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What is the Average Settlement for Clergy Abuse?

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Church should be a safe space for all people of faith. However, this unfortunately not the case for many victims of clergy sexual abuse. Over the past several decades, victims of clergy in all denominations (most commonly the Catholic Church) have come forward, alleging child abuse and sexual abuse. These allegations have resulted in thousands of sexual abuse lawsuits and settlements. Naturally, many victims want to know before they speak up: what’s the average settlement for clergy abuse? For a free case review, call Reich & Binstock today at 713-622-7271.

What is Clergy Abuse?

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Clergy abuse is when any person in a ministerial position (priest, deacon, pastor, religious volunteer, etc) engages in physical or sexual abuse with anyone. Victims can include children, students, clients, churchgoers, etc. 

Types of Sexual Abuse by Clergy Members

Often times, it’s difficult for victims to recognize what’s sexual abuse and what isn’t. This is because abusers emotionally and mentally manipulate their victims to do things they don’t want to do while telling them that the abuse they’re suffering is okay. Additionally, abusers generally instruct their victims to never tell anyone about the sexual abuse. Therefore, victims don’t have anyone to help them realize that what they’re experiencing is abuse, not just friendly touching. If a clergy member is doing any of the things listed below to a victim, they have grounds to file a clergy sexual abuse lawsuit.

  • Fondling
  • Inappropriate touching of the genitalia
  • Undressing themselves or the victim
  • Tickling
  • Hugs that consistently last too long, instead of the socially acceptable quick hug
  • Kissing on the lips
  • Sexual intercourse
  • Inappropriate gifts, such as lingerie or sex toys
  • Sexual, erotic, or flirtatious conversations
  • Personal stories of sexual experiences
  • Invasive questions about your past sexual experiences or your past relationships
  • Seeking out sympathy due to their sexual partner’s shortcomings
  • Showing pornography
  • Masturbating or asking for mutual masturbation
  • Performing or asking for oral sex

Most Common Clergy Abuse Victims

Children, young adults, and women are the most common victims of sexual abuse. However, anyone of any age, race, or gender can suffer from sexual abuse. According to data from RAINN, 54% of victims are between the ages of 18 and 34 while 15% of victims are between the ages of 12 and 17. The same source also claims that as of 1998, approximately 17 million American women had been raped while 2 million American men had been raped. It’s important to note that all data regarding sexual abuse is likely a huge underestimation because many abuse survivors never come forward due to fear. Even fewer abuse survivors file lawsuits.

Long-Term Effects of Clergy Sexual Abuse

Even if a victim was only sexually abused one time in their life by any religious or Catholic clergy, that victim will likely suffer psychologically for years. Unfortunately, many victims of religious or Catholic clergy members are sexually abused more than once. Every victim of sexual assault copes differently, however, many suffer from:

  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
  • Suicidal thoughts and behaviors.
  • Long-term emotional distress.
  • Drug abuse.
  • Alcohol abuse.
  • Interpersonal conflict at work or school with coworkers, students, or bosses
  • General emotional distress at work or school, resulting in less productivity and success compared to other students or employees.
  • Friendship and relationship issues caused by lack of trust, heightened aggression, heightened fear, or general inability to feel close to loved ones.
  • Constantly bouncing from toxic, unhealthy romantic relationships because many victims find it familiar (and therefore almost comforting). This is because many abuse survivors don’t know what healthy romantic relationships feel like.

Which Religions and Denominations Have Clergy Sexual Abuse Claims?

Anyone in religion or denomination can suffer clergy sexual abuse. However, the Catholic Church, the Methodist Church, the Southern Baptist Convention, and the Mormon Church have long-term histories of alleged abuse and abuse allegations. As stated previously, much of the sexual abuse data listed below is likely a major underestimation.

Catholic Church Abuse Data

No one will ever know the true number of clergy sexual abuse cases within the Roman Catholic Church. This is because many victims of church officials will likely never speak up due to the fear instilled by their abusers and due to the fear that no one will believe their story. Additionally, the Catholic Church has been covering up child sexual abuse claims for decades. But Bishop Accountability (an online archive of sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Church) has reported over 3,000 civil lawsuits against accused priests since 1950. 

Additionally, a study conducted by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice revealed that 4,450 of the 110,000 Catholic priests (4%) have been accused of child sexual abuse between 1950 and 2002. Of the accused priests, only 252 (5.7% of the accused and less than 0.1% of total priests) were actually convicted of child sexual abuse. Only 100 of these Catholic Church officials went to jail for the sexual abuse claims.

How Much Money Has the Catholic Church Paid to Sexual Abuse Victims?

Over the course of several decades, the Catholic Church in the United States have paid out more than $3 billion in sexual abuse settlements. The sum of each settlement varies greatly based on the facts of each case. It’s likely that this number will go up as victims file more sexual abuse lawsuits.

Methodist Church Abuse Data

There is limited data regarding sexual abuse claims in the Methodist Church, however, they still exist. In a survey of 4,374 people conducted by the GCSRW in 2017, 58.5% of women and 35.7% of men reported sexual abuse within the Methodist Church. Of those 4,374 people who answered this survey, 23% claimed that local church pastors were the perpetrators and 15% claimed that other local church leaders were the perpetrators.

Southern Baptist Convention Abuse Data

According to a report from the Houston Chronicle in 2019, approximately 380 clergy members and various religious leaders within the Southern Baptist Convention faced clergy sexual abuse claims. The source also claims that these abuse allegations left behind over 700 victims since 1998. Similarly to Catholic officials, Southern Baptist clergy members have actively tried to cover up the clergy sexual abuse claims by moving them to different churches.

Mormon Church Abuse Data

There is hardly any clergy sexual abuse data within the Mormon Church that provides specific numbers or statistics. However, that doesn’t mean that the Mormon Church hasn’t been under fire over the last few decades due to clergy sexual abuse cases. 

For example, the Associated Press released an article in 2020. It claimed that a victim sued the church for its alleged role in Boy Scouts sexual abuse cases. Basically, the sexual abuse lawsuits claimed that the Mormon Church had purposely covered up numerous sexual abuse cases in Arizona spanning back decades. Another 2019 national report claimed that the Mormon Church utilized its sexual abuse hotline to discourage victims of clergy from speaking up and pursuing criminal charges.

Financial Compensation for Clergy Sexual Abuse Lawsuit

Clergy sexual abuse victims can suffer lifelong mental health issues from their past abuse. That’s why sexual abuse lawyers at Reich & Binstock fight tirelessly for abuse survivors to receive financial compensation. We know that seeking compensation and receiving that money will never undo clergy abuse cases. However, compensation programs may allow an abuse survivor to pursue the therapy they need to heal. Listed below are damages that our lawyers can help you fight for.

  • Present and future medical bills, whether that be for physical health or mental health following sexual assault(s)
  • Pain and suffering
  • Losses specifically dedicated to how sexual assault has impacted a victim’s personal relatonships
  • Lost wages due to extreme emotional distress
  • Any other damages depending on the specific facts of clergy abuse lawsuits

Factors That Can Affect Average Settlement for Clergy Abuse

The average settlement for clergy abuse victims in the United States is about $268,000 according to Bishop Accountability. However, sexual abuse victims can receive a much higher settlement than this depending on the factors listed below.

  • Sexual abuse duration or severity
  • The costs of treatment for emotional and physical injuries caused by the abuse

Non-Monetary Provisions Included in Clergy Abuse Settlements

It’s important to note that some sexual abuse lawsuits result in non-monetary provisions for the victim. Non-monetary provisions are basically terms in clergy abuse settlements that don’t involve any exchange of money. Common non-monetary provisions in Catholic Church sexual abuse settlements include:

  • Publishing a list of all known abusive clergy members
  • Making secret documents about child sexual abuse in the church public
  • Creating an easy way to report sexual abuse within the church (for example: a hotline)
  • Changing Catholic diocese policies in order to protect the sexually abused and to prevent future abuse

The main goal of non-monetary provisions in sexual abuse settlements is moreso to protect future victims rather than compensate current victims.

Victim Compensation Programs for Clergy Sexual Abuse Victims

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Because of the exorbitant amount of child sexual abuse claims towards the Catholic Church specifically, some Catholic dioceses created victim compensation programs. While the money that victims receive from these programs can pay for things like therapy and lost wages, these programs mostly benefit the Catholic Church. This is because Catholic dioceses want to prevent the victim from filing a civil lawsuit or pressing criminal charges, so the church provides compensation in order to achieve this. Civil lawsuits are not only costly for the Catholic Church, they also reveal even more information including which clergy member actively covered up the child sexual abuse.

Statute of Limitations for Clergy Sexual Abuse in Texas

Victims of child sexual abuse in Texas currently have 30 years to report the crime. According to the Associated Press, the Statute of Limitations was recently extended from age 33 to age 48.

Call Reich & Binstock Today

If you or someone you love is a victim of clergy sexual abuse, you may have grounds to file a sexual abuse case. Each abuse case is incredibly different, so that’s why it’s important to call an experienced sexual abuse lawyer at Reich & Binstock. We will provide specific legal advice on the facts of your case and tell you whether you have grounds to file a child sexual abuse case. We want to ensure that all victims of clergy members receive justice. Call us today at 713-622-7271 for a free case evaluation.

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