Sexual Abuse in the Church
All parents want their children to grow up in safe and loving environments. Families who attend church expect that environment to be safe and welcoming, like a second home. Unfortunately, that isn’t always true. Reports of sexual abuse within the Catholic Church have heightened the public’s awareness of this serious problem and made families second-guess the safety of their church. The Catholic Church, however, is not unique. Sexual abuse perpetrated by clergy and trusted advisors within the church community can happen in any faith. Shame, fear, and guilt mixed with religion can be a potent force that intimidates and prevents children from speaking up about sexual abuse. However, it is important that children know they can turn to a parent or adult for help.
Victims of sexual abuse suffer serious psychological and emotional trauma. Sexual abuse includes not only sexual contact but also showing sexual images to children, or making sexual suggestions to children. The long-term negative effects of childhood sexual abuse can include a range of behavioral disorders along with relationship difficulties, substance abuse, sexual dysfunction, diminished self-esteem, anger problems, anxiety and more. Individualized counseling sessions, trauma focused behavioral therapy, Solution Focused therapy, or group therapy administered by a licensed therapist can help set the child on a path to recovery. Treatment is based on what is best for the individual. Some victims of childhood sexual abuse may require life-long therapy in order to process and heal from the trauma inflicted on them.
Sexual abuse claims in the Catholic Church
Shock and outrage followed reports of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church in 2002. The scandal that broke in Boston was not isolated to that city. In late 2018, reports of sexual misconduct by Indianapolis area priests hit the media. Allegations in one report date back several decades according to the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. Archbishop Charles C. Thompson issued a public statement following the report for renewed transparency and accountability of the clergy. He further stated that he would be seeking the guidance of the Archdiocesan Review Board to assist in preparing a list for publication of all clergy, living and deceased, with a substantiated claim of sexual abuse against a child or minor.
These new conversations within churches and religious organizations are a positive step toward preventing future sexual impropriety committed by clergy. However, the church still needs to be held accountable for the many years of sexual abuse alleged by countless victims. Some of these victims may have repressed these memories as a form of coping and are now realizing this trauma. Media reports have uncovered that some churches reassigned clergy after reports of sexual abuse in a way to keep the abuse quiet rather than address the wrongdoing and show concern for the child’s well-being. This action allowed these sexual predators access to more children.
Our attorneys are currently investigating claims against the Archdiocese across Indiana, including Indianapolis, Ft. Wayne, and Evansville. These investigations preceded the list published by the Archdiocese of Indianapolis of the nineteen (19) priests with substantiated claims of abuse against them on October 11, 2018. The investigation process can be complex from both a legal and an emotional standpoint for clients. From a legal standpoint, the statute of limitations which essentially creates a deadline for when claims can be brought, could keep victims from seeking justice in a court of law. For this reason, it is important to speak with an attorney as soon as possible to understand your rights related to your specific case. From an emotional standpoint, talking about the events can be difficult for victims of sexual abuse. Our trauma-trained attorneys have experience guiding victims through the investigation process in a way that does not revictimize them. This can make a considerable difference for clients as they navigate the legal process in bringing a claim.
In addition to our legal investigation, the church has implemented a process for doing an internal investigation of claims made against clergy members that may not protect the victim’s interests. For this reason, we strongly urge anyone considering bringing a lawsuit against the church to talk with an experienced sexual abuse attorney before they contact the church.
Sexual abuse claims in Southern Baptist Convention
The sexual abuse crisis with in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) was brought to the forefront of public concern following a 2019 news report about an investigation conducted by journalists at the Houston Chronicle and the San Antonio Express-News. The public outcry that followed finally led to a decision by SBC leaders to allow an independent investigation into sexual abuse claims within the church. Guidepost Solutions was hired to investigate allegations of abuse committed by SBC Executive Committee members, reports of mishandling of abuse allegations and allegations of mistreatment of sexual abuse victims by SBC Executive Committee members. This investigation covered a timespan of more than 20 years.
In response to the Guidepost report, SBC leaders released a list of church leaders and volunteers who had been accused of sexual abuse. View a list of Indiana SBC Accused Clergy.
Sexual abuse claims in fundamental Baptist churches
Hundreds of accounts of sexual abuse and molestation surfaced against numerous fundamental Baptist churches following an investigation by Fort Worth, Texas based newspaper the Star-Telegram. The media outlet conducted an eight month investigation into claims of sexual abuse and molestation in 2018 after two men were arrested on charges of sexual abuse at a Mesquite, Texas church. The investigation uncovered an alarming number of independent fundamental Baptist churches and affiliated institutions with numerous accusations of sexual abuse. By the Star-Telegram’s own report, it counted 187 separate entities involved in more than 412 allegations of sexual misconduct against youth and adults who attended or were employed by the churches throughout the United States. Some alleged abusers had dozens of accusations against them. Many of the victims were girls between the ages of 14 and 18. The majority of the sexual abuse claims are centralized in the Midwest including Ohio and Indiana.
The investigation uncovered the fact that many alleged abusers did not face any criminal charges. Instead these church leaders were often transferred to another church outside of the city where the alleged abuse occurred. Unlike the Catholic Church, the fundamental Baptist church considers itself to be made up of independent entities. However, many of these churches have affiliations through theological colleges or pastoral friendships. This system allowed accused abusers to leave the church communities where the sexual abuse or misconduct occurred and relocate to a new area. And similar to the Catholic Church, many of the victims of sexual abuse in the Baptist church reported the same feelings of shame and guilt associated with the abuse and a fear of coming forward to report the pastor or clergy member.
As more sexual abuse victims come forward and tell their stories, the fundamental Baptist church has yet to take action to address these reports.
Recent report of church sexual abuse
After reports of widespread sexual abuse in Southern Baptist Church, a church in Austin holds panel- KXAN, February 2019
A report published by the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News found around 380 Southern Baptist Church leaders and volunteers faced allegations of sexual misconduct over the course of several years. An Austin Baptist Church hosted a panel to address concerns of its congregation about sexual abuse prevention and support for sexual abuse survivors.
Roncalli High School chaplain suspended amid sex abuse allegation, Archdiocese says- Indianapolis Star, February 2019
Fr. David Marcotte was suspended from ministry after a minor came forward accusing the priest of sexual abuse in 2016. The Archdiocese stated that it received the report of abuse from its victim assistance coordinator. Fr. Marcotte’s posts include serving as a chaplain at Roncalli and as a Catholic chaplain at the University of Indianapolis. He also served at SS. Francis and Clare Parish in Greenwood.
Other Types Of Sexual Abuse Cases We Handle
We are proud to help families heal through the legal pursuit of sexual abuse claims. Here are a few more specific examples of cases we’ve handled.
- Adult on child sexual abuse
- Daycare sexual abuse
- Child-on-child sexual abuse
- Doctor on patient sexual abuse
- Nursing home sexual abuse
- Residential treatment center sexual abuse
- School or sports organization sexual abuse
- UCLA gynecologist sexual abuse
Indiana Sexual Abuse Lawyers
If you, your child, or someone else you know is a victim of sexual abuse or molestation, contact us. Our attorneys have helped many families get compensation to pay for the help they need in order to heal after sexual abuse. We understand the sensitive nature of this type of lawsuit and prioritize our clients’ privacy and trust while fighting to get them the compensation they need to assist them in healing and coping from sexual abuse.