Young people look up to priests, ministers, reverends, rabbis and other clergy members. They develop trust in them, and they often see them as moral and spiritual authority figures who can do no wrong. Sadly, sexual predators in many denominations use their position of trust and authority to groom and sexually abuse young victims, causing them to suffer unimaginable physical and emotional harm. Victims may not even realize the full extent of their trauma until many years after the sexual abuse occurred.
Fortunately, under the New York Child Victims Act, the survivors of clergy sexual abuse have new hope to hold their abusers accountable as well as the religious institutions which gave cover to those abusers. The law, enacted on February 14, 2019, extends the statute of limitations to bring criminal charges against those who sexually abused minors in New York state. It also:
- Allows victims to file civil lawsuits against their abusers and the institutions that enabled them until they turn age 55
- Gives victims a one-year “look-back” period to bring their civil claims, regardless of how long ago the sexual abuse occurred. The period starts on August 14, 2019, and it runs through August 13, 2020.
If a clergy member sexually abused you or your child, the nationally recognized attorneys of Powers & Santola, LLP, are here to help you fight for the justice and compensation that you deserve. Contact us today to discuss your options and learn more about how the Child Victims Act affects your case. We have offices in Albany, Syracuse and Rochester, and we work with childhood sexual abuse victims and their families throughout New York state. We can provide a timely, free and confidential review of your case.
Childhood Sexual Abuse and the Catholic Church
In recent years, clergy sexual abuse revelations have rocked the Catholic Church in New York and around the globe. According to The Buffalo News, six of New York’s eight Catholic dioceses have identified 249 priests who have been “credibly accused of sexually abusing a minor.” BishopAccountability.org, a website which tracks clergy sexual abuse allegations in the U.S. Catholic Church, puts the number of accused priests higher. The site’s database lists 480 priests from New York’s Catholic dioceses who have been accused of sexual abuse.
However, the actual number of priests involved in the sexual abuse of minors in our state may be even greater than 480. As The Buffalo News notes, the Archdiocese of Boston found that 10 percent of the clergy who served in the archdiocese from 1950 through 2002 had faced child sexual abuse allegations. Because 12,000 priests have served in New York’s eight dioceses since 1950, one expert estimated that 1,200 “would be a good estimate for how many New York priests were accused of abuse,” according to the newspaper.
Sadly, numerous investigations have revealed a pattern of covering up sexual abuse within the Catholic Church. In many situations, bishops simply reassigned accused priests to other parishes, where they continued to sexually abuse minors. A staggering number of lives may have been destroyed as a result of this culture of concealment. However, thanks to the Child Victims Act, those victims can now seek the justice they deserve.
In 2016, six New York dioceses formed Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Programs. These programs allow victims to file claims for compensation in exchange for agreeing to forgo the filing of lawsuits. However, the Albany and Rochester dioceses currently do not offer such programs. (The Albany dioceses briefly operated a victims’ compensation fund in the mid-2000s.)
Before you participate in any victims’ compensation program and agree to a settlement, you should speak first with an attorney from Powers & Santola, LLP. We can explain how these programs work and help you to decide whether submitting a claim with a compensation fund is the best course of action for you and your family. Our attorneys always focus on our clients’ unique circumstances. We can tailor a legal strategy to meet your specific needs and goals.
Sexual Abuse in Other Religious Institutions
The problem of clergy sexual abuse goes beyond the Catholic Church. The sexual abuse of minors has been reported in many other religious institutions, including but not limited to:
- Christian churches
- Greek Orthodox churches
- Jewish synagogues
- Islamic centers or mosques
- Mormon churches.
Both males and females have suffered from clergy sexual abuse. Although many victims were minors at the time of the sexual abuse, vulnerable adults have been victims as well.
No matter what denomination you are, you should keep in mind that bringing a sexual abuse claim is not an attack on your religion. Instead, it is a way of seeking justice and compensation for the significant physical, emotional and financial harm that you or a loved one has suffered. By taking legal action, you can send a message that sexual abuse will not be tolerated. You may ultimately help to protect others from suffering similar harm in the future.
Our New York Clergy Sexual Abuse Lawyers Are Here for You
At Powers & Santola, LLP, our legal team features former law enforcement officers who served as members of the elite Special Victims Unit. They have the in-depth knowledge and understanding that comes from investigating hundreds of sexual abuse cases over the course of their careers. They also have the sensitivity to provide an environment in which victims can feel free to tell their stories and provide information that will help to hold their abusers and the religious institutions which harbored them accountable.
We realize how difficult and courageous it is to come forward with a childhood sexual abuse claim. You can count on Powers & Santola, LLP, to handle your case with the legal skill and compassion that you deserve. When you are ready to move forward, contact us. We can review your case in a free and confidential consultation.