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California Clergy Sexual Abuse Lawyers

Clergy leaders are entrusted to provide spiritual guidance to parishioners. However, scandals have surfaced in recent years regarding sexual abuse. 

Many victims of abuse are children. Some clergy and the church have ignored the situation rather than addressing these allegations. What about clergy abuse accountability? If you or someone you love is a survivor of clergy sexual abuse, contact the California clergy sexual abuse lawyers at Silva Injury Law.

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What Is Clergy Sexual Abuse?

Clergy sexual abuse is when someone with religious authority uses their power, role, or position to sexually exploit, harass, or engage in sexual activity with someone else. Overt sexual acts are not the only forms of sexual abuse. Clergy sexual abuse includes:

  • Unwanted transmission of sexual images or texts;
  • Sexualizing conversations (verbally and written);
  • Unwanted touching, which can involve hugging;
  • Being hostile to someone when they set boundaries regarding touching;
  • Pushing someone for sexual involvement;
  • Rubbing up against someone in a sexual manner;
  • Touching sexual parts, over or under clothing; and
  • Kissing, oral sex, masturbation, intercourse, or rape.

What makes this different from other sexual assaults is the abuse of power. Clergy sexual abuse involves the person using their influence within the church to manipulate people who trust them. If you’re a victim of clergy sexual abuse, contact our California clergy sexual abuse attorneys.

What to Do If You Have Experienced Clergy Sexual Abuse

Victims have accused over 750 clergy members in California of sexual abuse. Some victims have filed lawsuits against these clergy members. Some cases have been resolved, while others involve criminal charges. Some allegations against clergy members aren’t fully resolved because the abusers are deceased. However, even in that case, you may be able to pursue a claim against a church organization that enabled the abuse. You can search for accused members by state, name, and diocese on the non-profit website Bishop Accountability.

Even if the abuser’s name is not present on the website, it doesn’t mean you don’t have a case. It only means that someone might not have accused this person publicly yet. Hiring skilled California clergy sexual abuse lawyers is essential. You need someone who is trustworthy and who can protect your rights as the case moves forward.

Pursuing a claim against the church is almost always complex. You don’t want to try to seek justice on your own. The team at Silva Injury Law stands ready to help. Our team has extensive knowledge and is empathetic to what you and your family are dealing with. Our hard-working team of legal professionals stands ready to support victims of clergy sexual abuse in California.

California Legal Remedies for Clergy Abuse

Previously, some victims received compensation through the Independent Compensation Program for Victim-Survivors of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Priests program. California launched this program in 2019 and provided over 900 victims with some financial compensation for what they endured. The program involved the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and the Dioceses of:

  • Fresno,
  • Sacramento,
  • Orange,
  • San Bernardino, and
  • San Diego.

Victims who are coming forward can usually pursue litigation against the church. While no money can compensate for the trauma and abuse, exercising your rights is crucial.

When pursuing litigation in California, victims might ask the court to award punitive damages against the defendants. Punitive damages don’t compensate victims per se but rather “punish” the defendant and hopefully deter others from engaging in similar behavior.

Another possible legal remedy in California is to ask for injunctive relief. Injunctive relief asks the court to order someone, or the church, to take a specific action. An injunctive relief judgment might help strip an abuser’s powers within the church. The purpose is to protect others from being sexually abused by these corrupt clergy. 

Filing a Lawsuit Provides Clergy Abuse Accountability

You might wonder if it’s worth the hassle of litigation, taking on the church, and coming forward publicly with abuse allegations. The answer is an absolute yes. Pursuing litigation against the person who harmed you or a loved one is crucial. It’s one of the best ways to achieve clergy abuse accountability. What’s coming out in these cases establishes a pattern. Often, the clergy member committed multiple acts of sexual abuse, and the church knew. Coverups have been exposed where the church opted to protect itself rather than vulnerable children.

Some abusers were not even removed from the church or restricted from interacting with children. The church’s answer was to reassign them. Unfortunately, that just opened the door to the opportunity to find new victims.

Statute of Limitations for Victims of Clergy Sexual Abuse

Because of the sheer number of complaints and the ages of sexual abuse victims, California has amended the statute of limitations that specifically addresses clergy sexual abuse. Assembly Bill 218 changed the law, extending the age limit for filing a claim from 26 to 40 for survivors of childhood sexual abuse. That means someone who suffered clergy sexual abuse has until their 40th birthday or within five years of discovering they were victimized, whichever comes later.

This Assembly Bill also created a three-year window for claims that might have expired under the old statute of limitations. That means the law revived some cases. If the case involved a coverup, the court could award treble damages from any defendants who were part of the coverup. Identifying the correct filing date can be complicated in some situations, which is another reason we strongly recommend hiring a lawyer to represent you

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Promoting Healing Through Compassionate Advocacy

We believe that our duty goes beyond achieving large monetary awards for our clients. We strive first to be decent human beings who seek not to stir up fights, but to solve problems.

As a peacemaker, the lawyer has a superior opportunity of being a good man. There will still be enough business.

- Abraham Lincoln

Contact Our California Clergy Sexual Abuse Attorneys

If you or a family member is a survivor of clergy sexual abuse, it’s important to come forward and tell your story. These clergy and the church need to be held accountable for the unspeakable trauma and emotional damage they unleashed on children. The legal team at Silva Injury Law is passionate about helping victims hold the church responsible and ensure the clergy member isn’t just reassigned where they can harm another child.

You benefit from working with attorney Michael Joe Silva when you hire Silva Injury Law. Michael Joe spent part of his career as a deputy district attorney in Merced County. Relying on his previous criminal law and prosecution experience, you can relax knowing you’ll receive the best civil representation possible.

Contact Silva Injury Law today to schedule a no-obligation consultation. Let us review the facts of your case and advise you on the best course of legal action.

In addition, our highly-skilled legal team is always ready to assist with other cases, such as: