The effects of sex abuse can change your life, especially when it takes place in a religious institution. If you or someone you loved was a victim of sexual abuse by a clergy member, you might have the legal grounds to file a claim.
An experienced clergy abuse attorney at Nessler & Associates can discuss your legal options. We can guide you through the legal process and assist you in securing justice for your case.
What is Sexual Abuse By a Clergy Member?
Sexual abuse refers to any non-consensual or sexual behavior. It can take many forms, including molestation, sexual assault, and rape. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that 1 in every 4 girls and 1 in every 13 boys suffer sexual abuse during childhood.
In most sexual abuse situations, the victims have close relationships with their abusers, including the clergy. It is not uncommon for sexual abuse to occur in places that are supposed to be safe, like churches and youth groups. The perpetrators may attempt to coerce victims into silence or persuade them that they are somehow responsible for their abuse.
Effects of Clergy Abuse
Experiencing sex abuse can permanently alter the course of your life, causing you and your family bodily, mental, and financial damage. The CDC estimates that the economic burden of sexual abuse reached $9.3 billion in 2015 and has grown since.
You may have difficulty trusting others as a victim of child sexual abuse. Sex abuse victims usually have trouble regulating their emotions and mental health after a traumatic event. Furthermore, abuse may affect you throughout your lifetime in the following ways:
Injuries can include bruising, genital injuries, broken bones, and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). You or a loved one may need ongoing medical care and treatment to help recover from injuries.
Anxiety, depression, suicide ideation, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) result from sexual abuse. PTSD has long-term effects that can impair your mental state, including your ability to care for yourself and others.
You may have felt that you could not trust anyone after the assault. The abuse may have affected your ability to develop relationships with others and increased your dependency on alcohol or drugs. Substance abuse is also common among many sex abuse victims to cope with their trauma.
The trauma from sexual abuse may interfere with your career as you may be unable to focus on school and find long-term work. This disrupts your earning power and affects your long-term economic well-being and financial resources.
Long-Term Impact on Mental and Physical Health
Childhood sexual abuse can lead to chronic diseases, such as cancer, heart disease, and obesity, later in life. The risk of contracting STIs is also higher with risky sexual behavior and unprotected sexual contact. As a result of child sexual abuse, people are at double the risk of non-sexual intimate partner violence in their adult lives.
Is There a Statute of Limitations for Clergy Abuse in Florida?
Legal action can serve as a means of seeking justice and holding the responsible party liable for your abuse. Your attorney can help you submit your civil claim within Florida’s statute of limitations. These time limits establish when you must sue for intentional abuse:
- 7 years after you reach the age of majority, which is 18 years old in Florida
- 4 years after you stop depending on your abuser
- 4 years from the time when you discover your injury and connect it to the abuse
If you were under 16 at the time of the abuse, you could start your lawsuit anytime.
The attorneys at Nessler & Associates have a firm grasp of these laws and can help determine if your case meets the established criteria. We can help you assess your options and whether any exceptions apply in your case. Contact our law firm for a free consultation so we can learn about the circumstances of your abuse and discuss your legal options.
What to Do if You Believe Someone May Be a Victim of Clergy Abuse
If you have concerns about a loved one’s sexual abuse, talk to them privately and ask if they are okay. They may feel anxious, fearful, or confused after experiencing the abuse. If they disclose their abuse, listen without judgment and offer support.
Avoid making judgments or blaming them for the abuse as they may be afraid of being judged or disbelieved. You can take these other steps to help them after the abuse:
- If you believe your loved one’s safety is at risk, consider contacting law enforcement or another appropriate authority.
- Respect the person’s decision if they don’t want to involve the authorities yet. They may need time to process what happened before proceeding with an investigation and other measures such as therapy or medical treatment.
- If your loved one is ready, speak with an experienced clergy abuse attorney at Nessler & Associates who understands religious institutional systems. We have experience litigating sexual abuse cases involving the clergy and can provide compassionate support for exploring your legal options.
Economic and Non-Economic Damages Available to Victims of Clergy Abuse
You become the plaintiff when you file a personal injury lawsuit in Florida civil court against a clergy member who sexually abused you. The court offers relief to victims of clergy sexual abuse. Some damages include:
- Compensation for doctor’s visits, imaging tests, and other medical expenses
- Psychological and psychiatric therapy fees
- Antidepressants, anxiety medications, and other prescription medications
- Loss of wages and future earning capacity
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Lost enjoyment of life
By filing a lawsuit with the guidance of the personal injury attorneys at Nessler & Associates, you can hold the abuser accountable. You may also help other victims come forward with their experiences and ensure that other people do not suffer the same fate.
Our attorneys can help you pursue non-economic and financial compensation even if your abuse occurred decades ago. Your lawsuit could be the first step toward justice, closure, and peace when you decide to work with us on your case.
Contact Our Florida Clergy Sexual Abuse Lawyers Today
If you or someone you know has been a victim of clergy abuse, it is vital to seek legal assistance as soon as possible to ensure your rights are protected. Nessler & Associates is committed to protecting the rights of clergy abuse victims against their abusers.
We will work tirelessly to hold the abusers accountable and to get you the compensation you deserve. Contact us today at (800) 727-8010 for a free case review.