How to Report Clergy Sex Abuse in California
Our attorneys focus on holding institutions responsible for allowing abuse to occur. We typically do not handle matters involving abuse by a personal acquaintance, family member, or other individual outside of an organization.
Over the last few years, the news has been tragically full of stories of clergy sexual abuse. But for those who have been abused, it may be hard to know how to report a clergy member for sexual misconduct.
Here, we’ll share the information you need to report church abuse and take back control of your life.
Where to Report California Clergy Sex Abuse
Most sexual abuse within churches, synagogues, or mosques happens to the most vulnerable members of our society and our families—children. And often, these children understandably are too afraid or confused to tell anyone about what they endured.
Priests, pastors, ministers, and rabbis are all mandated reporters under California Penal Code §§ 11165.7(a)(32-33).
But, of course, these individuals are all too often the ones perpetrating the abuse or covering it up, so many have proven themselves unworthy of trust.
As a result, the abuse does not come to light until survivors report the attack or someone notices signs of abuse.
Whether a predator harmed you recently or years ago, there are many ways to report clergy sexual abuse. Each has a different purpose.
Call 911 or Child Protective Services
If a child is currently with a clergy abuser or is unsafe, call 911 or your county’s child protective services department.
Though it can be traumatic, having a qualified professional perform a forensic examination after a sexual assault preserves evidence so the perpetrator can be brought to justice.
Though it is commonly believed that this examination must be done within 72 hours, doctors based that time limit on when they are most able to provide medical care, prevent pregnancy, and treat sexually transmitted diseases.
In fact, forensic evidence may be obtained days after that time period.
The compassionate, trauma-informed attorneys at Boucher LLP can help you find a qualified person to perform the examination and deal with any facilities that push back against doing an exam after the 72-hour time frame.
Call the Police
For abuse that occurred sometime in the past, it is still important to call the police. The more abuse reports they have for one clergy member, the more likely they are to investigate.
And, though a police report is not required to bring a civil lawsuit, it can bolster the survivor’s credibility.
National Sexual Assault Hotline
It is very common for pastors, priests, and other religious leaders who prey on children to make these children feel alone and helpless.
Sometimes they even threaten spiritual retribution if the child speaks up. As a result, many children suffer in silence well into adulthood.
Those who have never told anyone what happened and wish to remain anonymous can call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-HOPE (4673).
This service provides someone to talk to confidentially. It also offers basic information about medical concerns, support in finding local physical and mental health facilities, and information about legal resources in your area.
File a Complaint with the Department of Justice
The Department of Justice (DOJ) is collecting information on reports of abuse by clergy members or religious organizations within California.
Though the DOJ likely will not take on your individual case, they may refer it to local law enforcement. Otherwise, the DOJ keeps your information confidential. The complaints help the DOJ evaluate and address the growing problem of clergy abuse.
How to File a Clergy Sexual Abuse Complaint in California
Reporting sexual abuse allows the survivor to obtain medical and psychological treatment and preserve evidence. It may even result in the state prosecuting the predator.
In addition, an effective way to make the abuser and the institution that covered up their heinous acts pay for what they have done is to bring a civil lawsuit against them.
Most pedophiles prey on many victims over the course of their lives. A civil lawsuit can help stop the cycle of abuse and save other children who would be targeted.
It also requires the church to atone for its sins and provide you the financial reparations necessary to:
- Pay for treatment,
- Cover bills if your experience left you unable to work, and
- Allow you to move forward with your life.
More often than not, survivors also find it empowering to stand up to those who abuse their power and the institutions that protect them.
Once you have an experienced lawyer by your side, they will take care of collecting evidence and filing a Complaint in court. You will not be alone.
But you must act quickly. California law imposes a statute of limitations—or time limit—on bringing abuse lawsuits. If the abuse happened long ago, you might only have until December 31, 2022, to file a lawsuit.
Need Help Reporting Clergy Abuse in California? Depend on Boucher LLP
If you want help deciding how to report clergy sexual abuse in California, the trauma-informed team at Boucher LLP knows what to do.
We will guide you to the resources you need to help you heal, and we will be your partner during this process.
The attorneys at Boucher LLP have a long history of standing up for abuse survivors.