Sexual Abuse in Religious Organizations

Representing Survivors in Civil Court

For many people, church can be a source of spiritual reflection, education, and comfort. Sadly, religious organizations are also commonly identified in cases of sexual abuse, particularly of young children. The victims of heinous, abusive acts can achieve a form of justice by filing a lawsuit against the people who are responsible for their suffering.

At Rheingold Giuffra Ruffo & Plotkin LLP, our lawyers represent victims in cases of sexual abuse in religious organizations. Contact us to discuss your case with our legal team.

Complete our contact form or call (888) 260-0473 to schedule a free consultation.

What Constitutes Sexual Abuse?

Sexual abuse includes any instance of unwanted sexual advances, harassment, or assault. In religious organization settings, cases commonly involve priests and other church leaders forcing or coercing young church members to engage in abusive acts.

A sexual abuse case may center on incidents such as:

  • Rape
  • Molestation
  • Harassment
  • Coercion
  • Sharing of sexual images or messages

Sexual Abuse: Criminal Charges vs. Civil Liability

Sexual abuse is a crime. A perpetrator can be charged with a crime and sentenced to jail time or fines to punish them for committing abuse. Although abusers can be held accountable in criminal court, civil lawsuits provide victims with another outlet for justice.

The goal of sexual abuse civil lawsuits is to hold perpetrators accountable and provide justice to victims in the form of financial compensation. In sexual abuse cases, the resulting damages are primarily non-economic: Pain and suffering, anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Who is Liable for Sexual Abuse in Religious Organizations?

In sexual abuse cases, the perpetrator is responsible for their actions and can be held accountable in both criminal and civil court. However, civil cases allow victims to hold responsible third parties accountable as well. This may include church administration and church or school officials who failed to do what they could to prevent abuse.

In a civil case, the following parties could be held liable for sexual abuse in religious organizations:

  • Church leaders
  • Members of a church
  • Church organizations and administration
  • Security personnel
  • Other officials

Sexual Abuse Civil Case Statute of Limitations

Sexual abuse claims are subject to a statute of limitations. This means that a claim must be filed within a certain amount of time to be considered viable.

New York state law is sensitive to the plight of sexual abuse survivors. A person who has been sexually assaulted may not be ready to bring their case forward right away or may not understand the extent of the impact of abuse until years later. Victims of childhood sexual abuse in a religious organization can file a civil case until the age of 55 years old. A parent or guardian can file a lawsuit on behalf of their child.

A motion in the state allows childhood sexual abuse victims to file a civil case — regardless of the victim’s age or previous viability of a case — between August 14, 2019 and August 13, 2020. During this period, people who were abused as children in a religious organization can pursue a case even if they are over the age of 55, whenever the abuse occurred, and even if a previous case was denied because it is was not viable in the existing statute of limitations.

Contact Us to Schedule a Free Consultation

The Rheingold Giuffra Ruffo & Plotkin LLP legal team is available to discuss your case, and how we can help you. We can answer your questions, provide legal guidance, and offer emotional support.

Send us a message or call (888) 260-0473 for a free consultation with our attorneys.

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