with the emotional consequences of sexual abuse;
  • Pain and suffering;
  • Losses based upon how sexual abuse has affected your personal relationships; and,
  • Many other types of damages that depend on the details of your case.

Contact a New York Sexual Abuse Attorney to Learn More About Your Rights

This overview may not provide definitive answers regarding why sexual abuse is so prevalent in the Catholic church, but it hopefully offers some useful information on what you can do to protect your interests. Your first step should be discussing your claim with a lawyer who’s compassionate, understanding, and has significant experience in New York sexual abuse claims. Our team at Powers & Santola, LLP can assist with your case, so please contact our firm to set up a consultation at our offices in Albany, Rochester, or Syracuse.

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