Is There Clergy Sexual Abuse in Connecticut?
The widespread sexual abuse on the part of the clergy shocked the world when it was revealed at the beginning of this century. The Oscar-winning film Spotlight highlighted how a group of reporters in Boston uncovered a pattern of repeated abuse and cover-up by the Catholic Church, and many people could be excused for thinking that this scandal is behind us.
Unfortunately, for the victims, the impact of the abuse they suffered will never go away. And in this period of #metoo, more victims are coming forward every day, and we’re learning about how prevalent sexual assault against children really is.
Is Clergy Sexual Abuse Still a Problem?
The New York Times recently ran a feature that looked at the underlying causes of sexual abuse by Catholic priests and tried to account for why it continues to be a problem. They found many reasons, starting with the sheer size of the church, which can be found in every community in America. Furthermore, because priests occupy an exalted position, they are trusted authority figures. Even when the signs of abuse may seem obvious on the outside, those most intimately involved are unable to see the truth. Family members, peers, and adult supervisors look the other way not because they don’t care, but because they can’t believe it’s really happening.
This culture of denial and silence is complicated because the victims of this sexual abuse are children. They do not fully understand what is happening to them, and they assume that a trusted adult, one who represents religious authority, needs to be obeyed. This means it may be years, or even decades, before they are able to tell anyone what has happened to them.
Sexual predators cultivate their victims before initiating the abuse, often picking out children who are vulnerable and less likely to speak out. The New York Times article explains, “The priest gradually gained [one victim’s] confidence by teaching him how to gamble on horses, plied him with beers in the rectory, showed him pornographic magazines, took pictures of him naked and eventually raped him.” This abuse is horrible to think about, but our reluctance to speak frankly about what is happening is another reason why it continues.
What Are the Symptoms of Sexual Abuse?
The sexual abuse of a minor can take many forms. This first thing you need to know is that someone who is underage can never consent to sexual activity. There are no exceptions. Parents and guardians should also be aware that sexual abuse does not always involve contact. For example, perpetrators may expose themselves, masturbate in front of the victim, share pornography, or make obscene phone calls and texts.
If you have even the slightest suspicion that a member of your church is behaving inappropriately with your child, pay close attention for the following signs of abuse:
- Bleeding or bruising on or around the genitals
- Pain or itching on or around the genitals
- Blood or stains on underclothing
- Difficulty walking or sitting
- Urinary tract or yeast infections
- Sudden changes in hygiene, such as excessive bathing or a refusal to bathe
- Depression or expressing suicidal thoughts
- Sudden drop in grades or unexplained absences
- Overly protective of siblings
- Runs away
- Inflicts harm against him or herself, such as cutting or burning
- Is frightened by physical contact
What Recourse Do Victims of Clergy Sexual Abuse Have?
If you find evidence that your child was abused by a member of the clergy, or if you yourself were abused, the good news is that over the last two decades, awareness of the problem has increased. There are more options than ever to contact authorities, get counseling, and receive compensation. Even so, there are many obstacles that you and your child will face.
Sexual abuse can lead to a lifetime of emotional and mental trauma that will be difficult to overcome. Evidence indicates that victims offer suffer post-traumatic stress disorder. It could take years to fully come to terms with what happened.
Complicating matters, the statute of limitations for minor sexual abuse is often far too short. In Connecticut, the law states that charges can be filed against perpetrators of child sexual assault up to 30 years after the victim turned 18, or up to five years after he/she reported the crime. This is more than for victims in many other states, but the longer you wait to take action, the more complicated litigation becomes. If a great deal of time has passed, evidence will have disappeared, memories been affected, and witnesses may no longer be available.
No matter the circumstances, the sexual abuse of children by members of a church or religious congregation is a serious crime that will have a long-lasting impact. If you or someone you love has been abused, seek out legal guidance. At Naizby Law, we provide compassionate counsel for victims of clergy sexual abuse. If you have questions or need to talk, call (203) 245-8500.
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For over 20 years, John has exclusively represented people (not corporations).
John has received the America’s Top 100 Attorneys Lifetime Achievement Award.
Since the year 2000, John has been a Board Certified Civil Lawyer.
John is a graduate and senior instructor at the Trial Lawyers College.