CLERGY ABUSE LAWYER

Clergy Abuse Lawyer in Houston, Texas

Clergy abuse takes many forms and has affected people of all ages throughout the Houston, Texas, area. If you have experienced sexual abuse within the church, Reich & Binstock can help you. We treat every case individually and work one-on-one with clients to make sure their voice is heard. Sexual assault and exploitation of minors is intolerable and clergy members need to be held accountable for their actions. Let us help you get the justice you deserve after being betrayed by the Catholic church. Call us today at 713-622-7271, or fill out our online intake form.

What Is Clergy Abuse?

Clergy sexual abuse is when someone in a ministerial role (clergy, religious, or lay) engages in sexual contact or sexualized behavior with a congregant, employee, student, or counseling client. Because a minister has a different level of power than a counselee or a member of their congregation, professional ethics forbid sexual contact or sexualized behavior.

What Is Considered Sexual Abuse by a Clergy Member?

Sexual abuse can take the form of physical contact by a ministerial figure, such as “accidental” contact with the body’s sexual parts, tickling that makes you uneasy, pressing against your body during a hug, improper gifts, and suggestive remarks or sexual conversation.

Clergy Abuse in Churches Nationwide

Congregants rely on their clergy for spiritual and emotional direction. Unfortunately, a number of survivors of sexual abuse have come forward in recent years alleging priests in the Roman Catholic Church sexually abused young children. According to research by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, 4,450 of the 110,000 priests (4%) who served as clergy for the Roman Catholic Church between 1950 and 2002 have faced or are currently facing allegations of child sexual abuse.

Why Is Child Sexual Abuse So Common in the Catholic Church?

Sexual predators thrive in areas where their prey is most likely to be found. Places such as churches and other religious organizations, schools, sports clubs, and groups with large numbers of children vulnerable to sexual predators are commonly attractive to these predators.

Additionally, more than 90% of sexual abuse victims know their abuser. The majority of sex abusers, particularly those who abuse minors, are family members or in positions of trust or authority, such as parents, uncles, aunts, teachers, clergy, and sports coaches. 

Legal Options for Sexual Abuse Survivors 

A sexual abuse civil lawsuit is a legal option for survivors. Premises liability rules allow parties other than the offender to be held liable for sexual abuse. This means that if an institution fails to offer security against a recognized risk, they are being negligent. 

The negligent hiring and supervision of employees is another avenue survivors may pursue. This legal notion of liability applies when a party hires or retains an employee who poses a risk to minors. Failure to vet a candidate, failing to complete background checks, hiring an employee with a known criminal record of similar actions, or maintaining an employee despite the threats the employee posed are all examples of negligent behavior in this context. 

Short Term Effects of Sexual Abuse

  • Fear, worry, guilt, humiliation, and depression 
  • Using violence and rage as a form of expression. This can take the form of fleeing, vandalism, theft, setting fires, or injuring others or animals.
  • Physical trauma that can include injury to the genitals, painful urination, stomach problems, sexually transmitted infections, and pregnancy
  • Low self-confidence
  • Sleep disturbances and nightmares
  • Disruptions in sexual behavior

Long Term Effects of Sexual Abuse

  • Abuse of alcohol and drugs
  • A child who has been mistreated and has not received competent care is twice as likely to abuse others as an adult.
  • Suicide, depression, and low self-esteem
  • They may become more or less sexually active as adults and have distorted views of sex. They may be unable to trust themselves, their friends, or other adults in their lives.

What Damages Can You Receive for Sexual Abuse?

An experienced clergy abuse lawyer may be able to help you recover the following if the main elements of your case can be established:

  • Bills for medical care, including treatment from psychologists and other professionals to help you cope with the emotional consequences of sexual abuse
  • Pain and suffering
  • Losses based on how sexual abuse has affected your personal relationships
  • Many other types of damages that vary depending on the facts of your case.

According to the non-profit Bishop Accountability, after legal fees, the average compensation for clerical abuse allegations is $268,466. However, depending on your situation and area, you could get considerably more.

What Is Injunctive Relief?

Injunctive relief or an injunction is a measure that prevents or requires a party to do something. It is usually only used when there is no other legal remedy and irreparable harm will occur if the injunction is not put in place. This type of remedy is intended to avoid future wrongdoing.

Temporary restraining orders, preliminary injunctions, and permanent injunctions are the most common types of injunctive remedies. Each has a distinct level of time investment, as their modifying terms imply.

How to File a Clergy Abuse Claim

The specifics of filing a claim will differ from survivor to survivor depending on the location and intensity of the abuse. Based on the details of your situation, an expert clergy abuse lawyer can assist you in building a strong case against the liable diocese.

Criminal vs Civil Court Claims for Clergy Abuse

A civil case occurs when one party injures another due to negligence or a failure to uphold a specified responsibility.  The plaintiff is frequently the party who has been damaged or who has been the victim of a crime. 

The standard of proof in a civil case is lower than in a criminal prosecution. The plaintiff must only show by a “preponderance of the evidence” or “clear and convincing proof” that the defendant is liable for the claim. In most civil cases, the outcome is decided by a civil court judge. Any punishment is usually a monetary penalty. An injunction or an order to change behavior may also be issued in a civil action.

On the other hand, a criminal case is a crime against the government. The accused broke the law by allegedly victimizing a person, so they will face criminal charges from state or federal authorities. Sexual assault is an example of a criminal offense that can be prosecuted in a court of law.

The burden of proof in a criminal prosecution is higher than in a civil case because the punishment can be more severe. The prosecution must prove the defendant committed the crime “beyond a reasonable doubt.”  The outcome of a criminal trial is usually decided by a jury. Punishments a convicted criminal may receive include prison time, probation, and/or monetary fines. Some criminal offenses can lead to civil charges.

Clergy Abuse Statute of Limitations

Unfortunately, many victims will never see their day in court due to statutes of limitations. However, 15 states have expanded their legislation on child abuse statutes of limitations. These statutes include look-back provisions that allow people to register complaints no matter the amount of time since they were abused and/or extend the time limit for victims to file civil cases. Many jurisdictions also have “discovery” provisions that allow victims to sue even if they realized the impact of their abuse years later. Texas is among the states that have changed the statute of limitations to give victims more time to file a civil case by lowering the age limit to file to 48 from 33. 

Speak Up And You Will Be Heard

If you were abused by a member of the clergy, it’s important to know you aren’t alone. Thousands of people have already reported abuse by Catholic church officials in the last few years and many of them have won their cases. At Reich & Binstock, we believe what happened to you is inexcusable. While we can’t change the past, we can help you advocate for what’s right today.

We Pursue The Maximum Damages Available

If you or a loved one suffered abuse at the hands of a Catholic priest or clergy member in Texas, you may be able to receive compensation for:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Therapy or rehabilitation
  • Disability
  • Medical treatment
  • Other incidents and experiences related to your abuse

Contact a Clergy Abuse Lawyer Today

Dennis C. Reich and Robert J. Binstock have over 30 years of experience representing personal injury, product liability and other legal cases. We are skilled at evaluating clergy abuse cases, whether catholic or part of another religious organization. Call 713-622-7271 to speak with a clergy abuse lawyer about filing a claim, or fill out our online intake form to get started today.

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There is a never a fee unless we recover on your behalf.

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