In August 2018, a grand jury report was published documenting the findings of a months-long, detailed investigation into the long history of sexual abuse within the Pennsylvania Catholic Church. The report revealed decades of abuses and cover-ups throughout the state, including the Diocese of Harrisburg.
If you were sexually abused as a child, or you are the parent or guardian of a child who was a victim, you should consult an experienced clergy abuse lawyer who will help you understand your rights and protections. The attorneys at Munley Law have experience with sexual abuse lawsuits as well as with compensation funds for cases involving numerous victims. We are standing by to help. Call, chat or fill out our online form and one of our clergy abuse attorneys will help you understand your rights.
Harrisburg Diocese Victims Compensation Fund
In response to the Grand Jury’s report, the Diocese of Harrisburg has established a Survivor Compensation Program for victims. Harrisburg’s compensation fund is now accepting claims submissions from people who were abused in the Harrisburg Diocese. Millions of dollars have been allocated to the victims’ fund, to be administered at the discretion of
Commonwealth Mediation & Conciliation, Inc. Church officials will not have a say in the amount of money awarded to victims.
If you wish to submit a claim to the Harrisburg Survivors Compensation Fund, you have until May 13, 2019 to do so. This fund is only open to survivors who have reported their abuse prior to Feb. 11, 2019.
Victims and survivors who come forward after the Feb. 11 deadline will be considered for future participation in the program.
If you intend to accept an offer of compensation via the victims’ fund, you must have an attorney. The attorneys at Munley Law have handled cases involving victim compensation funds and can advise anyone who is interested in submitting a claim. We can answer your questions and help you decide the best course of action for your unique situation. Contact us today for a free and confidential consultation.
Widespread abuse in the Pennsylvania church
The grand jury determined throughout the course of its investigation that over 300 Catholic priests were predators who sexually abused children while serving in active ministry in the Dioceses of Allentown, Erie, Harrisburg, Greensburg, Pittsburgh and Scranton. The Grand Jury identified 45 predator priests from the Diocese of Harrisburg. Over 1,000 detailed accounts of sexual abuse have emerged, with the jury officially stating they believe the real number to be in the thousands.
It was also discovered that many important church officials including monsignors and bishops were aware of the abuse, but consistently covered it up to avoid scandals and criminal punishments. Priests who committed these disturbing crimes were moved from parish to parish while church-goers remained unaware of what was really going on.
Unfortunately, many victims of childhood sexual abuse are not always aware of their rights. In the state of Pennsylvania, victims maintain the right to file a lawsuit against the abuser or any other person or institution who knew about the crime. As the current law states, victims can file a civil case until they turn 30, while they can file criminal cases until they turn 50 years of age. While Munley Law only handles civil cases, we can help our clients find a criminal attorney should they want to pursue a criminal case.
Legislators in Harrisburg propose changes to current laws
Alongside their report, the grand jury has suggested several reforms be enacted, including:
- Eliminating the criminal statute for sexually abusing children. As the current law stands, there is a time limit for these crimes to be reported. If the victim does not report the crime by the time he or she turns 50, the abuser cannot be charged or prosecuted.
- Creating a “civil window” so older victims who are not ready to come forward can sue for damages. Currently, victims who experienced abuse as children only have until the age of 30 to file a civil lawsuit
- Clarifying penalties for a continuing failure to report child abuse. Anyone aware of sexual abuse is required to report it.
- Specifying that Civil Confidentiality Agreements do not cover communications with law enforcement. This means that no past or present nondisclosure agreement prevents a victim from talking to the police.
What is child sexual abuse?
The accepted age of consent is 18. This makes any sexual encounter with a child younger than 18 illegal, because they legally cannot consent. Sexual assault includes indecent exposure, sexual exploitation, penetration and rape. Assault becomes abuse when it occurs over an extended period of time or becomes repetitive.
Sexual assault or abuse of any kind is traumatic, and often leads to physical, emotional or psychological effects that can last for the victim’s entire life. Most often, the abuse is committed by a person whom the child knows and trusts, and it is not unusual for childhood victims to repress their memories or be reluctant to come forward until much later in their lives. Clergy abuse attorneys at Munley Law understand the devastation of sexual abuse to a minor, and we take great care in protecting the privacy of the victim and his or her family. Our clients take comfort in knowing that while we aggressively fight for justice and monetary compensation, we do so with compassion and dignity.
Victims may seek justice through criminal trials or personal injury (civil) lawsuits. Other ways a victim can receive compensation are through economic compensation for medical, therapy, and prescription costs, as well as loss of wages; non-economic for intangibles like emotional pain and suffering; and punitive damages.
It is unfortunately the case that most childhood sexual abuse is not reported. This makes it difficult to determine the actual extent of abuse that takes place. The National Center for Victims of Crime reports that:
- 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys is a victim of sexual abuse
- 20% of adult females and 5-10% of adult males recall a sexual assault or abuse incident as a child
- Over the course of their lifetime, 28% of U.S. youth aged 14-17 were victims of sexual assault
Childhood sexual abuse can lead to several long-term consequences. Each victim is different and will heal in his or own time frame. Physical effects can include chronic pain, sexually transmitted disease, gastrointestinal disorders, gynecological complications, and sexual performance problems.
Emotional and psychological issues can include post traumatic stress disorder, anger, guilt, anxiety, shame, fear, emotional and physical withdrawal, depression, sleep disorders, and suicidal tendencies.
Contact a Harrisburg clergy abuse lawyer at Munley Law for a free, confidential consultation
Attorneys at Munley Law have a long history of winning cases for residents in the Harrisburg area. In 2018, attorney Daniel Munley led a legal team which won a $4 million settlement for a young woman who was victimized as a child by someone she knew and trusted.
Read more about Munley Law’s award-winning legal team and our victories for our clients. The clergy abuse lawyers at Munley Law have a proven track record of getting justice for survivors of abuse. We have seen the devastation suffered by victims and their families. We know the justice system cannot erase your suffering, but it can punish the wrongdoers and help ensure the abuse does not continue. If you or your child is a victim of childhood sexual abuse and you are ready to come forward, our child abuse attorneys will help you. Contact our legal team now for a free case evaluation. You can take comfort in knowing that if we represent you, you will have the best possible legal team with no out of pocket costs. We only get paid when we win your case.