What Is Clergy Abuse?

Clergy abuse is the sexual assault, harm and/or exploitation of a member of a congregation by a member of the clergy. Consent is not a valid defense for clergy abuse since the member of the clergy is in a position of power over parishioners. Clergy abuse is a heinous crime that affects hundreds of people in California. If you or a loved one is a survivor of clergy abuse, a lawyer from Manly, Stewart & Finaldi may be able to help you demand justice and compensation from the individual clergy member and/or the presiding diocese. Call (855) 944-0710 today.

Examples of Clergy Abuse

Clergy sexual abuse can refer to both physical and nonphysical acts of a sexual nature between a member of the clergy and a parishioner. Physical acts such as the touching of private parts constitute sexual abuse, as can making inappropriate sexual remarks or jokes. If you are unsure about whether a member of the clergy committed sexual abuse or assault against you or a family member, discuss your specific incident with an attorney confidentially. 

  • Inappropriate touching
  • Hugging without consent
  • Sexual remarks or conversations
  • Sexual harassment or discrimination
  • Exploiting a minor
  • Sexual misconduct
  • Coercing or pressuring someone into sexual involvement
  • Possession of child pornography
  • Sexual molestation
  • Rape and/or sodomy

Clergy abuse can happen within or outside of a counseling relationship between a priest, deacon, bishop or another member of the clergy and a parishioner. Abuse can range from advances of a sexual nature to statutory rape. Coming forward about clergy abuse can hold the individual as well as the diocese responsible. You may be eligible for compensation from one or more parties for facilitating or committing sexual abuse.

Signs of Clergy Abuse

Clergy abuse can exist between two men, two women or a man and a woman. Parishioners of all ages can become clergy abuse survivors, but most cases involve vulnerable populations such as children and adults with disabilities. The signs of clergy abuse can be physical, emotional and behavioral. A child who has experienced clergy abuse may exhibit changes in mood or behavior, such as withdrawal, isolation, anxiety, shame, guilt, anger, outbursts, tantrums or regression. Child survivors may also have inappropriate or unusual knowledge of sexual subjects.

Abuse survivors may try to avoid the perpetrator or express fear or anxiety about being around the person. A child, for example, may express the desire to quit clergy services or stay away from a certain member of the clergy. Physical signs of clergy abuse can include injuries such as bruising, bruises on the upper thighs, pelvic injuries, genital injuries, cuts or burns, as well as signs such as bloody undergarments. Sexually transmitted diseases can also be a sign of sexual abuse. 

Compensation for Survivors of Clergy Abuse 

Recently, dioceses throughout California have released lists of names of priests and other members of the clergy with credible accusations against them for sexual abuse and exploitation. The lists include the names of almost 700 accused individuals throughout the state. Six dioceses have banded together to create an Independent Compensation Fund for survivors. Before you try to obtain compensation through the fund, however, speak to an attorney about filing a lawsuit instead. If you are within the statute of limitations, a lawsuit against the diocese could result in better financial recovery.

If you believe your child or someone you know is experiencing clergy abuse, notify the police right away. Then, contact a lawyer. As a survivor of clergy abuse in California, the law may entitle you to restitution. Speaking to an attorney from Manly, Stewart & Finaldi could help you learn your rights and options at no cost or obligation to hire our firm. We will listen to your story and walk you through the steps toward obtaining justice.