St. Hilary Church—Clergy Sexual Abuse in Pico Rivera, CA
The impact of clergy sexual abuse cannot be overstated. Survivors suffer debilitating flashbacks, panic attacks, and other symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. When abuse occurs in childhood, the survivors are at a higher risk of re-victimization and experiencing challenges with school, work, and relationships.
Clergy Sexual Abuse at St. Hilary Church
Tragically, for decades the Church knew about or had reason to know about the risk that its clergy posed to children and did nothing.
Father Michael Baker preyed on children, grooming them and their families, making them believe he was trustworthy. He worked at St. Hilary Catholic Church from about July 9, 1982, to July 31, 1986, when he took a brief sabbatical. The reason? The Church sent him to New Mexico for a short pastoral psychological evaluation. Baker had admitted to having what he described as a “sexual problem” with two young boys, whose names he willingly provided to the Archdiocese.
Upon his return, the Archdioceseasked Baker to participate in a second evaluation and short treatment. Despite numerous and explicit warnings from Reverend William Perri in the evaluation results, the Church allowed “Father Mike” to actively engage with the Church in numerous roles. Perhaps most disturbing is that Father Mike was allowed to continue having unfettered access to children in many settings for nearly 20 years after the Church learned about his despicable behavior.
Fortunately, brave survivors spoke out, leading to Father Mike’s arrest and a civil lawsuit settlement in the early 2000s.
Boucher LLP has been on the front lines in many high-profile clergy sexual abuse cases for over 20 years. Between 2000 and 2010, we fought and won civil claims on behalf of nearly 400 survivors of clergy sexual abuse involving the Los Angeles Archdiocese and San Diego Diocese.
What Are California’s Laws Against Church Sexual Abuse?
California has criminal and civil laws against sexual abuse. But because of the high burden of proof in criminal cases, filing a civil lawsuit may be the only legal recourse available to some survivors and their families.
Survivors of childhood sexual abuse frequently do not come forward about what happened to them until years or decades after the events occurred. They may do this because they don’t remember what happened to them until something triggers the memory later. Or they may stay silent out of fear.
How Long Do I Have to File a Clergy Sexual Abuse Case?
Previously, many survivors’ claims were time-barred because of the restrictive statute of limitations or filing deadline for bringing clergy sexual abuse cases.
In 2020, however, the law underwent a much-needed change, opening the door for once-silenced survivors to speak out against the clergymen or institution responsible.
Alternatively, survivors over the age of 18 may have 22 years in which to file a lawsuit or five years after they discover they have suffered psychological trauma as a result of the abuse.
Can I File a Church Abuse Claim From Childhood If I Am Over 40 Years Old?
Under the new law, you may be able to file a clergy sexual abuse claim, even if you are over 40 years old.
To do so, you would also need to allege that the abuse occurred when you were under 18. You would also need to show evidence that the institution’s actions or inactions enabled the perpetrator’s abuse. For example, those in leadership positions at St. Hilary knew of the risk posed by Father Mike and many others and did not take sufficient steps to protect children.
Boucher LLP—Experienced Clergy Sexual Abuse Law Firm Trusted By Hundreds of Survivors
The compassionate attorneys at Boucher LLP are no strangers to going up against the religious institutions that stood idly by while children suffered. We provide trauma-informed and exacting legal representation to those impacted by childhood sexual abuse. Founder and president of the firm, Ray Boucher, has received numerous awards and accolades throughout his decades of practice. Most recently, in 2022, he was named among Lawdragon’s Legends for having been selected as one of its top 500 lawyers ten times since 2005.
If you or your loved one suffered abuse at the hands of a clergy member, call us today at 818-340-5400.