Scranton Clergy Abuse Lawyer
In July 2018, a Pennsylvania grand jury released a report on its two-year investigation into child sex abuse within the Roman Catholic Church. This report highlighted decades of abuse suffered by children–mostly boys–at the hands of priests and Church officials. Indeed, the report detailed the lengths to which officials in the Diocese of Scranton and the Archdiocese of Philadelphia went to “avoid scandal” by protecting priests accused of rape and sexual assault. In most cases, the grand jury noted, the Church openly told its leaders “don’t tell the police” about child abuse, but rather to “handle it like a personnel matter, ‘in house’.”
We are only beginning to understand the damage wrought by this approach. The grand jury identified 59 “offenders” alone who were serving in the Diocese of Scranton under the Church’s authority. The grand jury cited the Diocese’s leadership with “wholesale institutional failure that endangered the welfare of children throughout” Pennsylvania.
Even today, there are still many victims who have yet to step forward with their stories. That is where the Scranton clergy abuse lawyers at the Needle Law Firm can help. We assist victims in using every legal tool available to hold sexual predators and the religious leaders who enabled their abuse accountable. While state officials and prosecutors continue to deal with the potential criminal fallout from the grand jury’s report, as an individual victim you have the right to pursue your own civil action against the responsible parties.
It is important to keep in mind that “sexual abuse” is not limited to rape. It encompasses any form of unwanted sexual contact or sexualized behavior. This includes, but is certainly not limited to, touching a person’s genitals or other sexual areas, kissing no the lips, tickling, or engaging in sexually suggestive “play.” Remember, the age of consent is 16 in Pennsylvania, so as a matter of law no person under that age can consent to such activity.
Speak with an Attorney Before Signing Away Your Legal Rights
In early 2019, the Diocese of Scranton agreed to establish a “victim’s compensation fund” for victims of clergy sexual abuse. The diocese appointed an outside law firm to review claims and decide how much to pay individual victims. But as the Wall Street Journal explained in a July 2019 article, there is a catch to this settlement fund: “In exchange for accepting money from the program, the diocese won’t have to release any documents that might show what church officials knew about the alleged abuse.” Victims who settle also cannot bring separate lawsuits in court, where a jury might award additional damages.
Victims should always proceed with caution before signing away their right to sue. Also note that in bringing a civil lawsuit for clergy sex abuse, the standard of proof is a “preponderance of the evidence” rather than “beyond a reasonable doubt.” So while it is still up to the victim to prove the abuse occurred and the Church covered it up, you do not need to present a 100-percent irrefutable case.
Nevertheless, we understand the enormous emotional and psychological burden even coming forward with an abuse claim can be. That is why the skilled, compassionate Scranton clergy abuse lawyers at the Needle Law Firm are here to listen to your story and advise you on the best steps to take going forward. So if you have been a victim of clergy sexual abuse, contact us today to schedule an initial consultation.