Was Your Child Sexually Abused at Church?

Many people seek comfort and guidance from local church leaders. Churchgoing families often trust the clergy members to teach their children how to be kind to others and live a good life. Most people who work with the church would never harm a child in any way. However, some religious leaders take advantage of this trust and hurt children in their community.

Sexual abuse at church can cause victims to suffer severe psychological and physical injuries. If your child has been sexually abused while at church, Farmer, Jaffe, Weissing, Edwards, Fistos & Lehrman, P.L. will fight for his/her rights by filing suit against your church and the offending clergy member.

Call us today to see how we can help you: 954-524-2820.

What is sexual abuse?

Sexual abuse occurs any time an adult engages in sexual activities with a child. Sexual abuse of a child is not limited to intercourse. Common forms of sexual abuse include:

  • Sending sexually explicit messages or photographs to a child
  • Exposing oneself to children or forcing children to expose themselves
  • Various forms of sexual touching
  • Forcing a child to engage in any sort of sexual behavior

Sexual abuse that occurs in the church can be especially traumatizing, as it often causes victims to suffer for years afterwards.

Who is responsible for child sexual abuse at church?

In most cases involving sexual abuse, the clergy member responsible for the abuse and the church will both be responsible for the child’s injury.

Clergy Members

In many cases, priests, deacons, pastors, and other members of the clergy sexually abuse children. Clergy members are often in a position of trust and authority. They may build a relationship with the child by listening to him/her and advising him/her on personal matters. As their bond strengthens, the clergy member may start initiating more physical contact with the child and making inappropriate comments. The abuser will then start to engage in sexual behavior with the child.

At this stage, the child may feel uncomfortable and unwilling to participate. The abuser may then threaten the child or warn that if the child tells anyone, God will be disappointed in him/her. S/he may even suggest that no one will believe the child over a respected clergy member.

Religious Organizations

Religious organizations such as the Catholic Church, Evangelicals, Mormons, and Methodists have a responsibility to churchgoers to make sure that their places of worship are safe for both children and adults. If the church organization is negligent in any way, it could be liable for your child’s injuries. Some forms of negligence in church sexual abuse cases include:

  • Failure to conduct background checks on all members of the clergy
  • Failure to thoroughly investigate all sexual abuse claims
  • Failure to provide adequate security at the church
  • Failure to terminate clergy members who have committed sexual abuse
  • Allowing clergy members under investigation to be alone with children

How can I prove that my child was sexually abused?

If your child was sexually abused in church, you can file a civil lawsuit against those responsible for your child’s injuries. Assault, battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligence are some common causes of action for sexual abuse cases.

Proving sexual abuse is not always easy. Children may bury the abuse inside themselves for months or even years before coming forward. As soon as you find out about the abuse, you should take your child to a doctor immediately. The doctor will do a complete work-up and note any evidence of abuse.

The medical report will be a critical part of your claim for damages. The doctor who treated your child and other medical professionals may also take the stand to testify to the medical aspects of the case.

You may also want to talk to other church employees or members of the church. If anyone has observed any inappropriate relations between a clergy member and your child, that person can be a key witness in your case. His/her testimony will help establish that sexual abuse did in fact occur. (It is important to note that certain laws might protect clergy members from testifying.)

The most powerful testimony may be from the child. The child can take the stand and describe exactly what s/he went through. However, not all children are able to process such extreme trauma. Some children may be too scared or depressed to take the stand.

Presenting medical records, eyewitness testimony, victim testimony, and testimony from medical experts will help you prove your case in court.

What damages can I recover for my child?

Child survivors of sexual abuse are entitled to damages for their physical and emotional trauma. Parents of sexual abuse victims are also entitled to damages. Damages might include:

  • Medical expenses: Victims of sexual abuse may have to undergo numerous doctor’s visits, surgery, and psychological treatment. You can recover compensation to cover all your child’s medical expenses.
  • Pain and suffering: Child victims may suffer years of emotional trauma after the abuse. We will work to place a monetary value on this pain and suffering.
  • Emotional trauma: Sexual abuse can traumatize both the victim and his/her loved ones. Both the victim and his/her parents can recover compensation for the emotional trauma they sustained.
  • Loss of enjoyment of life: Sexual abuse victims and their families may receive damages for the loss of enjoyment of life caused by this experience.

People go to church to get closer to God and spend time with loved ones. Members of the clergy who sexually abuse children ruin that experience.

The attorneys at Farmer, Jaffe, Weissing, Edwards, Fistos, & Lehrman, P.L. are sensitive to the suffering child sexual abuse victims and survivors have gone through. Our team has successfully obtained compensation for countless victims and their families. We will not let you go through this alone. We will determine who is liable and hold that party liable for the harm your children endured.

Let us be your path to justice. For more information on how we can get justice for your child, call 954-524-2820 today.