Long Beach Clergy Sexual Abuse Lawyer
Religious institutions should be places where children feel safe, comforted and protected. Sadly, churches and other places of worship are often settings where priests and members of the clergy take advantage of their positions of power to prey on children for sexual exploitation. For decades, clergy sexual abuse has been concealed. Today, released reports of confirmed sex crimes against children by religious leaders are finally leading to justice for victims.
If you or a loved one is a victim of clergy sexual abuse in Long Beach, contact a reputable lawyer at Manly, Stewart & Finaldi for a free and confidential case consultation. You may be entitled to financial compensation. Our team of nationally recognized sexual abuse attorneys can help you hold someone accountable and fight for maximum case results.
Why Clients Trust Us With Clergy Sexual Abuse Cases in Long Beach
- We have recovered over $2 billion for our clients. This includes a $660 million global settlement against the Roman Catholic Bishop of Los Angeles.
- Our child sexual abuse lawyers have decades of legal experience. We have gone up against dioceses, school districts, Fortune 500 companies and other powerful institutions and won.
- Your needs will always come first. We will listen to you and believe you. Our attorneys provide a personalized legal experience and can keep your identity anonymous, if desired.
- We accept clergy sexual abuse cases in Long Beach on a contingency fee basis. This means $0 in upfront fees. You will only pay your attorney if you win your case.
How Our Attorneys Will Help You
It is normal for survivors of a heinous crime such as clergy sexual abuse not to know where to begin when it comes to seeking justice. You have been through enough; you may not want to take on what might seem like a daunting legal process. The skilled and reputable Los Angeles sexual abuse attorneys at Manly, Stewart & Finaldi understand what you are going through. We are here to help.
As your team of attorneys, we will protect your rights at every turn. You can trust us to advocate on your behalf while you focus on healing. Our sexual abuse attorneys in Long Beach can provide crucial support and legal assistance, including:
- Tailored legal advice and guidance about your rights and options in California.
- An in-depth investigation into the clergy sexual abuse incident(s).
- Evidence collection, including interviewing eyewitnesses and hiring experts.
- Filing a claim before any applicable deadlines, or statutes of limitations, expire.
- Submitting protective orders against your perpetrator.
- Settlement negotiations with a religious institution’s insurance company.
- Representation at court, if necessary (although most cases reach settlements).
Most importantly, our lawyers will provide the emotional support you need during this difficult time. We have years of experience handling extremely sensitive cases and delicate legal matters. We can help connect you to support services, such as support groups and therapists, so that you can cope with the emotional side of clergy sexual abuse. Meanwhile, we will handle the legal side of your case to hold those responsible accountable.
Defining Clergy Sexual Abuse
Clergy sexual abuse is a person in a position of religious authority using this role – and the power and influence that comes with it – to sexually harass, groom, manipulate, exploit, assault and/or abuse victims. In general, sexual abuse refers to a pattern of sexual assault or an ongoing crime rather than an isolated incident. Clergy sexual abuse is a crime under California law as well as a civil tort, meaning it is an act of wrongdoing that can entitle victims to civil remedies.
California’s definition of sexual assault (also referred to as sexual battery) under Penal Code Section 243.4 is to touch another person’s intimate parts without the victim’s consent for the purpose of sexual gratification, sexual arousal or sexual abuse. In California, children under the age of 18 legally cannot give their consent to sexual activity. In addition, individuals in a position of power, including members of clergy, cannot legally engage in sexual acts with those under their control.
Examples of clergy sexual abuse include unwanted touching or sexual advances, inappropriate comments or remarks, exposing children to sexualized materials, indecent exposure of sex organs, public masturbation, lewd and lascivious acts involving a child, child molestation, the touching of a female’s breasts, child pornography, rape, attempted rape, statutory rape and sodomy.
Who Are the Perpetrators?
Clergy sexual abuse can occur in any religion, religious institution or religious community in Long Beach. A large number of confirmed cases in Los Angeles County and around the country have involved the Roman Catholic Church. For this reason, clergy sexual abuse is often referred to as “priest sexual abuse.”
Common perpetrators include:
- Camp leaders
- Church administrators or staff members
- Volunteer church leadership
- Youth group leaders
Most often, the victims of clergy sexual abuse are vulnerable children whom the perpetrator has access to within the church community. Victims are often groomed, or targeted and made to feel special or close to the perpetrator, by predators to more easily carry out crimes of sexual misconduct.
Credible Accusations Made Against Priests in Long Beach
As part of a global settlement in 2007, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles was required to release clergy files to the public that documented known incidents and credible accusations of sexual abuse. In 2013, several lists were released by churches within the county. Collectively, 656 people had accused 244 priests, deacons, brothers and seminarians of child sexual abuse within the Archdiocese.
These lists released the names of the following credibly accused clergy members:
- Carl M. Sutphin
- Christopher Kearney
- Clinton V. Hagenbach
- Donald Patrick Roemer
- Fidencio Flores Silva
- George Neville Rucker
- Gerald B. Fessard
- John H. Dawson
- Larry Lovell
- Mario Cimmarrusti
- Mark Falvey
- Michael A. Harris
- Michael D. Buckley
- Michael E. Wempe
- Peter Garcia
- Richard Henry
- Rodolfo Martinez-Guevara
- Theodore Llanos
This is nowhere close to the complete list of accused priests and other church leaders in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. This list represents those with the highest numbers of accusations (10 or more). If you or a loved one was assaulted or abused by anyone within a religious institution in Long Beach, you may be entitled to financial compensation and should contact us for a confidential case review.
What Are the Signs of Clergy Sexual Abuse?
Children who are targeted and victimized by members of the clergy in Long Beach often show signs of the trauma they are experiencing. Sadly, many parents and guardians do not recognize these signs for what they are. Knowing the most common signs of clergy sexual abuse can lead to perpetrators being caught and arrested early on.
While every child is unique, red flags frequently include:
- Physical signs, such as genital injuries or trouble walking
- Unusual knowledge of sexual subjects
- Using new words for private parts
- Sexualized play or inappropriate touching of other children
- Regression in a young child, such as thumb-sucking
- Nightmares, bed-wetting or trouble sleeping
- Fear of going to church or being around a certain person
- Expressions of discomfort when getting undressed or bathing
- Depression, withdrawal or anxiety
- Sudden changes in behavior or personality
- “Acting out,” such as outbursts in school
- Sexually transmitted diseases or teen pregnancy
- Substance abuse in teens
- Suicidal thoughts, tendencies or actions
Be on high alert if a priest or another member of your clergy in Long Beach makes frequent attempts to be alone with your child. Individualized attention, lavish gifts and other special treatment could all be signs of grooming. If you suspect abuse, take action right away.
Long-Term Effects of Clergy Sexual Abuse
Sadly for victims, clergy sexual abuse often inflicts long-lasting mental, emotional and psychological harm on survivors. The trauma they endure at a young age can have long-term ramifications on how they build relationships with other people, their self-image and self-esteem, their performance in school, their careers and ability to work productively as adults, and their mental health. Many survivors struggle with depression, substance abuse disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic anxiety and other mental health problems.
How to Report Clergy Sexual Abuse in Long Beach
Approach any concerns or suspicions you have regarding clergy sexual abuse with care and sensitivity. Tell the child that you believe them and that this is not their fault. Document everything you can about the allegations. Then, report your concerns to the appropriate authorities. This may include a law enforcement agency or Child Protective Services. Notify the church or religious institution, as well.
The number one priority is the child’s safety and well-being. Take the child to a hospital that offers sexual assault forensic exams if it is within five days of the last incident. Bringing the child to a doctor even after five days is important to treat any injuries. Then, connect the child to a therapist or counselor who specializes in child sexual abuse to provide the emotional support the victim needs.
Legal Remedies for Victims of Clergy Sexual Abuse in California
Children and adults who are survivors of clergy sexual abuse have the right to seek justice and financial compensation by filing sexual abuse lawsuits. This is a type of civil claim that can be filed in addition to criminal charges against a perpetrator. Unlike a criminal case, a civil lawsuit aims to make a victim whole again through the recovery of financial compensation.
In 2019, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles (together with five other dioceses in California) agreed to launch the Independent Compensation Program. This program functioned to compensate survivors without requiring them to file lawsuits. However, the program ended on March 31, 2020. Even while it was active, we recommended to our clients not to sign up with the program, as it barred any further legal action from being taken against the diocese.
The majority of child sexual abuse claims that are filed in Southern California reach settlements. This means you most likely will not have to bring your clergy sexual abuse case to trial. Our attorneys use aggressive settlement negotiation strategies, when necessary, to achieve the best possible results for our clients. However, we are also prepared to go to trial. To discuss your legal options in more detail, schedule a free case review.
Who Can Be Held Liable for Clergy Sexual Abuse in Long Beach?
Survivors of clergy sexual abuse in Long Beach may be able to hold more than just individual perpetrators liable, or legally and financially accountable, for the devastating trauma they have endured. Religious institutions can be held vicariously liable for the actions of their priests and other members of the clergy. They can also be held responsible for their own misconduct, including covering up known incidents and complaints of sexual abuse.
Damages Available for Survivors of Clergy Sexual Abuse
Taking legal action against a Catholic Church or another religious institution for clergy sexual abuse in Long Beach can allow you and your family to collect the financial compensation, or damages, you deserve. Holding one or multiple parties responsible for committing acts of sexual abuse could lead to a settlement or jury verdict that pays for all related costs and losses.
Damages available may include:
- Required medical care for physical injuries
- Therapy or counseling
- Mental health services
- Prescription medications
- Lost wages and capacity to earn
- Relocation costs
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Mental anguish and psychological pain
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Loss of consortium
- Punitive damages (to punish the defendant)
While no amount of financial compensation can ever allow a survivor to regain what was taken from them, it can help them create a new future without financial stress. At Manly, Stewart & Finaldi, we work relentlessly to obtain the results that our clients need to heal and move forward.
What Is the Time Limit to File a Clergy Sexual Abuse Claim in Long Beach?
In California, an adult survivor of sexual abuse has 10 years from the date of the last incident or attempted incident of sexual assault to file a civil claim against a defendant. Survivors of childhood sexual abuse and assault have no statutory deadline to file a civil claim as of January 1, 2024.
A new law that was passed in 2023 (Assembly Bill 452) eliminated the deadline that used to apply to these cases. However, it will not apply retroactively to incidents prior to 2024. If your case occurred prior to 2024, you will have until your 40th birthday or 5 years from the date of discovery, whichever comes later, to file a child sexual abuse claim.
Speak to an Experienced Clergy Sexual Abuse Lawyer in Long Beach | Free and Confidential Consultations
Do not wait to seek justice as a survivor of clergy sexual abuse. You do not have to suffer in silence. Contact the nation’s leading sexual assault and abuse law firm, Manly, Stewart & Finaldi, to have your voice heard. Our Long Beach clergy sexual abuse attorneys will help you understand your rights, options and potential for seeking financial compensation in your specific case. We are compassionate, knowledgeable and highly reputable attorneys. Call (855) 397-3146 or contact us online today to learn more.