The crisis surrounding widespread clergy sexual abuse is now well known, but this was not always the case. For decades, victims of abusive clergy members, and the church members who helped to hide abusive priests, have not gotten the spotlight that they need. While the tide is changing, there are still many more important pieces of information the public needs to know about the crisis if they want to understand the clergy sexual abuse scandal.

How Was the Scandal Exposed to the General Public?

While accusations against clergy members date back to the 1950s, it took until the mid-90s before the clergy abuse scandal became widely known and acknowledged by the US public. The film Spotlight, which profiles the reporting the Boston Globe did on the issue, made the issue that much more of a hot-button issue in US politics and culture. In 2004, a church-commissioned report pointed to more than 10,000 cases that the church was investigating, which involved more than 4,000 US Roman Catholic priests. Since then, many dedicated legal minds have dedicated themselves to helping victims seek justice.

Facts About Recent High-Profile Cases

Recent cases regarding clergy sexual abuse cases are important to consider when looking at the larger picture painted by the crisis. Here are just three key facts that you should be educated about:

French priest Bernard Preyat was recently sentenced to five years in prison in 2020, after being charged with molesting dozens of children between the 1970s and 1990s. Given how serious his crimes are, and because Preyat claimed he did not understand the gravity of his crimes, many people were beyond unpleased with the fairly-lax five-year sentence.

-The Catholic Church of Scotland created an independent watchdog organization to handle complaints against clergy members recently, after report after report came out implicating high-profile members of the organization of child sexual abuse.

-A well-known Roman Catholic Cardinal in the US, Theodore McCarrick, lost his status in the Church after being accused of abusing and sexually assaulting a New York teenager during the 1970s. While he has pleaded not guilty to the crime, and the trial is ongoing, he is the current highest-ranking Catholic official to be charged in the United States.

The Catholic Church’s Response to the Crisis

As of 2013, Pope Francis has called for decisive action in response to the growing number of clergy members being accused of sexual abuse. Unfortunately, this call to action has not stopped bad actors within the church from attempting to evade justice, or from helping abusive clergy members from doing the same. Before Pope Francis, both Pope Benedict and Pope John Paul II were accused of helping to facilitate the coverup of these crimes, although both individuals denied having done so. While the church has become much more cooperative in helping victims of clergy abuse over the last decade, there is still a lot of work to be done to hold the church, and abusive clergy members, fully accountable for their abusive crimes.

How Legal Minds Can Help Victims

Legal help is crucial for clergy abuse victims seeking out support. Without proper legal assistance, filing and winning a claim against abusive priests, and the churches that helped them escape justice can be downright impossible. Thankfully, there are many talented and dedicated attorneys out there that help victims find justice and compensation every year. If you or a family member were abused by a clergy member, you should seek out a legal professional’s help whenever you’re ready to begin seeking justice against your abuser.

Victim Support Groups and Resources

Because of the trauma that comes from being abused by a child, and by a member of your faith community, victims must seek out mental health resources. Over the last few decades, hundreds of organizations have been formed to assist victims of clergy abuse with their lingering trauma, as well as their legal needs. Many of these groups were formed by, and are led by, former victims. By reaching out to them, you can begin finding the tools and support you need to heal from the traumatic experiences you suffered under the pressure of abusive clergy members.

Help is Ready When You Are

When you’re ready to confront your abuser, there are many resources out there to help you seek justice. By using the information in this article, you can more easily begin the process of filing a legal suit against your abuser. With the right help and determination, you can receive the justice and compensation that you rightfully deserve. Every person that comes forward helps other victims gain the support they need to take action against their abuser.

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