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Illinois Clergy Sexual Abuse Lawyer

If you or your loved one have been a victim of clergy sexual assault in Illinois, the Mahoney Law Firm is here to help. Ryan Mahoney, our experienced clergy sexual abuse lawyer, can guide you through the complicated process of filing a claim and going to court. Find out how our compassionate support and representation can help you get justice and compensation. Schedule a confidential consultation today and gain the closure you deserve.

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    Clergy sexual assault  has devastated religious groups nationwide and in Illinois in particular. Believers trust priests and other religious leaders to offer spiritual guidance. But all too often, clergy have used their positions of authority and influence to prey on their congregants. 

    Reports of clergy members exploiting, harming, and sexually abusing children and others have become widespread. Meanwhile, many churches and religious institutions have often covered up these allegations, choosing to protect and enable the perpetrators while putting their congregations at further risk.

    Recently. many investigations have exposed the Roman Catholic Church as a key perpetrator of abuse over the past few decades. According to a recent report by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, 3,946 survivors filed 4,250 allegations of clergy sexual abuse in 2020. These cases accused 2,771 clerics of sexual abuse.

    If you’re a survivor of clergy sexual abuse, know that you’re not alone. The Mahoney Law Firm has helped victims in Illinois receive the support, guidance, and advocacy they need to navigate the legal process. When you pursue legal actions against an abuser, you can hold those individuals— and the organizations enabling them — accountable. 

    You deserve justice, and our experienced clergy Illinois sexual assault lawyer, Ryan Mahoney, is here to help you through every step.

    What is Clergy Sexual Abuse?

    Clergy sexual abuse occurs when a priest or other person of authority or influence uses that position and power to sexually exploit or abuse a congregation member.  Victims of clergy sexual abuse may experience various forms of harassment and assault, such as the following: 

    • Sexualizing conversations
    • Touching without consent 
    • Creating a hostile environment
    • Pressuring for sexual actions
    • Using sexual language and jokes 
    • Invading personal space 

    Unfortunately, the true extent of clergy sexual assault is difficult to determine since many incidents go unreported. According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, only 310 out of every 1,000 sexual assaults are reported to law enforcement officials.

    Clergy sexual abuse has affected many communities, religious organizations, and individuals for decades. While the Roman Catholic Church has been in the spotlight, sexual misconduct and abuse have been reported in all faiths and denominations across the U.S., including Southern Baptist and United Methodist churches.

    What Percentage of Catholic Priests Have Been Accused of Sexual Abuse?

    The John Jay Report, commissioned by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2004, found that between 1950 and 2002, four percent of Catholic priests in the United States were accused of sexual abuse of minors.

    In Illinois, hundreds of abusive clerics and religious brothers with credible accusations against them have been identified by the Office of the Attorney General. This list is still growing as the Attorney General continues the investigation that began in 2018.

    Why You Need an Attorney for a Clergy Sexual Assault Case?

    Clergy sexual abuse leaves survivors with physical and emotional wounds. Many people have suffered in silence, unable to confront those who assaulted them.

    If you have been the victim of sexual assault in Illinois, you may want to consider pursuing criminal charges or filing a civil lawsuit to recover financial compensation for the harm you have suffered. 

    The Mahoney Law Firm understands the devastating impact that sexual assault has on victims. Our law firm is dedicated to providing compassionate and effective legal representation. With over 16 years of experience advocating for survivors of sexual assault, clergy sexual abuse attorney Ryan Mahoney has successfully held abusers accountable and obtained fair compensation for his clients. 

    We can assist with the following:

    • Investigating the details of your case
    • Gathering evidence to build a civil claim for damages
    • Interviewing witnesses who may have relevant information
    • Navigating any legal challenges 
    • Representing you at trial, if necessary

    With our legal representation, you can feel confident that your rights are protected. Contact our Madison County, Illinois, law office to schedule your free consultation today.

    Legal Options for Survivors of Clergy Sexual Abuse

    Clergy sexual abuse survivors have several legal options. The type of option you choose depends on the specific circumstances surrounding the incident.

    Whether you need representation for a criminal, civil, or alternative dispute resolution in Illinois, the Mahoney Law Firm is ready to represent you. We will help you find the ideal option for your circumstances and stand by your side.

    Criminal Charges

    Local, state,  or federal prosecutors can pursue criminal charges against the perpetrators of sexual abuse. They may also be able to pursue charges against those who aided, abetted, or covered up the perpetrators’ criminal acts. 

    Criminal proceedings determine whether a person is guilty or not guilty of a criminal offense. With a conviction, the judge or jury will impose penalties on the guilty party, including prison sentences, probation, and fines. By helping to secure a criminal conviction against your abuser, you may have a sense of justice as you prevent the perpetrator from continuing to harm others.

    Civil Litigation

    Civil litigation is the legal process of filing a lawsuit to resolve disputes between individuals, businesses, or organizations. In civil cases, plaintiffs seek compensation for the damages, such as physical or emotional injuries, that they have suffered from the defendants’ actions or negligence. 

    Sexual abuse survivors often pursue cases through civil courts, where they can recover damages for physical, emotional, and financial harm.

    Alternative Dispute Resolution

    Alternative dispute resolution, such as mediation or arbitration, is another option to consider. With this legal option, you will work with a qualified, neutral third-party mediator in civil court. 

    By listening to all sides of the case, the mediator helps the victim and the perpetrator reach a settlement or resolution outside of court.

    Who Can Be Held Liable for Clergy Sexual Abuse in Illinois?

    If you wish to file a civil lawsuit for a case of clergy sexual abuse, your lawyer will help you identify the liable parties, or the individuals and entities that can be held financially responsible for the losses that you have suffered. Liability can vary depending on the circumstances.

    Individual Clergy Member or Clerical Staff

    An individual perpetrator can be held liable for sexually assaulting or abusing a victim. The burden of proof in a civil lawsuit is lower than in a criminal case; it is only required to show that the individual is more likely than not responsible for the harm suffered rather than guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

    Religious Institution

    In many cases, the religious organization to which the perpetrator belongs can be held liable. Vicarious liability will apply to any employer for the wrongful or negligent acts of its employees. In Illinois, Catholic Churches are under the authority of dioceses, which can face liability for clergy sexual abuse as an employer would.

    Illinois is broken down into six dioceses:

    • Archdiocese of Chicago
    • Diocese of Belleville
    • Diocese of Joliet
    • Diocese of Peoria
    • Diocese of Rockford
    • Diocese of Springfield

    In addition, a diocese or religious institution could be held directly liable if it was aware of the abuse – as many are – and failed to take appropriate action. Failing to investigate and properly respond to sexual misconduct complaints could make a diocese or another religious organization liable for a victim’s abuse.

    Third Parties

    Some clergy sexual abuse cases involve third-party liability. This may include counselors, therapists or local authorities who had a duty to report the abuse but failed to do so. In these cases, the third party may share liability with the party or parties found responsible for clergy sexual abuse.

    What are Clergy Abuse Settlements, and How Much are They Worth?

    Clergy abuse settlements refer to the legal agreements reached between victims of sexual abuse by members of the clergy and the institutions or organizations that allegedly allowed the abuse to happen. 

    These settlements typically involve monetary compensation paid to the victims in exchange for dropping or settling legal claims against the institution or organization. 

    In lieu of settlements, some abuse survivors have taken their cases to trial and obtained verdicts against their abusers and others responsible for their harm.  

    According to one advocacy group tracking sex abuse settlements and monetary awards against U.S. Catholic clergy, the national average settlement and verdict amount for victims is $268,466.

    Types of Financial Compensation Available for Clergy Sex Abuse Survivors

    At The Mahoney Law Firm, we recognize that no amount of financial compensation is enough to make up for a traumatic case of clergy sexual abuse. This is a heinous crime that cannot be undone. However, we aim to help survivors achieve justice, closure and greater financial peace of mind as they embrace the future with the settlements and verdicts that we secure on their behalf.

    Common types of compensation available include:

    • Medical costs associated with treating abuse injuries
    • Mental health counseling or therapies
    • Prescription medications, such as antidepressants or anxiety medication
    • Lost wages, or lost future earnings if the abuse has a long-term impact on the ability to work
    • Legal costs, attorney fees and other out-of-pocket expenses
    • Pain, suffering, emotional distress and post-traumatic stress disorder
    • Loss of enjoyment of life

    Punitive damages may also be available. 735 ILCS 5/2-1115.05(b) states that a plaintiff can recover punitive damages if he or she shows by “clear and convincing evidence that the defendant’s conduct was with evil motive or with a reckless and outrageous indifference to a highly unreasonable risk of harm and with a conscious indifference to the rights and safety of others.

    Discuss the potential value of your specific case with our Illinois clergy sexual abuse attorneys before accepting an insurance settlement. Your lawyer will protect you from accepting a quick settlement that undervalues the full extent of your losses and the harm you suffered as a survivor of clergy sexual abuse.

    Clergy Sexual Abuse Case Challenges

    Taking clergy sexual abuse claims to court is challenging, as survivors must face some of the most prominent religious organizations in the world. 

    Power dynamics, finding sufficient evidence, and overcoming emotional burdens are all challenges that a legal team can help you overcome. The Mahoney Law Firm is experienced in ensuring victims receive the support and guidance they need to get justice.

    Power Dynamics

    The power dynamics inherent in clergy abuse cases make it difficult for victims to speak out. Even if victims aren’t minors when sexual abuse occurs, there is little place for uncoerced consent when the perpetrator is in a position of authority. 

    Power dynamics in a sexually abusive relationship refer to how one person exerts power and control over a victim. With an imbalance of power, the perpetrator often dominates and controls another person. When a person in power abuses their authority, the victim may feel compelled to comply with their requests. 

    Victims may not want to come forward as they fear retaliation or think no one will believe them.

    Lack of Evidence

    Unlike other types of abuse, sexual abuse rarely has witnesses, physical evidence, or documentation. This makes it difficult to prove the perpetrator’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. 

    Emotional Toll

    Litigating cases of clergy sexual abuse also takes a significant emotional toll on the victim, who must repeatedly relive their trauma throughout the legal process.

    What Should You do if a Clergy Member has Abused you?

    If a priest or other religious figure has abused you, take these steps to seek justice and aid your healing process. 

    1. Report the abuse to the appropriate authorities, such as law enforcement, child protective services, or the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline.
    2. Get medical attention as soon as possible to receive appropriate treatment and document any physical injuries or issues related to the abuse.  
    3. Seek representation from a lawyer specializing in clergy sexual abuse claims.

    Other religious figures can include the deacon, church office workers, and even religious private school teachers. If this applies to you, contact our Title IX Sexual Assault Lawyers in Illinois.

    Mahoney Law Firm Helps Survivors Seek Justice and Compensation

    If you or a loved one has been a victim of sexual abuse by church clergy in Illinois, seek legal representation as soon as possible. Doing so allows you to exercise your rights, seek justice, and hold your abuser accountable. 

    The experienced attorneys at The Mahoney Law Firm can help you understand your legal options and pursue justice and compensation. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation and learn more. Don’t suffer in silence — let us support you in fighting for your rights.

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