Religious establishments like churches are among the places we expect to feel safest. Further, your trust in clergy members to treat everybody with respect may make you put your guard down, understandably. However, recent cases indicate a rise in clergy sexual abuse. This has created an alarming number of cases where victims come out to sue their abusers and seek compensation and justice against the harmful experiences. Subsequently, you may need an attorney to help you navigate your legal options when seeking legal redress for sexual abuse. At Sex Crime Attorney, you have access to a team of experienced lawyers. We have worked with hundreds of clients to help them seek justice after suffering from unlawful sexual abuse, including clergy-related cases in Los Angeles, California. Therefore, you can expect to receive quality legal services to help you file a civil suit and seek compensation for the ordeals you or your loved one suffered.
The General Definition of Sexual Abuse
When a victim reports a case involving sexual abuse allegations, the officers or attorney taking up the matter will examine the brief facts to ensure the act qualifies under the abuse category. Thus, it is essential to have an in-depth understanding of general definitions of sexual abuse. By doing so, you are better equipped and knowledgeable on when to seek help after you or a loved one faces circumstances involving unwanted sexual advances.
Typically, cases involving sexual abuse will have underlying elements of coercion or pressure on the victim to engage in the proposed behavior. Subsequently, consent is lacking in sexual abuse cases or is given after the victim is threatened. You should note that consent granted under a false sense of reality may also amount to sexual abuse, as the offender takes advantage of the victim’s ignorance.
Moreover, sexual abuse can be characterized by putting the victim in a situation where they cannot control their sexual engagement, especially if advances come directly from the offender. For example, restricting the victim into a confined space where they are forced to engage in sexual activities amounts to abuse.
As a result, the law will factor in multiple circumstances when holding an offender liable for the offense. The attorney handling the case will then elaborate on the specific type of sexual abuse you were subjected to. Thus, you also want to understand the general types of sexual abuse that can attract legal repercussions. Some of them include:
The most extreme type of sexual abuse is rape, involving forced sexual intercourse between the victim and the perpetrator. Consequently, sexual contact between the parties is present, which increases the risk of injuries and transmission of Sexually Transmitted Infections(STIs). Moreover, the act often involves violence to subdue the victim, giving rise to potentially more injuries.
Denial of Products that Prevent Pregnancy and STIs
Further, sexual abuse can also involve the victim being deliberately denied access to important products like condoms and birth control. The denial may occur as the perpetrator engages in sexually abusive behavior or general restriction.
For example, restricting access to the products may be termed as sexual abuse, where a victim is forced to engage in sexual activity with third parties, with the abuser’s knowledge. They often do this as a power play to frustrate their victims or expose them to imminent danger.
Forced Oral Copulation
Additionally, oral sex is a common form of sexual abuse reported in clergy sexual abuse cases. The offense involves forcing the victim’s mouth to make contact with the perpetrator’s sexual organs for gratification. Like rape, forced oral sex can cause devastating effects on the victim because it violates their personal space excessively.
What Clergy Sexual Abuse Entails
Having understood the essential factors surrounding sexual abuse, you also need to learn the specific engagements reported clergy abusers often engage in. Generally, the term clergy refers to any member ordained by the church to conduct duties and preside over congregations. Hence, they are often accorded high respect based on their presumed values and morals guided by religion.
Common clergy parties include pastors, priests, deacons, nuns, ministers, and bishops. The designated titles differ from one denomination to another, although they all apply a similar working model when undertaking church-related duties.
Due to their expected high-moral standard, clergy members are often trusted to conduct public and private meetings with their congregation members. Therefore, vulnerable parties like young children may find themselves in the clergy personnel’s company alone, creating a chance for a predatory move by an abuser.
While many churches across the country protected their clergy members, many victims calling out abusers within the institutions have emerged. They do this to ensure that the reported abusers face repercussions to stop repeated behavior.
Commonly Reported Forms of Sexual Abuse in Clergy Sexual Abuse Cases
Although sexual abuse victims suffer from different case circumstances, various commonly reported incidents cut across most cases. Thus, you want to learn the different forms of sexual abuse to empower you or your loved ones to seek justice. This is because some actions may seem subtle, meaning you may be hesitant to report them as a form of abuse. Nevertheless, you are entitled to seek redress for any type of violated personal space. Therefore, the following are common types of sexual abuse from identified abusers in the clergy:
Touching a Victim Inappropriately
Although the term ‘touching inappropriately’ is broad, it entails violating personal space by engaging in more physical contact than necessary. You should remember that boundaries vary from one person to the next, so your attorney will likely use your measure of discomfort upon physical contact to build a case.
For example, patting someone on the lower back may not evoke discomfort for one person, while it may be extremely invasive for a different person. Similarly, stroking a person’s hand when speaking is generally viewed as invasive, as it involves repeated touching.
Other more severe forms of inappropriate touching include the abuser placing their hands on your buttocks or breasts. They may do this as they speak to you or make you walk to brush their indecent behavior off. Upon noticing signs of invasive behavior, you want to report the abuser to a trusted person so that you can access the appropriate remedies.
Sometimes, the perpetrator may attempt more overt forms of sexual abuse like forceful kissing. The context leading to abuse is essential to factor in, as it will bring out the offender’s unlawful desires. Moreover, you can call out a clergy member who takes advantage of religious practices to enforce their sexual advances.
For example, it is not uncommon for clergy members to kiss another member on both cheeks after praying for them. It is often taken as a sign of peace, love, or even solidarity among church members. However, physical contact should not cross over to unwanted sexual contact, especially if the victim is visibly uncomfortable.
Introducing Inappropriate Sexual Content When Conversing with a Victim
Doubtless, clergy members offer their congregation members a wide range of services, including private conversation sessions for counseling and guidance. Thus, a predatory member of the clergy may take this chance to introduce their sexual agendas to you by sneaking in irrelevant sexual content in the conversation.
Mostly, you will identify the abuse by the tone and context where sexual content is introduced. For example, the clergy member asks inappropriate questions on your sexual history as an irrelevant part of the conversation. Their motive is likely to gain as much information about your sexuality or prompt you into a sexual setting.
Afterward, they may try additional advances, especially if they cannot catch the premise within which the inappropriate sexual content is introduced. Despite this, you can still seek legal redress for the invasive questions and comments because they cause discomfort that amounts to abuse.
Undressing the Victim or Asking them to Do So Themselves
Furthermore, having to undress in front of a clergy member is an undisputed form of sexual abuse, as they will have forced you to participate in indecent exposure. A clergy member may request you to undress or do so themselves under the guise of performing prayers or any other religious activity.
Despite this, you want to remain alert to deceptive tactics applied to have you comply with the abuser’s requests. Although you may have high trust levels in them, you will have a case to lodge against the abuser for making you undress/expose yourself under religious pretenses.
Once you approach an attorney, you want to provide all the details leading up to the exposure. Doing this will help piece the offender’s intention to abuse you sexually by preying on your trust in them. Showing these elements is essential during your civil case, as the presiding judge will be interested in the offender’s abuse of power tactics.
Creating Sexual Contact to Lead to Sex
On top of this, the accused sexual abuser may try to create initial contact that would then escalate to a sexual experience as they intend. This tactic is commonly applied to make the victim feel partially responsible for engaging in the sexual activity that ensues.
However, you should remember that your participation in sexual activities will amount to abuse provided that your consent was not sought and confirmed. Hence, you can still file a case against the perpetrator for initiating sexual contact without seeking your consent, as they will have abused your ability to choose.
Many forms of sexual contact are used to lure a victim into sexual abuse. For example, the accused clergy member may ask you to sit on them, whereby they can quickly grope or kiss you. Others may ask you to allow for extensive body contact, which gives them a chance to impose themselves sexually.
Touching the Victim’s Genitals Over their Clothes
Another commonly reported abuse involves touching a victim’s private parts through the clothes. Different abusers may apply various coercions or trickery to make the victim go closer to them. Afterward, they may use threats or force to ensure you remain within their grip as they undertake the sexual abuse.
Since the abuser will be touching the victim through clothes, they may manipulate them to feel like nothing wrong is happening. Sometimes, the situation may occur as the clergy member engages in a different interaction simultaneously to avert any suspicion. If you experience any form of abuse, your attorney will request you to provide the circumstances it occurred. This way, they can disclose the distress you underwent and justify the need for compensatory orders in your favor.
Touching the Victim’s Genitals Directly
Alternatively, the offender may pull away from the victim’s clothes and engage in more severe abuse from where they directly touch the victim’s genitals. Not only do they violate your personal space significantly, but they also expose you to extreme discomfort and possible genital trauma. This is especially true if they are rough and cause injuries in delicate areas.
Using Coercion to Have the Victim Engage in Sexual Activity
Sexual abuse also occurs when the perpetrator uses threats, coercion, or duress to force you into participating in the sexual activity. They often resort to intimidation when you stand up for yourself and refute the advances. As a result, you may fall victim to the threats in fear of having them played out in reality.
While coercion, duress, and threats are disputable elements in civil court, your sexual abuse attorney will compile conclusive evidence to show that you were in a compromised situation. By doing so, the presiding judge will better understand why you were forced to engage in sexual activity and possibly issue favorable compensation orders.
The Difference Between a Criminal and Civil Suit for Clergy Sexual Abuse
The Penal Code prohibits sexual abuse and provides legal repercussions for offenders found guilty, including spending time in jail. Although the form of judicial redress effectively deters offenders from sexual abuse in the future, the victims may require additional remedies to meet their needs.
Usually, a criminal case involves prosecution by the state with the accused person as the defendant. Therefore, a state-appointed prosecutor is responsible for proving that you faced sexual abuse from the offender. They will gather evidence from various sources and build on it in court. The standard required to prove the offender’s case in a criminal court is ‘beyond a reasonable doubt.’ Hence, the prosecutor must provide articulate explanations that link the accused person to the offense.
Conversely, a civil case will involve two individual parties; you and the abuser or the entity representing the abuser. As a result, you have a chance to present an argument directly against the liable party and hear their counter-arguments.
Civil matters require parties to prove their claims on a balance of probabilities before a judge decides on the party to award. Hence, your arguments should provide a credible build on circumstances coupled with compelling evidence to show that the offender is liable.
As a result, you can pursue a civil case against the offender after the criminal case concludes. If the criminal courts find the accused person guilty of sexual abuse, this would be highly beneficial to you. Thanks to the guilty verdict, you will have an easier time convincing the civil courts of the abuser’s wrongdoings, giving you an upper hand in securing a successful case outcome.
However, some circumstances may require you to file a civil suit. Depending on the court schedules, the criminal case runs concurrently. By seeking remedies in a civil court, you are entitled to receiving monetary compensation, which is a more personalized outcome to your case.
Types of Claims to Present in a Civil Court
Meeting with a sexual abuse attorney is essential before filing a clergy sexual abuse case. The meetings will help you understand the court’s expectations for claimants seeking to recover for the harm done. Moreover, you will understand the type of evidence acceptable in court and the possible sources for this evidence. When you discuss these crucial matters with your attorney, you will be ready to file a solid case and significantly raise your chances of winning against the offender.
A crucial factor to consider when making your preparations involves determining the types of claims you will raise to justify your need for compensation. These claims are also the basis for all evidence provided to show that you suffered severe effects from the sexual abuse. Hence, you should be careful to choose the best arguments to support your case by ensuring you have sufficient evidence to back it up.
It is also noteworthy that you do not have to include all claims discussed below, as each case varies. Thus, you will study your specific case circumstances to establish the factors applicable to your matter.
The various claims to include when seeking compensation for clergy sexual abuse include:
Any sexual abuse victim will require urgent medical attention to ensure their bodies do not undergo extreme shock and trauma. The best time to seek treatment is immediately after the sexual encounter, as it minimizes the risk of infections and mental distress from increasing. However, many instances limit the victim’s access to medical assistance on time, meaning they will have to deal with serious medical effects.
Due to this, you are likely to incur expensive medical costs that cater to your various needs. For example, if you experienced repeated sexual abuse without access to medical attention or a trusted person to report to, you may need to undergo intense therapy. The reasoning behind this is that you are likely to suffer from severe mental trauma and depression based on your past experiences.
Similarly, victims who contract infections or severe physical damage from sexual abuse will require intensive medical examinations and medication to worsen their conditions. As a result, medical expenses may quickly pile up and limit your access to other essential services requiring your financial contribution.
Further, highly violent sexual encounters may cause victims to enter into a state of mental shock. Subsequently, they may need to remain in a psychiatric ward for observation and treatment until they feel better. Based on the various requirements, you can recover for the expenses stemming from sexual abuse.
When presenting the factors in court, you want to ensure that you have sufficient documentary evidence to support the claims. Medical reports, prescriptions, and therapist notes are useful evidence to help you justify your position in court.
Loss of Earning Capacity/Wages
Sometimes, your distress level after suffering from sexual abuse will require you to recover privately, preferably at home. Due to this, you may be unable to continue working for a period, meaning you could lose your earning capacity or access to wages. Consequently, the liable party should be ready to compensate you for the inconvenience caused. The court could order them to pay you the equivalent of the amount you would have earned if you had continued working.
Pain and Suffering
Further, you have a justifiable claim when seeking compensation for pain and suffering. Although the metric to determine the exact amount payable for pain and suffering is unclear, the judge will consider factors like the severity of abuse the social, psychological and physical effects that you suffered afterward. By doing this, they will come up with a reasonable amount to award you if they decide in your favor.
Contact a Sex Crimes Lawyer Near Me
When you or a loved one suffers from clergy sexual abuse, it may come as a shocking revelation, coupled with a loss of trust in religious institutions. On top of this, you will have suffered from a wide range of physical and mental effects, resulting in the need for intense medical attention. Hence, you will need to work with a skilled attorney to help you file a civil case against the perpetrators. Their involvement in the matter will equip you with the necessary case preparation requirements and increase the chances of a successful outcome. At Sex Crime Attorney, you can look forward to collaborating with a brilliant team of attorneys specializing in sex crime cases. We are dedicated to serving aggrieved clients in Los Angeles, California, and helping them seek compensation after experiencing clergy sexual abuse. For more information on how to sue a clergy member for sexual abuse, contact us today at 424-835-9799.