Power in Numbers: Taking Back Control Amidst a Sexual Abuse Crisis

by | Dec 19, 2023 | Catholic Church

Sex Abuse Crisis in Catholic Church Horowitz Law

The Overwhelming Feeling of Helplessness

With the sexual abuse crisis running rampant in the Catholic church, it is very likely that you know at least one or two Catholics – or ex-Catholics – who are upset about all those “bad” priests and bishops whom we’ve all seen, heard, or read about in the church’s staggeringly shameful child sex abuse scandals. But in all probability, if asked how they are helping to stop or somehow make a difference, their answers would be that they feel helpless. We at Horowitz Law certainly understand feeling helpless. The church is a huge institution. The harm its officials have done is immeasurable. The crisis goes back for decades, if not centuries. The Catholic church remains powerful. But for countless victims, the pain is still very fresh. But truth be told, no one is ever helpless, even if it feels that way. Few (if any) of us feel like we can prevent clergy sex crimes and cover-ups. But we CAN do something for those who have already been abused. In fact, even the smallest gesture could make a difference, even if you don’t know anyone personally involved in clergy sex abuse.

Now, let’s take a quick detour, shall we? Say you’re texting your friend about a new episode of Stranger Things or perhaps letting them know about a BOGO deal on your favorite snacks at Walmart. Quite ordinary, aren’t they? But wait a minute – what if you could use this simple, routine action to make a real difference? We take just a few seconds to share helpful or sometimes even crucial information with people we care about, to save them time or inconvenience, or to hopefully bring them just a bit of joy. Not only that, but you could actually inform someone—a survivor of the scandal about incredible, life-changing opportunities for justice and compensation. You can let them know – quickly and easily and without being intrusive – about some huge but mostly temporary opportunities.

The Ignorance of the Opportunities

In a few short years, the options for abuse survivors have grown wildly. In many US states, thanks in part to a dramatically changed legal landscape, victims’ chances for justice and compensation are better now than ever before. Not every survivor is aware of the recent changes in the legal landscape. And trust me, these shifts are not just minor adjustments. We’re talking about a seismic shift that could positively alter the lives of countless victims. You, just by sharing a couple of links or numbers, can make that difference. Sounds like an exaggeration, right? It isn’t.

With nearly 100,000 US Catholic clergy abuse survivors in the US and a staggering 60 and 70 million Catholics in the country, plus 30 million FORMER Catholics, think of the possibilities. Imagine the power of the informed individual. If the ‘upset’ pool aided the ‘wounded’ pool, wouldn’t it be amazing? A ripple of knowledge—starting with a friendly, thoughtfully-worded text message—could aid the healing process and give justice to those deserving. If this were to happen, both groups would certainly feel better. In some practical and powerful ways, the ‘wounded’ group would obviously BE better, too.

Various Opportunities that Survivors Should Know

“Okay, but what are these opportunities?” you ask. Let me shine a light on a few of them.

1. Civil Abuse ‘Windows’:

About 25 US states now allow survivors to file lawsuits no matter how long ago they were hurt. This is a significant departure from the status quo and a remarkable chance to seek justice for far more men and women who were sexually assaulted as kids in institutional settings. 

2. Church Bankruptcies:

Interestingly, actions such as church bankruptcies give survivors closure, healing opportunities, and financial support without filing lawsuits. It’s less strenuous, less risky, and still advantageous for the survivors. Dozens of dioceses and a few religious orders have filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which (though its flaws) gives victims the chance for closure, healing, and financial help with considerably less risk and stress. Church bankruptcies opened this year, including the Dioceses of Santa Rosa, CA; Albany, NY; Oakland, CA; Ogdensburg, NY; and San Francisco, CA. Rumor is that several more dioceses in California will seek Chapter 11 protection next year.

      3. Extended Deadlines:

Across several states, court rulings that allow more extended deadlines to file lawsuits offer hope for justice thanks to new research and science. This can be particularly beneficial for ‘delayed discovery’ or ‘repressed memory’ cases.

Remember, you don’t have to live in a state where a window exists or in a diocese where bankruptcy has been declared. One need only to have been molested, even once, in one of these jurisdictions. And these opportunities do not necessarily have deadlines. For example, in states like Maine and New Jersey, these ‘windows’ do not close or expire on a given date—they are ongoing, permanent opportunities. So, for all the powerless feelings that survivors of abuse may experience, they are not left completely without options to regain some of that stolen power.

A Bit of Brighter Perspective

Sure, it might seem a little out there suggesting to someone who has endured such trauma that there could be some hope in a situation like theirs. But remember, a tiny spark can light up a dark room. So, why not be that spark? And, let’s be honest here—Aunt Sylvia might really appreciate that Netflix recommendation, but chances are, a survivor would appreciate knowing they don’t have to face their trauma alone even more. This could offer them a ray of hope and a path toward justice and healing.

In the end, what truly matters is that we really, truly give a damn. Because believe me, it makes a world of difference—more than you could ever imagine. We might be powerless over Catholic officials, but we’re never completely powerless. We have voices, we have empathy, and we have the strength to offer support in seemingly unbearable circumstances. Seeking justice may seem like a mountain to climb, but knowing that there’s someone by your side ready to lend a hand can make that climb feel just a little less steep.

Horowitz Law is a law firm representing victims and survivors of sexual abuse by religious authority figures and other clergy. If you need a lawyer because a member of a religious organization sexually abused you, contact us today at 888-283-9922 or [email protected] to discuss your options today. Our lawyers have decades of experience representing survivors of clergy sexual abuse nationwide. We can help.