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The sexual abuse allegedly perpetrated by clergy within the Catholic Church, including in the Diocese of San Diego, has been extensively covered in the media. Although it is impossible to know precisely how many children were victims of sexual assault committed by clergy, Catholic dioceses have paid more than $3.8 billion to settle the claims of more than 8,600 survivors of sexual assault by those in positions of power within the church. Sexual abuse, in any circumstances, is traumatic. Countless numbers of victims have suffered in silence for decades.
The suffering that results from a sexual assault can last for years, and has lifelong effects. Victims of any variety of sexual abuse should hire a trustworthy, seasoned attorney. The right lawyer can help simplify the legal process and clarify questions or concerns that victims may experience throughout. Many sexual abuse victims find that they feel disempowered, fearful, and uncertain as they begin their pursuit of justice; but, with an experienced sexual abuse attorney from the Gomez Trial Attorneys by your side, you’ll be well-equipped to see your case through to the end.
The Los Angeles Times reported that the California state attorney general’s office will review sexual abuse allegations in the Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles over the past two decades.
There have been claims for years that the Los Angeles Archdiocese covered up sexual misconduct, often by transferring priests to other parishes without reporting the allegations. Sexual abuse claims involving the Catholic Church have resulted in criminal charges against individual priests as well as substantial financial settlements for victims. The California attorney general’s investigation focuses on how the Catholic Church, as a whole, has handled the allegations. The investigation will be looking at overall patterns of behavior within the church in handling abuse claims.
The Catholic Church erupted into another worldwide scandal when a Pennsylvania grand jury report determined that hundreds of priests had abused at least 1,000 children. Subsequently, hundreds of lawsuits were filed by survivors claiming to have suffered abuse because of the Catholic Church’s negligence. Other state attorneys general have also launched investigations into Catholic clergy abuse.
The website BishopAccountability.org stated that the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego, California, includes parishes with clergy members accused of sexual misconduct. Individuals named in the database were not necessarily been found guilty of a crime or liable for civil claims, but include allegations of sexual misconduct.
The Diocese of San Diego has a Catholic population of approximately one million and encompasses:
Filing a lawsuit in civil court is one way that survivors can seek accountability. In California, survivors of sexual abuse may file a lawsuit in civil court seeking damages and other relief. In the course of these lawsuits, survivors have helped to expose evidence that those in positions of power within the church have ignored or covered up abuse allegations. Rather than protect the vulnerable victims, lawsuit has uncovered that the church often reassigned the accused priests to other parishes. Because they negligently and recklessly failed to take measures to correct the problem, many more victims suffered abuse.
Sexual abuse can devastate victims. Survivors of clergy abuse have many reasons for coming forward. One of those is their desire to heal the physical, emotional, spiritual, and even financial wounds inflicted by clergy abuse. Money cannot eliminate the pain and trauma of sexual abuse. However, it can help the survivors obtain the support they need to recover from the trauma. Lawsuits by survivors of sexual abuse can achieve other goals.
Survivor lawsuits can also achieve broader results. Punitive damages are difficult to obtain, but they serve to punish a responsible party for malicious, outrageous, or grossly negligent conduct. By seeking punitive damages, a survivor may deter misconduct in the future. A survivor may also pursue a claim for injunctive relief, to force church entities to prevent future sexual misconduct.
The law dictates a fixed window of time, called a statute of limitations, in which survivors can file their claims. However, because of the sensitive personal nature of these claims, it sometimes takes survivors decades to come forward. In many cases, by the time they were ready, their statute of limitations had expired.
A recent California law, called The Child Victims Act, extends the time limits for survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Previously, they had until their 26th birthday to file a claim or “any time after the age of majority within three years of their discovery that their injury or illness was caused by the abuse” Under the new law, they have until their 40th birthday and the period for filing after discovery of the abuse is extended from three to five years.
California legislators suspended the statute of limitations for one year in 2003 and hundreds came forward and successfully sued the Catholic Church. In October 2019, within days after the new law was signed, three women from San Diego announced a lawsuit against the Diocese of San Diego. The women say they were abused by clergy when they were children.
The Catholic Church is supposed to be a place of love and acceptance, not fear, shame and abuse. The law in California has changed, opening a window for more survivors to obtain compensation. The world has also changed, and victims of sexual abuse are more willing to speak up than in the past.
If you or a loved one has survived sexual abuse, please contact our experienced San Diego Catholic Church sexual abuse attorney.
At The Gomez Law Firm, we understand the unique dynamics of clergy abuse. We offer caring, compassionate support for survivors of sexual abuse. If you are ready to take legal action against abusers and church institutions, or just need more information, call us at (619) 237-3490 or email us for a free and completely confidential initial consultation.
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