Despite stereotypes of sexual predators being dangerous strangers, much sexual assault is perpetrated by people who the victims know. One of the greatest violations of trust occurs when a member of the clergy sexually assaults someone who has been relying on them for religious guidance. In the state of Florida, survivors of clergy sexual assault have the right to file civil lawsuits and seek criminal charges against their accusers.
Donna’s Law eliminates the statute of limitations for minors
The laws concerning sexual violence against minors used to have strict statutes of limitations. But in 2020, Florida passed “Donna’s Law.” This law eliminates a statute of limitations for victims under the age of 18. “Donna’s Law” applies only to crimes committed after July 1, 2020. Since much sexual abuse by a Catholic priest or other religious organization involves children, “Donna’s Law” offers much-needed protection for victims of clergy abuse.
Clergy can be sued based on breach of fiduciary duty
A fiduciary duty involves a relationship between two people, during which one of the parties has an obligation to operate in the other’s best interest. Fiduciary duties involve the following:
• Duty of care
• Good faith
Breaches of fiduciary duty result when the responsible party fails to ensure the best interests of the other party. Clergy sexual abuse constitutes a breach of fiduciary duty because of the implied dependency that the victim has upon the clergy member.
Criminal and civil justice is available to victims of clergy sexual abuse
Criminal charges against clergy who have committed sexual abuse may result in prison time and significant fines. Civil lawsuits can provide victims with a monetary settlement. Victims have the right to seek both forms of justice.