Request A Free Consultation

Institutional Sexual Abuse: Religious Institutions

The sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic Church has commanded significant media attention since the Boston Globe published the findings of its groundbreaking investigation into allegations of molestation against Catholic priests in 2002.

Although the Catholic Church has received the majority of the public’s criticism on this issue, sexual abuse by religious leaders is not limited to the Catholic Church. Recently, cases of sexual abuse involving minors have come to light in Evangelical Christian, Hasidic Jewish, Islamic, and other religious communities.

Those who have suffered sexual abuse at the hands of a religious leader can feel extremely isolated, and may struggle with anger, doubt, confusion, and shame. Religious institutions are supposed to provide safe and supportive environments, and religious leaders should never violate the trust of the members of their communities. Victims of sexual abuse in religious institutions may not know where to turn, and other members of their religious community may not believe their allegations.

If you were the victim of sexual abuse perpetrated by a religious official, Estey & Bomberger is here to tell you that you are not alone. We may be able to represent you in a civil lawsuit against the religious institution in which the abuse took place. To learn more about the healing benefits of filing a civil lawsuit, click here.

Your Religious Leader Is Accused of Sexual Abuse. Now What?

If your priest, bishop, pastor, rabbi, minister, preacher, imam, or ayatollah has been accused of sexual abuse, you are likely experiencing a range of emotions and may not know what to do. Taking these steps can help you cope during this difficult time.

  • KEEP AN OPEN MIND. Many people refuse to believe that allegations of sexual abuse against a religious leader are true. Unfortunately, few allegations of sexual abuse turn out to be false. Try to keep an open mind and understand that this is a very difficult time for all members of your religious community, particularly the victim or victims of the alleged sexual abuse.
  • EMBRACE YOUR EMOTIONS.  Allow yourself to experience whatever emotions arise. You may feel angry, confused, hurt, sad, scared, or betrayed. If you are having a hard time dealing with these feelings, you may want to consider seeking professional assistance from a psychiatrist, therapist, or counselor.
  • RESPECT THE PRIVACY OF VICTIMS. If you do not know who the victims are, do not try to guess their identity. If you know who the victims are, respect their privacy. Levying an allegation of sexual abuse against a religious leader can be very difficult for a victim. Do not publicly identify these individuals without their explicit consent.
  • TALK TO YOUR FAMILY. If your religious leader has been accused of sexual abuse, you must have a candid conversation with your family about these allegations. Use age-appropriate language with your children. Tell them that if your religious leader has ever done anything that caused them discomfort, they should tell you right away. Maintain an open dialogue with your children, and let them know that they can always talk to you about their personal safety.
  • TAKE ABUSE ALLEGATIONS SERIOUSLY. If your child or another family member reveals that he or she was abused, call the police right away. Do not contact your church, synagogue, or mosque directly. The police will initiate a criminal investigation into the allegations.
  • CONTACT AN ATTORNEY. Sexual abuse is a crime. The police and prosecutor’s office will handle the criminal case against your child or family member’s abuser. You may also be able to file a civil lawsuit for money damages against the religious institution where the abuse took place.

Estey & Bomberger Represents Victims of Sexual Abuse

The experienced and compassionate California attorneys at Estey & Bomberger represent victims of sexual abuse in civil lawsuits against institutions where their abuse took place, including religious institutions.

If you or someone you know was abused by a religious leader, contact us today for a free and confidential consultation about your case. To speak with a sexual abuse attorney about your case, call (800) 925-0723.

Understanding Different Faiths

To learn more about the tenets and beliefs of different religions, we encourage you to visit the following links: