Both parents and children trust religious leaders to provide a safe atmosphere for moral guidance. But a growing number of survivors have come forward to report that the clergy who were trusted to guide them instead committed heinous acts of sexual abuse on them as children.
Multiple religious institutions
You might have heard of a sexual abuse lawsuit against a Catholic priest in the state of Florida. While the media focuses on Catholic church abuse scandals regularly, a variety of religious institutions throughout the country face allegations of sexual abuse against children.
These religious institutions include:
• The Baptist Church
• The Episcopal Church
• The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints
• Jehovah’s Witnesses
• The Church of Scientology
Effects of clergy abuse
Survivors of clergy sexual abuse face trauma from getting over the betrayal of someone they trusted to take care of them. This type of trauma may create life-long difficulties.
Specifically, survivors of sexual abuse by clergy may experience the following:
• Post-traumatic stress disorder
• Difficulty trusting others
• Suicidal thoughts
• Lingering physical injuries
• Substance abuse disorders
• Anxiety disorders
Criminal vs. civil actions
Any sexual contact that involves a child violates Florida and federal laws. Perpetrators of these crimes may face criminal charges, which means they may serve prison time. Many prosecutors decline to charge clergy because they do not believe that the court will convict.
However, civil cases rely upon a much lower threshold of evidence. Survivors of clergy sexual abuse have gained hundreds of millions of dollars in civil settlements and trials.
Statute of limitations
The state of Florida restricts your ability to file lawsuits against anyone for sexual abuse. The precise statute of limitations varies depending on the age of the victim, the year the abuse occurred, and the type of sexual violence the victim endured. Although you may experience difficulty discussing your trauma, discussing your abuse sooner rather than later may help you remain within the statute of limitations.