Santa Clara Attorneys Hold Religious Child Sexual Abusers Responsible
Dedicated counsel representing victims of sexual assault and abuse in the Bay Area
Your place of worship – whether a church, temple, mosque or other sacred place – is the place you choose to express your faith and connect with your community. It should never be a setting for assault or abuse. When you or your loved one becomes a victim at the hands of religious figures you trust, you may not know where to turn.
The sexual abuse and assault attorneys at Taylor & Ring have decades of experience protecting the rights of people just like you. Our legal team in Santa Clara and San Jose understands the trauma and feelings of stigma survivors of sexual abuse by a religious figure endure. We can help you find justice and hopefully begin the healing process. By filing a claim against the perpetrator of your abuse, you can both seek compensation and end the cycle of abuse. Call us today to tell us your story.
Bay Area religious leaders can misuse their power to tragic results
If a person in a religious position of authority or power – like a priest, nun, rabbi, imam, member of the clergy or other religious figure – sexually exploits a child as part of their work, they’re committing sexual abuse or molestation. This can include any kind of unwanted and non-consensual sexual contact, including inappropriate touching, groping, fondling, pornography and sexually suggestive activities.
The power differential between a religious authority and a churchgoer or follower is not unlike that of a doctor and patient. With religion, that relationship can be even more sacred. And, because a religious leader holds a position of power and respect over their congregation, a child or adolescent typically feels compelled to comply with any inappropriate advances.
In cases like these, the concept of consent becomes meaningless. First, a minor is unable to consent. Second, even a sexual relationship with a leader and an adult congregant can negate mutual consent, as the religious leader holds power over the congregant. This could fall under sexual harassment or assault, depending on the circumstances. Our attorneys can talk to you about your specific situation.
Common tactics religious sexual predators use
Victims of sexual abuse and assault in places of worship are often left confused and frightened, as they were harmed by someone they likely respected and looked to. In fact, the organization Darkness To Light reports that about 60% of children who suffer sexual abuse are abused by someone the family trusts. Sometimes the victim may be unclear as to what even happened, as abusers will purposely leave boundaries blurry.
If this sounds familiar to you or someone you love, we understand and we’re ready to help. Our experience taking action against churches, the clergy and other religious institutions has helped us identify some common ways abusers attempt to take advantage of their victims. It’s important to be able to recognize the following behaviors:
When a religious figure like a minister, rabbi or priest gives a child special attention, the child or teen may feel honored or pleased. Sometimes this kind of attention can mean extra “one-on-one” time for special projects or to talk about personal issues. At first, this behavior can seem caring and kind, but later move on to inappropriate comments and touching. This is usually the beginning stage of “grooming.”
Grooming helps an abuser gain access to their victim, setting up a relationship surrounded in secrecy, so the crime is less likely to be discovered. Typically the abuser works to set up not just the victim’s trust, but also that of their family – which is why sexual abusers are so often known to the victim and their loved ones. Grooming may look harmless at first, but once sexual contact is made, children may begin to withdraw. If you have any doubts or misgivings about your child or loved one’s relationship with a religious leader, don’t ignore your instincts.
Sexual abusers might also shame their victims into submitting to abuse and assault. They may even take advantage of their victim’s religious beliefs to convince them to do so. Abusers within the church or other religious institutions may also threaten their victims with things like excommunication, tarnishing the reputation of their family, ostracizing them from the church or temple, or threatening them with punishment by their god.
This type of emotional and psychological manipulation is extremely powerful in the eyes of anyone, much less a child. Shame is one of the most powerful tools an abuser can use against their victim. If now, even decades later, you are still feeling shame from your sexual abuse, we can help you step forward. We are on your side.
Lasting effects of church and religious sexual abuse
It doesn’t matter if the sexual assault or abuse happened a month ago or years ago, survivors experience a wide range of emotions as they process their experience. Everyone deals with this sort of trauma differently, and no way is right or wrong. However, many victims of clergy sexual abuse in the Bay Area have shared some of the same feelings with us, so know that you are not alone:
- Anxiety and depression
- Difficulty setting boundaries
- Guilt about the abuse and assault
- Struggles with self-esteem
Of course, this doesn’t even begin to cover the loss of faith and trust in your place of worship as well as the devastating violation you or your loved one has endured. The effects of childhood sexual abuse are long-lasting and run deep. Sometimes the first step to recovery can start with speaking to a compassionate sexual assault attorney. We can talk to you about your legal options and walk you through the process as gently as possible. We fight for you.
What to do if you were sexually abused by a church leader in San Jose or Santa Clara
Anyone – whether a child, adolescent or adult – who’s the victim of unwanted sexual attention or advances from a religious or church leader has experienced sexual abuse. If you or a loved one were the victim of a sexual assault, you are eligible to seek the justice and compensation you deserve.
Following are some important steps to take if you’ve suffered abuse at the hands of a priest, rabbi, or other religious figure:
- Although you may be tempted to go back to your house of worship to confront your abuser, it is typically not a good idea. Religious leadership tends to “close ranks” to protect their own reputation and attempt to talk you out of contacting authorities or take any other action. If your child was abused at a religious school, you should seriously consider switching schools.
- If the assault has just occurred, get the victim medical attention from a hospital or physician immediately. This is a critical step, as an examination for signs of sexual abuse can provide valuable evidence that can help put the perpetrator behind bars.
- Contact an experienced Santa Clara sexual assault attorney who can advise you on your legal options and provide compassionate, confidential counsel.
- Seek out professional therapy or counseling for you or your loved one. Processing your emotions can help you begin to heal.
Our attorneys provide effective and strong representation, seeking the maximum compensation possible for the abuse you’ve suffered at the hands of your religious leader and institution. It’s time abusers are held accountable. Find out more about sexual abuse laws in California.
Protecting the rights of child sexual abuse victims throughout the Bay Area
The sexual abuse lawyers at Taylor & Ring have been fighting on behalf of survivors in Santa Clara, San Jose, and throughout the Bay Area for decades. If you or a loved one suffered abuse in the church, temple or any religious place of worship, we can help. We are not afraid to hold abusers accountable for their crimes against the innocent. Let us work to seek compensation for the harm you’ve suffered. Talk to our attorneys today at 310-776-6390 or complete our contact form to schedule a consultation.