Average Settlement for Clergy Abuse in California

Average Settlement for Clergy Abuse in California

Many people were shocked by the sexual abuse that rocked the Roman Catholic Church. Survivors who protected their abusers for years spoke out and revealed that trusted priests committed horrific acts. It’s a scandal that makes headlines and destroys lives.

Survivors of sexual assault and sexual abuse are not only severely impacted in the short term but commonly suffer emotional and psychological effects that last a lifetime. No amount of money can compensate for the harm suffered when a trusted priest abuses a child. However, filing a sexual abuse lawsuit puts the power into the hands of survivors and provides a commanding sense of moral justice in a situation that may otherwise feel perpetually hopeless and haunting. 

At Boucher LLP, our attorneys fight injustice, focusing much of our knowledge and resources on sexual abuse lawsuits. We emphatically believe that no survivor should have to suffer in silence. Between 2002 and 2015, our law firm secured justice for survivors by settling several multimillion-dollar cases, including a $660 million settlement in 2007 between survivors of childhood sexual abuse and the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. As a crucial part of the settlement, believing that real justice is more than monetary, we demanded that the LA Archdiocese publicly release its personnel files on priests who had sexually abused children.  

History of Church Sex Abuse

Unreported sexual abuse by clergy members has been going on for centuries, but the scandal emerged in recent years as more victims came forward. Media attention began to focus on these crimes in the 1980s in North America and grew throughout the world during the 1990s. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) asserts that someone known and trusted by the child or child’s family members perpetrates 91% of child sexual abuse.

The Boston Globe’s 2002 report on widespread abuse and the cover-up by the Catholic Church sparked outrage. In 2004, a Catholic Church-commissioned report revealed that they had investigated 5,000 priests for sexual abuse during the last 50 years. This report revealed that at least 10,000 children had been abused. Since then, estimates have increased to include hundreds of thousands of children.

The Catholic Church has denounced these crimes and claims to be taking steps to prevent further abuse. Pope John Paul II apologized on behalf of the Church, calling sexual abuse “a profound contradiction of the teaching and witness of Jesus Christ.” Later, Pope Benedict XVI called for justice for victims and Pope Francis held a four-day summit to discuss how to prevent sexual abuse.

While we commend efforts to prevent sexual abuse, the Catholic Church took these steps only after thousands of victims came forward. Brave sexual abuse survivors confronting their abusers can create change in institutions that would prefer to look the other way. 

How Much Has the Catholic Church Paid to Abuse Victims?

Many survivors of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church are unaware of how profound and deep-seated the issue truly is. There are countless reports worldwide demonstrating that, in many cases, the church not only knew that abuse was happening but, in response, simply relocated the offending priests to different a different church or diocese. This is why, along with your abuser, the Church should also be held accountable. Every survivor’s story is important, and this vicious cycle has to be broken to achieve true reparations.  

The problem of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church is an epidemic that has been swept under the rug at all levels of the organization. After recent investigations and publicity led to the discovery of decades of abuse, the Catholic Church began quietly settling lawsuits. Already, Catholic Church sexual abuse settlements with survivors total more than $3 billion, with more lawsuits against the Catholic Church to come.

What Constitutes Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment?

Sexual harassment broadly refers to unwanted verbal and physical attention. Sexual assault is defined by actual contact or behavior of a sexual nature without the victim’s consent. The severity of sexual abuse acts can vary, but one consistent theme is that the subject of the unwanted act feels violated, confused, and often alone. 

What Should You Do If You Have Been Sexually Abused?

If you have been sexually abused by a clergy member or anyone else, you should prioritize your physical and mental health. Confide in someone who can help. Many sexual abuse victims suffer in silence, not sharing their stories of abuse for years. This only hurts you emotionally and prevents you from receiving the justice you deserve. Keeping silent can also allow your abuser to continue their terrible acts.

If you are in need of medical or mental health treatment, you should seek help from a trusted provider. We can point you to resources if you’re not sure where to turn. Whether or not you feel ready to share your story publicly, you can reach out to our team of experienced sexual assault lawyers for confidential advice. 

How Can an Attorney Help You?

We work to bring both the abuser and the institutions that permitted the abuse to justice. Catholic Church sexual abuse settlements are not limited to financial compensation. We can also seek to include your specific requirements aimed at protecting others from harm. 

Catholic Church abuse settlements may include provisions such as:

  • Publishing the names of abusers,
  • Starting a hotline to make it easier for victims to report abuse, and
  • Instituting policies, such as mandatory reporting, to protect others from abuse.

While our skilled lawyers will negotiate on your behalf, you have the final say on all settlement terms. You can share your requests with us, and we will do our best to achieve an optimal resolution with the goal of helping you achieve the peace you deserve.

What Determines the Average Settlement for Clergy Abuse?

Sex abuse claims usually settle rather than go to trial because the people who commit these heinous acts don’t want more negative publicity. It is important to note that monetary compensation will never make up for the abuse that has been suffered, but it can be used as a tool to deter future behavior and set the example that survivors do have a voice and it will be heard loud and clear.

The average settlement for clergy abuse in California is between $1.2 and $1.6 million. Recovery has exceeded $6 million in some instances and was less than $1.2 million in others. Catholic Church abuse settlement amounts are influenced by these factors:

  • The degree to which the Church ignored or covered up prior reports of abuse,
  • The severity of the abuse,
  • Length of the abuse, 
  • Age of the victim, and
  • Treatment costs for mental and physical harm.

The Catholic Church has paid billions in settlement claims, which deservedly depleted the financial reserves of some dioceses. Our lawyers pursue the maximum average Catholic Church settlements for abuse survivors.

What to Know About Filing Lawsuits Against the Catholic Church

Many survivors keep quiet into adulthood thinking that the time to come forward has passed. That is generally not true. California has three rules governing the statute of limitations for sexual abuse cases:

  • Age cap: Without extenuating circumstances, a person has until the age of 40 to file a claim for childhood sexual abuse. 
  • Discovery rule: In the case where a survivor has suppressed memories of the abuse, they have five years from the point of recall to file a civil claim. 
  • Revival law: This is a window of time that allows survivors who have fallen outside the statute of limitations to file their claims. California’s current revival law extends from 2020 through the end of 2022.

These rules relate to California civil cases. There are some differences between filing civil and criminal cases. Because criminal cases have a much higher standard of proof, justice is often sought in civil court. If you are unsure whether you are eligible to file a claim for sexual abuse in California, our experienced team would love to talk to you and determine the best strategy to achieve reparations for what you have endured. 

Choosing the Right Sexual Abuse Law Firm for Your Needs 

If you have suffered sexual abuse by a person you trusted, it can be hard to trust anyone again. It can feel painful to share your story. However, if you can find the courage to trust our lawyers, we won’t let you down. We will fight for you with passion, determination, and skills developed over years of practice. 

Our attorneys have substantial experience with clergy sexual abuse cases across California. Our goal is to expose perpetrators and hold all involved parties accountable for failing to provide you with adequate protection. 

We hope that the legal process, with our compassionate lawyers by your side, will empower you to stand up to your abuser and bring you a sense of closure. If you have questions or are ready to start your sexual abuse claim, contact our skilled attorneys for a free consultation.